|560||Mr. De la BECHE and Mr. CONYBEARE on|
the head of this paper. The numerous important and
illustrative specimens which he placed at my disposal, proved of
material aid, and still more so his general acquaintance with the
subject, of which I subsequently enjoyed the fullest advantage ; so
that the facts now submitted to the Society must be considered as the
fruit of inquiries prosecuted by us in common.
|* I have also to acknowledge our obligations on
-similar grounds to Mr. Bright, Dr. Dyer, Messrs. Miller, Johnson,
Braikenridge, Cumberland, and Page of Bristol.
When alluding to the regular gradation, and, as it were, the linked and concatenated series of animal forms, we would wish carefully to guard against the absurd and extravagant application which has sometimes been made of this notion. In the original formation of animated beings, the plan evidently to be traced throughout is this. That every place capable of supporting animal life should be so filled, and that every possible mode of sustenance should be taken advantage of; hence every possible variety of structure became necessary, many of them such as to involve a total change of parts, but others again, such as required nothing beyond a modification of similar parts, slight indeed in external appearance, yet important in subserving the peculiar habits and economy of the different animals ; in these cases the unity of general design was preserved, while the requisite peculiarity of organisation was superinduced ; nor can there be anywhere found a more striking proof of the infinite riches of creative design, or of the infinite wisdom which guided their application. Some physiologists however (and Lamarck is more especially censurable on this account) have most ridiculously imagined that the links hence arising represent real transitions from one branch to another of the animal kingdom ; that through a series of such links, and by means of the constant tendency of the vital fluids, urged by animal appetencies to perfect old organs and develop new ones, that which was once a polypus became successively a mollusca, a fish, a quadruped ; an idea so monstrous, and so completely at variance with the structure of the peculiar organs considered in the detail (which is in the great majority of instances such that no conceivable appetency could have any conceivable tendency to produce it) and no less so with the evident permanency of all animal forms, that nothing less than the credulity of a material philosophy could have been brought for a single moment to entertain it-nothing less than its bigotry to defend it.