Click for: CSSHS Archive Main Page
Vol. IV • 1981

The Ultimate Evolutionist Model: Evolution by Purposive "Forces"
Ellen Myers

While Charles Darwin's purely mechanistic theory of evolution was enthusiastically welcomed on the grounds that it liberated man from the bothersome authority of the God and Creation of the Bible, a not inconsiderable number of thinkers rejected evolution by sheer random chance. Thomas S. Kuhn writes:

When Darwin first published his theory of evolution by natural selection in 1859, what most bothered many professionals was neither the notion of species change nor the possible descent of man from apes. All the well-known pre-Darwinian evolutionary the ones those of Lamarck, Chambers, Spencer, and the German Naturohilosophen had taken evolution to be a goal-directed process.

For many men the abolition of that teleological kind of evolution was the most significant and least palatable of Darwin's suggestions. The Origin of Species recognized no goal set either by God or nature. . The belief that natural selection, resulting from mere competition between organisms for survival, could have produced man together with the higher animals and plants was the most difficult and disturbing aspect of Darwin's theory.1

There are numerous and sometimes influential evolutionists today who believe that evolution is a "goal-directed process", yet who are not theistic evolutionists. Unlike theistic evolutionists, they do not postulate "God" as the prime mover and occasional trouble-shooter of the evolutionary process supposedly proven by science. They may speak instead of "forces", "purposes", "life", "cosmic consciousness" or "cosmic self-realization" and the like behind the ongoing processes of the universe.

It is possible and tempting to label all non-theistic teleological evolutionists as "vitalists" or "occult", and some of them would accept these labels (which are becoming more and more respectable). But others explicitly exempt themselves from such labeling. For instance, after explaining his own "vitalist theory of evolution,"2 British author Cohn Wilson points out: "I do not regard myself as an 'occultist' because I am more interested in the mechanisms of everyday consciousness."3 Others give no names at all to the intelligent power which must lie behind supposed evolutionary processes in order to be able to give them direction; they simply assert that chance alone, as Darwin proposed, cannot account for the world. Thus, the French scientist Pierre P. Grassé states:

evolution did not take place haphazardly. The forms succeeded each other in a certain order… living animal beings liberate themselves increasingly from their environment because they gain in psychical power. . This great fresco, then, has an orientation. Evolution was not brought about by chance.4

In the same place Grassé describes present-day ignorance of the ultimate laws of evolution in general and of biology in particular. His comments lend themselves to reinforcement of the Biblical creation position. He emphasizes that we never know the matter of living organisms in an isolated state, "one of the greatest difficulties in explaining the appearances of life on earth"5 because the "architecture" of living matter with all its inherent interdependent complexities must of necessity exist altogether, as one unit, and all at once. Grassé discusses at length that perennial thorn in Darwin's side, the eye: Darwin wrote to his friend and colleague, the botanist Asagré:

Grassé's deepest concern is what he calls the "problem of finality" (or teleology, purposiveness in nature):

Another such teleological evolutionary scientist is Grassé's colleague René' Chauvin. In an address entitled "Finalism in Biology" he asks how one might judge the observed phenomenon, "Caesar pontem fecit Caesar had a bridge built", which hinges ultimately upon Caesar's will He refers to experiments with rats in a psychological maze: when shown that the food box serving as enforcement stimulus is empty, the rats will not be interested in finding the fastest way to the food box through the maze, and this shows that the rats' "expectation" is a pivotal ingredient in the rats' behavior.9 Chauvin even used a parable reminiscent of William Paley's "watchmaker" defense of Biblical creation, that of a Martian finding a watch upon a visit to earth, who would not understand the watch at all if he did not know that it is "a machine to measure time."10 Chauvin concludes:

Such statements show that a person's repudiation of Darwinian, neoDarwinian or similar mechanistic evolutionism does not at all compel this person to embrace Biblical creation as the only alternative explanation of the origin and development of the universe. Thus, Norman Macbeth, whose book Darwin Retried still stands as one of the most trenchant attacks upon the Darwinian evolution model since the Scopes Trial of 1925, is not a creationist but an enthusiastic iconoclast, with no scientific model or faith to replace the Darwinian icon. Macbeth incidentally has great fun demolishing Darwinism by the "hopeful monster theory" proposed by Richard Goldschmidt in The Material Basis of Evolution (published 19401.12 Goldschmidt's theory was also one of sheer randomness, but moved in major leaps rather than the accumulation of small changes plus natural selection, and was empirically nonobservable and non-testable, as well as incompatible with Mendelian genetics. The same empirical-scientific problems also beset the most recent version of Goldschmidt's theory, the Gould-Eldredge model known as "punctuated equilibrium."

Now the "unscientific" aspects of evolutionary theories involving sudden gigantic leaps, small changes, or variations of both, present no difficulty whatever to the teleological evolutionist. He can afford to go along with all evolutionist models on the market. The believer in evolution by purposive "forces" has the added advantage that he can allow room for some randomness and also the existence of cross-purposes between different "forces". For him the modern philosophical concept of a "frozen universe" in which chains of causality co-exist with random congeries of objects or events is quite acceptable. The believer in evolution-directing "forces" also is confident that an elite within mankind can and will increasingly participate in the "forces'" increasing knowledge, consciousness, and self-realization, and even learn to bend the "forces" to the elitists' will. Eventually, the elitists will be rulers of the universe; they will be "gods", either in cooperation with or in exploitation of the "forces."

Some of these evolutionists think of the "forces" as "cosmic" or largely impersonal: others realize that only personal entities can have conscious purposes, and they therefore either believe in increasing personalization and self-consciousness of the "forces" (Cohn Wilson is an example), or else, with truly "occult" teleological evolutionists, they think of the "forces" as personal to begin with. The latter view, of course, coincides with what Bible-believing Christians of all times call demon-worship. C.S. Lewis prophetically wrote in his justly famous Screwtape Letters'

Theodore Roszak, like Coli n Wilson a writer of prominence and credibility in contemporary journalistic and academic circles, presents numerous ancient and refurbished evolutionary doctrines from an unabashedly "vitalist" perspective in his book Unfinished Animal the Aquarian Frontier and the Evolution of Consciousness. The book was published by the staid and solidly established firm of Harper & Row in 1975; it is avidly read by students of this writer's nearby Midwestern American college (Wichita State University). Biblical creationist can sympathize with one of Roszak's statements:

In the next sentence, Roszak complains that he was "led to believe that the only alternative to orthodox biology was biblical fundamentalism and the 'creationist' movement,15 He points out that some of the criticisms of Darwin's theory by Bishop Wilberforce "still stand as serious reservations to the present day."16 These remarks are preceded by a brief and laudatory summary of evolutionists who wished to add purpose and design to the evolutionary concept. Nietzsche, Henri Bergson, and Lamarck are singled out:

Roszak next describes "a rich body of speculation and research that directly challenges neo-Darwinism for its incompleteness, inconsistency, or shallowness."18 He lists several non-Darwinian evolutionary schools, together with their respective leaders: among these D'Arcy Thompson (organismic evolution), Henry Fairfield Osborn (aristogenesis), Ludwig von Bertalanffy (systems theory of evolution) and Alister Hardy (telepathic species-blueprinting theory of evolution) are perhaps the best known. Roszak adds:

Roszak devotes an almost wholly favorable, lengthy chapter to three personalities whom he calls "The Occult Evolutionists." They are Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891), the founder of modern theosophy; Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the founder of an offshoot of theosophy known as anthroposophy; and George Gurdjieff (1872-1949), founder of an occult school of rather elitist "self-realization."All three were deeply involved in the study, teaching and practice of the occult. Direct borrowing from, or obvious parallels with, occult doctrines of European and near-Eastern antiquity (Gnosticism, Hermeticism, Kabbalism, Neoplatonism), and also Oriental religions abound in their writings. This blend of resurrected Gnosticism and Oriental mysticism is a prevalent feature of our academic "youth culture" in the West today. Thus Roszak in presenting the main teachings of these three occult evolutionists both relates to and intensifies the drift towards belief in evolution by purposive "forces" among educated young people. His analysis of Blavatsky, Steiner and Gurdjieff, by the way, is a remarkable feat of clarification and popularization, as anyone will agree who has ever attempted to read these occultists' bulky and abstruse writings for himself.

Another book, written from the "cosmic consciousness" perspective, is Marilyn Ferguson's The Aquarian Conspiracy Personal and Social Transformation in the 7980£ Max Lerner, a well-known writer of left-liberal persuasion, wrote the foreword; The Aquarian Conspiracy was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection shortly after its publication in 1980, Ferguson recommends theosophy and "Gurdueffian systems" as techniques for altering one's consciousness.20 A comparison of her complete list of such techniques with Roszak's extensive list of "Aquarian Frontier Points of Entry"21 shows fundamental agreement and wide overlap.

Ferguson anticipated and endorses the Gould-Eldredge evolutionary model of "punctuated equilibrium" because

Ferguson often refers approvingly to the late French neo-gnostic evolutionist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose "spiritualizing" evolutionary theory reminds the informed reader of Henri Bergson and his "vitalist" evolutionism praised by Roszak. Ferguson also speculates that mankind's imminent "evolutionary leap" may be prompted by a "collective need" and lead to a community analogous to a Kenyan flattid-bug colony which "is, in a sense, a single individual, a single mind, whose genes were influenced by its collective need."23 She adopts this speculation almost verbatim from Cohn Wilson who first expressed it in his book The Occult from which we quoted earlier.24

These writers clearly show the main outline of a world view based on evolution by purposive "forces." They also demonstrate the kinship of this supposedly modern theory to ancient pagan and gnostic beliefs and to various old and new occult movements. Lastly, these writers imply more or less openly that the only world view intolerable to theirs is belief in creation ex nihilo by the Triune, Omnipotent, Omniscient God of the Bible. Their faith in evolution by purposive "forces" may well be the neo-pagan ultimate enemy of the Biblical Christian faith.

1 Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Second Edition, 1962,1970), 100.
2 Cohn Wilson, The Occult (New York: Random House, 1971), passim, and especially 574-579. Wilson became a well-known author through his major study, The Outsider
3 Ibid, 579.
4 George N. Shuster and Ralph E. Thorson, editors, Evolution in Perspective, Commentaries in Honor of Pierre Lecomte de Nouy.* (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970), 33-34.
5 Ibid, 34.
6 Ibid, 37.
7 Ibid, 44.
8 Ibid, 60.
9 Ibid, 61.
10 Ibid. 65.
11 Ibid, 69.
12 Norman Macbeth, Darwin Retried (New York.' Dell Publishing Co., 1971, First Delta Printing 1973), last chapter, especially 156.
13 C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan, Sixteenth Printing, 1972), 33.
14 Theodore Roszak, UnfinishedAnirnat The Aquarian Frontier and the Evolution of Consciousness (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 99.
15 Idem.
16 Idem.
17 Ibid, 98.
18 Ibid, 100.
19 Ibid., 100, 101.
20 Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Tarcher, Inc., 1980), 86, 87.
21 Idem; and Roszak, op. cit., 28-29.
22 Ferguson, op. cit, 169.
23 Ibid, 162.
24 Wilson, op. cit, 128.

"The Ultimate Evolutionist Model: Evolution by Purposive 'Forces' "
CSSHS • Creation Social Science & Humanities Society • Quarterly Journal

Main Page:  CSSHS Archives