Thursday, 07 February 2008

I Imagine Him at His Desk, His Ire Rising with Every Sentence He Composes ... ... until he cracks mad. From an early American review of The Origin of Species: Theorizing on empirical grounds is no better than theorizing on rational and a priori principles; but rather it is worse, for it is at once more crude and facile, and more pretentious. [...] Mr. Darwin may be no metaphysician, least of all a Hegelian. He may even hold all metaphysics in supreme contempt. And yet his theory is but a crude expression or application of the abstrusest speculations of the modern German scholasticism. [...] With all its show, or rather promise, of induction, it is really a pure a priori assumption, an assumption resting on other assumptions which reach down to the bottomless abyss of Hegelian nihilism. [...] [Darwin] can more readily believe that the ox, with his lower as well as rudimentary upper teeth, and man with his rudimentary papillae, his hands, feet, head, brain, his eye in fine frenzy rolling, his discourse of reason looking before and after, his conscience, and all, have come by natural generation from the same hermaphroditic, vegeto-animal, primordial form from which have come the gnat and the elephant, the ichthyosaurus and the megatherium, the mammoth and the maggot, the cabbage and the pumpkin, than to believe that God could have made these species of men and oxen as they are. [...] Why do men have the same number of fingers on one hand as on the other, and the same number of toes as fingers, if every thing is determined by use, and nothing by creative laws of beauty, proportion and harmony? Why is not human hair sometimes green or blue, or the iris of the eye purple or yellow? Why should men have a beard and women none? If it is of use to men, why should not natural selection have multiplied the few women who have it? Why are not men eight or ten feet high, and as strong as elephants; would it not be useful to them? Why are there no races of winged men or flying squirrels; is it only for want of the happy accident for natural selection to start with? It would be so convenient! It would! It really would!

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