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the atheistical character of a book is a recommendation, says that Darwin's “theory is the most thoroughly naturalistic that can be inagined, and far more atheistic than that of his despised (verrufenen) predecessor Lamarck, who admitted at least a general law of progress and development; whereas, according to Darwin, the whole development is due to the gradual summation of innumerable minute and accidental natural operations.” 1
Mr. Darwin argues against any divine intervention in the course of nature, and especially in the production of species. He says that the time is coming when the doctrine of special creation, that is, the doctrine that God made the plants and animals each after its kind, will be regarded as “a curious illustration of the blindness of preconceived opinion. These authors," he adds,“ seem no more startled at a miraculous act of creation than at an ordinary birth. But do they really believe that at innumerable periods in the earth's history certain elemental atoms have been commanded suddenly to flash into living tissues ?” [This is precisely what Darwin professes to believe happened at the beginning. If it happened once, it is not absurd that it should happen often.] “Do they believe that at each supposed act of creation one individual or many were produced? Were all the infinitely numerous kinds of animals and plants created as eggs or seed, or as full grown? And in the case of mammals, were they created bearing the false marks of nourishment from the mother's womb ?”
Mr. Wallace devotes the eighth chapter of his work on “ Natural Selection "3 to answering the objections urged by the Duke of Argyle to the Darwinian theory. He says, “ The point on which the Duke lays most stress, is, that proofs of mind everywhere meet us in nature, and are more especially manifest wherever we find • contrivance' or beauty.' He maintains that this indicates the constant supervision and direct interference of the Creator, and cannot possibly be explained by the unassisted action of any combi.
effect as a watch which shall keep time, is a contriving intelligence adapting the means directly to that end." Suppose, however, he goes on to say, it could be shown that the watch was the product of a structure which kept time poorly; and that of a structure which was no watch at all, and that of a mere revolving barrel, then “the force of Paley's argument would be gone;" and it would be “demonstrated that an apparatus thoroughly well adapted to a particular purpose might be the result of a method of trial and error worked by unintelligent agents, as well as of the direct application of the means appropriate to that end, by an intelligent agent." This is precisely what he understands Darwin to have accomplished.
1 Sechs Vorlesungen über die Darwin'sche Theorie, etc., by Ludwig Büchner, Zweite Auflage, Leipzig, 1868, p. 125.
2 Origin of Species, p. 571.
nation of laws. Now Mr. Darwin's work has for its main object, to show, that all the phenomena of living things — all their wonderful organs and complicated structures ; their infinite variety of form, size, and colour; their intricate and involved relations to each other, — may have been produced by the action of a few general laws of the simplest kind, — laws which are in most cases mere statements of admitted facts."i In opposition to the doctrine that God “applies general laws to produce effects which those laws are not in themselves capable of producing," he says, “I believe, on the contrary, that the universe is so constituted as to be self-regulating; that as long as it contains life, the forms under which that life is manifested have an inherent power of adjustment to each other and to surrounding nature; and that this adjustment necessarily leads to the greatest amount of variety and beauty and enjoyment, because it does depend on general laws, and not on a continual supervision and rearrangement of details.” ?
Dr. Gray 3 endeavours to vindicate Darwin's theory from the charge of atheism. His arguments, however, only go to prove that the doctrine of development, or derivation of species, may be held in a form consistent with theism. This no one denies. They do not prove that Mr. Darwin presents it in that form. Dr. Gray himself admits all that those who regard the Darwinian theory as atheistic contend for. He says, “ The proposition that things and events in nature were not designed to be so, if logically carried out, is doubtless tantamount to atheism.” Again, he says, “ To us, a fortuitous Cosmos is simply inconceivable. The alternative is a designed Cosmos. .... If Mr. Darwin believes that the events which he supposes to have occurred and the results we behold were undirected and undesigned, or if the physicist believes that the natural forces to which he refers phenomena are uncaused and undirected, no argument is needed to show that such belief is atheistic.” No argument, after what has been said above, can be needed to show that Mr. Darwin does teach that natural causes are “undirected," and that they act without design or reference to an end. This is not only explicitly and repeatedly asserted, but argued for, and the opposite view ridiculed and rejected. His book was hailed as the death-blow of teleology.1 Darwin, therefore, does teach precisely what Dr. Gray pronounces atheism. A man, it seems, may believe in God, and yet teach atheism.
1 Wallace on Natural Selection, p. 265. When a man speaks of the action of law," he must mean by law a permanent, regularly acting force. Yet the laws to which Mr. Wallace refers in the above passage are not forces, but simply rules according to which an agent acts, or, a regular, established sequence of events. The laws intended are the law of multiplication in geometrical progression, the law of limited populations, the law of heredity, the law of variation, the law of unceasing change of physical conditions upon the surface of the earth, the equilibrium or harmony of nature. There is no objection to these being called laws. But there is the strongest objection to using the word law in different senses in the same argument. If law here mean the rule according to which an agent (in this case God) acts, the Duke of Argyle could agree with every word Mr. Wallace says; if taken in the sense intended by the writer, the passage teaches the direct reverse, namely, that all the world is or contains is due to unintelligent physical forces.
2 lbid. p. 268. Mr. Russel Wallace says that he believes that all the wonders of animal and vegetable organisms and life can be accounted for by unintelligent, physical laws. The fact, however, is, as we have already seen, that he believes no such thing. He does not believe that there is any such thing as matter or unintelligent forces; all force is mind force; and the only power operative in the universe is the will of the Supreme Intelligence.
8 In the October number of the Atlantic Monthly for 1860. 4 On page 409.
5 On page 416.
The anti-theistic and materialistic character of this theory is still further shown by what Mr. Darwin says of our mental powers. “ In the distant future,” he says, “I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” 2 Of this prediction he has himself attempted the verification in his recent work on the “ Descent of Man," in which he endeavours to prove that man is a developed ape. The Bible says : Man was created in the image of God.
It is a mere Hypothesis. A fourth remark on this theory is that it is a mere hypothesis, from its nature incapable of proof. It may take its place beside the nebular hypothesis as an ingenious method of explaining many of the phenomena of nature. We see around us, in the case of domestic animals, numerous varieties produced by the operations of natural causes. In the vegetable world this diversity is still greater. Mr. Darwin's theory would account for all these facts. It accounts, moreover, for the unity of plan on which all animals of the same class or order are constructed; for the undeveloped organs found rudimentally in almost all classes of living creatures ; for the different forms through which the embryo passes before it reaches maturity. These and many other phenomena may be accounted for on the assumption of the derivation of species. Admitting all this and much more, this does not amount to a proof of the hypothesis. These facts can be accounted for in other ways; while there are, as Darwin himself admits, many facts for which his theory will not account. Let it be borne in mind what the theory is. It is not that all the species of any extant genus of plants or animals have been derived from a common stock; that all genera and classes of organized beings now living have been thus derived; but that all organisms from the earliest geological periods have, by a process requiring some five hundred million years, been derived from one primordial germ. Nor is this all. It is not only that material organisms have thus been derived by a process of gradation, but also that instincts, mental and moral powers, have been derived and attained by the same process. Nor is even this all. We are called upon to believe that all this has been brought about by the action of unintelligent physical causes. To our apprehension, there is nothing in the Hindu mythology and cosmology more incredible than this.
1 Three articles in the July, August, and October numbers of the Allantic Monthly for the year 1860 were reprinted with the name of Dr. Asa Gray as their author.
2 Origin of Species, p. 577.
It is hazarding little to say that such a hypothesis as this cannot be proved. Indeed its advocates do not pretend to give proof. Mr. Wallace, as we have seen, says, “ Mr. Darwin's work has for its main object, to show that all the phenomena of living things, — all their wonderful organs and complicated structures, their infinite variety of form, size, and colour, their intricate and involved relations to each other, — may have been produced by the action of a few general laws of the simplest kind.” May have been. There is no pretence that this account of the origin of species can be demonstrated. All that is claimed is that it is a possible solution. Christians must be very timid to be frightened by a mere “ may have been.”
Mr. Huxley says, “ After much consideration, and with assuredly no bias against Mr. Darwin's views, it is our clear conviction that, as the evidence stands, it is not absolutely proven that a group of animals, having all the characters exhibited by species in Nature, has ever been originated by selection, whether artificial or natural.” 1
1 Sir William Thompson, of England, had objected to the theory that, according to his calculations, the sun cannot have existed in a solid state longer than five hundred millions of years. To this Mr. Wallace replies, that that period, he thinks long enough to satisfy the demands of the hypothesis. Mr. J. J. Murphy, however, is of a contrary opinion. He says that it is probable that it required at least five hundred years to produce a greyhound Mr. Darwin's ideal of symmetry - out of the original wolf-like dog, and that certainly it would require more than a million times longer period to produce an elephant out of a Protozoon, or even a tadpole. Besides, Sir William Thompson allows in fact only one, and not fire, hundred millions of years for the existence of our earth. In the Transactions of Geological Society of Glasgow, vol. iii., he says: “When, finally, we consider under-ground temperature, we find ourselves driven to the conclusion that the existing state of things on the earth, life on the earth, all geological history showing continuity of life, must be limited within some such period of past time as one hundred million years." See Habit and Intelligence, by J. J. Murphy, London, 1869, vol. i. p. 349.
In “ Fraser's Magazine " for June and July, 1860, are two papers on the Darwinian theory, written by William Hopkins, F. R. S. In the number for July it is said, “ If we allow full weight to all our author's arguments in his chapter on hybridism, we only arrive at the conclusion that natural selection may possibly have produced changes of organization, which may have superinduced the sterility of species; and that, therefore, the above proposition may be true, though not a single positive fact be adduced in proof of it. And it must be recollected that this is no proposition of secondary importance — a mere turret, as it were, in our author's theoretical fabric, — but the chief corner-stone which supports it. We confess that all the respect which we entertain for the author of these views, has inspired us with no corresponding feeling towards this may be philosophy, which is content to substitute the merely possible for the probable, and which, ignoring the responsibility of any approximation to rigorous demonstration in the establishment of its own theories, complacently assumes them to be right till they are rigorously proved to be wrong. When Newton, in former times, put forth his theory of gravitation he did not call on philosophers to believe it, or else to show that it was wrong, but felt it incumbent on himself to prove that it was right.” 2
Mr. Hopkins' review was written before Mr. Darwin had fully expressed his views as to the origin of man. He says, the great difficulty in any theory of development is the transition in passing up to man from the animals next beneath him, not to man considered merely as a physical organism, but to man as an intellectual and moral being. Lamarck and the author of the Vestiges' have not hesitated to expose themselves to a charge of gross materialism in deriving mind from matter, and in making all its properties and operations depend on our physical organization. .... We believe that man has an immortal soul, and that the beasts of the field have not. If any one deny this, we can have no common ground of argument with him. Now we would ask, at what point of his progressive improvement did man acquire this spiritual part of his being, endowed with the awful attribute of
1 Lay Sermons and Reviews, p. 323. It is admitted that varieties innumerable have been produced by natural causes, but Professor Huxley says it has not been proved that any one species has ever been thus formed. A fortiori, therefore, it has not been proved that all genera and species, with all their attributes of instinct and intelligence, have been thus formed.
2 Frazer's Magazine, July, 1860, p. 80.