CHAPTER VI. DIFFICULTIES OF THE THEORY.
9. SUMMARY: THE LAW OF UNITY OF TYPE AND OF THE CONDITIONS OF EXISTENCE EMBRACED BY THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION.
We have in this chapter discussed some of the difficulties and objections
which may be urged against the theory. Many of them are serious; but I
think that in the discussion light has been thrown on several facts, which
on the belief of independent acts of creation are utterly obscure. We have
seen that species at any one period are not indefinitely variable, and are
not linked together by a multitude of intermediate gradations, partly
because the process of natural selection is always very slow, and at any
one time acts only on a few forms; and partly because the very process of
natural selection implies the continual supplanting and extinction of
preceding and intermediate gradations. Closely allied species, now living
on a continuous area, must often have been formed when the area was not
continuous, and when the conditions of life did not insensibly graduate
away from one part to another. When two varieties are formed in two
districts of a continuous area, an intermediate variety will often be
formed, fitted for an intermediate zone; but from reasons assigned, the
intermediate variety will usually exist in lesser numbers than the two
forms which it connects; consequently the two latter, during the course of
further modification, from existing in greater numbers, will have a great
advantage over the less numerous intermediate variety, and will thus
generally succeed in supplanting and exterminating it.
We have seen in this chapter how cautious we should be in concluding that
the most different habits of life could not graduate into each other; that
a bat, for instance, could not have been formed by natural selection from
an animal which at first only glided through the air.
We have seen that a species under new conditions of life may change its
habits, or it may have diversified habits, with some very unlike those of
its nearest congeners. Hence we can understand, bearing in mind that each
organic being is trying to live wherever it can live, how it has arisen
that there are upland geese with webbed feet, ground woodpeckers, diving
thrushes, and petrels with the habits of auks.