Problems of Genetics p16-18 (1912)
The theory of Selection fails at exactly the point where it was devised to help: Specific distinction.
William Bateson

Consider the group of species composing the agrestis section of the genus Veronica, namely Tournefortii, agrestis, and polita.

These three grow side by side in my garden, as they do in suitable situations over a vast area of the temperate regions. I have for years noticed them with some care and become familiar with their distinctions and resemblances. Never is there any real doubt as to the identity of any plant. The species show some variability, but I have never seen one which assumed any of the distinguishing features of the others. A glance at the fruits decides at once to which species a plant belongs. I find it impossible to believe that the fixity of these distinctions is directly dependent on their value as aids in the struggle for existence. The mode of existence of the three forms in so far as we can tell is closely similar. By whatever standard we reckon systematic affinity I suppose we shall agree that these species come very near indeed to each other. Bentham even takes the view that polita is a mere variety of agrestis.

Now in such cases as this it has been argued that the specific features of the several types have been separately developed in as many distinct localities, and that their present association is due to subsequent redistribution. Of these Veronicas indeed we know that one, Tournefortii (=Buxbaumii) is as a matter of fact a recent introduction from the east. But this course of argument leads to still further difficulties. For if it is true that the peculiarities of the several species have been perfected and preserved on account of their survival-value to their possessors, it follows that there must be many ways of attaining the same result. But since sufficient adaptation may be ensured in so many ways, the disappearance of the common parent of these forms is difficult to understand. Obviously it must have been a plant very similar in general construction to its modern representatives. Like them it must have been an annual weed, with an organisation comformable to that mode of life. Why then, after having been duly perfected for that existence should it have been entirely superseded in favour of a number of other distinct contrivances for doing the same thing, and—if a gradual transition be predicated—not only by them, but by each intermediate stage between them and the original progenitor? Surely the obvious inference from such facts is that the burden cast upon the theory of gradual selection is far greater than it can bear; that the distinctions between these several species of Veronica have not arisen on account of their survival-value but rather because none of their diversities was so damaging as to lead to the extermination of its possessor. When we see these various Veronicas each rigidly reproducing its parental type, all comfortably surviving in competition with each other, are we not forced to the conclusion that tolerance has as much to do with the diversity of species as the stringency of Selection? Certainly these species owe their continued existence to the fact that they are each good enough to live, but how shall we refer the distinctions between them directly or indirectly to the determination of Natural Selection?

The control of Selection is loose while the conformity to specific distinction is often very strict and precise, and no less so even when several closely related species co-exist in the same area and in the same circumstances.

The theory of Selection fails at exactly the point where it was devised to help: Specific distinction.

See also Cook on useless characters in millipeds