by George McCready Price (1870-1963)
(This was ©1925 by Southern Publishing Assoc.)
PUBLIC DOMAIN - FREE to Copy & Use
Chapter Nine - Darwinism
EVERY intelligent person knows, or ought to know, that Darwinism and the theory of evolution are not by any means the same; they are not synonyms. The latter expression is much larger, more inclusive than the former. Organic evolution means that animals and plants, the human race included, have come about through a long process of natural development, not necessarily in any particular manner, but somehow, we cannot know how. Darwinism undertakes to tell how. Charles Darwin's grandfather was a strong evolutionist. Accordingly, when Charles Darwin came to write his now famous book, he did not attempt to prove organic evolution; not at all. He took that for granted; and merely undertook to show how this wonderful process of organic development has probably come about. Because of all this, we find scientists using the term Darwinism only in the narrower sense, as applying to Darwin's theory of "selection," which was his particular explanation of how organic evolution came about.
What is meant by natural selection, or the survival of the fittest?
Not by any means. But some of man's apelike ancestors happened to have more wit than their companions, and were able to live by their wits instead of by their muscles alone. So they survived and left descendants, while the others were beaten down in the awful struggle for existence, and all died off.
Thus Darwinism pictures man as coming to be what he now is merely because he was better able to survive, even, when necessary, at the expense of the lives of others who were his companions.
Evidently not much room for altruism and unselfishness in such a system of things.
Dispensing with Divine Design
J. Arthur Thomson, in his usual pungent style, has expressed this characteristic
of Darwin's theory as follows:
"Tone it down as you will, the fact remains that Darwinism regards animals as going upstairs in a struggle for individual ends, often on the corpses of their fellows, often by a blood-and-iron competition, often by a strange mixture of blood and cunning, in which each looks out for himself and extinction besets the hindmost."
These excerpts may suffice to show the ethical or moral bearings of Darwin's theory. This does not imply that an almighty, allwise Creator could not have developed plants, animals, and men by this sort of process through a heartless struggle for existence. I suppose He could. But it needs no argument to show that the creatures who were made by this heartless process could not very well be expected to develop any great love for such a maker — I will not say Creator. Evidently a good many explanations would be necessary on the part of the Darwinists before such a theory could be reconciled with the Christian doctrine of a God of love. Darwinists have many of them claimed to believe in a God. New Testament Christians, however, have always had difficulty in recognizing in the God of Darwinism those characteristics with which they have become familiar in such passages as John 3:16 and 17: 23.
Darwinism a Libel on God
We are not here concerned with the larger aspects of the problem of evil and its origin. This problem will be considered in Chapter X. Even the moral bearings of Darwinism can be spoken of here only to the brief extent of pointing out that Christians have considered Darwin's explanation as a real libel on the God of the Bible. When Darwin's book first came out, Haeckel hailed it as an "Anti-Genesis"; a half century of discussion has not only confirmed this, but has shown it to be even more truly an "Anti-New Testament."
But we are here chiefly concerned with the scientific aspects of Darwin's theory. Darwin was always very ostentatiously can-did in saying that, "if it could be demonstrated that any com-plex-organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."—"Origin," 5th ed. (1869), p. 227.
While he was yet alive two men, Spencer and Mivart, took him at his word, and brought forward many specific examples which could not thus be accounted for. Since their time the work has gone forward, though a large portion of the discussion has gone on behind almost closed doors, that is, in the technical journals and the technical books, which are almost wholly unknown to the people educated along other lines. However, the work of refuting Darwinism has been very completely accomplished; so much so that John Burroughs, just before he died, wrote that Darwin had been "shorn of his selection theories as completely as Samson was shorn of his locks."—Atlantic Monthly, August, 1920, p. 237.
The "Arrival of the Fittest"
Much of this discussion has been made to turn on an apparent duel between
the doctrine of acquired characters (known as Lamarckism) and that of natural
selection. Each of these ideas has a few scattering advocates; but most
biologists have discarded both of them, at least so far as serving as an
explanation of organic evolution is concerned. No one denies that in a
somewhat mild way there is a competition for a good supply of food or other
opportunities of existence. The Christian says that this is not the normal,
but a wholly abnormal, condition among living things; but he adds
that such a struggle could never explain any tendency toward advancement;
for struggle for existence, hardship, and privation among animals and plants
do not develop, they degrade, they tend to bring about degeneration
of the type. The scientist adds that Darwinism "may explain the survival
of the fittest, but it can never explain the arrival of the fittest." As
for the inheritance of acquired characters, which Herbert Spencer pinned
his faith to so tenaciously, it does not seem to happen. It seems to be
a pseudo-scientific idea, like perpetual motion or spontaneous generation.
"The biological world of today does not ascribe to that factor the importance that Darwin gave it. ... It is difficult to believe that many of the minute differences that distinguish species have selective value."
"In regard to a multitude of characters, there is not only no proof, but not the smallest reason to suppose that they have now, or ever did have, any survival value at all."
A Fallen Idol
Another leading biologist, J. T. Cunningham, in a recent communication, declares that he considers "the theory of natural selection to be obsolete." He goes on to say that he holds this positive opinion in spite of the fact "that many naturalists still believe in the theory in America and elsewhere." But he coneludes with the remark: "I venture to say that few who have made a special and practical study of evolution, and are well acquainted with recent progress in that study, have much faith in natural selection."— Nature, March 3, 1923.
I may be permitted to conclude this chapter with some remarks taken
from my "Phantom of Organic Evolution" (1924):