This introduced an unfortunate plot-twist. Butler's early voice remained unheard, pointing out that the idea of natural selection was a very old one and that the difference Darwin and his predecessors did not lie in the "discovery" of natural selection. Instead, the false myths of a discovery of natural selection and of the identity of Matthew's theory with Darwin's got carved in stone.
The below quotes from Butler's books Evolution, Old and New (1879) and Luck or Cunning (1887) serve to show that he distinguished conceptions of evolution based on their teleology, that he favored the teleological conception, and that he counted Matthew among the teleological evolutionists (but not Darwin).
- Butler, S. 1879. Evolution, Old and New; or, the theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, as compared with that of Mr. Charles Darwin. S. E. Cassino.
- Butler, S. 1887 [re-issued 1922]. Luck, or Cunning, as the main means of organic modification? Jonathan Cape.
"Not one person in ten thousand has any distinct idea of what Buffon, Dr. Darwin, and Lamarck propounded. Their names have been discredited by the very authors who have been most indebted to them; there is hardly a writer on evolution who does not think it incumbent upon him to warn Lamarck off the ground which he at any rate made his own, and to cast a stone at what he will call the 'shallow speculations' or 'crude theories' or the 'well-known doctrine' of the foremost exponent of Buffon and Dr. Darwin. Buffon is a great name, Dr. Darwin is no longer even this, and Lamarck has been so systematically laughed at that it amounts to little less than philosophical suicide for anyone to stand up in his behalf." (Butler 1879, p. 61)
"It will appear that the evolution of evolution has gone through the following principal stages:—
I. A general conception of the fact that specific types were not always immutable. [Butler associates this view with Anaximander, Lucretius, Bacon, and Raleigh.]
II. A definite conception that 'animal and vegetable forms were so extensively mutable that few (and, if so, perhaps but one) could claim to be of an original stock; the direct effect of changed conditions being assigned as the cause of modification, and the important consequences of the struggle for existence being in many respects fully recognized. The fact of design or purpose in connection with organism, as causing habits and thus as underlying all variation, was also indicated with some clearness, but was not well understood. This phase must be identified with the name of Buffon" (Butler 1879, p. 62)
"Before I had finished writing this book I fell in with Professor Mivart's 'Genesis of Species,' and for the first time understood the distinction between the Lamarckian and Charles-Darwinian systems of evolution." (Butler 1887 , p. 16)
"Natural selection (meaning by these words the preservation in the ordinary course of nature of favourable variations that are supposed to be mainly matters of pure good luck and in no way arising out of function) has been, to use an Americanism than which I can find nothing apter, the biggest biological boom of the last quarter of a century;" (Butler 1887, p. 70)
"Stripped of detail the point at issue is this;—whether luck or cunning is the fitter to be insisted on as the main means of organic development. Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck answered this question in favour of cunning. They settled it in favour of intelligent perception of the situation—within, of course, ever narrower and narrower limits as organism retreats farther backwards from ourselves—and persistent effort to turn it to account. They made this the soul of all development whether of mind or body." (p. 71)
"According to Messrs. Darwin and Wallace, and ostensibly, I am afraid I should add, a great majority of our most prominent biologists, the view taken by Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck is not a sound one. Some organisms, indeed, are so admirably adapted to their surroundings, and some organs discharge their functions with so much appearance of provision, that we are apt to think they must owe their development to sense of need and consequent contrivance, but this opinion is fantastic; the appearance of design is delusive; what we are tempted to see as an accumulated outcome of desire and cunning, we should regard as mainly an accumulated outcome of good luck." (p. 80)
"At any rate it will be admitted that Mr. Darwin did not make his title-page express his meaning so clearly that his readers could readily catch the point of difference between himself and his grandfather and Lamarck; nevertheless the point just touched upon involves the only essential difference between the systems of Mr. Charles Darwin and those of his three most important predecessors [Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck]. All four writers agree that animals and plants descend with modification; all agree that the fittest alone survive; all agree about the important consequences of the geometrical ratio of increase; Mr. Charles Darwin has said more about these last two points than his predecessors did, but all three were alike cognisant of the facts and attached the same importance to them, and would have been astonished at its being supposed possible that they disputed them. The fittest alone survive; yes—but the fittest from among what?
Here comes the point of divergence; the fittest from among organisms whose variations arise mainly through use and disuse? In other words, from variations that are mainly functional? Or from among organisms whose variations are in the main matters of luck? From variations into which a moral and intellectual system of payment according to results has largely entered? Or from variations which have been thrown for with dice? From variations among which, though cards tell, yet play tells as much or more? Or from those in which cards are everything and play goes for so little as to be not worth taking into account? Is 'the survival of the fittest' to be taken as meaning 'the survival of the luckiest' or 'the survival of those who know best how to turn fortune to account'? Is luck the only element of fitness, or is not cunning even more indispensable?" (p. 84f)
"Buffon, Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck believed in natural selection to the full as much as any follower of Mr. Charles Darwin can do. They did not use the actual words, but the idea underlying them is the essence of their system. Mr. Patrick Matthew epitomised their doctrine more tersely, perhaps, than was done by any other of the pre-Charles-Darwinian evolutionists, in the following passage which appeared in 1831, and which I have already quoted in 'Evolution Old and New' (pp. 320, 323)." (p. 85)
"It is indeed true that the younger Darwin gave the words 'natural selection' the importance which of late years they have assumed; he probably adopted them unconsciously from the passage of Mr. Matthew's quoted above, but he ultimately said, 'In the literal sense of the word (sic) no doubt natural selection is a false term,' as personifying a fact, making it exercise the conscious choice without which there can be no selection, and generally crediting it with the discharge of functions which can only be ascribed legitimately to living and reasoning beings. Granted, however, that while Mr. Charles Darwin adopted the expression natural selection and admitted it to be a bad one, his grandfather did not use it at all; still Mr. Darwin did not mean the natural selection which Mr. Matthew and those whose opinions he was epitomising meant. Mr. Darwin meant the selection to be made from variations into which purpose enters to only a small extent comparatively. The difference, therefore, between the older evolutionists and their successor does not lie in the acceptance by the more recent writer of a quasi-selective power in nature which his predecessors denied, but in the background—hidden behind the words natural selection, which have served to cloak it—in the views which the old and the new writers severally took of the variations from among which they are alike agreed that a selection or quasi-selection is made.
It now appears that there is not one natural selection, and one survival of the fittest only, but two natural selections, and two survivals of the fittest, the one of which may be objected to as an expression more fit for religious and general literature than for science, but may still be admitted as sound in intention, while the other, inasmuch as it supposes accident to be the main purveyor of variations, has no correspondence with the actual course of things; for if the variations are matters of chance or hazard unconnected with any principle of constant application, they will not occur steadily enough, throughout a sufficient number of successive generations, nor to a sufficient number of individuals for many generations together at the same time and place, to admit of the fixing and permanency of modification at all. The one theory of natural selection, therefore, may, and indeed will, explain the facts that surround us, whereas the other will not. Mr. Charles Darwin's contribution to the theory of evolution was not, as is commonly supposed, 'natural selection,' but the hypothesis that natural selection from variations that are in the main fortuitous could accumulate and result in specific and generic differences." (p. 87f)