The Darwinian Theory of the Transmutation of Species

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J. Nisbet, 1867 - Evolution - 386 pages

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Utterly delightful book. You'll find yourself chuckling at Beverley's droll wit and incisive commentary against Darwin, on nearly every page. For this guy is the David Berlinski of the late 1860's. The book satirizes Darwin, and with good reason, as you'll see if you read the book (free download as pdf or epub right here in Google Books).
Beverley extensively quotes Darwin (with page citations, so you might have to search on the words in your copy), then demonstrates how Darwin contradicts himself. For essentially, Darwin's 'Natural Selection' is the Greek Goddess Nature, and Origin of Species is a panegyric to her. Ooops.
But Darwin was not alone. Rather, the argument he advances had already accumulated a huge pile of proponents, for up to 100 years prior; Darwin was a fan of, some among them. Beverley calls this group the Transmutation School, and covers their 'star' arguments. He thus provides important background: you'll never understand neo-Darwinism's weird changes, without it.
For the others in the School, were primarily advancing behavioral or environmental causes for, Transmutation; you won't believe how weird their ideas, until you read them. Hence the neo-Darwinian position is an attempt to divorce from the behavioralist/environmental weirdoes in the 'school', and throws out the baby (that SOME version of behavioralism/environment logically accounts for mutation or change) with the bathwater (the weird contentions that soil or water or 'x' birthed all existence all by itself, or that continual exercise (or lack thereof) created eventual mutations/atrophies).
So Beverley is very au courant for his time. Pity he's not alive now, but 'nature' (lol) has given us David Berlinski, who surely must be the evolved (sic) progeny of Beverley. So read this book for the sheer elegance of the discourse.
Conversely, if you're a neo-Darwinist, you will hate this book; for the Darwinian errors remain today, despite all our scientific advance; 150 years without any more evidence than was to be had, back when Beverley wrote. Ouch.
Only difference is, kids starting with my generation (1950's) were force-fed Darwin as the canon of science from kindergarten forward, so we've been inculcated like good little communists, to believe in it. So of course, when the feet of clay in dogma -- here, 'scientific' dogma -- are exposed, well.. there will be a backlash against 'science'. For we were taught to believe in it while kids, and now we see it's all a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Worse yet, we see that 150 years ago it was KNOWN to be smoke and mirrors, yet the material was force-fed to our kids as 'scientific'? Ouch.
PS: warning, this book was written at a time when the white guys thought that the black guys were inferior. So several references about 'evolution' presume that black or colored skin represented a more-primitive state. I can't tell if Beverley himself believes that, or whether he's bringing up that erstwhile 'doctrine' as part of his satire. Most of the references are quotes of the Transmutation school, it seems. In any event, remember that in those days, newly-minted craziness like Feuerbach and Marxism, Joseph Smith and Spiritism, bleeding people by leeches, and the idea that the soil or water was the agent/source of all life forms (a prior version of evolution, closely tied to pantheism) -- all these wacko ideas, were fashionable. So it's not surprising that mindless melanin -- here its lack -- would be assigned magical powers, too. Right alongside phrenology and the Khazars, lol.
We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.

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Page 20 - And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Page 20 - And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Page 371 - A few naturalists, endowed with much flexibility of mind, and who have already begun to doubt the immutability of species, may be influenced by this volume; but I look with confidence to the future, to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.
Page 348 - Slow though the process of selection may be, if feeble man can do much by his powers of artificial selection, I can see no limit. to the amount of change, to the beauty and infinite complexity of the coadaptations between all organic beings, one with another and with their physical conditions of life, which may be effected in the long course of time by nature's power of selection.
Page 7 - In short, we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not be a cheering prospect ; but we shall at least be freed from the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable essence of the term species.
Page 232 - the recognition of an ideal Exemplar for the Vertebrated Animals proves that the Knowledge of such a being as Man must have existed before Man appeared. For the Divine mind which planned the Archetype also foreknew all its modifications. The Archetypal idea was manifested in the flesh, under divers modifications, upon this planet, long prior to the existence of those animal species that actually exemplify it.
Page 70 - Under changed conditions of life, it is at least possible that slight modifications of instinct might be profitable to a species ; and if it can be shown that instincts do vary ever so little, then I can see no difficulty in natural selection preserving and continually accumulating variations of instinct to any extent that was profitable. It is thus, as I believe, that all the most complex and wonderful instincts have originated.
Page 61 - The similar framework of bones in the hand of a man, wing of a bat, fin of the porpoise, and leg of the horse, — the same number of vertebrae forming the neck of the giraffe and of the elephant, — and innumerable other such facts, at once explain themselves on the theory of descent with slow and slight successive modifications.
Page 1 - These facts, as will be seen in the latter chapters of this volume, seemed to throw some light on the origin of species — that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers.
Page 45 - It has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity ; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as ruling the movements of the planets ? Everyone knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity.

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