Letter | Published:

The Statistical Investigation of Evolution

Abstract

MR. THISELTON-DYER states that Prof. Weldon has shown that “selective destruction” takes place in early life amongst individuals which deviate from the “mean specific form.” He further says that the actual statistical demonstration of the fact that “minimum destruction is in position coincident with the mean of the whole system,” deserves to rank amongst the most remarkable achievements in connection with the theory of evolution. But, to judge from the paper by Prof. Weldon, printed in NATURE of March 7, he does not claim to have made this remarkable achievement. He says that, according to the results of the statistical investigation, in two dimensions of the shore crab, the frequency of deviations increased during an early period of growth, and that in one case the increase was followed by a decrease; in the other case it was not. Prof. Weldon states that if a certain law of growth can be shown to be true by experimental tests, then the result implies a selective destruction in the one case and not in the other. So that all we have is the possibility in the future of a statistical demonstration of selective destruction in the case of one particular dimensional character, and the rigid proof in the present that in the case of the other dimensional character selective destruction does not take place. Surely every man of science must admit that Prof. Weldon's results, on his own showing, have done more against selective destruction than for it.

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