A Note on Evolution (No. 2)
(This note is taken from page 98 and following of SCIENCE IS A SACRED COW by Anthony Standen. Mr. Standen is no religionist writing a defense of superstition. Instead, he is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Association of Economic Entomologists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. We give the last half of our quotation from Mr. Standen's book under the title "The Theo. ry Has Not Been Proved." The last state)aent in the previons article was: ". . . the precise theory (of evolution) is much further from being proved than men are from flying to the moon." We now continue. --H.E.W.)
As regards the evidence for precise evolution, since evolution is a very touchy subject, it is best to let biologists speak for themselves. Here is Professor Bateson. "It is easy to imagine how Man was evolved from an Ameba, but we, cannot form a plausible guess as to how Veronica agrestis and Veronica polita (speedwells, related to the snapdragon -- HEW) were evolved, either one from the other, or both from a common f orm. We have not even an inkling of the steps by which a Silver Wyandotte fowl descended from Gallus bankiva (a species of fowl thought to be one of the most primitive ancestors of the modern chicken -- HEW), and we can scarcely even believe that it did." (Concerning Evolution by J. Arthur Thomson; New Haven: Yale University Press). To the grand and glorious viewpoint, evolution is as easy as can be, but on getting down to actual details, difficulties begin.
Professor J. Arthur Thomson put it this way: "Many of the genealogical trees which Haekel was so fond of drawing have fallen to pieces. Who can say anything, except in a gen,eral way, regarding the ancestry of Birds or even Vertebrates? The Origin of Species was published in 1859, but who today has attained to clearness in regard to the origin of any single species?" (Concerning Evolution by J. Arthur Thomson; New Haven: Yale University Press.) And yet the more this scientist comes to the conclusion that he knows nothing precise about evolution, the more firmly he is convinced of it, "as a modal formula," he is caref ul to point out, as if that meant anything more than a smoke screen behind which to have things both ways. The genealogical trees intended to show how modern animals were evolved are familiar enough. If they show any animal as descended from any particular animal (except in a very few restricted lines), they are fudged. Animals are not descen.ded from actual animals, only from hypothetical "ancestors." The trees will show a number of branches, and on the tips of the branches will be man, the great apes, the other mammals, and perhaps if it is a comprehensive tree there will be birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and possibly other things. There ought to be a whole series of animals, going up the main trunk, and out along all the branches, up to the tips where the modern animals are to be found. There aren't any. Haekel's trees have indeed fallen to pieces, for the wood that should support them was all hypothetical wood. And yet they keep on making their appearance, in book after book intended for instruction.
J. Arthur Thomson also discusses the question of how life began. He examines various ideas, such as that it came from another world (which begs the question), or that it started of itself. Also another-which he thinks is a different one-namely, that God made it. Or as he puts it, quoting from some would-be spinner of magic words, "protoplasm is a handful of dust that God enchants." He recoils from this in horror, because he thinks it "implies a premature abandonment of the scientific quest."
Professor W. R. Thompson is a biologist who has a lucidity based on a schoJarly knowledge of the much-deispised Aristotle. If he used the word "modal'' he would certainly know what it means. "That evolution has been gradual and continuous," he says, "is an induction based on certain particular cases, such as the horse and the elephants; it does not clearly emerge from the palentological record taken as a whole." Also, "The Darwinian doctrine has thus been used, not as a working hypothesis, in the strict sense of the word, but rather as an. explanatory principle which it is sufficient to illustrate by example, rather than to verify." (W. R. Thompson: Science and Common Sense; New York: Longmans, Green and Co., Inc.)
To quote just one more biologist, R. S. Lull, Professor of Paleontology at Yale: "Since Darwin's day, Evolution has been more and more generally accepted, until now in the minds of informed, thinking men there is no doubt that it is the only logical way whereby the creation can be interpreted and understood. We are not so sure, however, as to the modus operandi, but we may rest assured that the process has been in accordance with great natural laws, some of which are as yet unknown, perhaps unknowable." (Organic Evolution, by R. S. Lull; New York: The Macmillan Co.; copyright 1929, 1947.)
And so biologists continue to "rest assured." But one may be tempted to ask, if some of the great natural laws are as yet unknown, how do we know that they are there? And if some are perhaps unknowable, how do we know that they are "logical"?
It is not fair to blame biologists for the phrase "the missing link"; reputable biologists have always disapproved oi it. It is a most misleading phrase, because it suggests that only one link is missing. It would be more accurate to say that the greater part of the entire chain is missing, so much that it is not entirely certain whether there is a chain at all. With every new discovery of a fossil man or subman, the genealogical tree gets more complicated until it begins to resemble chain mail, with a great many links still missing. A n y prudent, unprejudiced layman would conclude, "It may be that the biological origin of man will eventually become as clear as that of the horse, or the elephant, or it may be that it will not. Let us wait and see." Biologists are not so cautious. They have an unshakeable faith in What Science Is Going To Do Some Day.
A curious change in tone has taken, place since the days of Darwin and Huxley and Herbert Spencer. These nineteenth-century giants spoke in terms of "survival of the fittest," an expression which is played down nowadays. This is done partly for legitimate technical reasons; the early Darwinians had overemphasized it, and there are other factors that must be taken into account in evolution. But it is also played down. for hidden reasons. "Survival of the fittest" led to the concept of "nature red in tooth and claw" and this is not sufficiently wishy-wasny for modern scientists. They prefer to express themselves in milder termscertain mutations have "survival value," or, to make it still more longwinded, "have positive survival value." In. any case those survived who were the fittest to survive, so that the meaning of this is the survival of the fittest all over again, but without sounding so harsh. The word "value" is greatly prized by scientists on account of its ability to put the reader off the scent . . .
(We have given Mr. Standen's statements without apology or emphasis. His statements cannot be laughed off as "the efforts of a prejudiced religionist." It should now be clear that nothing which would prove evolution has yet been brought to light, in spite of positive assertions to the contrary. It is a "faith," not a "science." -- H.E.W.)
Truth Magazine I:8,