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

The Evidence Of The Descent Of Man From Some Lower
Nature of the evidence bearing on the origin of man--Homologous structures in man and
the lower animals--Miscellaneous points of correspondence-- Development--
Rudimentary structures, muscles, sense-organs, hair, bones, reproductive organs, etc.--
The bearing of these three great classes of facts on the origin of man.
He who wishes to decide whether man is the modified descendant of some pre- existing
form, would probably first enquire whether man varies, however slightly, in bodily
structure and in mental faculties; and if so, whether the variations are transmitted to his
offspring in accordance with the laws which prevail with the lower animals. Again, are
the variations the result, as far as our ignorance permits us to judge, of the same general
causes, and are they governed by the same general laws, as in the case of other
organisms; for instance, by correlation, the inherited effects of use and disuse, etc.? Is
man subject to similar malconformations, the result of arrested development, of
reduplication of parts, etc., and does he display in any of his anomalies reversion to some
former and ancient type of structure? It might also naturally be enquired whether man,
like so many other animals, has given rise to varieties and sub-races, differing but slightly
from each other, or to races differing so much that they must be classed as doubtful
species? How are such races distributed over the world; and how, when crossed, do they
react on each other in the first and succeeding generations? And so with many other
The enquirer would next come to the important point, whether man tends to increase at so
rapid a rate, as to lead to occasional severe struggles for existence; and consequently to
beneficial variations, whether in body or mind, being preserved, and injurious ones
eliminated. Do the races or species of men, whichever term may be applied, encroach on
and replace one another, so that some finally become extinct? We shall see that all these
questions, as indeed is obvious in respect to most of them, must be answered in the
affirmative, in the same manner as with the lower animals. But the several considerations
just referred to may be conveniently deferred for a time: and we will first see how far the
bodily structure of man shews traces, more or less plain, of his descent from some lower
form. In succeeding chapters the mental powers of man, in comparison with those of the
lower animals, will be considered.
It is notorious that man is constructed on the same general type or model as other
mammals. All the bones in his skeleton can be compared with corresponding bones in a
monkey, bat, or seal. So it is with his muscles, nerves, blood-vessels and internal viscera.
The brain, the most important of all the organs, follows the same law, as shewn by
Huxley and other anatomists. Bischoff (1. 'Grosshirnwindungen des Menschen,' 1868, s.
96. The conclusions of this author, as well as those of Gratiolet and Aeby, concerning the
brain, will be discussed by Prof. Huxley in the Appendix alluded to in the Preface to this
edition.), who is a hostile witness, admits that every chief fissure and fold in the brain of
man has its analogy in that of the orang; but he adds that at no period of development do
their brains perfectly agree; nor could perfect agreement be expected, for otherwise their
mental powers would have been the same. Vulpian (2. 'Lec. sur la Phys.' 1866, page 890,
as quoted by M. Dally, 'L'Ordre des Primates et le Transformisme,' 1868, page 29.),