Immagini della pagina

the study of the past. The deciphering of man's past history is the great aim of Biology, and ultimately of all Science. For the question of Man's past is only a part of a greater question, the origin of all living species.

We may say broadly that concerning the origin of species two theories, and only two, seem possible. The first theory is that every species is the result of an act of immediate creation. And every true species, however slightly it may differ from its nearest relative, represents such a creative act, and once created is. practically unchangeable. This is the theory of immutability of species. According to the second theory all higher, probably all present existing, species are only mediately the result of a creative act. The first living germ, whenever and however created, was infused with power to give birth to higher species. Of these and their descendants some would continue to advance, others would degenerate. Each theory demands equally for its ultimate explanation a creative act; the second as much as, if not more than, the first. According to the first theory the creative power has been distributed over a series of acts, according to the second theory it has been concentrated in one primal creation. The second is the theory of the mutability of species, or, in general, of evolution, but not necessarily of Darwinism alone.

The first theory is considered by many the more attractive and hopeful. Now a theory need not be attractive, nor at first sight appear hopeful, provided only it is true. But let me call your attention to certain conclusions which, as it appears to me, are necessarily involved in it. Its central thought is the prac

tical immutability of species. Each one of these lives its little span of time, for species are usually comparatively short-lived, grows possibly a very little better or worse, and dies. Its progress has added nothing to the total of life; its degeneration harmed no one, hardly even itself; it was doomed from the start. Progress there has been, in a sense. The Creator has placed ever higher forms on the globe. But all the progress lies in the gaps and distances between successive forms, not in any advance made, or victory won, by the species or individual. The most "aspiring ape," if ever there was such a being, remains but an ape. He must comfort himself with the thought that, while he and his descendants can never gain an inch, the gap between himself and the next higher form shall be far greater than that between himself and the lowest monkey.

And if this has been the history of thousands of other species, why should it not be true of man also? Who can wonder that many who accept this theory doubt whether the world is growing any better, or whether even man will ever be higher and better than he now is? Would it not be contrary to the whole course of past history, if you can properly call such a record a history, if he could advance at all? Now I have no wish to misrepresent this or any honestly accepted theory, but it appears to me essentially hopeless, a record not of the progress of life on the globe, but of a succession of stagnations, of deaths. I can never understand why some very good and intelligent people still think that the theory of the immediate creation of each species does more honor to the Creator and his creation than the theory of evolution. Evo

lution is a process, not a force. The power of the Creator is equally demanded in both cases; only it is differently distributed. And evolution is the very highest proof of the wisdom and skill of the Creator. It elevates our views of the living beings, must it not give a higher conception of Him who formed them?

The plant in its first stages shows no trace of flowers, but of leaves only. Later a branch or twig, similar in structure to all the rest, shortens. The cells and tissues which in other twigs turn into green leaves here become the petals and other organs of the rose or violet. Let us suppose for a moment that every rose and violet required a special act of immediate creation, would the springtime be as wonderful as now? Would the rose or violet be any more beautiful, or are they any less flowers because developed out of that which might have remained a common branch? The plant at least is glorified by the power to give rise to such beauty. And is not the creation of the seed of a violet or rose something infinitely grander than the decking of a flowerless plant with newly created roses? The attainment of the highest and most diversified beauty and utility with the fewest and simplest means is always the sign of what we call in man "creative" genius. Is not the same true of God? I think you all feel the force of the argument here.

There were at one time no flowering plants. The time came at last for their appearance. Which is the higher, grander mode of producing them, immediate creation of every flowering species, or development of the flower out of the green leaves of some old club moss or similar form? The latter seems to me at least by far the higher mode. And to have created a

ground-pine which could give rise to a rose seems far more difficult and greater than to have created both separately. It requires more genius, so to speak. It gives us a far higher opinion of the ground-pine; does it disgrace the rose? We can look dispassionately at plants. The rose is still and always a rose, and the oak an oak, whatever its origin. And I believe that we shall all readily admit that evolution is here a theory which does the highest honor to the wisdom and power of the Creator. What if the animal kingdom is continually blossoming in ever higher forms? Does not the same reasoning hold true, only with added force? I firmly believe that we should all unhesitatingly answer, yes, could we but be assured that all men would everywhere and always believe that we, men, were the results of an immediate creative act.

But why do we so strenouously object to the application to ourselves of the theory of evolution? One or two reasons are easily seen. We have all of us a great deal of innate snobbery, we would rather have been born great than to have won greatness by the most heroic struggle. But is man any less a man for having arisen from something lower, and being in a fair way to become something higher? Certainly not, unless I am less a man for having once been a baby. It is only when I am unusually cross and irritable that I object to being reminded of my infancy. But a young child does not like to be reminded of it. He is afraid that some one will take him for a baby still. And the snob is always desperately afraid that some one will fail to notice what a high-born gentleman he is.

Now man can relapse into something lower than a

brute; the only genuine brute is a degenerate man. And we all recognize the strength of tendencies urging us downward. Is not this the often unrecognized kern of our eagerness for some mark or stamp that shall prove to all that we are no apes, but men? It is not the pure gold that needs the "guinea stamp." If we are men, and as we become men, we shall cease to fear the theory of evolution. Now this is not the only, or perhaps the greatest, objection which men feel or speak against the theory. But I must believe that it has more weight with us than we are willing to admit.

But some say that the theory of immediate creation and immutability of species is the more natural and has always been accepted, while the theory of evolution is new and very likely to be as short-lived as many another theory which has for a time fascinated men only to be forgotten or ridiculed.

But the idea of evolution is as old as Hindu philosophy. The old Ionic natural philosophers were all evolutionists. So Aristophanes, quoting from these or Hesiod concerning the origin of things, says: "Chaos was and Night, and Erebus black, and wide Tartarus. No earth, nor air nor sky was yet; when, in the vast bosom of Erebus (or chaotic darkness) winged Night brought forth first of all the egg, from which in after revolving periods sprang Eros (Love) the much desired, glittering with golden wings; and Eros again, in union with Chaos, produced the brood of the human race. Here the formative process is a birth, not a creation; it is evolution pure and simple. "According to the ancient view," says Professor Lewis, "the present world was a growth; it was born, it came from something antecedent, not merely as a cause but as its seed,

[ocr errors]
« IndietroContinua »