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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, 01:29:51 pm »

Dr. Sharpe remarks,* that a tropical sun, which burns and blisters a
white skin, does not injure a black one at all; and, as he adds,
this is not due to habit in the individual, for children only six or
eight months old are often carried about naked, and are not
affected. I have been assured by a medical man, that some years ago
during each summer, but not during the winter, his hands became marked
with light brown patches, like, although larger than freckles, and
that these patches were never affected by sun-burning, whilst the
white parts of his skin have on several occasions been much inflamed
and blistered. With the lower animals there is, also, a constitutional
difference in liability to the action of the sun between those parts
of the skin clothed with white hair and other parts.*(2) Whether the
saving of the skin from being thus burnt is of sufficient importance
to account for a dark tint having been gradually acquired by man
through natural selection, I am unable to judge. If it be so, we
should have to assume that the natives of tropical America have
lived there for a much shorter time than the Negroes in Africa or
the Papuans in the southern parts of the Malay archipelago, just as
the lighter-coloured Hindoos have resided in India for a shorter
time than the darker aborigines of the central and southern parts of
the peninsula.

  * Man a Special Creation, 1873, p. 119.
  *(2) Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol.
ii., pp. 336, 337.

  Although with our present knowledge we cannot account for the
differences of colour in the races of man, through any advantage
thus gained, or from the direct action of climate; yet we must not
quite ignore the latter agency, for there is good reason to believe
that some inherited effect is thus produced.*

  * See, for instance, Quatrefages (Revue des Cours Scientifiques,
Oct. 10, 1868, p. 724) on the effects of residence in Abyssinia and
Arabia, and other analogous cases. Dr. Rolle (Der Mensch, seine
Abstammung, &c., 1865, s. 99) states, on the authority of Khanikof,
that the greater number of German families settled in Georgia, have
acquired in the course of two generations dark hair and eyes. Mr. D.
Forbes informs me that the Quechuas in the Andes vary greatly in
colour, according to the position of the valleys inhabited by them.

  We have seen in the second chapter that the conditions of life
affect the development of the bodily frame in a direct manner, and
that the effects are transmitted. Thus, as is generally admitted,
the European settlers in the United States undergo a slight but
extraordinary rapid change of appearance. Their bodies and limbs
become elongated; and I hear from Col. Bernys that during the late war
in the United States, good evidence was afforded of this fact by the
ridiculous appearance presented by the German regiments, when
dressed in ready-made clothes manufactured for the American market,
and which were much too long for the men in every way. There is, also,
a considerable body of evidence shewing that in the Southern States
the house-slaves of the third generation present a markedly
different appearance from the field-slaves.*

  * Harlan, Medical Researches, p. 532. Quatrefages (Unite de l'Espece
Humaine, 1861, p. 128) has collected much evidence on this head.

  If, however, we look to the races of man as distributed over the
world, we must infer that their characteristic differences cannot be
accounted for by the direct action of different conditions of life,
even after exposure to them for an enormous period of time. The
Esquimaux live exclusively on animal food; they are clothed in thick
fur, and are exposed to intense cold and to prolonged darkness; yet
they do not differ in any extreme degree from the inhabitants of
southern China, who live entirely on vegetable food, and are exposed
almost naked to a hot, glaring climate. The unclothed Fuegians live on
the marine productions of their inhospitable shores; the Botocudos
of Brazil wander about the hot forests of the interior and live
chiefly on vegetable productions; yet these tribes resemble each other
so closely that the Fuegians on board the "Beagle" were mistaken by
some Brazilians for Botocudos. The Botocudos again, as well as the
other inhabitants of tropical America, are wholly different from the
Negroes who inhabit the opposite shores of the Atlantic, are exposed
to a nearly similar climate, and follow nearly the same habits of
  Nor can the differences between the races of man be accounted for by
the inherited effects of the increased or decreased use of parts,
except to a quite insignificant degree. Men who habitually live in
canoes, may have their legs somewhat stunted; those who inhabit
lofty regions may have their chests enlarged; and those who constantly
use certain sense-organs may have the cavities in which they are
lodged somewhat increased in size, and their features consequently a
little modified. With civilized nations, the reduced size of the
jaws from lessened use- the habitual play of different muscles serving
to express different emotions- and the increased size of the brain
from greater intellectual activity, have together produced a
considerable effect on their general appearance when compared with
savages.* Increased bodily stature, without any corresponding increase
in the size of the brain, may (judging from the previously adduced
case of rabbits), have given to some races an elongated skull of the
dolichocephalic type.

  * See Prof. Schaaffhausen, translat., in Anthropological Review,
Oct., 1868, p. 429.

  Lastly, the little-understood principle of correlated development
has sometimes come into action, as in the case of great muscular
development and strongly projecting supra-orbital ridges. The colour
of the skin and hair are plainly correlated, as is the texture of
the hair with its colour in the Mandans of North America.* The
colour also of the skin, and the odour emitted by it, are likewise
in some manner connected. With the breeds of sheep the number of hairs
within a given space and the number of excretory pores are
related.*(2) If we may judge from the analogy of our domesticated
animals, many modifications of structure in man probably come under
this principle of correlated development.

  * Mr. Catlin states (N. American Indians, 3rd ed., 1842, vol. i., p.
49) that in the whole tribe of the Mandans, about one in ten or twelve
of the members, of all ages and both sexes, have bright silvery grey
hair, which is hereditary. Now this hair is as coarse and harsh as
that of a horse's mane, whilst the hair of other colours is fine and
  *(2) On the odour of the skin, Godron, De l'Espece, tom. ii., p.
217. On the pores of the skin, Dr. Wilckens, Die Aufgaben der
Landwirth. Zootechnik, 1869, s. 7.

  We have now seen that the external characteristic differences
between the races of man cannot be accounted for in a satisfactory
manner by the direct action of the conditions of life, nor by the
effects of the continued use of parts, nor through the principle of
correlation. We are therefore led to enquire whether slight individual
differences, to which man is eminently liable, may not have been
preserved and augmented during a long series of generations through
natural selection. But here we are at once met by the objection that
beneficial variations alone can be thus preserved; and as far as we
are enabled to judge, although always liable to err on this head, none
of the differences between the races of man are of any direct or
special service to him. The intellectual and moral or social faculties
must of course be excepted from this remark. The great variability
of all the external differences between the races of man, likewise
indicates that they cannot be of much importance; for if important,
they would long ago have been either fixed and preserved, or
eliminated. In this respect man resembles those forms, called by
naturalists protean or polymorphic, which have remained extremely
variable, owing, as it seems, to such variations being of an
indifferent nature, and to their having thus escaped the action of
natural selection.
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