'On the Genesis of Species', by St George Jackson Mivart (1871)

Title page

(BV M3)

This book prompted Butler to pursue his research into the history of evolutionary thought. Its author, St George Mivart, was an English biologist and a Roman Catholic, who initially embraced natural selection but became increasingly hostile to the idea as he struggled to reconcile it with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Illustration on p.40

Illustration on p.40 - 'The walking-leaf insect'

Regardless of his religious views, Mivart engaged seriously and intelligently with the details of natural selection, and formulated one of the few concrete objections to Darwin’s theory, pointing out its failure to account for the incipient stages in the development of anatomical structures. (How, for example, could any of the structures representing the early stages of eye evolution be selected for, when these basic structures did not themselves possess the characteristic of sight that is the desirable property of an eye?) It took Darwin an entire new chapter in the sixth edition of the Origin of Species to demonstrate, using evidence from the animal kingdom, that intermediate stages of organ development (sensitivity to light in the case of eye development, for example) had a proven utility.

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