Evolution - Definitions
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
1. Evolution is a general name for the process through which the universe is passing. Evolution is the general name for the changes through which every particle of matter is passing.
2. Evolution is a name for nature's method and process of organizing matter into "living beings." Evolution is a name for the life history of each being.
3. Evolution is a name for the method of "origin" and manner of development of the human race. Evolution is a name for the process through which a human individual passes in his physical, mental, moral and spiritual development.
Thus, we are presented with nature's process and method under three general divisions : inorganic, organic and human evolution. The process in each department -includes all its phases, such as birth, life and death; integration, growth and progress; retrogression, decay and disintegration. Thus, Evolution is a name for the steps, changes or processes through which any natural attainment is made. As a totality, Evolution is an infinite series of changes, alterations, developments and progressions. The term Evolution means the theory that the universe has been gradually evolved or unfolded by the continuous action of natural causes in the immeasurable course of ages. In this treatise natural causes do not mean material causes alone.
This work is in entire accord with two general definitions given by Prof. T. H. Huxley, as follows :
"Evolution, or development, is, in fact, at present employed in biology as a general name for the history of the steps by which any living being has acquired the morphological and the physiological characters which distinguish it."—From Evolution in Biology.
"The hypothesis of evolution supposes that in all this vast progression there would be no breach of continuity, no point at which we could say, `This is a natural process,' and, - `This is not a natural process' ; but that the whole might be compared to that wonderful process of development which may be seen going on every day under our eyes, in virtue of which there arises, out of the semi-fluid, comparatively hômogeneous substance which we call an egg, the complicated organization of one of the higher animals. That, in a few words, is what is meant by the hypothesis of evolution."—From American Addresses.
The Century Dictionary gives this definition of the word evolve :
"To unfold or develop by a process of natural, consecutive or logical growth from, or as if from, a germ, a latent state, or plan."
"To unfold by elaboration; work out; bring forth or make manifest by action of any kind; as to evolve a drama from an anecdote ; to evolve the truth from a mass of confused evidence.
In the Nineteenth Century, Vol. XXI, page 486, Huxley says : "What I mean by evolutionism is consistent and thoroughgoing uniformitarianism." With Geikie, it is agreed that "The changes of the past must be investigated in the light of similar changes now in operation." The very apparent difficulty, however, is to find, in all cases, similar changes within the limited range of our observations. The very idea of evolution is that of serial developments, and it is impossible to know exactly what occurred in past ages. However, because of our limitations, we are compelled to judge of causes by present effects, and to estimate future effects by present causes.
It should also be clearly understood that no philosophy of Evolution is complete which does not recognize ages of seeming inertia, the retrogression of species, and the failures of individuals. One of the most stubborn of all facts is this : We cannot account for all the facts. The universe is too vast. The scheme is too infinite as regards time, space and power.
There is a period in the development of every person who thinks deeply on nature.'s problems when he shares Huxley's viewpoint and all . he sees is "The moral indifference of nature" and "The unfathomable injustice of the nature of things," and he would "hail the advent of some kindly comet which would sweep the whole affair away." There is only one remedy for this condition of mind, and that is more and deeper thinking.
From the universal standpoint, these failures are simply like the return of an eddy, which does not interfere with the progress of the stream; or, like the dashing of a wave upon the rock, which destroys the wave but does not diminish the water. From the individual standpoint, how-ever, these human failures are always sad, and it is to assist in the success of as many as possible that this Philosophy and the best efforts of the period are directed.
Before an attempt to form a correct and adequate personal philosophy can be successful, it is necessary to get a more extensive and truer knowledge of the facts. Science is, therefore, our aim at present.
TWO CURRENTS OF EXPLANATIONS.
The Development Theory runs back to the Greeks. Empedocles (495-435 B. C.) anticipated modern evolutionists by more than twenty centuries in his speculations regarding the origin of forms of life and the constitution of matter. He said: "Since the higher forms of life can only arise out of the lower, these latter must be regarded as the lower stages through which the former must pass." This theory can be traced through a long line of Philosophers and Scientists to Lamarck and Darwin and their successors. Probably the best history of the evolution idea is that entitled From the Greeks to Darwin, by Prof. Henry F. Osborn, of Columbia University.
Likewise, the theory that "Mind" instead of necessity or chance was the arranging and harmonizing force of the universe dates back to a Greek, Anaxagoras (500-428 B. C.). Plato taught that "Mind" was the orderer of the universe and that the "Soul" preceded organization. A long line of similar or related interpretations may be found in the works of Spinoza, Schelling, Hegel, Schleier macher, Steffens, Schopenhauer, Goethe, Lotze, Fechner, Carlyle, and other great thinkers, perhaps culminating in Emerson with his teaching of "The Over-Soul" and that "The universe is the externization of the Soul." Emerson's essay entitled Natural History of Intellect is sublime in its conception, though far from scientific in its presentation.
Among the beautiful gems of thought in this essay are the following :
"Every creation, in parts or in particles, is on the method and by the means which our mind approves as soon as it is thoroughly acquainted with the facts; hence the delight. No matter how far or how high science explores, it adopts the methods of the universe as fast as it appears; and this discloses that the mind as it opens, the mind as it shall be, comprehends and works thus; that is to say, the Intellect builds the universe and is the key to all it contains.
"I believe in the existence of the material world as the expression of the spiritual or real ; and in the impenetrable mystery which hides (and hides through absolute transparency) the mental nature, I await the insight which our advancing knowledge of material laws shall furnish."
From the author's viewpoint, the materialistic and the idealistic theories are supplementary, and they need the addition of a scientific formulation of "Life Elements" whose existence may be known and demonstrated through observation of constantly occurring phenomena.
"Mind," or the "Over-Soul," or "Universal Intelligence," or "God," or the Creative Power by whatever name we may choose, certainly operates through agencies and in accordance with established methods called "laws." These agencies are called "Life Elements" in this treatise.
"Vitalism" as an explanation of phenomena has a long history, but it has been vague and indefinite, and it has not won its way with scientists. For some of their opinions, see Section 18.
For the scientific classification of Life Elements used in the "New Reading," the Author is indebted to "The School of Natural Science," which has issued three important volumes known as The Harmonic Series.