Contrast Between Darwinian And Post-darwinian Views
The new views that have thus arisen have been definitely summarised and
clearly contrasted with Darwinism by the botanist Korschinsky. He died
before completing his general work, "Heterogenesis und Evolution," but he
has elsewhere(55) given an excellent summary of his results, which we
append in abstract.
DARWIN. (1) Everything organic is capable of variation. Variations arise
in part from internal, in pa
t from external causes. They are slight,
inconspicuous, individual differences.
KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (1) Everything organic is capable of
variation. This capability is a fundamental, inherent character of living
forms in general, and is independent of external conditions. It is usually
kept latent by "heredity," but occasionally breaks forth in sudden
DARWIN. (2) The struggle for existence. This combines, increases, fixes
useful variations, and eliminates the useless. All the characters and
peculiarities of a finished species are the results of long-continued
selection; they must therefore be adapted to the external conditions.
KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (2) Saltatory variations.--These are, under
favourable circumstances, the starting-point of new and constant races.
The characters may sometimes be useful, sometimes quite indifferent,
neither advantageous nor disadvantageous. Sometimes they are not in
harmony with external circumstances.
DARWIN. (3) The species is subject to constant variation. It is
continually subject to selection and augmentation of its characters. Hence
again the origin of new species.
KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (3) All fully developed species persist, but
through heterogenesis a splitting up into new forms may take place, and
this is accompanied by a disturbance of the vital equilibrium. The new
state is at first insecure and fluctuating, and only gradually becomes
stable. Thus new forms and races arise with gradual consolidation of their
DARWIN. (4) The sharper and more acute the effect of the environment, the
keener is the struggle for existence, and the more rapidly and certainly
do new forms arise.
KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (4) Only in specially favourable conditions,
only when the struggle for existence is weak, or when there is none, can
new forms arise and become fixed. When the conditions are severe no new
forms arise, or if they do they are speedily eliminated.
DARWIN. (5) The chief condition of evolution is therefore the struggle for
existence and the selection which this involves.
KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (5) The struggle for existence simply
decimates the overwhelming abundance of possible forms. Where it occurs it
prevents the establishment of new variations, and in reality stands in the
way of new developments. It is rather an unfavourable than an advantageous
DARWIN. (6) If there were no struggle for existence there would be no
adaptation, no perfecting.
KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (6) Were there no struggle for existence,
there would be no destruction of new forms, or of forms in process of
arising. The world of organisms would then be a colossal genealogical tree
of enormous luxuriance, and with an incalculable wealth of forms.
DARWIN. (7) Progress in nature, the "perfecting" of organisms, is only an
increasingly complex and ever more perfect adaptation to the external
circumstances. It is attained by purely mechanical methods, by an
accumulation of the variations most useful at the time.
KORSCHINSKY AND THE MODERNS. (7) The adaptation which the struggle for
existence brings about has nothing to do with perfecting, for the
organisms which are physiologically and morphologically higher are by no
means always better adapted to external circumstances than those lower in
the scale. Evolution cannot be explained mechanically. The origin of
higher forms from lower is only possible if there is a tendency to
progress innate in the organism itself. This tendency is nearly related to
or identical with the tendency to variation. It compels the organism to
perfect itself as far as external circumstances will permit.
All this implies an admission of evolution and of descent, but a setting
aside of Darwinism proper as an unsuccessful hypothesis, and a positive
recognition of an endeavour after an aim, internal causes, and teleology
in nature, as against fortuitous and superficial factors. This opens up a
vista into the background of things, and thereby yields to the religious
conception all that a study of nature can yield--namely, an acknowledgment
of the possibility and legitimacy of interpreting the world in a religious
sense, and assistance in so doing.
The most important point has already been emphasised. Even if the theory
of the struggle for existence were correct, it would be possible to
subject the world as a whole to a teleological interpretation. But these
anti-Darwinian theories now emerging, though they do not directly induce
teleological interpretation, suggest it much more strongly than orthodox
Darwinism does. A world which in its evolution is not exposed, for good or
ill, to the action of chance factors--playing with it and forcing it hither
and thither--but which, exposed indeed to the most diverse conditions of
existence and their influences, and harmonising with them, nevertheless
carries implicitly and infallibly within itself the laws of its own
expression, and especially the necessity to develop upwards into higher
and higher forms, is expressly suited for teleological consideration, and
we can understand how it is that the old physico-teleological evidences of
the existence of God are beginning to hold up their heads again. They are
wrong when they try to demonstrate God, but quite right when they simply
seek to show that nature does not contradict--in fact that it allows room
and validity to--belief in the Highest Wisdom as the cause and guide of all
As far as the question of the right to interpret nature teleologically is
concerned, it would be entirely indifferent whether what Korschinsky calls
"the tendency to progress," and the system of laws in obedience to which
evolution brings forth its forms, can be interpreted "mechanically" or
not; that is to say, whether or not evolution depends on conditions and
potentialities of living matter, which can be demonstrated and made
mechanically commensurable or not. It may be that they can neither be
demonstrated nor made mechanically commensurable, but lie in the
impenetrable mystery inherent in all life. Whether this mystery really
exists, and whether religion has any particular interest in it if it does,
must be considered in the following chapter.