Criticisms Of Darwinism
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection."
The Author now desires to criticize some of the conclusions of Charles Darwin as published in his valuable works, Origin of Species and Descent of Man. Fortunately, it is entirely possible to do this while heartily acknowledging gratitude to Mr. Darwin for his life of devotion to Science and while appreciating the value of his services in attracting the attention of the whole world to the importance of "Evolution" and in advancing Knowledge in many ways.
Mr. Darwin well knew that criticism would inevitably follow his publications. This is evident from his clear statement to that effect in his Recapitulation to Origin of Species, as follows : "That many and serious objections may be advanced against the theory of descent with modification through variation and natural selection, I do not deny."
Let it be understood, then, that criticism of his "Theory of Descent" only is here attempted.
First, what is the relation of his theory to the three distinct and independent theories which have been formulated as results of the attempts to explain the origin of life upon the earth?
Mr. Darwin assumes the Absolute Creation of a few progenitors of both plant and animal life. Then he attempts to establish a theory of modified Biogenesis, affirming that species have not been immutable in the ages remotely beyond all records known to Modern Physical Science, but that all species have descended from the few created species. He then admits that distinct and immutable Biogenesis was established; in fact, that it has been established as far back as Physical Science has any definite knowledge.
The evidences of his belief in this transition of methods in the origin of species have already been given in quotations from his works. The quotations will now be re-arranged so as to show his belief in this transition, and the reader may compare them with the full quotations given in the section entitled "Darwin's Reading of the Process of Evolution."
1. CREATION :
"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one."
2. MODIFIED BIOGENESIS:
"I am thoroughly convinced that species are not immutable, but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species . . ."
3. ORDINARY BIOGENESIS :
[Conclusion of the last sentence] ". . . in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species."
Sufficient proof that he could not find exceptions to ordinary Biogenesis is found in his own books, because he does not claim to have proven his case by actual examples of species produced from other and different species. Therefore his belief in Modified Biogenesis as having occurred at some remote period, still remains a theory, or "Darwinism."
In the scientific spirit it may well be asked, What has become of natural causes and the continuity of law? It may be well here to repeat the quotation from Mr. Huxley, as follows : "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 `That is not a natural process..' " However, "Darwinism" presupposes radical changes in nature's processes which are now undemonstrable.
Furthermore, it seems evident that Mr. Darwin's logical mind compelled him to seek for a Primal Cause which seemed equal to the emergency, when he worked up to a realization of said emergency, and, like millions of other minds, he was then compelled to assume a Creator.
He considered that a few primal forms of plants and animals, by means of "Natural Selection" and minor factors, had produced all succeeding species, including man. Back of the primal forms and these factors, in point of time merely (not in intelligence or power), he felt compelled to assume a Creator. He does not seem to have realized just the situation in which this theory left the "Creator." Nor does he seem to have realized the immensity of responsibility, intelligence and power his theory left resting upon the few primal forms and upon the factors of the process as he formulated them.
It may be well to ask this question, If there is necessary for Mr. Darwin's hypothesis a Creator of a few forms, or even one, why imagine that the Creator abandoned the work then and there to "Natural Selection"? Is there any
creative power in "Natural Selection" superior to the original "Great First Cause'"? Since we have to postulate such an Intelligence and Power as the Originator, why not allow Him, or It, to originate a few more forms? Why not assume that He continued to supervise and execute the work which He, or It, alone commenced?
In the presence of nature's resources, it would seem to be evident that it would not be very much harder to create several forms than one. Furthermore, it would seem not to be very much more difficult to create many forms than a few. As Lowell says, "In creating, the only hard thing is to begin."
Darwin expressly declares that artificial selection with man as the intelligent, directing agent has not been the course of evolution. He says :
"No man would ever try to make a fantail till he saw a pigeon with a tail developed in some slight degree in an unusual manner, or a pouter until he saw a pigeon with a crop of unusual size."
And Tyndall, after quoting the above in The Belfast Address, adds :
"Thus nature gives the hint, man acts upon it, and by the law of inheritance exaggerates the deviation."
Now, if it would not occur to man in the present advanced degree of his intelligence and with his intense desire to do things, it probably did not occur to him in the past to attempt the construction of species after new and original patterns. It has never been suggested that any species intelligently designed and purposefully planned the production of another and improved species. It is impossible to consider seriously that any such thing could have occurred.
Furthermore, if the intelligence and power were not inherent in the individual intelligences, it is impossible to consider seriously that chemical atoms possessed the intelligence and power to integrate themselves after intelligent patterns of constantly increasing complexity and capacity.
Therefore, if the intelligence and the power which con-trolled the historic and pre-historic development cannot be located in man and it is unthinkable that animals or plants or material atoms consciously planned the process and purposefully executed it, who or what did do it?
Some Darwinians answer, "Natural Selection," and others say "Nature," without realizing the immense importance of defining the intelligence found in nature. Others answer like W. B. Carpenter, in Cyclopedia of Anatomy and Physiology, Vol. III, page 151: "Organization and biotical functions arise from the natural operations of forces inherent in elemental matter." This is no explanation at all. In fact, no greater "miracle" could be assumed. It is impossible to locate any adequate power or intelligence in elemental matter. Furthermore, it is impossible to locate any adequate power or intelligence in any completed evolutionary organization.
Moreover, it seems that some Darwinian evolutionists frequently overestimate the power of "Natural Selection" and "Adaptation." In their endeavor to prove the lack of necessity for a Supreme Creator, they go to the other extreme and endow an automatic mechanical process with teleological powers which are fully equivalent to those assumed in the other hypothesis of a personal Creator.
Examples of this are found in the current explanations of the long neck of the giraffe, the bill of the heron, and the legs of the crane, as "adaptations to environment." While they repudiate the idea of a Supreme and Infallible Designer (which, I admit, is undemonstrable in the personal sense), it would seem to be logical that they should also avoid the other extreme of ascribing to mechanical causes undue intelligence and infallibility.
Mr. Darwin avoids the grossness of the examples above referred to, and his conclusions are generally moderate and just, as, for instance, in the fourth chapter of Origin of Species:
"How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man ! How short his time, and consequently how poor will be his results, compared with those accumulated by Nature during whole geological periods ! Can we wonder, then, that Nature's productions should be far `truer' in character than man's productions ; that they should be infinitely better adapted to the most complex conditions of life, and should plainly bear the stamp of far higher workmanship ?"
There is no objection to the above statement. In fact, the New Reading distinguishes the intelligence and power of "Nature" as "Darwinism" does not. Contrast Tables A and B.
There can be no objection to the following statement of the process, however much disagreement there is regarding the importance of the factor given. From the same fourth chapter:
"Natural selection acts only by the preservation and accumulation of small inherited modifications, each profit-able to the preserved being."
Darwin confessed frankly, "With respect to the causes of variability, we are very ignorant at all points."
It is evident that his labors were spent in analyzing the probable effects of natural selection on variations, and he really said very little about the origin of variations.
It must now be evident to the reader that the author does not intend to dispute any of Mr. Darwin's facts. Furthermore, he does not disagree with the larger number of his minor conclusions. Most of them are valuable, and probably true. But it is intended to ascertain if he has established his main contention.
How far has Mr. Darwin established his theory of "The origin of species by means of natural selection"?
Darwin was perfectly well aware that his theory did not admit of any direct proof, for in a letter concerning one of his critics, he wrote :
"He is one of the very few who see that the variation of species does not admit of direct proof, and that my theory will stand or fall according to whether it is, or is not, able to group together and explain phenomena. It is curious how few judge it according to this, the only correct criterion."
In his Recapitulation to Origin of Species (page 500 in my copy) Mr. Darwin states :
"I believe that animals are descended from, at most, only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number. Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that all animals and plants are descended from some one prototype. But analogy may be a deceitful guide. Nevertheless, all living things have much in common in their chemical composition, their cellular structure, their laws of growth, and their liability to injurious influences."
It is sufficient for the present purpose simply to point out that Mr. Darwin clearly recognized that in his work, Origin of Species, he had not accounted for the "four or five progenitors" of the various species of animals and "the equal or lesser number" of the progenitors of plants, by "Natural Selection." In other words, his explanation of the origin of species in the first four or five progenitors was "Creation." Later in life he expressed his regrets for having used the word Creator on account of its associations. However, his only substitution was an admission of his ignorance relative to the origin of life. This is an additional reason why Charles Darwin commands our respect.
In fact, referring all forms to an origin in "a few forms or to one" only removes that difficulty further back, and is not at all a sufficient explanation of the origin of later species; it is not a logical. theory of origins through-out. The first real difficulty is in the origin of the first primal forms, or even one. The next real difficulty is to locate the intelligence and power adequate for the production of other and different species. In fact, the great weakness in "Darwinism" and other theories is that no adequate Intelligence and Power is conceived.
Now, how far has "Darwinism" accounted for the Origin of Species from the sixth progenitor on? What are the opinions of scientists on this question of the demonstration? Does the explanation explain?
Even though the title of his book is "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," to Mr. Darwin's thoroughly conscientious and careful mind this did not mean all that some of his adherents have caused to be associated with "Darwinism." Note particularly the significance of this quotation from the fourth chapter :
"Several writers have misapprehended or objected to the term Natural Selection. Some have even imagined that natural selection induces variability, whereas it implies only the preservation of such variations as arise and are beneficial to the being under its conditions of life."
Since the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859, sufficient time has elapsed for scientists to decide the true value and importance of "Natural Selection" as a factor in evolution. It accounts for some modifications within a given species, but not for origins.
In his essay on the Origin of Species, Professor Huxley says:
"After much consideration, and with assuredly no bias against Mr. Darwin's views, it is our clear conviction that as the evidence stands, it is not absolutely proven that a group of animals, having all the characters exhibited by species in nature, has ever been originated by selection, whether artificial or natural."
Mr. Huxley endorsed the doctrine of evolution to the fullest extent in later essays, but I do not find that he positively altered the statement above quoted concerning origin by means of natural selection.
On this point Professor E. D. Cope says :
"Great obscurity has arisen from the supposition that natural selection can originate anything, and the obscurity has not been lessened by the assertion often made that these variations are due to inheritance. What is inheritance but repetition of characters possessed by some (no matter what) ancestor; and if so, where did that ancestor obtain that peculiarity? The origin of variations is thus only thrown upon an earlier period. Plainly enough, then, nothing ever originated by natural selection."
—Quoted from essay entitled Evolution and Its Consequences published in volume entitled Origin of the Fittest.
Professor Von Hugo de Vries makes this assertion :
"Briefly stated, I assert, of course on the ground of the mutation theory, that by the struggle for existence and by natural selection species do not originate but perish."
From The Origin of Species by Mutation.
The article on "Natural Selection" in the New International Encyclopedia is very instructive. A few sentences will be quoted :
"Since Darwin called attention to the lack of long series of intermediate links between species, naturalists have been more and more inclined to the belief that such series of connected variations have never existed but that nature makes leaps, that species often arise by sudden or `quick' or saltatorial evolution." "Natural selection is manifestly inadequate to account for the origin of the principal types or classes of plants and animals." "In the opinion of some expert working naturalists, the greater number of known species have been produced without its aid. It is not of the same nature as artificial selection. Yet the theory is widely accepted, and by its aid Darwin converted the world to a belief in evolution in general."
The chief lasting effect of Mr. Darwin's work and the subsequent investigations of numberless scientists, seems to be the establishment of the conception of a natural order and regular processes of development. While scientists will, probably, never return to the idea, held before Darwin's work, that Creative fiats and Divine interpositions have changed the natural order at critical points, it is nevertheless safe to assume for the present that "Natural Selection," "Artificial Selection" and "Mutation" have not been known to originate any species differently classified from the known parentage.
Natural and cultivated variations of species are continually observed, but these may be largely accounted for by the direct application of human intelligence to making alterations or modifications in their structure or environment or else by intrinsic powers newly manifested because of changed conditions of immediate environment; or be-cause the supply of the elements, such as moisture, heat or nutrition, has been increased or diminished. The range of variability of any kind of life is almost infinite. "No two individuals of any planting are alike." Professor Haeckel has described over four thousand different specimens of radiolaria. In Last Words on Evolution (page 131) Professor Haeckel says:
"The 4,000 species of radiolaria are just as constant as the 4,000 known species of ants; and, as the Darwinian Jesuit, Father Wasmann, has convinced himself that the latter have all descended by transformation from a common stem-form, I have concluded on the same principles that the 4,000 species of radiolaria have developed from a primitive form in virtue of adaptation and heredity."
The question of how "constant" are the known species would be very interesting provided Professor Haeckel could tell us how the four thousand species have "developed from a primitive form in virtue of adaptation and heredity." There are many strange lapses in Professor Haeckel's rea-
soning. In all kindness, these lapses seem to the writer to spring from Professor Haeckel's determination to make one theory cover all the known phenomena. When he wishes to state that species are distinct and always distinguish-able, he claims that they are "constant." When he wishes to assert descent from one parent, he gets an entirely different meaning from "adaptation and heredity."
In Darwinism To-Day, Professor Kellogg says :
"The evolution champion Haeckel, although not at all a Weismannian Darwinian, has also by his daring and reckless speculative development of certain phases of evolutionary thought, especially in its relation to sociology and religious philosophy and by his obstinate adherence to, and reiteration of, certain long discredited more strictly biological dogmas of evolutionary science, contributed to pro-duce an irritation and antagonistic activity among biologists especially in Germany, which has helped make many friends for the anti-Darwinian party." (Page 130.)
Professor Kellogg's own conclusion is stated thus :
"We only tell the general truth when we declare that no indubitable cases of species-forming or transforming, that is, of descent, have been observed; and that no recognized case of natural selection really selecting has been observed." (Page 18.)
Delage says, "The conclusion of this criticism is that selection is powerless to form species."