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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 3922 times)
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« Reply #75 on: February 09, 2009, 01:29:22 pm »

Seeing how general is this law of the susceptibility of the
reproductive system to changed conditions of life, and that it holds
good with our nearest allies, the Quadrumana, I can hardly doubt
that it applies to man in his primeval state. Hence if savages of
any race are induced suddenly to change their habits of life, they
become more or less sterile, and their young offspring suffer in
health, in the same manner and from the same cause, as do the elephant
and hunting-leopard in India, many monkeys in America, and a host of
animals of all kinds, on removal from their natural conditions.
  We can see why it is that aborigines, who have long inhabited
islands, and who must have been long exposed to nearly uniform
conditions, should be specially affected by any change in their
habits, as seems to be the case. Civilised races can certainly
resist changes of all kinds far better than savages; and in this
respect they resemble domesticated animals, for though the latter
sometimes suffer in health (for instance European dogs in India),
yet they are rarely rendered sterile, though a few such instances have
been recorded.* The immunity of civilised races and domesticated
animals is probably due to their having been subjected to a greater
extent, and therefore having grown somewhat more accustomed, to
diversified or varying conditions, than the majority of wild
animals; and to their having formerly immigrated or been carried
from country to country, and to different families or subraces
having inter-crossed. It appears that a cross with civilised races
at once gives to an aboriginal race an immunity from the evil
consequences of changed conditions. Thus the crossed offspring from
the Tahitians and English, when settled in Pitcairn Island,
increased so rapidly that the island was soon overstocked; and in June
1856 they were removed to Norfolk Island. They then consisted of 60
married persons and 134 children, making a total of 194. Here they
likewise increased so rapidly, that although sixteen of them
returned to Pitcairn Island in 1859, they numbered in January 1868,
300 souls; the males and females being in exactly equal numbers.
What a contrast does this case present with that of the Tasmanians;
the Norfolk Islanders increased in only twelve and a half years from
194 to 300; whereas the Tasmanians decreased during fifteen years from
120 to 46, of which latter number only ten were children.*(2)

  * Variation of Animals, &c., vol. ii., p. 16.
  *(2) These details are taken from The Mutineers of the Bounty, by
Lady Belcher, 1870; and from Pitcairn Island, ordered to be printed by
the House of Commons, May 29, 1863. The following statements about the
Sandwich Islanders are from the Honolulu Gazette, and from Mr. Coan.

  So again in the interval between the census of 1866 and 1872 the
natives of full blood in the Sandwich Islands decreased by 8081,
whilst the half-castes, who are believed to be healthier, increased by
847; but I do not know whether the latter number includes the
offspring from the half-castes, or only the half-castes of the first
  The cases which I have here given all relate to aborigines, who have
been subjected to new conditions as the result of the immigration of
civilised men. But sterility and ill-health would probably follow,
if savages were compelled by any cause, such as the inroad of a
conquering tribe, to desert their homes and to change their habits. It
is an interesting circumstance that the chief check to wild animals
becoming domesticated, which implies the power of their breeding
freely when first captured, and one chief check to wild men, when
brought into contact with civilisation, surviving to form a
civilised race, is the same, namely, sterility from changed conditions
of life.
  Finally, although the gradual decrease and ultimate extinction of
the races of man is a highly complex problem, depending on many causes
which differ in different places and at different times; it is the
same problem as that presented by the extinction of one of the
higher animals- of the fossil horse, for instance, which disappeared
from South America, soon afterwards to be replaced, within the same
districts, by countless troups of the Spanish horse. The New Zealander
seems conscious of this parallelism, for he compares his future fate
with that of the native rat now almost exterminated by the European
rat. Though the difficulty is great to our imagination, and really
great, if we wish to ascertain the precise causes and their manner
of action, it ought not to be so to our reason, as long as we keep
steadily in mind that the increase of each species and each race is
constantly checked in various ways; so that if any new check, even a
slight one, be superadded, the race will surely decrease in number;
and decreasing numbers will sooner or later lead to extinction; the
end, in most cases, being promptly determined by the inroads of
conquering tribes.
  On the Formation of the Races of Man.- In some cases the crossing of
distinct races has led to the formation of a new race. The singular
fact that the Europeans and Hindoos, who belong to the same Aryan
stock, and speak a language fundamentally the same, differ widely in
appearance, whilst Europeans differ but little from Jews, who belong
to the Semitic stock, and speak quite another language, has been
accounted for by Broca,* through certain Aryan branches having been
largely crossed by indigenous tribes during their wide diffusion. When
two races in close contact cross, the first result is a
heterogeneous mixture: thus Mr. Hunter, in describing the Santali orhill-tribes of India, says that hundreds of imperceptible gradations
may be traced "from the black, squat tribes of the mountains to the
tall olive-coloured Brahman, with his intellectual brow, calm eyes,
and high but narrow head"; so that it is necessary in courts of
justice to ask the witnesses whether they are Santalis or Hindoos.*(2)
Whether a heterogeneous people, such as the inhabitants of some of the
Polynesian islands, formed by the crossing of two distinct races, with
few or no pure members left, would ever become homogeneous, is not
known from direct evidence. But as with our domesticated animals, a
cross-breed can certainly be fixed and made uniform by careful
selection*(3) in the course of a few generations, we may infer that
the free inter-crossing of a heterogeneous mixture during a long
descent would supply the place of selection, and overcome any tendency
to reversion; so that the crossed race would ultimately become
homogeneous, though it might not partake in an equal degree of the
characters of the two parent-races.

  * "On Anthropology," translation, Anthropological Review, Jan.,
1868, p. 38.
  *(2) The Animals of Rural Bengal, 1868, p. 134.
  *(3) The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication vol.
ii., p. 95.

  Of all the differences between the races of man, the colour of the
skin is the most conspicuous and one of the best marked. It was
formerly thought that differences of this kind could be accounted
for by long exposure to different climates; but Pallas first shewed
that this is not tenable, and he has since been followed by almost all
anthropologists.* This view has been rejected chiefly because the
distribution of the variously coloured races, most of whom have long
inhabited their present homes, does not coincide with corresponding
differences of climate. Some little weight may be given to such
cases as that of the Dutch families, who, as we hear on excellent
authority,*(2) have not undergone the least change of colour after
residing for three centuries in South Africa. An argument on the
same side may likewise be drawn from the uniform appearance in various
parts of the world of gipsies and Jews, though the uniformity of the
latter has been somewhat exaggerated.*(3) A very damp or a very dry
atmosphere has been supposed to be more influential in modifying the
colour of the skin than mere heat; but as D'Orbigny in South
America, and Livingstone in Africa, arrived at diametrically
opposite conclusions with respect to dampness and dryness, any
conclusion on this head must be considered as very doubtful.*(4)

  * Pallas, Act. Acad. St. Petersburg, 1780, part ii., p. 69. He was
followed by Rudolphi, in his Beitrage zur Anthropologie, 1812. An
excellent summary of the evidence is given by Godron, De l'Espece,
1859, vol. ii., p. 246, &c.
  *(2) Sir Andrew Smith, as quoted by Knox, Races of Man, 1850, p.
  *(3) See De Quatrefages on this head, Revue des Cours Scientifiques,
Oct. 17, 1868, p. 731.
  *(4) Livingstone's Travels and Researches in S. Africa, 1857, pp.
338, 339. D'Orbigny, as quoted by Godron, De l'Espece, vol. ii., p.

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