The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex HTML version

The nature of the following work will be best understood by a brief account of how it
came to be written. During many years I collected notes on the origin or descent of man,
without any intention of publishing on the subject, but rather with the determination not
to publish, as I thought that I should thus only add to the prejudices against my views. It
seemed to me sufficient to indicate, in the first edition of my 'Origin of Species,' that by
this work "light would be thrown on the origin of man and his history;" and this implies
that man must be included with other organic beings in any general conclusion respecting
his manner of appearance on this earth. Now the case wears a wholly different aspect.
When a naturalist like Carl Vogt ventures to say in his address as President of the
National Institution of Geneva (1869), "personne, en Europe au moins, n'ose plus soutenir
la creation independante et de toutes pieces, des especes," it is manifest that at least a
large number of naturalists must admit that species are the modified descendants of other
species; and this especially holds good with the younger and rising naturalists. The
greater number accept the agency of natural selection; though some urge, whether with
justice the future must decide, that I have greatly overrated its importance. Of the older
and honoured chiefs in natural science, many unfortunately are still opposed to evolution
in every form. In consequence of the views now adopted by most naturalists, and which
will ultimately, as in every other case, be followed by others who are not scientific, I
have been led to put together my notes, so as to see how far the general conclusions
arrived at in my former works were applicable to man. This seemed all the more
desirable, as I had never deliberately applied these views to a species taken singly. When
we confine our attention to any one form, we are deprived of the weighty arguments
derived from the nature of the affinities which connect together whole groups of
organisms--their geographical distribution in past and present times, and their geological
succession. The homological structure, embryological development, and rudimentary
organs of a species remain to be considered, whether it be man or any other animal, to
which our attention may be directed; but these great classes of facts afford, as it appears
to me, ample and conclusive evidence in favour of the principle of gradual evolution. The
strong support derived from the other arguments should, however, always be kept before
the mind.
The sole object of this work is to consider, firstly, whether man, like every other species,
is descended from some pre-existing form; secondly, the manner of his development; and
thirdly, the value of the differences between the so-called races of man. As I shall confine
myself to these points, it will not be necessary to describe in detail the differences
between the several races--an enormous subject which has been fully described in many
valuable works. The high antiquity of man has recently been demonstrated by the labours
of a host of eminent men, beginning with M. Boucher de Perthes; and this is the
indispensable basis for understanding his origin. I shall, therefore, take this conclusion
for granted, and may refer my readers to the admirable treatises of Sir Charles Lyell, Sir
John Lubbock, and others. Nor shall I have occasion to do more than to allude to the
amount of difference between man and the anthropomorphous apes; for Prof. Huxley, in
the opinion of most competent judges, has conclusively shewn that in every visible
character man differs less from the higher apes, than these do from the lower members of
the same order of Primates.