M. Flourens, recently dead, was one of the earliest and most pronounced opponents of Darwinism. He published in 1864 his "Examen du Livre de M. Darwin sur l'Origine des Espèces." His position as Member of the Académie Française, and Perpetual Secretary of the Académie des Sciences, or Institut de France, vouch for his high rank among the French naturalists. His connection with the Jardin des Plantes gave him enlarged opportunities for biological experiments. The result of his own experience, as well as the expe[Pg 109]rience of other observers, was, as he expresses it, his solemn conviction that species are fixed and not transmutable. No ingenuity of device could render hybrids fertile. "They never establish an intermediate species." It is, therefore, to the doctrine of evolution his attention is principally directed. Nevertheless, he is no less struck by Darwin's way of excluding all intelligence and design in his manner of speaking of nature. On this point he quotes the language of Cuvier, who says: "Nature has been personified. Living beings have been called the works of nature. The general bearing of these creatures to each other has become the laws of nature. It is thus while considering Nature as a being endowed with intelligence and will, but in its power limited and secondary, that it may be said that she watches incessantly over the maintenance of her work; that she does nothing in vain, and always acts by the most simple means.... It is easy to see how puerile are those who give nature a species of individual existence distinct from the Creator, and from the law which He has impressed upon the movements and peculiarities of the forms given by Him to living things, and which He makes to act upon their[Pg 110] bodies with a peculiar force and reason." Older writers, says Flourens, in speaking of Nature, "gave to her inclinations, intentions, and views, and horrors (of a vacuum), and sports," etc. He says that one of the principal objects of his book is to show how Mr. Darwin "has deluded himself, and perhaps others, by a constant abuse of figurative language." "He plays with Nature as he pleases, and makes her do whatsoever he wishes." When we remember that Mr. Darwin defines Nature to be the aggregate of physical forces, we see how, in attributing everything to Nature, he effectually excludes the supernatural.
In his volume of "Lay Sermons, Reviews," etc., Professor Huxley has a very severe critique on M. Flourens's book. He says little, however, in reference to teleology, except in one paragraph, in which we read: "M. Flourens cannot imagine an unconscious selection; it is for him a contradiction in terms." Huxley's answer is, "The winds and waves of the Bay of Biscay have not much consciousness, and yet they have with great care 'selected,' from an infinity of masses of silex, all grains of sand below a certain size and have heaped them by themselves over a great area.... A frosty night selects[Pg 111] the hardy plants in a plantation from among the tender ones as effectually as if the intelligence of the gardener had been operative in cutting the weaker ones down." If this means anything, it means that as the winds and waves of the Bay of Biscay can make heaps of sand, so similar unconscious agencies can, if you only give them time enough, make an elephant or a man; for this is what Mr. Darwin says natural selection has done.
Spontaneous generation Edit
Note that Spontaneous generation became fitness as shown at Naming Conventions.