BY HENRY H. BEACH, Grand Junction, Colorado
This paper is not a discussion of variations lying within the boundaries of heredity; nor do we remember that the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures reveal anything on that subject; nor do we think that it can be rationally discussed until species and genus are defined.
Failure to condition spontaneous generation by sterilized hay tea, arid a chronic inability to discover the missing link, have shaken the popularity of Darwinism. Will it recover? Or is it failing into a fixed condition of innocuous desuetude?
As a purely academic question, who cares whether a protoplastic cell, or an amoeba, or an ascidian larva, was his primordial progenitor? It does not grip us. It is doubtful whether any purely academic question ever grips anybody. But the issue between Darwinism and mankind is not a purely academic question.
Half his life Charles Darwin was afraid of the reproaches of Christians. It was something like the fear felt by another Charles, of the reproaches of the Huguenots were he to consent to the assassination of Coligny. He refers to it in the “Introduction to the Descent of Man”: “During many years I collected notes on the origin and descent of man, without any intention of publishing on the subject, but rather with the determination not to publish; as I thought that I should thus add to the prejudices against my views.”
At the end of the book he says: “I am aware that the conclusions arrived at in this work will be denominated by some as highly irreligious; but he who denounces them is bound to show why it is more irreligious to explain the origin of man as a distinct species by descent from some lowly form, through the laws of variation and natural selection, than to explain the birth of the individual through the laws of ordinary reproduction.”
He confessed his fear by protesting his innocence: “I have done nothing only explained a choice between two theories of bringing man into the world”. This way of putting it is characteristic. He often refers to traversing the doctrine of successive creations, as the sum of his offending. The prestidigitator calls special attention to one hand while he works the trick with the other. His apprehensions were not altogether groundless. Professor Haeckel was braver, or more rash, when he styled the “Descent of Man” as “anti-Genesis”; with equal truth and moderation he might have added, anti-John, anti-Hebrews and anti-Christ. The point to pierce the business and bosoms of men is a denial of the integrity and reliability of the Word of God. We cannot depend on the Bible to show us “how to go to heaven” if it misleads us as to “how the heavens go” regarding the origin, nature, descent and destiny of brutes and men. Darwinists have been digging at the foundations of society and souls; and their powers of endurance are a matter of some moment.
We venture to differentiate life and if we go too far are sure to be corrected:
- Vegetable life is the sum of the forces which pervade the organism, causes it to grow and preserves it from decay.
- Brute life is the sum of the forces which pervade the organism, causes it to grow, preserves it from decay, is conscious and thinks.
- Human life is the sum of the forces which pervade the organism, causes it to grow, preserves it from decay, is conscious, thinks and is religious.
It is logical to assume, until disproved, that these three kinds of life touch each other, but never merge. They associate as intimately as air and light, but are as far from passing from plants to brutes and from brutes to men as from not-being to being.
“By faith we understand the ages to be set in order by the saying of God, in regard to the things seen not having come out of the things manifest” Hebrews 11:3.
He who would overthrow Biblical Christianity expects to take the initiative. He recognizes that there is always a presumption in favor of an existing institution; and has always been swift to open the battle. Professor Huxley, in his article on evolution, in the ninth edition of the Britannica, has ably brought together the arguments for Darwinism; and we will follow his order.
Given a nucleated cell, and Darwinists have watched the process of generation from its beginning to birth, “with the best optical instruments”. There have been two theories. The first theory is that nothing new is produced in the living world; the germs from which all organisms have developed have contained in miniature, and passed on down through successive generations, all the essential organs of adults. To get anything out of anything it must first be in it. This is archaic. The second theory is that evolution is progressive; it results from something innate in things, dynamic and pantheistic. This is up to date.
All that the Darwinists, “with the best optical instruments”, have actually seen is growth; but they have inferred a whole pantheon. Natural selection is the supreme demiurge; sexual selection and variation are subordinates. A billion years ago there was a God, but He immediately disappeared. It was necessary to have Him then, to bridge the gulf between nothing and something. Having discovered growth, they called it evolution, thinking perhaps the name might prove useful, but we trust not to be blamed for preferring growth, for “evolution” is something of a harlequin, having turned a complete somersault within a hundred years, while growth is universally acknowledged to be a character of vegetable, animal, and human life.
In addition to finding natural growth, Professor Huxley claims the discovery of a “tendency to assume a definite living form”. This of course is ridiculous. The sun rises with sufficient regularity to become a striking phenomenon, and we have discovered a tendency towards sunrises. Speculation is invoked, but speculation died with the great god Pan when Jesus was born. Scientific observations are dumb, except to say that all God’s creatures are fearfully and wonderfully made.
It is settled that low adult forms and embryos of higher order are strikingly alike. An embryonic reptile passes through the transformations of a fish, and a man in the germ cannot be distinguished from any other mammal.
Here the Darwinist drops his glass and jumps at the conclusion that all creations, even vegetables, are consanguined brothers. His microscope has failed him and he has forgotten the ardent astronomer who saw strange quadrupeds in the moon, until he discovered the mouse nest in the telescope. The apparently similar cells are different. The outcome proves it.
One is a butterfly and the other is a whale. Indeed, Oscar Hertwig now claims to have found the differences of the denouement in the cells themselves. But it does not matter. The Darwinist has mistaken likeness for proof of parentage; as a matter of fact it never proves it. Parentage is more likely to prove likeness. In either case the origin must first be established and then the likeness may illustrate it.
But recurring to the differentiation of life, as our Maker has conferred on us consciousness, thought and religiosity, and on brutes consciousness and thought, and on all of us that which preserves our bodies from decay and causes them to grow, it seems natural that, in the holy of holies of His laboratory, He has constructed us with similar characters, transient or permanent. #But the very nomenclature of evolution has been seduced and corrupted. “Reversion” and “rudiment” must be laid away with phlogiston and caloric. There is no retreating or abortions in the Divine economy, but God adjusts every feature to present and future conditions, and causes all to march regularly forward in the grand procession of eternal progress.
But why, it may be asked, are so many creatures built on the same plan as, for instance, vertebrates? The answer is axiomatic. The whole creation is divided into vertebrata and invertebrate, because there must, in the nature of things, be at least two classes; or boundless monotony or an eternal loneliness. But why so many vertebrates? Because there can be but one best of a class and vertebrates are best. The number redounds to the glory of God, not the glory of evolution. This is kindergarten instruction, but some seem to miss it.
But we submit a broader generalization. The whole universe bears a family resemblance. It is the warm touch of the Maker, and His universal style. Light is truth, and darkness is error. Holiness is purity, and sin is dirt. Physical birth and growth, decay and death, typify spiritual birth and growth, decay and death.
Two pictures hang side by side. The subjects differ greatly and they differ in size. The larger is the “Domes of the Yosemite” and the smaller “Sunset in California”. But they seem strangely alike. The smaller must have evolved from the larger. Some Mahatma, an adept of the Himalayas, able to do “the plant trick”, has done it. No! The same artist painted both. Nature’s limitless network of types and symbols and resemblances is wondrously beautiful. It wakens the spirit of poetry in the soul, but an absent-minded dreamer has gazed and forgotten himself, and is lost in a labyrinth of vagaries. Darwinists have been turning the world over searching for a common fatherhood, but they have found a common maker-hood. An Italian — a Dr. Barrago — gave his book the title, “Man, made in the image of God, was also made in the image of an ape”, and Mr. Darwin refers to it without disapproval, and the blasphemy is logical. Darwinism degrades God and man.
The Darwinian notion of rudiments is that they are abortive reversions to ancestral types. Wherever one of the cult has heard of anything nearly or remotely like rudiments — for instance, Stanley Hall on rhythm, beating waves, ancestral fish and dancing — particularly outside the bounds of heredity, it has been grist for their mill. And yet they hardly know where to put these structures. If they claim that they are absolutely useless they place them outside the scope of natural selection; and if, on the other hand, they admit that they serve some purpose they admit that God may have made them. Huxley felt the difficulty when he confessed:
“It is almost impossible to prove that any structure, however rudimentary, is useless; that is to say, that it plays no part whatever in the economy; and if it is in the slightest degree useful there is no reason why, on the hypothesis of direct creation, it should not have been created.” (Britannica, Art. on Evolution).
May we add that if Mr. Huxley and Mr. Darwin and I and you have failed to discover the use of anything, “there is no reason why it should not have been created”? We remember that we have not even defined life; that the most that we can do is to distinguish some of its forces; that we know as little of its essence as of that of matter. We may as well be modest.
Accepting then the dictum of Professor Huxley — than whom no one has ever been better qualified that it is almost impossible to prove the uselessness of rudiments, we pass the Subject with the remark that, like likenesses, they are a signet of the Almighty and a badge of His creatures — not necessarily of kinship, but of remoter relations. There are some men who need the evidence of their own rudimentary mammae to prove to them that they belong to the same race with their wives and should endure the same hardships and do a little more work.
Sexual selection, as the name implies, is concerned with pairing and reproduction; but the Darwinian end in view, like that of natural selection, is evolution. But sexual selection fails to discriminate, and turns out degeneration. Ferai and unregenerate sexual selection is more lust than love. From hares to elephants wild things are blinded by jealousy and crazed by heat. Like the Jukes’ family, they drop their young by the highway. We domesticate brutes and plants and, with great care and skill, breed them for improved points; but we soon tire and then dogs become pariahs, cats turn vagabonds, potatoes grow small, and horses are not worth catching and breaking. Cultivated apples never repeat their parent trees, but nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand sink far below them. The “loves of the plants”, as Darwin’s whimsical grandfather called them, are disreputable, and even, to this civilized day, human beings need to be restrained by law to prevent them from contracting unhealthful alliances. When the string breaks the kite falls.
Ages before the time when Mr. Darwin dreamed that in the dim obscurity of the past we can see that the early progenitor of all the vertebrata must have been an aquatic animal, provided with branchiae, with the two sexes united in the same individual, with the most important organs of the body (such as brain and heart) imperfectly or not at all developed, and an animal “more like the larvae of the existing marine Ascidians than any other known form”, God made one protoplastic cell and disappeared. That cell was a vegetable, and, as all cells are microscopic, invisible. It was also hermaphroditic. It contained hairs and rootlets, nuclei and nucleoli, mother stars and daughter stars, grouping, advancing and retreating, as if dancing quadrilles. And, as the story goes, this one cell has been the father and mother of all living creatures. Natural selection, aided only by sexual selection and accident, has evolved them, by almost imperceptible degrees.
Evidently Darwin and Wallace followed what they thought the line of least resistance in introducing God before the first living germ, for, otherwise, there must have been degeneration to satisfy present conditions. But was it not an error in another regard? While they were in the business of making gods, it would have been easy to have allowed for three — one for plants, one for brutes, and one for men. Nobody was looking. They might have done it, but, as it is, there is a dead lift at each beginning.
“We may feel sure,” explains Mr. Darwin, “that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favorable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called natural selection or the survival of the fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection and would be left either a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in certain polymorphic species, or would ultimately become fixed, owing to the nature of the organism and the nature of the conditions“. (“Origin of Species,” Vol. I, page 121).
Natural selection is destruction and preservation. All “injurious” differences and variations are destroyed and some individuals with “favorable” parts preserved. Natural death is the means of destruction; and generation, of preservation. The “favorable” always prove the stronger, the “injurious” the weaker. Although sweetest graces and most resplendent virtues of the highest type of man are products of natural selection, they are conditioned promiscuously on killing the other fellow and procreating one’s kind. The killing is done “by acts of God”, as express companies phrase it, and by hatred, envy, anger, avarice, selfishness. In the struggle for existence the stronger gloat over the slain while poverty of spirit, meekness, mercy and peace die unhonored and unsung. By these means every kind of organic being will eventually gain the summit of finitude. It is immoral.
Professor Huxley makes a notable concession to truth and sanity when he says: “It is quite conceivable that every species tends to produce varieties of a limited number and kind, and that the effect of natural selection is to favor the development of some of these, while it opposes the development of others along their predetermined lines of modification.” (Britannica. Evolution).
Taking the Professor’s language as accurate, he surrenders natural selection. We were taught that it was as reliable as gravitation, but if we get the notion that some species improve, some are stationary and some deteriorate, agreeably with heredity and environment, we have no further use for it. To sum up the case for natural selection:
(1) It is poor morals. A theory of nature must be ideal to be true. Natural selection is a scheme for the survival of the passionate and the violent, the destruction of the weak and defenseless. To be true, black must be white, and wrong must be right, and God an Ivan the terrible.
(2) Its assumptions are false. It is false that unlimited attenuation of the steps of the process, and unlimited time for the accomplishment of it, assure us that it might have been possible. “Attenuation” and “time” would have been but conditions, not causes. They could prove nothing. It is false that in the struggle for existence the “fittest” survive. The “fittest” is an ambiguous word. With natural selection it means the strongest and best armed. They do not survive; they degenerate and expire. They who bear arms challenge attack. This providence may be penal or corrective.
It is false that man is derived from a brute and a brute from a vegetable. One of the forces of human life makes for a recognition of God and a consciousness of sin against Him. This was not unfolded from anthropoid apes, for it is not in them. Brutes are distinguished from plants by self-consciousness, and this was not developed from plants, for it is not in them.
(3) Natural selection is self-contradictory and impossible. Fifty years ago, Alfred Russel Wallace devised the scheme and wrote Charles Darwin about it. Mr. Darwin published the plan. He afterwards refers to Mr. Wallace as having. “an innate genius for solving difficulties”. (Descent,” p. 344). Two years ago, Mr. Wallace, in an address at the Darwin anniversary, before the Royal Institution in London, referring to Professor Haeckel said: “These unavailing efforts seem to lead us to the irresistible conclusion that beyond and above all terrestrial agencies, there is some great source of energy and guidance, which in unknown ways pervades every form of organized life, and which we ourselves are the ultimate and foreordained outcome“.
Thus, an author of the theory, himself, admits the contradiction of claiming a “selection” and denying a selector.
The Darwinists assume that because certain creatures live now in limited areas, like the sloth in South America and the ornithorynchus in Australia and Tasmania, they have reached their present abodes by evolution through fishes. Let him assume it, but we beg for mercy to the man on the street who shrinks from that mode of transportation and believes that they might have been created in Western Asia, dispersed by various possible means, wherever climatic and other conditions were favorable, and suffered extinction, except where we find them;or that they might have been created where they are. The rapid extinction of the American bison suggests the possibility of extinction, as a factor of the process.
Professor Huxley adduces only one more argument — successive geological forms. “It must”, he remarks, “suffice in this place, to say that the successive forms of the Equine type have been fully worked out, while those of nearly all the other existing types of Ungulate mammals and of the Carnivores have been nearly as closely followed through the Tertiary deposits”. We have a misty remembrance of having met that Equus before, and, somehow, associate him with pons asinorum. The Professor hangs his case on the term “successive” — “successive geological forms”. He confuses it with “similar”, but neither is offensive. Fossils and living forms belong in the same category, but a radical difference between “successive” forms breaks the chain of evolution. If the ungulate fossils are like living forms, we greet them as old friends, if unlike we beg an introduction. In either event it is not Darwinism, but Don Quixote attacking another windmill.
The actual origination of man, brutes and plants, from one simplest and lowest form of organic life, by natural and Godless selections and variations, is the essence of Darwinism. It is admitted and undisputed that it was first definitely elaborated by Charles R. Darwin, and it stands or falls with Darwin’s experiments and arguments, and they are marvelously unscientific. Louis Agassiz, Lord Kelvin, and Dr. Virchow having passed on, the outlook for experimental science has been looking dark; but suddenly the light is breaking. Professor Gaston Bonnier, of the Sorbonne, M. de Cyon, and others, have just struck a thrilling chord and scientific Europe is awakening. Criticizing Mr. Darwin in Pour et Contre le Darwinisme, M. Bonnier says: “The illustrious naturalist had no idea of the experimental method,” and he adds that he was imaginative and careless in his observations. In corroboration of this — passing by the spike-horn deer, the aquatic bear and the worn-off human tail, which all who are familiar with “The Descent of Man” will recall — take, for instance, the following: “Some naturalists have maintained that all variations are connected with the act of sexual reproduction; but this is certainly an error; for I have given, in another work, a long list of sporting plants, as they are called by gardeners; that is, of plants which have suddenly produced a single bud with a new and sometimes widely different character from that of the other buds on the same plant. These bud variations, as they may be called, can be propagated by grafts, offsets, etc., and sometimes, by seed” (“Origin of Species,” Vol. I, p. 35).
How could Mr. Darwin know that the seed from which the tree of the strange bud had grown had not been pollenized, any number of generations previously, by the strange strain? What would happen if vegetable and animal atavism not a reversion to ancestral type, but latent generation, the waking and appearing of a strain as old, it may be, as the race, improved or damaged, even to the extent of freaks or monstrosities should be found to accord with all known facts of the case, and to answer the hard questions for which Darwinism was devised? Surely the progression of a character beneath the surface, whether for one year or a million — as the temper of a father not discernible in a son, but emerging in a grandson — is as credible as reversion under similar conditions. Backing up is hardly in harmony with the twentieth century.
The teaching of Darwinism, as an approved science, to the children and youth of the schools of the world is the most deplorable feature of the whole wretched propaganda. It would be difficult to fix the responsibility of it. Darwin himself hesitated. Virchow tried, nobly, to protect the primary schools of Germany. The burden of his lecture at Munich is throughout a caution against evading the distinction between the problematical and the proven; they are not on the same evidential level. “He would teach”, he said, “evolution, if it were only proven; it is, as yet, in the hypothetical stage; the audience ought to be warned that the speculative is only the possible, not actual truth; that it belongs to the region of belief, and not to that of demonstration. As long as a problem continues in the speculative stage, it would be mischievous to teach it in our schools. We ought not to represent our conjecture as a certainty, nor our hypothesis as a doctrine.”
Haeckel, always rash, advocated it. As they struggled, somebody lighted the fire. It was like the burning of the temple at Jerusalem. Titus had issued an order to spare it, but a Roman soldier threw a blazing torch into a small window and the whole structure was in flames. It was like the revenge of the Pied Piper of Hamlin Town. It was “Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted, because they were not”.