A Note on Evolution (No. 1)
(In his book, SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW, Anthony Standen takes the theory of evolution to task. Because he is writing for popular consumption, he may over-simplify to the minds of those who have acquired technical knowledge of the subject. However, his points still show that the theory of evolution is ever bit a part of the science (knowledge) "which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith."-I Tim. 6:20-21.
Those who would like to see cartoon representations of Mr. Standen's contentions will find them in a review of his book published in Life magazine of March 27, 1950.
Because of the length of the "note" we are giving, we break it into two parts, the first of which we title "The Logic of Evolutionists." The first sentence quoted is taken, front page 93 of the book and that which follows begins ov page 98.-H.E.W.)
"If one of the reasons for bothering about science is its logical thinking, then biology is hardly on the map . . .
"The truth is that biologists don't think, at least not in the narrow sense of making formal conclusions, definitely arrived at from definite premises. Their mental processes go by analogy. Analogy is a wonderful, useful and most important form of thinking, and biology is saturated with it. Nothing is worse than a horrible mass of undigested facts, and facts are indigestible unless there is some rhyme or reason to them.
The physicist, with his facts, seeks reason; the biologist seeks something very much like rhyme, and rhyme is a kind of analogy. A man's arm, the front leg of a horse, the wing of a bat, and the flipper of a whale-look at them carefully with some imagination, and very clear and beautiful analogies appear, for they all have the same bones, in the same order, modified in various ways. (The biologists would speak of "homology" here, and keep the word "analogy" for other kinds of resemblance, but he is using words in a special, technical sense.) A human fetus shows clear analogies to a fish, and by a more vigorous exercise of the imagination a biologist can see part of the human ear in the jawbone of a fish. This analogizing, this fine sweeping ability to see likenesses in the midst of differences is the great glory of biology; but biologists don't know it, and they praise themselves for the wrong reasons. They have always been so fascinated and overawed by the superior prestige of exact physical science that they f eel they have to imitate it, and they solemnly announce that what they are doing is "framing hypotheses" and "testing " them, in the manner of the physicist.
Continuing their slavish imitation of physics, biologists feel that they have to give neat precise definitions of their terms. The results are ludicrous. It is extremely difficult to define "life"fortunately it is not at all necessary. "Stimulus" and "response" are defined in. terms of one another. No biologist cap define a species. And as for a genus-all attempts come down to this: "A genus is a grouping of species that some recognized taxonomic specialist has called a genus" -- no kidding, it really is that.
Biology is one vast mass of analogies, very different indeed from the cold logical thinking of the physicists. In the higher reaches, such as genetics, biochemistry, neurophysiology and other "ologies," biologists do some making of hypotheses and testing them against experiment, although even there they are apt to talk of "understanding in terms of . . . " or of "stressing this, or that, aspect . . ." In its central content, biology is not accurate thinking, but accurate observation and imaginative thinking, with great sweeping generalizations. "The Unity of Life" is a catch phrase they are addicted to, although this can hardly be regarded as confirmed by experiment, because it is almost impossible to say what it means, if indeed it has any meaning at all.
By far the most sweeping, and by far the best, of the great generalizations of biology is the Theory of Evolution, if it can be called a theory that has by no means been tested by experiment. It would not be possible, of course, to go back into distant geological ages to find out what actually did happen; and so the theory is only susceptible of a very limited kind of testing, anyway, by seeing what happens now. Biologists have been breeding Drosophila (banana flies, their favorite creatures for this kind of work) for thousands and thousands of generations; they have made flies with red eyes, short wings, hairless, dwarfed, stunted, and in other ways so modified as to hardly look like f lies at all, and they have never succeeded in evoluting Drosophila into a fly of a different species,, much less into any more distant creature. But scientists have been saying, to themselves and to the outside world, "Scientists always test their theories by experiment," so often that. by sheer dint of repetition it has come to be believed by everybody else, and even the scientists themselves.
What is the theory of evolution? it is very easy to find out in a vague way, but very difficult to find out in. a precise way. This is because it is really two theories, the vague theory and the precise theory. The vague theory has been abundantly proved, with an overwhelming mass of evidence, so much that it cannot possibly be doubted. The precise theory has never been proved at all. However, like relativity, it is accepted as a faith.
Vague evolution is rather difficult to formulate, because it is vague, but it is extremely easy to see. Any book on biology is full of it, and it has been so thoroughly popularized that there is hardly anybody who is not aware of it. It points to the striking similarities, in every detail, between the bodies of men and of the apes; to the slightly more distant resemblances between men, and other mammals, to the duckbilled platypus, which Huxley called "a museum cf reptilia reminiscense," to the reptiles themselves, to the fish, both bony and cartilaginous, and so on and so on, as can be found in, many a fine book. It points, too, to the development of the embryo, "climbing up the family tree," and to the record of the rocks there were fish before there were reptiles, reptiles before mammals, whatever this proves -- and it would seem to prove that all forms of life are connected in some way -- is indisputable.
But in what way? To answer this question, we need a precise theory.
The precise theory of evolution is that all forms of life on the earth today came from some original form of life by a series of changes which, at every point, were natural and explainable by science.
Now, as G. K. Chesterton has pointed out, the reason why evolution has always inspired such intense popular interest ever since the days of Darwin is that it is not a purely scientific theory, but one that involves morals, that is, human behavior. It is quite different from, say, the theory that the earth revolves round the sun or the sun round the earth because, in the last analysis, it is of very little human importance which goes around which. The question at issue with the precise theory of evolution is whether God gave things a sort of evolutionary shove every now and then (or perhaps all the time), or whether He just wound things up in the beginning and let them rip. God is involved in either case, unless you can believe that things wound themselves up, but the important point is whether God "interferes," as it were, with what goes on on this earth, or whether He leaves it alone. Biologists never talk about God (or at least only on Sundays, when they are off duty) for it is considered unseemly for a scientist to do so. With this limitation they can never discuss the implications of evolution properly, and by mixing up the vague theory of evolution with the precise theory, they give the impression that both have been proved, whereas the precise theory is much further from being proved than men are from flying to the moon."
(Next month: The Theory Has Not Been Proved)
Truth Magazine I:7, pp. 20-22