Page images
PDF
EPUB

Science has to do with the facts and laws of nature. But here the question concerns the origin of such facts. “Here,” says Dr. Gray, “proofs, in the proper sense of the word, are not to be had. We are beyond the region of demonstration, and have only probabilities to consider.” i Christians have a right to protest against the arraying of probabilities against the clear teachings of Scripture. It is not easy to estimate the evil that is done by eminent men throwing the weight of their authority on the side of unbelief, influenced by a mere balance of probabilities in one department, to the neglect of the most convincing proofs of a different kind. They treat, for example, the question of the unity of the human race, exclusively as a zoological question, and ignore the testimony of history, of language, and of Scripture. Thus they often decide against the Bible on evidence that would not determine an intelligent jury in a suit for twenty shillings.

Admitted Difficulties in the Way of the Darwinian Theory. One of the great excellences of Mr. Darwin is his candor. He acknowledges that there are grave objections against the doctrine which he endeavours to establish. He admits that if one species is derived by slow gradations from another, it would be natural to expect the intermediate steps, or connecting links, to be everywhere visible. But he acknowledges that such are not to be found, that during the whole of the historical period, species have remained unchanged. They are now precisely what they were thousands of years ago. There is not the slightest indication of any one passing into another; or of a lower advancing towards a higher. This is admitted. The only answer to the difficulty thus presented is, that the change of species is so slow a process that no indications can be reasonably expected in the few thousand years embraced within the limits of history. When it is further objected that geology presents the same difficulty, that the genera and species of fossil animals are just as distinct as those now living; that new species appear at certain epochs entirely different from those which preceded; that the most perfect specimens of these species often appear at the beginning of a geologic period and not toward its close; the answer is that the records of geology are too imperfect, to give us full knowledge on this subject : that innumerable intermediate and transitional forms may have passed away and left no trace of their existence. All this amounts to an

1 Atlantic Monthly, August, 1860, p. 230.

admission that all history and all geology are against the theory ; that they not only do not furnish any facts in its support, but that they do furnish facts which, so far as our knowledge extends, contradict it. In reference to these objections from geology, Mr. Darwin says, “I can answer these questions and objections only on the supposition that the geological record is far more imperfect than most geologists believe. The number of specimens in all our museums is absolutely as nothing compared with the countless generations of countless species which have certainly existed."1 Nevertheless the record, as far as it goes, is against the theory.

With regard to the more serious objection that the theory assumes that matter does the work of mind, that design is accomplished without any designer, Mr. Darwin is equally candid. “ Nothing at first,” he says, “ can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts have been perfected, not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the accumulation of innumerable slight variations, each good for the individual possessor. Nevertheless, this difficulty, though appearing to our imagination insuperably great, cannot be considered real, if we admit the following propositions, namely, that all parts of the organization and instincts offer at least individual differences, – that there is a struggle for existence leading to the preservation of profitable deviations of structure or instinct, — and, lastly, that gradations in the state of perfection of each organ may have existed, each good of its kind.” 2

Again, he says, “ Although the belief that an organ so perfect as the eye could have been formed by natural selection, is more than enough to stayger any one; yet in the case of any organ, if we know of a long series of gradations in complexity, each good for its possessor; then, under changing conditions of life, there is no logical impossibility in the acquirement of any conceivable degree of perfection through natural selection.” 3 Mr. Darwin refuses to be staggered by that which he says is enough to stagger any one. Give him a sufficient number of millions of years, and fortuitous complications may accomplish anything. If a rude piece of flint be found in deposits, it is declared to be the work of man, because it indicates design, while such an organ as the eye may be formed by natural selection acting blindly. This, Dr. Gray says in his apology, is, or would be, a strange contradiction. 1 Origin of Species, p. 550.

2 Ibid. p. 545. 3 Ibid. p. 251.

Sterility of Hybrids. The immutability of species is stamped on the very face of nature. What the letters of a book would be if all were thrown in confusion, the genera and species of plants and animals would be, if they were, as Darwin's theory assumes, in a state of constant variation, and that in every possible direction. All line-marks would be obliterated, and the thoughts of God, as species have been called, would be obliterated from his works. To prevent this confusion of “ kind,” it has been established as a law of nature that animals of different kinds” cannot mingle and produce something different from either parent, to be again mingled and confused with other animals of a still different kind. In other words, it is a law of nature, and therefore a law of God, that hybrids should be sterile. This fact Mr. Darwin does not deny. Neither does he deny the weight of the argument derived from it against his theory. He only, as in the cases already mentioned, endeavours to account for the fact. Connecting links between species are missing ; but they may have perished. Hybrids are sterile ; but that may be accounted for in some other way without assuming that it was designed to secure the permanence of species. When a great fact in nature is found to secure a most important end in nature, it is fair to infer that it was designed to accomplish that end, and consequently that end is not to be overlooked or denied.

Geographical Distribution. Mr. Darwin is equally candid in reference to another objection to his doctrine. “Turning to geographical distribution,” he says, “ the difficulties encountered on the theory of descent with modification are serious enough. All the individuals of the same species, and all the species of the same genus, or even higher group, must have descended from common parents; and therefore, in however distant and isolated parts of the world they may now be found, they must in the course of successive generations have travelled from some one point to all the others.” When it is remembered that this is true of the mollusks and crustacea, animals whose power of locomotion is very limited, this almost universal distribution from one centre would seem to be an impossibility. Darwin's answer to this is the same as to the difficulties already mentioned. He throws himself on the possibilities of unlimited duration. Nobody can tell what may have happened during the untold ages of the

1 Origin of Species, p. 547.

* part of through the nution," he

past. “Looking to geographical distribution," he says, “if we admit that there has been through the long course of ages much migration from one part of the world to another, owing to former climatal and geographical changes and to the many occasional and unknown means of dispersal, then we can understand, on the theory of descent with modification, most of the great leading facts in distribution.”i Every one must see how inconclusive is all such reasoning. If we admit that many unknown things may have happened in the boundless past, then we can understand most, but not all, of the facts which stand opposed to the theory of the derivation of species. The same remark may be made in reference to the constant appeal to the unknown effects of unlimited durations. “ The chief cause," says Mr. Darwin, “of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and distinct species, is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the steps. . ... The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of even ten million years ; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations." 2 If we say that the ape during the historic period extending over thousands of years has not made the slightest approximation towards becoming a man, we are told, Ah! but you do not know what he will do in ten millions of years. To which it is a sufficient reply to ask, How much is ten million times nothing ?

Ordinary men reject this Darwinian theory with indignation as well as with decision, not only because it calls upon them to accept the possible as demonstrably true, but because it ascribes to blind, unintelligent causes the wonders of purpose and design which the world everywhere exhibits ; and because it effectually banishes God from his works. To such men it is a satisfaction to know that the theory is rejected on scientific grounds by the great majority of scientific men. Mr. Darwin himself says, “ The several difficulties here discussed, namely — that, though we find in our geological formations many links between the species which now exist and which formerly existed, we do not find infinitely numerous fine transitional forms closely joining them all together; the sudden manner in which several whole groups of species first appear in our European formations; the almost entire absence, as at present known, of formations rich in fossils beneath the Cambrian strata, — are all undoubtedly of the most serious nature. We see this in the fact that the most eminent palæontologists, namely, Cuvier, 1 Origin of Species, p. 564.

2 Ibid. p. 570.

Agassiz, Barrande, Pictet, Falconer, E. Forbes, etc., and all our greatest geologists, as Lyell, Murchison, Sedgwick, etc., have unanimously, often vehemently, maintained the immutability of species.” 1

In 1830 there was a prolonged discussion of this subject in the Académie des Sciences in Paris, Cuvier taking the side of the permanence of species, and of creation and organization gove erned by final purpose ; while Geoffroy St. Hilaire took the side of the derivation and mutability of species, and “ denied,” as Professor Owen says, “evidence of design, and protested against the deduction of a purpose.” The decision was almost unanimously in favour of Cuvier; and from 1830 to 1860 there was scarcely a voice raised in opposition to the doctrine which Cuvier advocated. This, as Büchner thinks, was the triumph of empiricism, appealing to facts, over philosophy guided by “ Apriorische Speculationen.” Professor Agassiz, confessedly the first of living naturalists, thus closes his review of Darwin's book: “ Were the transmutation theory true, the geological record should exhibit an uninterrupted succession of types blending gradually into one another. The fact is that throughout all geological times each period is characterized by definite specific types, belonging to definite genera, and these to definite families, referable to definite orders, constituting definite classes and definite branches, built upon definite plans. Until the facts of nature are shown to have been mistaken by those who have collected them, and that they have a different meaning from that now generally assigned to them, I shall therefore consider the transmutation theory as a scientific mistake, untrue in its facts, unscientific in its method, and mischievous in its tendency.”? If species, then, are immutable, their

i Origin of Species, p. 383. In an earlier edition of his work he included Professor Owen's name in this list, which he now omits, and he also withdraws that of Lyell; adding to the passage above quoted the words, “But Sir Charles Lyell now gives the support of his high authority to the opposite side." Professor Owen, as shown above, although now admitting the mutability of species, is very far from adopting Mr. Darwin's theory. The essential element of that theory is the denial of teleology; the assertion that species owe their origin to the unintelligent operation of natural causes. This Owen distinctly denies. “Assuming, then," he says, " that Palæotherium did ultimately become Equus, I gain no conception of the operation of the effective force by personifying as · Nature' the aggregate of beings which compose the universe, or the laws which govern these beings, by giving to my personification an attribute which can properly be predicated only of intelligence, and by saying, 'Nature has selected the mid-hoof and rejected the others.'American Journal of Science, second series, vol. xlvii. p. 41. As to Sir Charles Lyell, unless he has become a new man since the publication of the ninth edition of his Principles of Geology in 1853, he is as far as Professor Owen from adopting the Darwinian theory; although he may admit, in a certain sense, the derivation of species.

2 American Journal, July, 1860, p. 154.

« EelmineJätka »