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An Outline of the Theory of Organic Evolution; with a Description of some of the Phenomena which it Explains

Nature volume 71, page 509 (30 March 1905) | Download Citation



THIS is one of the best popular accounts of the theory of evolution that have come under our notice. The author makes little or no claim to originality, but he has on the whole succeeded in his aim of providing a clear and intelligible statement of evolutionary doctrine in most of its recent developments. Technicalities have been largely avoided; but, as the author truly says, “the subject is somewhat intricate, and cannot be presented in so simple a manner as to require no thought on the reader's part.” With regard to controverted points, the position taken is generally sound; Dr. Metcalf has no difficulty in recognising the supreme importance of natural selection, or in rating at their true value the speculations of the Lamarckian school, whether new or old. He rightly lays stress on the great fact of adaptation as affording the most conclusive evidence of the controlling power of selection; “adaptation,” as he remarks, “is the key-note of organic nature.” To some readers his faith in the beneficial character of certain modifications will seem a trifle too robust; but for the most part he treats this branch of the subject with sound judgment and the force born of reasoned conviction.

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