Mendelians in the words of the dying
At Sydney, “The factors which the individual receives from his parents, and no others, are those which he can transmit to his offspring”12—in other words the doctrine of the inheritance of acquired characters is estopped. As to this he speaks in 1909 more doubtfully on p. 90 and on p. 95 almost dogmatically.13 There is just a convenient haziness of meaning in the term “factor” with which some play might be made, but, taking it to mean what the context indicates, an acquirement made by the individual during its personal life, we have pretty clear evidence that Prof. Bateson will have nothing to do with the inheritance of acquired characters as that doctrine is understood by the unsophisticated biologist. This opposi-tion should be counted unto him for righteousness rather than the reverse, for it falls into line with his life’s work to which he has given of his best.—Vestigia nulla retrorsum. The point reached here which concerns my purpose is that the orthodox Mendelian still knows nothing of the cause or origin of variation, and will have none of Lamarck.
This considera-tion of Prof. Bateson’s work of a quarter of a century has been necessary for showing how the work of Weismann and himself diverge gravely and yet meet at one point, and the year 1899, being linked with 1894, has been taken out of its chronological order.
It may be permitted perhaps to say respectfully to the father in the fable, “Dig, my sons, dig in the vineyard.” If they follow still the course of the sons they may find more gold than they have found already and perchance that which is better than gold. But they will produce from it nothing that is not there.
Here gentle reader (I seem to remember this style of address in the stories of our youth) pause with me in a little oasis of the desert-stage of our journey, and brush off some of the dust, while I briefly narrate two incidents, but I pray you also not to leave me in the midst of them so that you may escape the next short stage.
A traveller, small and insignificant, armed only with an oak cudgel, was passing alone through a South American forest. As he trudged forward he noticed at a certain point in the path (shall we call it 1894–1899?) that a jaguar was watching him and was about to break his truce with man. He turned off to the right and there he saw a puma and this too
seemed to meditate evil. He hastened forward just in time as his two enemies sprang at him, and these two near relatives were locked in mortal grip—and so he passed on safe!
The reader, naturalist or layman, can point the moral for himself.
At the battle of Trafalgar, while fighting was in full progress on one of the ships, some sailors were occupied in throwing overboard the bodies of those who had been killed. A poor Scotchman badly wounded and hardly conscious was taken up by two seamen, an Englishman and an Irishman, and as they were about to throw him overboard his feeble voice was heard to say “I’m no deed yet.” “What’s that?” said the Irishman. “I’m no deed yet”; “Arrah, the doctor said he was dead, over wid him,” said the Irishman.