This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
It is a pleasant thing to receive a stamp when one desires a reply to a letter, but we must again beg of our correspondents not to send stamped envelopes, with the addresses already written on them. It is extremely rare that a letter can be answered at once on receipt; for often some investigation has to be made. In the meantime a busy man cannot remember that some particular person sent an addressed envelope. We have scores of these addressed and stamped envelopes lying around, and always in the way. It is mistaken kindness to send such things.
Civilization: is its cause Natural or Supernatural? - By a " Wayfarer in search of Truth," Philadelphia, Published by C. H. Marot. The doctrines of evolution, which this work attacks, have some bearing on horticultural pursuits: and horticulture considers itself especially interested in the progress; but we find very little in this book that will warrant an extended notice in our magazine. It is more in the way of theologians and metaphysicians. We may however, say that the point of the work turns on the meaning of terms. The author believes that evolution is opposed to Christianity; but this depends on what one understands by evolution, and by Christianity. Prom our experience of the world we should say that there were multitudes who would not accept his definition of either.
It is however, not always easy to catch the meaning of the author himself, for his fondness for illustrations generally ends as they often do with school boys, in obscuring the main points. For instance, speaking of crime and criminals, he observes " If a man has a barren tree in his garden, which draws to itself the nutriment required for the proper growth of useful plants, would he display the most wisdom in attempting to remedy the matter by trimming around among the uppermost branches, or by grubbing the thing up by the roots?" And at once we begin to wonder how the poor sinners among human beings are to be " grubbed up." Whether the cheapest way would be to hang them at once, or whether imprisonment for life would fairly come under the grubbing up idea? After all, the best display of wisdom might be open to some difference of opinion. A gardener once did ask of the great master for leave to try a little of his horticultural skill before the barren fig tree was "grubbed" up, - and the master thought he was wise.
Refutation of Darwinism, by F. Warren O'Neill, Philadelphia; J. B. Lippincott & Co. By direct ways man has been taught how every thing began; but there is no possible harm in starting from the other end also, and by questioning nature herself, note the correspondence of her answers with what has been revealed to us. There ought to be, and in the end there must be a coincidence between these two lines of thought; but while they are being pursued, one has nothing whatever to do with the other. In asking Nature how varieties, genera and species began, we therefore set aside, for the moment, all that we have been taught, and all that we believe, and await patiently Nature's answer. Here are plants and animals about us, how came they here? Were they always, from the first as they are now? Or have they changed and are changing still? We see from the geological record, that there was a time when there was neither plant nor animal on the earth, - that at a later period only the lowest forms existed, - and that only in the later ages have what we may regard as the most complicated organisms appeared. There is no question that there has been a progression from the most simple, to man, the most complicated of all.
Then comes the question, - have these changes been brought about by Divine laws, which are continuously operating for change? - or by Divine power continuously setting aside old laws and establishing new ones? - by laws continually operating, or by laws continually being broken? For that there has been a continuous succession of changes, no one pretends to deny.
When we ask a question, it is not in human nature not to inquire what may be the reply. Indeed it is because we suspect that we ask. There could be no questioning without a prior doubt of some kind. We see a man full grown, and we see a babe: and, knowing that there was a time when man made a first appearance on the earth, we ask did he come here as a babe, as he does now, or did he appear first as a full-grown man? We know he does not now come into the earth full grown, and we know a babe cannot take care of itself. If this were all that be left to us, it would be no use to consider the problem at all; but we see in the lower forms of life the young are capable of an independent existence, at once from birth, and thus we see that under existing laws it is just possible that there might be a development from the young capable, to the young incapable. In other words, though man or the higher animals may not have come into existence in the first place, either full grown or as babes, so far as we can judge from any existing laws, yet it is possible they may have been developed from a lower to a higher plane by degrees.
It is this possibility, this guess, which is among the foundations of the modern questioning of nature known as " Evolution." It did not arise with Mr. Darwin; but he has done more than any other man to show that it may be a reasonable guess. This, and nothing more, is " Darwinism," and this is what Mr. O'Neill has undertaken to refute.
Mr. O'Neill takes credit that he "refutes" Mr. Darwin by Darwin's own facts, - but at the outset this places Mr. O'Neill at a great disadvantage. It would be much better for his side of the case if he were to fall to work and collect facts as industriously as Mr. Darwin has done. But there is nothing in the work before us to show that he is capable of any such an effort. He appears to have been a diligent closet student, and nothing more. He is master of the art of logic as taught in the schools, knowing little of the logic of facts as derived from experience. It soon becomes evident that he mishapprehends Mr. Darwin, and that though he quotes profusely from Mr. Darwin's works, and makes very good points as he goes along, he does not do justice to Mr. Darwin's real views. Mr. Darwin, as most of us know now, has made many incidental errors, and his inferences are not always sustained by the light of what has been observed in later times. But on the other hand since Darwin wrote there are quite as many new facts brought out to strengthen his views, as there are those which weaken them, - but of these our author evidently knows nothing. Like a lawyer pleading on a case against Mr. Darwin, he naturally seizes on every weak point, as if it were one of great importance.
When Mr. Darwin, for instance, tells us that a certain belief has prevailed " from the time of Columella, who wrote shortly after the Christian era to the present day," Mr. O'Neill takes occasion to say that "the impression, with the writer, has ever been, that the 'Christian era'lasted, at least, until the origin of species was published." Every one but Mr. O'Neill may understand that Mr. Darwin inadvertently left out " began" after " era;" and that his "impression" is of no sort of consequence as an argument "against Darwin." The whole work indeed strikes us as of the class with Archbishop Whately's effort to prove the non-existence of Napoleon Buonaparte. It is a clever but unconvincing work. His line of argument is that there is no feature that marks what we call a new variety, that did not exist in some ancestor more or less remote, - that the types or " first parents " of all existing species had every character in one that now appears severally in many forms. In other words that there has been a continual suppression of parts, and that it is only by regaining occasionally what has been lost, that there comes in what we call a new variety.
In other words, as we understand Mr. O'Neill's view it is quite possible for a monkey to be evolved from a man, but not a man from a monkey!
Of course every student of Mr. Darwin's works knows that he does consider much of the change of form we see as due to reversion and suppression, - but he also knows what is never referred to by Mr. O'Neill, that Mr. Darwin's works show the entrance on the stage of wholly new characters, which we have no reason to believe ever had an existence before. For instance, of late years we have come to know that the Salix Babylonica, sprung from Salix Japonica, and there is no probability, so far as any mind can suggest, that the peculiar characteristics of the former, ever had a prior existence till it sprung from the latter.
Then there is another form of willow known as Salix annularis, the ring-leaved willow, which we know sprung from Salix Babylonica. Its peculiarity never existed in any probability in the former. Now this Salix annularis, has within two cases only that the writer of this knows of, reverted after many years to the S. Babylonica. It retained its characters for some half of a century before a branch betrayed its origin. Here is the entrance of an entirely new character, and a reversion to the old one. It shows that both are true, and this Mr. Darwin has well illustrated.
We do not believe that Mr. Darwin's views of reversion, intercrossing, natural selection, and other agencies always cover the ground he claims for them. As a student of nature, the writer of this has often had to object; but that they are sound in the main we believe, and a careful reading of Mr. O'Neill's book has not in the least weakened our faith in them.