More Light, Less Heat

Creation by Evolution. Edited by Frances Mason. (Macmillan).

FOR the layman who sincerely desires to know what the word “evolution” really means today and how the theory is supported by facts in many fields of research, it is probably that the volume here considered may be the most valuable thus far published. Although the reviewer can be familiar with more than a very small portion of the books in which the subject has been discussed, it is fairly reasonable to assume that there is no other work in which so many of the world-leaders in scientific research have set forth in simple language the gist of what they have learned in their various specialties and shown how the theory is supported by their findings.

What we have in “Creation by Evolution” is a consensus of present day knowledge — not opinion — set forth by 26 of the foremost scientific thinkers of our time. In recommending such a book it is necessary to remember that there are as many ill-informed people on one side of the controversy as on the other, and that the subject is very, generally approached in a contentious mood by the rank and file of both parties. This natural human tendency in matters of conviction is only aggravated by such curious phenomena as the Dayton trial, which served to increase the heat on both sides without contributing any light. No doubt thousands upon thousands, who have no clear understanding of the theory but accept it merely because it is understood to be “modern” and iconoclastic have chortled with glee over the ignorance displayed by the [ ? anities ]. How widespread this ignorance is, regardless of the view taken, can be demonstrated by a simple word test. Ask a hundred people what word first occurs to them when evolution is mentioned, and in the majority of cases the answer will be “monkey.” Ask a hundred faithful religionists how they feel about professed evolutionists and the majority will reply that evolutionists are the deadly enemies of religion, being atheists.

Since it can hardly be doubted that the popular attitude towards evolution, whether for or against, is practically as suggested above, the simple, thoroughly honest and illuminating volume here considered cannot be too confidently recommended. Nevertheless, a certain class of readers on both sides of the question may as well be discouraged at once. Those who seek for proof of atheistic, anti-religious leanings among mature thinkers on evolution will waste their efforts in reading this volume, although those who mistake the body of religion for its soul may, here and there, by implication chiefly, find some occasion for resentment. All the scientists represented in the present symposium have gone far enough in their researches to reach the inevitable point where all human conceptions are lost in awe. It is not a book for the cocksure, the contentious; it is a book for the humble. And humility, some suspect, is still a fundamental of both religion and science.

Here speaks a professor of biology:

“If the idea of evolution of a species is atheistic, so is the idea of the development of an individual, for individual development involves the same principles as race evolution.”

And here again:

“The actual facts of development are vastly more wonderful than any that were ever conceived in pre-scientific times. Just as astronomy and geology and physics and chemistry have given us grander views of the universe than were ever dreamed of before, so biology, and especially the study of development and evolution, have given us grander views of the living world — its unity, its integrity, its mystery — than were ever before held or suspected.”

And here speaks a professor of zoology:

“Evolution no more takes God out of the universe than does gravitation. Both these great principles are mere manifestations of the grand strategy of nature. The theory of evolution, as has often been said, does not deny creation; it merely explains the method of creation.”

It may be a matter of generations before the great mass will be aware of the fact that as early as the first quarter of the twentieth century the vanguard of science had already arrived by strictly scientific methods at conceptions differing not at all in essentials from conceptions reached by the great mystics long, long ago. It is the noisy and ill-advised camp-followers of the army of science who have leaped to the conclusion that all mystery and wonder and reverence are now known to be “the bunk.” Those yonder in the van know better. One tells us, for instance, that life seems to differ only in mode of manifestation; that somehow all life is one. Might it not be Little Brother Francis speaking? And here is what a professor of na-tural history has to say:

“What the evolutionist discloses is man’s solidarity, his kinship, with the rest of creation. And the encouragement we find in this disclosure is twofold. In the first place, though we inherit some course strands from pre-human pedigree it is an ascent, not a descent that we see behind us. In the second place, the evolutionist world is congruent with religious interpretation. It is a world in which the religious man can breathe freely.”