Books Received | Published:

(1) A Picture Book of Evolution (2) Darwinism To-day

Nature volume 78, pages 34 (07 May 1908) | Download Citation



WE cannot recommend anyone wishing to make himself acquainted with the present aspect of the problem of evolution to put himself under Mr. Hird's guidance. His treatment of the subject is crude and uncritical, nor does he give any evidence of familiarity with the evolutionary questions that are now chiefly engaging the attention of biologists. Putting minor inaccuracies aside, the book might have been of some service if published, say, forty years ago; at the present time it is to a large extent either misleading or superfluous. Opposition to the doctrine of species-formation by natural selection conies to-day, not, as the author seems to think (p. 25), from the “House of Lords or the pulpit,” but from scientific men, both in this country and abroad; more particularly in Germany and America. While no educated person now disputes the fact of evolution, the Darwinian theory is being attacked more vigorously than: ever; the assailants, however, belong to a very different class from Darwin's impetuous critics of the early 'sixties. Mr. Hird takes little or no notice of present-day problems, but writes as if the whole question, of evolution still occupied the same position as in the mid-Victorian era. Within these limits he is fairly interesting; it is, however, unfortunate that he, has admitted to his pages several inaccuracies that might with a little more care have been avoided. “Oasperm,” “ectoderm,” are ugly misprints; “hermaphrodite” does not mean the same as “dioecious”; it is new to us that haematococcus “like the amoeba, requires to be magnified some 900 times in order to be seen.” Huxley can scarcely be ranked as a “discoverer of evolution”; he would certainly never have made such a claim for himself. The illustrations in Mr. Hird's volume have mostly been seen before. Many of them are good, but the connection of some with the text is remote.

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