Chapter Nine - Darwinism
EVERY intelligent person knows, or ought to know, that Darwinism and the theory of evolution are not by any means the same; they are not synonyms. The latter expression is much larger, more inclusive than the former. Organic evolution means that animals and plants, the human race included, have come about through a long process of natural development, not necessarily in any particular manner, but somehow, we cannot know how. Darwinism undertakes to tell how. Charles Darwin's grandfather was a strong evolutionist. Accordingly, when Charles Darwin came to write his now famous book, he did not attempt to prove organic evolution; not at all. He took that for granted; and merely undertook to show how this wonderful process of organic development has probably come about. Because of all this, we find scientists using the term Darwinism only in the narrower sense, as applying to Darwin's theory of "selection," which was his particular explanation of how organic evolution came about.
What is meant by natural selection, or the survival of the fittest?
|Darwin recognized that, if his theory was to explain the origin of
plants and animals, it must explain all their wonderful structures and
the wonderful adaptation of these structures to the needs of the organisms,
and must include everything about man, along with the other living things.
Survival of the Fittest
According to Darwinism, the giraffe was not made originally with a long neck adapted to browsing off the limbs of trees. No; he has a long neck and can browse off the limbs of trees because some of his ancestors happened (by a lucky variation) to develop long necks and long front legs, and so were able to survive by reaching food which was quite out of the reach of the other animals. Hence these other animals in competition with the giraffe all died off in the fierce struggle for existence (which Darwin always pictured the state of nature to be), while the giraffe was the lucky survivor.
According to Darwinism, the honey bee was not created with peculiar organs and an instinct for gathering honey. Not at all; but one of the bee's ancestors that happened to have a long proboscis and that happened to learn how to use this organ in gathering honey from flowers, was lucky enough to survive; while the other insects that were not so well adapted to the necessities of the situation all died off.
According to Darwinism, man was not originally created as an intelligent
"To have dominion over sea and land;
Not by any means. But some of man's apelike ancestors happened to have more wit than their companions, and were able to live by their wits instead of by their muscles alone. So they survived and left descendants, while the others were beaten down in the awful struggle for existence, and all died off.
Thus Darwinism pictures man as coming to be what he now is merely because he was better able to survive, even, when necessary, at the expense of the lives of others who were his companions.
Evidently not much room for altruism and unselfishness in such a system of things.
Dispensing with Divine Design
||This method of explaining all the structures, all the organs, and all the natural instincts of plants and animals, including man, is of the very essence of Darwinism. The latter was essentially a purely mechanical and non-purposive explanation of the adaptations in nature. It was as directly as possible opposed to the watchmaker" explanation of Paley and other students of design in nature. Teleology is the term used to mean the doctrine of design throughout nature; and as Thiselton-Dyer, the English botanist, once expressed it, Darwin swept away "the whole of Paley's teleology, simply dispensing with the supernatural explanation, —Linnæan Society (1908), p. 37.|
J. Arthur Thomson, in his usual pungent style, has expressed this characteristic
of Darwin's theory as follows:
"Tone it down as you will, the fact remains that Darwinism regards animals as going upstairs in a struggle for individual ends, often on the corpses of their fellows, often by a blood-and-iron competition, often by a strange mixture of blood and cunning, in which each looks out for himself and extinction besets the hindmost."
|Huxley expresses the same idea in the following words:
"For his successful progress as far as the savage state, man has been largely indebted to those qualities which he shares with the ape and the tiger."
These cruel and heartless habits of man's apelike ancestors became in
reality the bloody ladder by which man climbed into his present position
of dominance at the head of the animal kingdom. Evidently, nature has always
put a high premium on selfishness and ruthlessness; for the ones that had
these characteristics best developed always got the big prizes in the struggle
for existence. They left descendants like themselves; the rest were killed
off or died out. As John Fiske has expressed it:
"Those most successful primitive men from whom civilized peoples are descended must have excelled in treachery and cruelty, as in quickness of wit and strength of will."
These excerpts may suffice to show the ethical or moral bearings of Darwin's theory. This does not imply that an almighty, allwise Creator could not have developed plants, animals, and men by this sort of process through a heartless struggle for existence. I suppose He could. But it needs no argument to show that the creatures who were made by this heartless process could not very well be expected to develop any great love for such a maker — I will not say Creator. Evidently a good many explanations would be necessary on the part of the Darwinists before such a theory could be reconciled with the Christian doctrine of a God of love. Darwinists have many of them claimed to believe in a God. New Testament Christians, however, have always had difficulty in recognizing in the God of Darwinism those characteristics with which they have become familiar in such passages as John 3:16 and 17: 23.
Darwinism a Libel on God
We are not here concerned with the larger aspects of the problem of evil and its origin. This problem will be considered in Chapter X. Even the moral bearings of Darwinism can be spoken of here only to the brief extent of pointing out that Christians have considered Darwin's explanation as a real libel on the God of the Bible. When Darwin's book first came out, Haeckel hailed it as an "Anti-Genesis"; a half century of discussion has not only confirmed this, but has shown it to be even more truly an "Anti-New Testament."
But we are here chiefly concerned with the scientific aspects of Darwin's theory. Darwin was always very ostentatiously can-did in saying that, "if it could be demonstrated that any com-plex-organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."—"Origin," 5th ed. (1869), p. 227.
While he was yet alive two men, Spencer and Mivart, took him at his word, and brought forward many specific examples which could not thus be accounted for. Since their time the work has gone forward, though a large portion of the discussion has gone on behind almost closed doors, that is, in the technical journals and the technical books, which are almost wholly unknown to the people educated along other lines. However, the work of refuting Darwinism has been very completely accomplished; so much so that John Burroughs, just before he died, wrote that Darwin had been "shorn of his selection theories as completely as Samson was shorn of his locks."—Atlantic Monthly, August, 1920, p. 237.
The "Arrival of the Fittest"
Much of this discussion has been made to turn on an apparent duel between
the doctrine of acquired characters (known as Lamarckism) and that of natural
selection. Each of these ideas has a few scattering advocates; but most
biologists have discarded both of them, at least so far as serving as an
explanation of organic evolution is concerned. No one denies that in a
somewhat mild way there is a competition for a good supply of food or other
opportunities of existence. The Christian says that this is not the normal,
but a wholly abnormal, condition among living things; but he adds
that such a struggle could never explain any tendency toward advancement;
for struggle for existence, hardship, and privation among animals and plants
do not develop, they degrade, they tend to bring about degeneration
of the type. The scientist adds that Darwinism "may explain the survival
of the fittest, but it can never explain the arrival of the fittest." As
for the inheritance of acquired characters, which Herbert Spencer pinned
his faith to so tenaciously, it does not seem to happen. It seems to be
a pseudo-scientific idea, like perpetual motion or spontaneous generation.
||During the last quarter of a century, Mendelism has arisen, has grown strong, and seems almost to have put all other evolutionary theories off the map. We have already considered this phase of the subject in Chapters II and III. The present attitude of progressive scientists regarding natural selection may be indicated by the recent address of J. Playfair McMurrich, at the Cincinnati Meeting of the American Association, December, 1923, when he said regarding natural selection:|
"The biological world of today does not ascribe to that factor the importance that Darwin gave it. ... It is difficult to believe that many of the minute differences that distinguish species have selective value."
Also at the corresponding Liverpool Meeting of the British Association, 1923, A. G. Tansley, in his Presidential Address before the Botanical Section, declared:
"In regard to a multitude of characters, there is not only no proof, but not the smallest reason to suppose that they have now, or ever did have, any survival value at all."
A Fallen Idol
Another leading biologist, J. T. Cunningham, in a recent communication, declares that he considers "the theory of natural selection to be obsolete." He goes on to say that he holds this positive opinion in spite of the fact "that many naturalists still believe in the theory in America and elsewhere." But he coneludes with the remark: "I venture to say that few who have made a special and practical study of evolution, and are well acquainted with recent progress in that study, have much faith in natural selection."— Nature, March 3, 1923.
I may be permitted to conclude this chapter with some remarks taken
from my "Phantom of Organic Evolution" (1924):
||"We may safely conclude from all this that a great idol has tumbled
down, an idol which, while it stood on its feet, was clamorously praised
and worshiped by more atheists and more enemies of the Bible than ever
bowed before the ancient Baal or Apollo. Even in its ruined state we see
belated reverence still addressed to the place in biology where it once
stood; and belated hymns are still being chanted for it by such people
as the Marxian socialists, and the teachers in the grammar schools and
the high schools of America. Even the psychologists are still using miniatures
of it in the class room, while the 'progressive' theologians keep on voicing
the eulogies in its praise which they learned from the hod-carriers of
natural science, when the latter were first constructing its shrine a full
"But for the scholars of the world, the ones who persist in thinking for themselves, and who form their conclusions only on facts and still more facts, the niche is vacant where once stood that golden 'Anti-Genesis,' as Haeckel once called it. And while some are sorrowfully groping around for something to put in the vacant place, the majority are directing their eyes upward to that inscription in the heavens, ' In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.'"
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