[Footnote 17: "Geographical and Geological Distribution of Animals," pp. 183, 184.]
[Footnote 18: Id., pp. 207, 208.]
But the situation is very little better when we come to deal with plants and animals of our modern world. Because, with the many thousands of students of natural science all over the world, each anxious to get into print as the discoverer of some new form, the systematists have a dead weight of names on their hands that by a rational and enlightened revision could doubtless be reduced to but a fraction of their present disheartening array. For as the result of the extensive breeding experiments now being carried on under the study of what is called Mendelism (a term that will be explained in the next chapter), it has been found that great numbers of the "species" of the systematists or classificationists will not stand the physiological test of breeding, that is, they are found to breed freely together according to the Mendelian Law. As William Bateson remarks:
"We may even be certain that numbers of excellent species recognized by entomologists or ornithologists, for example, would, if subjected to breeding tests, be immediately proved to be analytical varieties, differing from each other merely in the presence or absence of definite factors."
The following from David Starr Jordan, the leading American authority on fishes, will serve to show how numerous have been the new names invented in recent years, all tending further to confuse and complicate the problem of what is a species:
"In our fresh-water fishes, each species on an average has been described as new from three to four times, on account of minor variations, real or supposed. In Europe, where the fishes have been studied longer and by more different men, upwards of six or eight nominal species have been described for each one that is now considered distinct."
[Footnote 19: "Mendel's Principles of Heredity," p. 284, 1909.]
[Footnote 20: "Science Sketches," p. 99.]
"Thus the common Channel Catfish of our rivers has been described as a new species not less than twenty-five times, on account of differences real or imaginary, but comparatively trifling in value."
[Footnote 21: "Science Sketches," p. 96.]
Perhaps the reader will tolerate another somewhat long quotation because of the light which it sheds on this whole problem.
"Some years ago we had a parasite of a very destructive aphid down in our books as Lysiphlebus tritici. In carrying out our investigations it became necessary to find out whether this parasite had more than a single host insect, and whether it could develop in more than one species of aphid. To this end, recently emerged males and females were allowed to pair, after which the female oviposited in several species of aphids. Both parents were then killed and preserved and all of their progeny not used in further experiments were also preserved, and thus entire broods or families were kept together. In this way females were reared out of one host species and allowed to oviposit in others, until, often after several hosts had been employed, it would be bred back into the species whence it first originated. In all cases the host was reared from the moment of birth, while with the parasite both parents and offspring were kept together.
"The result of this little fragment of work was to send two genera and fourteen species to the cemetery—you may call it Mt. Synonym Cemetery, if you choose—while the insect involved is now Aphidius testaceipes. The systematist who studies only dried corpses will soon be out of date."
[Footnote 22: F.M. Webster, of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, in Science, April 12, 1912, p. 565.]
Now all this is not given to intimate that there is no scientific justification for the term "species," but to make plain to my non-professional readers what every well-informed biologist already knows, namely, that at the present time the "species question" is still in a very unsatisfactory state. The facts given above would strongly suggest that there probably is indeed such a thing as a species, in the sense assigned by Linnaeus, who as we have seen wished to make it a designation covering all the descendants of each distinct kind originally created. But this original aim of Linnaeus is to-day not merely ignored but treated with lofty contempt; for according to the prevailing theories of evolution, all the manifold diversities of life in our modern world have come about gradually as the result of a slow development by natural process, and hence it would be vain beyond measure to attempt to determine the limits of a "species" in the sense understood by Linnaeus.
But we may conclude, from the facts presented above, that if there is such a naturally delimited group as a "species" in the Linnaean sense of the word, it by no means coincides with what now passes under this name, but might include many so-called species, often a whole genus, or even several.
With this in mind, we must pass on to consider the next step in our study, as to whether new "species" are now coming into being in our modern world under scientific observation, either natural or artificial.
MENDELISM AND THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
"Had Mendel's work come into the hands of Darwin, it is not too much to say that the history of the development of evolutionary philosophy would have been very different from that which we have witnessed."
[Footnote 23: William Bateson, "Mendel's Principles of Heredity," p. 316.]
From the latter part of the eighteenth century, attempts were continually being made to explain the origin of all organic forms by some system of development or evolution. Buffon had dwelt on the modifications directly induced by the environment. Lamarck had made much use of this idea, claiming that such modifications were transmitted to posterity, and claiming the same for the structural changes produced by use and disuse. Lamarck's work did not become at all popular while he lived, chiefly through the overpowering influence of Baron Cuvier, who had an equally fantastic scheme of his own, which may well be termed a burlesque on Creation and in which an extreme fixity of "species" was a cardinal doctrine. Erasmus Darwin and Robert Chambers in England also tried to make a theory of evolution believable; though their efforts were but little more successful in gaining the ear of the world.
But to all that had gone before Charles Darwin and A.R. Wallace (1858) added the idea of "natural selection," or "the struggle for existence," to use the respective terms coined by each of these authors, as the chief means by which the effects of variation are accumulated and perpetuated so as to build up the modern complexities of the plant and animal kingdoms. Partly because it was a psychological moment, from the fact that the uniformitarian geology of Lyell with its graded advance of existences from age to age seemed absolutely to demand some evolutionary explanation; partly because artificial selection was a familiar idea of proved value in selective breeding, and "natural selection" seemed an exact parallel carried on by nature in the direction of continual improvement; but perhaps more largely because the abstract idea of "natural selection" involved so many intricate separate concepts that for nearly a generation scarcely two naturalists in the world could state the whole problem of the theory exactly alike;—on all these accounts the theory of natural selection, or of the "survival of the fittest," to use the phrase of Herbert Spencer, became in the latter decades of the nineteenth century well-nigh universal.
But about 1887 a faction or school arose who criticized the main idea of Darwin and Wallace and fell back on the Lamarckian factor of the transmission of acquired characters as really the essential cause of the process of evolution. Herbert Spencer, E.D. Cope and others did much to criticize natural selection as inadequate to do what was attributed to it, dwelling on the importance of the transmission of acquired characters. Spencer even went so far as to declare, "either there has been inheritance of acquired characters, or there has been no evolution." These Neo-Lamarckians argued that natural selection alone can neither explain the origin of varieties, nor the first steps in the slow advance toward "usefulness." An organ must be already useful before natural selection can take hold of it to improve it. Selection cannot make a thing useful to start with, but only (possibly) make more useful what already exists. Until the newly formed buds of developing limbs or organs became decidedly "useful" to the individual or the species, would they not be in the way, merely so many hindrances, to be removed by natural selection instead of being preserved and improved? But, in this view of the matter, they argued, what single organ of any species would there be that must not thus have appeared long before it was wanted?
Or to use the pungent words quoted with approval by Hugo de Vries at the end of his "Species and Varieties" (pp. 825, 826), "Natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest."
This side of the argument is dwelt upon at some length by Alex. Graham Bell, as reported in a recent interview. He says:
"Natural selection does not and cannot produce new species or varieties or cause modifications of living organisms to come into existence. On the contrary, its sole function is to prevent evolution. In its action it is destructive merely,—not constructive,—causing death and extinction, not life and progression. Death cannot produce life; and though natural selection may produce the death of the unfit, it cannot produce the fit, far less evolve the fittest. It may permit the fit to survive by not killing them off, if they are already in existence; but it does not bring them into being, or produce improvement in them after they have once appeared."
[Footnote 24: World's Work, December, 1913, p. 177.]
Opposing these Neo-Lamarckians were such prominent scientists as August Weismann, A.R. Wallace, E. Ray Lankester, who strenuously opposed the idea that "acquired characters," or more precisely parental experience, are ever transmissible. In the subsequent years the greatest variety of experimental tests have been applied to secure the hereditary transmission of any sort of such acquired characters, with uniformly negative results. One of the most elaborate of these experiments was conducted by a German botanist, who transplanted 2,500 different kinds of mountain plants to the lowlands, where he studied them for several years alongside their relatives, natives of these lowlands. He found that their mountain environment had made absolutely no permanent change in their structures or habits, which soon conformed exactly with those of their relatives which had lived in the lowland environment for centuries. Many similar efforts have been made to confirm this doctrine of the transmission of acquired characters; but their universal failure is like that of mechanics in trying to invent perpetual motion.
Thomas Hunt Morgan sums up the present situation in the following words: "To-day the theory has few followers among trained investigators, but it still has a popular vogue that is wide-spread and vociferous." And we may add that the extent of its spread is directly proportioned to the need felt for this doctrine as a support of the theory of evolution, while the vociferance of its advocates is inversely proportioned to the evidence in its support.
As a result of extensive modern experiments and discussion, biologists have grown very cautious, and are by no means so positive as they were twenty years ago in affirming just how species have come into existence. Echoes of this old controversy between the two leading schools of biologists are occasionally heard; but the enthusiasm with which they set out a half century ago to solve the riddle of plant and animal life has largely given way to a purpose to discard speculation and patiently to observe and record actual facts. For with natural selection discredited in the house of its friends, and Lamarckianism under grave suspicion from want of a single well authenticated example, it is hard to see what there is left of the biological doctrine that has so dominated scientific thought for a half century. If each of these opposed schools of scientists are right in what they deny, the whole theoretical foundation for the origin of new kinds of animals and plants is swept away,—absolutely gone. For if an individual really cannot transmit what he has acquired in his lifetime, how can he transmit what he has not got himself, and what none of his ancestors ever had? And if natural selection cannot start a single organ of a single type, what is the use of discussing its supposed ability to improve them after the machinery is all built?
Such was the general condition of theoretical biology about the beginning of the present century. In the meantime those who were dealing with the empyrical or experimental side of these problems were seeking for the causes of and the rules for variation. All living things vary from one generation to another; the question was, Why do they vary? and do these variations really represent new characters comparable to new species in the making? or are they, so to speak, but an elastic reaction of the internal vital elasticity of the organism, all the while latent and only seeking a favorable expression, to return again under other conditions to the former type?
The effort to reduce these variations to law and system was pursued by thousands of investigators, with varying but at all times perplexing and disappointing results. But in the year 1900 the scientific world awoke to the surprising fact that a patient obscure investigator had already solved most of the puzzles of variation and heredity some thirty-five years before. Gregor Mendel, born a peasant boy, trained as a monk, and afterwards appointed Abbot of Bruenn, had in the year 1865 published the results of his experiments in breeding, which had been ignored or forgotten until rediscovered in 1900 by de Vries and two others simultaneously. From this point Mendelism, as it is now called, has steadily gained ground, until at the present time it can be said to be the dominating conception among biologists the world over regarding the problems of heredity.
Mendel worked chiefly with peas, crossing different varieties. In his methods of investigation he differed from all previous investigators in concentrating his attention upon a single pair of alternative or contrasted characters at a time, and observing how these alternative characters are transmitted.
Thus when he crossed a tall with a dwarf, giving attention to this pair of contrasted characters alone, he found that all the first hybrid generation were talls, with no dwarfs and no intermediates. Accordingly he called the tall character dominant, and the dwarf character recessive, and a pair of contrasted characters which act in this way are now called factors or sometimes called unit characters. But on allowing these hybrids to cross-fertilize one another in the usual way, Mendel found that in the second generation of hybrids there were always three talls to one dwarf out of every four. Further experiments proved that these dwarfs of the second hybrid generation always bred true, that is, one out of four; and that one out of the remaining talls always bred true, making another quarter of the total; while the remaining fifty per cent. proved to be mixed tails, always acting as did the original hybrids, splitting up in the next generation in the same arithmetical proportion as before.
Accordingly, if we confine our study to the two contrasted characters, tallness and dwarfness, we see that just three kinds of peas exist, namely, dwarfs which breed true, talls which breed true, and talls which always give the same definite proportion of talls and dwarfs among their descendants. Innumerable experiments which have since been made with other pairs of characters have demonstrated that this same mathematical proportion holds good throughout the whole world of plants and animals; and hence this astonishing result is now called Mendel's Law, and is regarded as the most important discovery in biology in several generations.
[Footnote 25: When dealing with only a few individual cases, we do not always find them to come out in such exact proportion; but when the number of examples is large, the proportion is so close to these figures that the exceptions can be entirely neglected as probably due to error of some kind.]
There are two distinct kinds of Andalusian fowls, one pure bred black, the other pure bred white with slight dashes of black here and there. When these are mated, no matter which color is the father or the mother, the next or hybrid generation are always a queer mixture of black and white called by fanciers blue. When these blues are interbred, one-quarter of their offspring will be white, which will prove to breed true ever afterwards, one-quarter will be black that will breed true, and fifty per cent. will be blue which will break up in the next generation in the very same way as before. In this case neither white nor black character is dominant, and accordingly we have a blending of both in the first hybrid generation.
In guinea pigs, black color has been found to be dominant over white, rough coat over smooth coat, and short hair over long hair. These remarkable results following from an experimental trial of Mendelism have stimulated hosts of investigators in all parts of the world, until now many varieties of plants and animals have been studied for many successive generations, already, building up a considerable literature dealing with the subject.
Perhaps the most extensive and exact series of experiments along this line have been carried on by Thomas Hunt Morgan and his assistants, of Columbia University. For over five years they have been breeding the wild fruit fly (Drosophila ampelophila), during which time they have originated and observed over a hundred and twenty-five new types that breed true according to Mendel's laws. Every part of the body has been affected by one or another of these mutations. The wings have been shortened, or changed in shape, or made to disappear entirely. The eyes have been changed in color or entirely eliminated. And each of these wonderful variations was brought about not gradually, but at a single step.
Professor Morgan grows justifiably sarcastic in contrasting these demonstrated laboratory facts with the armchair theories that have so long and so harmfully dominated biological studies. A quotation from him will not be out of place at this point.
"I may recall in this connection that wingless flies also arose in our cultures by a single mutation. We used to be told that wingless insects occurred on desert islands because those insects that had the best developed wings had been blown out to sea. Whether this is true or not, I will not pretend to say; but at any rate wingless insects may also arise, not through a slow process of elimination, but at a single step.... Formerly we were taught that eyeless animals arose in caves. This case shows that they may also arise suddenly in glass milk bottles, by a change in a single factor."
[Footnote 26: "A Critique of the Theory of Evolution," p. 67.]
We need not be particularly concerned here with the theoretical explanations of these facts offered in terms of the microscopic or even the infra-microscopic components of the germ cells. Morgan seems to make out a strong case for the theory that the chromosomes found in the nucleus are the real ultimate units that carry the hereditary factors. But he is quite decided in the opinion that these hereditary factors are fixed, and are not changed from generation to generation either by environment or by selection. The important thing for us in this connection is to get a clear idea of the results following from an application of Mendel's laws to the old, old problem of the origin of species, incidentally noticing how the theory associated with Darwin's name now looks in the light of these new facts.
[Footnote 27: In human beings it has been found that the effects of alcoholism and of syphilis are indeed transmitted according to Mendelian law, being the two solitary examples of diseased conditions that are thus transmitted. But they are so plainly pathologic phenomena that there is little temptation for the advocates of Lamarckianism to use them as proofs of their theory.]
We have hitherto been considering the results worked out by Mendel with but one pair of contrasted characters or factors. But Mendel studied the relation of other characters of the pea, and found among other results that smooth seeds are dominant to wrinkled seeds, colored seeds dominant to white, yellow color dominant to green, etc. But when a combination of two factors in each parent are put into contrast by cross breeding, two wholly original forms (as they seemed) were sometimes produced, and it looked as if these new kinds were really analogous to new species.
For example, he crossed tall yellow peas with dwarf green peas, with the result that the first hybrid generation turned out to be all tall yellows. However, in the second hybrid generation they split up according to the law as already stated, modified by the additional complication brought into the problem by the additional pair of factors. For out of every sixteen plants there were nine tall yellows, three dwarf yellows, three tall greens, and one dwarf green. It is evident that these tall greens and dwarf yellows are really new forms; and further experiments proved that they can be separated out or segregated and grown as pure forms which thereafter breed true. Thus we have a very important result for the breeder, for it enables him to work to a definite aim and combine certain desirable characters into a single form.
The term mutation, as already intimated, has been given to this process of producing new varieties in this way. The kinds so produced are termed mutants, and at first they were hailed by enthusiastic scientists as "elementary species." De Vries in particular gave much publicity to this idea; for he thought he had really produced a new kind comparable in every respect to a true species as produced by nature among wild plants. But the enthusiasm with which this applied result of Mendel's Law was at first hailed by biologists has gradually subsided; for it has been found that though these new forms will breed true under certain conditions, they are nevertheless cross-fertile with the original forms, and thus the circle can be completed back again by a return to the parent form, from which the new "species" can again be produced at will with the same mathematical exactness as before.
Where then are we?
Clearly we have not really produced any new species in any correct sense of the word. If we have produced new forms that breed true and that are seemingly just as deserving of the rank of distinct species as many now listed in scientific books, it only shows that our lists are sadly at fault, and that they are not all species that are called species. These experiments merely indicate that the parent form possesses more potential characters than it can give expression to in a single individual form, some of them being necessarily latent or hidden, and that when these latent ones show themselves they must do so at the expense of others which become latent or hidden in their turn. This vital elasticity, as it may be termed, or the vital rebound under definite conditions, is indeed a prime characteristic of the species just as it is of the individual; but like that of the individual the vital elasticity of the species is strictly bounded by comparatively narrow limits beyond which we have never seen a single type pass under either natural or artificial conditions. Mutations can be made according to Mendel's Law; but when we have made them once we can always be sure of producing the very same mutants again in the very same way, as surely as we produce a definite chemical compound; and when we have made it we can always resolve it at will back into its original form, just as we can a chemical compound. And so, where is the evolution? or how do these facts throw any light on the problem of the origin of species, any more than chemical compounds throw light on the origin of the elements? Obviously in biology as in chemistry we are only working in a circle, merely marking time.
And the bearing of these facts on the other problem of the transmission of acquired characters is quite obvious. Mendelism provides no place for any such transmission. Mendel's Law is sometimes called the law of alternative inheritance, thus embodying in its name the thought that offspring may show the characters possessed by one parent or by the other, but that it cannot develop any characters whatever which were not manifest or latent in the ancestry. Changes in the environment during the embryonic stage, it is true, seem sometimes to be registered in the growing form; but it has never yet been proved that these induced changes can ever amount to a unit character or genetic factor that will maintain itself and segregate as a distinct factor after hybridization. Ancestry alone furnishes the material for the factor, and no amount of induced change can get itself registered in the organism so as to come into this charmed circle of ancestral characters which alone seem to be passed on to posterity.
A quotation from Bateson ought to set this point at rest:
"The essence of the Mendelian principle is very easily expressed. It is, first, that in great measure the properties of organisms are due to the presence of distinct, detachable elements [factors], separately transmitted in heredity; and secondly, that the parent cannot pass on to offspring an element, and consequently the corresponding property, which it does not itself possess."
[Footnote 28: Scientific American Sup., January 3, 1914.]
Heredity we now see is a method of analysis, and the facts brought to light by Mendelism help us very much toward an understanding of living matter. Especially does it help us to understand the complexity underlying the facts of heredity, which until now have seemed so strange and capricious. As Professor Punnett of Cambridge remarks:
"Constitutional differences of a radical nature may be concealed beneath an apparent identity of external form. Purple sweet peas from the same pod, indistinguishable in appearance and of identical ancestry, may yet be fundamentally different in their constitution. From one may come purples, reds, and whites; from another only purples and reds; from another purples and whites alone; whilst a fourth will breed true to purple. Any method of investigation which fails to take account of the radical differences of constitution which may underlie external similarity, must necessarily be doomed to failure. Conversely, we realize to-day that individuals identical in constitution may yet have an entirely different ancestral history. From the cross between two fowls with rose and pea combs, each of irreproachable pedigree for generations, come single combs in the second generation, and these singles are precisely similar in their behavior to singles bred from strains of unblemished ancestry. In the ancestry of the one is to be found no single over a long series of years; in the ancestry of the other nothing but singles occurred. The creature of given constitution may often be built up in many ways, but once formed it will behave like others of the same constitution."
[Footnote 29: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XVIII, p. 119.]
Vanished at last are the old theories of gradual changes in species perpetuated and accumulated by natural selection until at last wholly new forms have in this way been produced. True variations are now seen to be confined within well-marked and rather narrow limits, within which ordinary variations may occur, perhaps induced by environment. These fluctuating variations grade off into one another on all sides, and their differences can be plotted on a frequency curve; but the very important thing for us to remember is that these fluctuating variations cannot be transmitted. Beyond these fluctuating variations come the unit characters or factors, which are distinct from each other, or "discontinuous," to use the technical term, and which therefore cannot be plotted on a frequency curve. These factors are not modified in the least by the environment, and their peculiarities are faithfully transmitted in heredity with all the precision of chemical law. But even these factors are all within the bounds of the species. There is not a shred of scientific evidence that either natural or artificial devices have originated a single genetic factor that was not all the time potentially latent in the ancestry, capable of being produced at will by the proper combination.
It is a universal law of living things that all forms left to themselves tend to degenerate. The necessity for continuous artificial selection in the sugar beet, in Sea Island cotton, in corn, in Jersey and Holstein cattle, in trotting horses, proves this universal tendency to degenerate. Natural selection in a somewhat similar way tends to postpone this degeneracy by killing off the "unfit," but selection either artificial or natural cannot originate anything new, and its results are here displayed merely among the small fluctuating variations mentioned above. Even among the real genetic factors it may show itself by allowing some to survive alone; but as no combination of diverse factors can originate anything really new, its field for operation among these factors is extremely limited. Among species also it is operative, killing off some and allowing others to survive. But neither among fluctuations, among factors, nor yet among species can selection originate anything new.
[Footnote 30: The following represents the consensus of scientific opinion regarding the lessons to be drawn from the phenomena of our improved races of domesticated plants and animals:
"One need not be a pessimist to assert the actual evidence thus far obtained indicates that the supposed progress made in the improvement of domesticated animals and plants is nothing more than the sorting out of pure lines, and thus represents no advancement."—Prof. L.B. Walton, Science, April 3, 1914.]
Nor is there any other method known to modern science by means of which new factors can be originated which were not potentially latent in the ancestry. The much heralded new "species" of de Vries and others are now known to be merely new factors cropping out; for though they remain constant and breed true, they obey Mendel's Law when crossed with their parental forms, and hence are merely the result of some new combination of factors which can be reproduced at will by using the same method of combination and segregation. The real scientific test for any form supposed to be a new "species" would be twofold: (1) to show that some new character had been added which no ancestor ever possessed; and (2) to show that this new character will breed true under all circumstances of hybridization and not merely segregate as a unit character or mere analytic variety after hybridization. It is almost superfluous to say that no "new species" originating in modern times has ever justified itself under these tests.
[Footnote 31: Some of our leading biologists are now disposed to grow somewhat humorous when speaking of this mutation theory of de Vries, as may be illustrated by the following:
"The mutation theory of de Vries appears accordingly to lag useless on the biological stage, and may apparently be now relegated to the limbo of discarded hypotheses.... The present refutation has been undertaken in the interest of biological progress in this country. It is now high time, so far as the so-called mutation hypothesis, based on the conduct of the evening primrose in cultures, is concerned, that the younger generation of biologists should take heed lest the primrose path of dalliance lead them imperceptibly into the primrose path to the everlasting bonfire."—Prof. Edw. C. Jeffrey (Harvard), in Science, April 3, 1914.]
In conclusion it may be remarked that biologists do not claim to have solved all the problems connected with heredity and variation. But the general results taught us by Mendelism are now established beyond controversy. Led by the German biologists, the leading scientists of the world had already acknowledged that "pure" Darwinism or natural selection cannot explain the origin of new organs or new forms. And now Mendelism destroys the other supposed foundation for biological evolution, by showing that small variations cannot be accumulated into large differences equal in value to a unit character or a new species. Thus the whole foundation of biological evolution has been completely undermined by these new discoveries; and were it not for the wide-spread credence the evolutionary theory has already received, and the intellectual momentum it has acquired tending to carry it on by its inertia into the future, it could be only a very short time now before the elaborate treatises attempting to orientate with it all the facts of religion and history would have to be consigned to the shelves labeled, "Of Historic Interest." For as Bateson remarked in his recent address as President before the British Association at Melbourne, Australia, the new knowledge of heredity shows that whatever evolution there is occurs by loss of factors and not by gain, and that in this way the progress of science is "destroying much that till lately passed for gospel."
[Footnote 32: In commenting on these views of Bateson, Prof. S.C. Holmes, of the University of California, well speaks of them as "an illustration of the bankruptcy of present evolutionary theory."—Science, September 3, 1915.]
Let us sum up the situation. We began this chapter with the question, Have new kinds of plants and animals originated in modern times comparable in all essential respects with the idea of true species?
The answer of modern science is reluctantly obtained, but it is a negative. De Vries and others have indeed originated new kinds that were loudly hailed as new species, and are doubtless as deserving of specific rank as many already listed for years in the treatises of specialists. Indeed there is every reason to believe that almost countless numbers of our taxonomic species have originated from common ancestral originals. But as these so-called species are now known to be freely or moderately cross fertile with other related species, their hybrids following the ordinary laws of Mendelian inheritance, we see that they are not true species but mere analytic varieties.
In short, we now know that our taxonomic classifications have been marked off on altogether too narrow lines. This has tended greatly to confuse the question at issue. But from our enlarged views of the laws and nature of heredity and variation, as well as from the original intent of the term species as defined by the great scientist who originated it, the verdict of an impartial investigator must be that we have never seen a new species originate by any natural or artificial method since the dawn of scientific observation.
Here again we find the record of Creation confirmed; for the failure of the thousands of modern investigators to originate genuine new species proves that in this respect also Creation is not now going on. And all the analogies from the origin of matter, of energy, of life, and from the laws of the reproduction of cells, indicate that we have at last found rock bottom truth regarding the vexed question of the origin of species. So far as science can observe and record, each living thing on earth, in air, in water, reproduces "after its kind."
GEOLOGY AND ITS LESSONS
In all the previous chapters I have not been giving any very new facts or any discoveries of my own. True, my conclusions from the facts may seem novel; but in general I have been giving merely facts which are almost universally acknowledged by educated men. The conservation laws of matter and of energy, the impassable gulf between the living and the not-living, the laws governing cell multiplication, are matters of common knowledge and will be found in the appropriate college text-books throughout the civilized world. Even the facts which I have presented regarding variation and heredity are admitted in one way or another by practically all biologists. But in following our general subject into the field of geology, I shall be obliged to present some comprehensive truths and general conclusions which are not so widely acknowledged, because only recently brought to light. However, as these facts and conclusions may seem very new and strange to many, I shall endeavor to build up my argument wholly on the recorded observations of the very highest authorities rather than on my own unsupported testimony; though for the sake of brevity I shall be obliged to refer the reader to my "Fundamentals of Geology" (1913) for some of the details.
One of the great outstanding ideas of geology as usually taught is that life has been on the globe for many millions of years, that in fact there has been a graded succession of different types of life in a well defined invariable order, from the lower and more generalized to the higher and more specialized. Quite obviously this succession of life was antagonistic to the former views of a literal Creation; and only on this supposed fact as an outline has the modern theory of biological evolution been built up. For if geology cannot furnish the most unquestionable proof that life has occurred in a very definite and invariable order, what is the use of talking about the development of one form of life into another by a gradual process of evolution?
One of the highest scientific authorities in America, Prof. Thomas Hunt Morgan, of Columbia University, has recently said, "The direct evidence furnished by fossil remains is by all odds the strongest evidence that we have in favor of organic evolution." Accordingly we purpose to examine carefully what this by all odds "strongest evidence" is like.
[Footnote 33: "A Critique of the Theory of Evolution," p. 24.]
As with some of the other facts with which we have had to deal in previous chapters, a correct understanding of the questions involved can best be obtained by examining the history of the development of the science.
The first man with whom we need to concern ourselves is A.G. Werner, a teacher of mineralogy in the University of Freiberg, Germany. For three hundred years his ancestors had been connected with mining work, and he, though possessing little general education, knew about all that was then known regarding mineralogy and petrology. He wrote no books; but by his enthusiastic teaching he gathered as students and sent out as evangelists hundreds of devoted young scientists who rapidly spread his theories through all the countries of Europe.
"Unfortunately," says Zittel, "Werner's field observations were limited to a small district, the Erz Mountains and the neighboring parts of Saxony and Bohemia. And his chronological scheme of formations was founded on the mode of occurrence of the rocks within these narrow confines."
[Footnote 34: "History of Geology," p. 59.]
Werner had found the granites, limestones, sandstones, schists, etc., occurring in a certain relative order in his native country; and he drew the very remarkable conclusion that this was the normal order in which these various rocks would invariably be found in all parts of the world, on the theory that this was the order in which these different rocks had been formed in the beginning, great layers of these different rocks having originally been spread completely around the globe one outside another like the coats of an onion. With this as a major premise, it is not surprising that he and his enthusiastic disciples "were as certain of the origin and sequence of the rocks as if they had been present at the formation of the earth's crust."
[Footnote 35: A. Geikie, "Founders of Geology," p. 112.]
The amusement with which this onion-coat theory is now regarded is hardly appropriate in view of its universal vogue among geologists about the beginning of the nineteenth century, and in view of the further fact that a very similar and only slightly modified substitute theory has been universally taught for three-quarters of a century and still prevails. The modern form of the theory substitutes onion-coats of fossiliferous rocks for onion-coats of mineral and lithological characters; and a brief consideration of this theory is now in order.
About the time that various geologists here and there were finding rocks in positions that could not be explained in terms of Werner's theory, William Smith (1769-1839) in England and the great Baron Cuvier (1769-1832) in France found characteristic fossils occurring in various strata; and under their teachings it was not long before the fossils were considered the best guide in determining the relative sequence of the rocks. The familiar idea of world-enveloping strata as representing successive ages was not discarded; but instead of Werner's successive ages of limestone making, sandstone making, etc., these new investigators taught that there were successive ages of invertebrates, fishes, reptiles, and mammals, these creatures having registered their existence in rocky strata which thus by hypothesis completely encircled the globe one outside another.
It is true that early in the nineteenth century Sir Charles Lyell and others tried to disclaim this absurd and unscientific inheritance from Werner's onion-coats; but modern geology has never yet got rid of its essential and its chief characteristic idea, for all our text-books still speak of various successive ages _when only certain types of life prevailed all over the globe_. Hence it is that Herbert Spencer caustically remarks: "Though the onion-coat hypothesis is dead, its spirit is traceable, under a transcendental form, even in the conclusions of its antagonists." Hence it is that Whewell, in his "History of the Inductive Sciences," refuses to acknowledge that in geology any real advance has yet been made toward a stable science like those of astronomy, physics, and chemistry. "We hardly know," he says, "whether the progress is begun. The history of physical astronomy almost commences with Newton, and few persons will venture to assert that the Newton of geology has yet appeared." Hence it is that T.H. Huxley declares, "In the present condition of our knowledge and of _our methods_, one verdict,—'_not proven and not provable'—must be recorded against all grand hypotheses of the palaeontologist respecting the general succession of life on the globe." And hence it is that Sir Henry H. Howorth, a member of the British House of Commons and the author of three exhaustive works on the Glacial theory, declares, "It is a singular and notable fact, that while most other branches of science have emancipated themselves from the trammels of metaphysical reasoning, _the science of geology still remains imprisoned in a priori_ theories."
[Footnote 36: "Illustr. of Univ. Prog.," p. 343.]
[Footnote 37: Vol. II, p.580.]
[Footnote 38: "Discourses," pp. 279-288.]
[Footnote 39: "The Glacial Nightmare," Preface, vii.]
And thus the matter remains even to-day, in this second decade of the twentieth century. Geology has never yet been regenerated, as have all the other sciences, by being delivered from the caprice of subjective speculations and a priori theories and being placed on the secure basis of objective and demonstrable fact, in accordance with the principles of that inductive method of investigation which was instituted by Bacon and which has become so far universal in the other sciences that it is everywhere known as the scientific method. In accordance with this method, theories in all the other sciences are always kept well subordinated to facts; and whenever unequivocal facts are found manifestly contradicting a theory no matter how venerable, the theory must go to make way for the facts. In other words, the theoretical parts of the various other sciences are always kept revised from time to time, to keep them in line with the new discoveries that have been made. There has been no lack of astonishing discoveries of new facts in geology during the past half century or so, while all the other sciences have been making such astonishing progress. But for over seventy five years geology has not made a single advance movement in its theoretical aspects; indeed, in all its important general principles it has scarcely changed in a hundred years. I shall leave it to the reader to judge whether this is a case of almost miraculous perfection from the beginning, or of arrested development.
Of the three general postulates or a priori assumptions of this curiously out-of-date mediaeval science, namely, (1) Uniformity, (2) the Cooling globe theory, and (3) the theory of the Successive Ages, the first two have already been examined and found wanting by other investigators, and have been allowed to lapse into a sort of honored disuse, though their memory is still reverently cherished in all the text-books of the science. The "Challenger" Expedition dissipated most of the myths that had long been taught regarding the deep waters of the ocean; and Professor Suess has disposed of the closely related myth about the coasts of the continents being constantly on the seesaw up and down. These two discoveries, with others that might be mentioned, dispose of Lyell's theory of uniformity. Lord Kelvin and the other physicists dissipated the idea of a molten interior of the earth. Hence, because these other false hypotheses have already in a measure been disposed of, as well as for the sake of brevity, I shall here discuss only the third of the prime postulates of the current system of geology, namely the theory of Successive Ages. And when we have adjusted this aspect of the science of geology to the facts of the rocks as made known to us by modern discoveries, we shall find little in this science out of harmony with the older view of a literal Creation as taught in the Bible and as already confirmed by the other branches of science which we have been examining.
There are five leading arguments against the reality of these successive ages. Four of them must be dismissed here by a brief summary of the facts as we know them to-day, referring the reader to the author's larger work, where detailed evidence is given for each. The fifth series of facts I shall give here in more detail, though of course even this must be but an outline of what is given elsewhere.
1. In the earlier days of the theory of successive ages it was taught that only certain kinds of fossils were to be found at the bottom of the series, or next to the Primitive or Archaean. This feature of the theory was demanded by the supposed universal spread of one type of life all around the globe in the earliest age. But it is now known that the so-called "oldest" fossiliferous rocks occur only in detached patches over the globe, while other or "younger" kinds are just as likely to be found on the Primitive or next to the Archaean. Not only may any kind of fossiliferous rocks occur next to the Archaean, but even the "youngest" may be so metamorphosed and crystalline as to resemble exactly in this respect the so-called "oldest" rocks. On the other hand some of the very "oldest" rocks may, like the Cambrian strata around the Baltic and in some parts of the United States, consist of "muds scarcely indurated and sands still incoherent."
[Footnote 40: J.A. Howe; Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. II, p. 86. Cambridge Edition.]
All this means that many facts regarding the position of the strata as well as regarding their consolidation contradict the theory of successive ages.
2. Many of the rivers of the world completely ignore the alleged varying ages of the rocks in the different parts of their course, and treat them all as if of the same age or as if they began sawing at them all at the same time. This is true of the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Danube in Europe, the Sutlej of India, and the upper part of the Colorado in America, not to mention others. The old strand lines around all the continents act in the very same way, ignoring the varying ages of the rocks they happen to meet; as is also true of nearly all the great faults or fissures which are of more than local extent. The ore veins of the various minerals are about as likely to be found in Tertiary or Mesozoic as in the Palaeozoic. A very similar lesson is to be learned from the fossils found lying exposed on the deep ocean bottom; for they are about as likely to be Palaeozoic or Mesozoic as Tertiary.
From these facts we conclude that practically all the great natural chronometers of the earth seem to treat the fossiliferous rocks as if they are all of about the same age, completely disregarding the distinctions in age founded on the fossils.
3. According to the present chronological arrangement of the rocks, very many genera, often whole tribes of animals, are found as fossils only in the oldest rocks, and have skipped all the others, though found in comparative abundance in our modern world. Very many others have skipped from the Mesozoic down, while still others skip large parts of the series of successive ages.
These absurdities would all be avoided by acknowledging that the current distinctions as to the ages of the fossils are purely artificial, and that one fossil is intrinsically just as old or as young as another.
4. It is now known that any kind of "young" beds whatsoever, Mesozoic, Tertiary, or even Pleistocene, may be found in such perfect conformability on some of the very oldest beds over wide stretches of country that "the vast interval of time intervening is unrepresented either by deposition or erosion"; while in some instances these age-separated formations so closely resemble one another in structure and in mineralogical make-up that, "were it not for fossil evidence, one would naturally suppose that a single formation was being dealt with" (McConnell); and these conditions are "not merely local, but persistent over wide areas" (A. Geikie), so that the "numerous examples" (Suess) of these conditions "may well be cause for astonishment" (Suess).
A still more astonishing thing from the standpoint of the current theories is that these conformable relations of incongruous strata are often repeated over and over again in the same vertical section, the same kind of bed reappearing alternately with others of an entirely different "age," that is, appearing "as if regularly interbedded" (A. Geikie) with them, in a manifestly undisturbed series of strata.
Here again we have a very formidable series of facts whose gravamen is directed wholly against the artificial distinctions in age between the different groups of fossils; and their argument is an eloquent plea that the fossils are neither older nor younger but all of a similar age.
5. Our last fact demands a somewhat more extended consideration; but it may be stated in advance briefly as follows:
In very numerous cases and over hundreds and even thousands of square miles, the conformable conditions specified in the previous fact are exactly reproduced upside down; that is, very "old" rocks occur with just as much appearance of natural conformability on top of very "young" rocks, the area in some instances covering many hundreds of square miles, and in one particular instance in Montana and Alberta covering about five or six thousand square miles of area.
The first notable example of this phenomenon was discovered at Glarus, Switzerland, a good many years ago; since which time this locality has become a classic in geological literature, and has called out many ponderous monographs in German and French by such men as Heim, Schardt, Lugeon, Rothpletz, and Bertrand. This example, which was first (1870) called the Glarner Double Fold by Escher and Heim, is now universally called a nearly flat-lying "thrust fault," in accordance with the explanations since adopted of similar phenomena elsewhere. Without obtruding unnecessary technicalities upon my non-professional readers, I may quote the words of Albert Heim as to the conditions as now recognized in these parts:
"These flat-lying faults, of which those at Glarus were the first to be discovered, are a universal phenomenon in the Northern and Central Alps."
[Footnote 41: "Der Bau der Schweizeralpen," p. 17.]
The favorite method of explaining these conditions has slightly changed within recent years, as already remarked. For whereas the classic example at Glarus was at first spoken of as a double fold-in from both sides toward the Sernf Valley, this is now universally spoken of as a "thrust fault," with the rocks all pushed one way. Incidentally it may be noted that this very fact that what was long regarded as two completely overturned folds is now spoken of as one flat-lying thrust fault, is prima facie evidence that there is here no physical proof of any real overturning of the strata, such as we do find on a very small scale in true folded rocks. The latter can usually be measured in yards, feet, or inches; while in this example at Glarus the area involved would be measured in many miles, and in some very similar examples to be presently mentioned from America the measurement could best be made in degrees of latitude and longitude or in arcs of the earth's circumference. In these larger examples it is manifestly impossible that there should be any physical evidence sufficient to indicate a huge earth movement of this character, especially when, as is usually the case, both the upper and the lower strata are quite uninjured in appearance. No; the fossils are here in the wrong order, that is all. And so, to save the long established doctrines of a very definite order of successive life-forms, this theory of a "thrust fault" is offered as the best available explanation. As Dr. Albert Heim himself once expressed it very naively in a letter to the present writer, that the strata over these large areas are in a position manifestly at direct disagreement with the received order of the fossils, "is a fact which can be clearly seen,—only we know not yet how to explain it in a mechanical way."
An example in the Highlands of Scotland was about the next to be discovered. Here, as Dana says, "a mass of the oldest crystalline rocks, many miles in length from north to south, was thrust at least ten miles westward over younger rocks, part of the latter fossiliferous;" and he further declares, "the thrust planes look like planes of bedding, and were long so considered."
Sir Archibald Geikie and others had at first described these beds as naturally conformable; and when at length they were convinced that the fossils would not permit this explanation, Geikie gives us some very picturesque details as to how natural they look.
The thrust planes, he says, are with much difficulty distinguished "from ordinary stratification planes, like which they have been plicated, faulted, and denuded. Here and there, as a result of denudation, a portion of one of them appears capping a hilltop. One almost refuses to believe that the little outlier on the summit does not lie normally on the rocks below it, but on a nearly horizontal fault by which it has been moved into its place."
Of a similar example in Ross Shire he declares:
"Had these sections been planned for the purpose of deception, they could not have been more skilfully devised, ... and no one coming first to the ground would suspect that what appears to be a normal stratigraphical sequence is not really so."
[Footnote 42: "Manual," pp. 111, 534.]
[Footnote 43: Nature, November 13, 1884, pp. 29-35.]
Here again we have unequivocal testimony from the most competent of observers that there is no physical evidence whatever to lead any one to say that a ponderous scale of the earth's crust was really pushed up on top of other portions, as this makeshift theory of "thrust faults" involves. The fossils are here in the wrong order, just as in the case at Glarus; that is all. The facts seem to be a flat contradiction to the theory of definite successive ages, and to save the theory this explanation of a "thrust fault" is invented, though there is absolutely no physical evidence of any disturbance of the strata.
Our next stopping place is in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia. Here we have the Carboniferous strata dipping gently to the southeast, like an ordinary low monocline, under Cambrian or Lower Silurian, one of these so-called faults having a reported length of 375 miles, while in another instance the upper strata are said to have been pushed about eleven miles in the direction of the "thrust." These conditions, we are told, "have provoked the wonder of the most experienced geologists," because of the perfectly natural appearance of the surfaces of the strata affected; or as this same writer puts it, "The mechanical effort is great beyond comprehension, but the effect upon the rocks is inappreciable," and "the fault dip is often parallel to the bedding of the one or the other series of strata." Which means, in other words, that these "thrust planes" look just like ordinary planes of bedding between conformable strata.
[Footnote 44: Bailey Willis, Geol. Survey, Report, Vol. 13, p. 228.]
[Footnote 45: C.W. Hayes, Bull. Geol. Soc., Vol. 2, pp. 141-154.]
[Footnote 46: Willis, op. cit., p. 228.]
[Footnote 47: Willis, op. cit., p. 227.]
The Rocky Mountains furnish examples of many kinds of natural phenomena on the very largest scale, and those of the sort here under consideration are no exception to this rule. For here we have an immense area east of the main divide, extending from the middle of Montana up to the Yellowhead Pass in Alberta, or over 350 miles long, where the tops of the mountains consist of jointed limestones or argillites of Algonkian or pre-Cambrian "age," resting on soft Cretaceous shales. Often the greater part of the mass of a range will consist of these "older" and harder rocks, which by the erosion of the soft underlying shales are left standing in picturesque, rectangular, cathedral-like masses, easily recognizable as far off as they can be seen. And the almost entire absence of trees or other vegetation helps one to trace out the relationship of these formations over immense areas with little or no difficulty.
In the latitude of the Bow River, near the Canadian Pacific main line, there is a long narrow valley of these Cretaceous beds some sixty-five miles long, called the Cascade Trough, with of course pre-Cambrian mountains on each side. Somewhat further south there are two of these Cretaceous valleys parallel to one another, and in some places three; while just south of the fiftieth parallel of latitude, at Gould's Dome, there are actually five parallel ranges of these Palaeozoic mountains, with four Cretaceous valleys in between, one of these valleys, the Crow's Nest Trough, being ninety-five miles long.
But we ought to take a nearer view of these wonderful conditions. A convenient point of approach will be just east of Banff, Alberta, near Kananaskis Station, where the Fairholme Mountain has been described by R.G. McConnell of the Canadian Survey. The latter remarks with amazement on the perfectly natural appearance of these Algonkian limestones resting in seeming conformability on Cretaceous shales, and says that the line of separation between them, called in the theory the "thrust plane," resembles in all respects an ordinary stratification plane. I quote his language:
"The angle of inclination of its plane to the horizon is very low, and in consequence of this its outcrop follows a very sinuous line along the base of the mountains, and acts exactly like the line of contact of two nearly horizontal formations.
"The best places for examining this fault are at the gaps of the Bow and of the south fork of Ghost River.... The fault plane here is nearly horizontal, and the two formations, viewed from the valley, _appear to succeed one another conformably."
[Footnote 48: Annual Report, 1886, Part D, pp. 33, 34.]
This author adds the further interesting detail that the underlying Cretaceous shales are "very soft," and "have suffered very little by the sliding of the limestone over them."
About a hundred miles further south, but still in Alberta, we have the well-known Crow's Nest Mountain, a lone peak, which consists of these same Algonkian limestones resting on a Cretaceous valley "in a nearly horizontal attitude," as G.M. Dawson says, which "in its structure and general appearance much resembles Chief Mountain," another detached peak some fifty miles further south, just across the boundary line in Montana.
Chief Mountain has been well described by Bailey Willis, who estimates that the Cretaceous beds underneath this mountain must be 3,500 feet thick; while the so-called "thrust plane is essentially parallel to the bedding" of the upper series.
"This apparently is true not only of the segments of thrust surface beneath eastern Flattop, Yellow, and Chief Mountain, but also of the more deeply buried portions which appear to dip with the Algonkian strata into the syncline. While observation is not complete, it may be assumed on a basis of fact that thrust surfaces and bedding are nearly parallel over extensive areas."
[Footnote 49: Report, 1886, Part D, p. 84.]
[Footnote 50: Report, 1885, Part B, p. 67.]
[Footnote 51: Bull. Geol. Soc., Vol. 13, pp. 305-352.]
[Footnote 52: Id., p. 336.]
[Footnote 53: Id., p. 336.]
Quite recently this region has been studied by Marius R. Campbell of the Washington Survey Staff (Bulletin 600), while the part in Alberta has been studied by Rollin T. Chamberlin of Chicago. Much of the vast area involved is not yet well explored; but over it all, so far as it has been fully examined, the same lithological and stratigraphical structures reappear with the persistence of a repeating decimal. And were it not for the exigencies of the theory of Successive Ages, this whole region of some five or six thousand square miles would be considered as only an ordinary example, on a rather large scale, of undisturbed horizontal stratification cut up by erosion into mountains of denudation, with of course occasional instances of minor local disturbances here and there, as would be expected over an area of this extent.
Richards and Mansfield in a recent paper describe the "Bannock Overthrust," some 270 miles long, in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. The Carnegie Research recently reported a similar phenomenon about 500 miles long in northern China.
But it would be tiresome to follow these conditions around the world. We have plenty of examples, and we have them described by the foremost of living geologists. What we need to do now is to adopt a true scientific attitude of mind, a mind freed from the hypnotizing influence of the current theories, in order correctly to interpret the facts as we already have them.
How much of the earth's crust would we have to find in this upside down order of the fossils, before we would be convinced that there must be something hopelessly wrong with this theory of Successive Ages which drives otherwise competent observers to throw away their common sense and cling desperately to a fantastic theory in the very teeth of such facts?
The science of geology as commonly taught is truly in a most astonishing condition, and doubtless presents the most peculiar mixture of fact and nonsense to be found in the whole range of our modern knowledge. In any minute study of a particular set of rocks in a definite locality, geology always follows facts and common sense; while in any general view of the world as a whole, or in any correlation of the rocks of one region with those of another region, it follows its absurd, unscientific theories. But wherever it agrees with facts and common sense, it contradicts these absurd theories; and wherever it agrees with these theories, it contradicts facts and common sense. That most educated people still believe its main thesis of a definite age for each particular kind of fossil is a sad but instructive example of the effects of mental inertia.
The reader will find this matter discussed at length in the author's "Fundamentals of Geology"; but here it will be necessary only to draw some very obvious conclusions from the five facts which we have set in opposition to the theory of Successive Ages.
1. The first and absolutely incontrovertible conclusion is that this theory of successive ages must be a gross blunder, in its baleful effects on every branch of modern thought deplorable beyond computation. But it is now perfectly obvious that the geological distinctions as to age between the fossils are fantastic and unjustifiable. No one kind of true fossil can be proved to be older or younger than another intrinsically and necessarily, and the methods of reasoning by which this idea has been supported in the past are little else than a burlesque on modern scientific methods, and are a belated survival from the methods of the scholastics of the Middle Ages.
Not by any means that all rock deposits are of the same age. The lower ones in any particular locality are of course "older" than the upper ones, that is, they were deposited first. But from this it by no means follows that the fossils contained in these lower rocks came into being and lived and died before the fossils in the upper ones. The latter conclusion involves several additional assumptions which are wholly unscientific in spirit and incredible as matters of fact, one of which assumptions is the biological form of the onion-coat theory. But since thousands of modern living kinds of plants and animals are found in the fossil state, man included, and no one of them can be proved to have lived for a period of time alone and before others, we must by other methods, more scientific and accurate than the slipshod methods hitherto in vogue, attempt to decide as best we can how these various forms of life were buried, and how the past and the present are connected together. But the theory of definite successive ages, with the forms of life appearing on earth in a precise and invariable order, is dead for all coming time for every man who has had a chance to examine the evidence and has enough training in logic and scientific methods to know when a thing is really proved.
And how utterly absurd for the friends of the Bible to spend their time bandying arguments with the evolutionist over such minor details as the question of just what geological "age" should be assigned for the first appearance of man on the earth, when the evolutionist's major premise is itself directly antagonistic to the most fundamental facts regarding the first chapters of the Bible, and above all, when this major premise is really the weakest spot in the whole theory, the one sore spot that evolutionists never want to have touched at all.
I fancy I hear some one object, and ask what we are to do with the systematic arrangement of the fossils, the so-called "geological succession," that monument to the painstaking labors of thousands of scientists all over the world. This geological series is still on our hands; what are we to do with it?
It is scarcely necessary for me to say that this arrangement of the fossils is not at all affected by my criticism of the cause of the geological changes. The geological series is merely an old-time taxonomic series, a classification of the forms of life that used to live on the earth, and is of course just as artificial as any similar arrangement of the modern forms of life would be.
We may illustrate the matter by comparing this series with a card index. The earlier students of geology arranged the outline of the order of the fossils by a rather general comparison with the series of modern life forms, which happened to agree fairly well with the order in which they had found the fossils occurring in England and France. But only a block out of the middle of the complete card index could be made up from the rocks of England and France; the rest has had to be made up from the rocks found elsewhere. Louis Agassiz did herculean work in rearranging and trimming this fossil card index so as to make it conform better, not only to the companion card index of the modern forms of life, but also to that of the embryonic series. From time to time even now readjustments are made in the details of all three indexes, the fossil, the modern, and the embryonic, the method of rearrangement being charmingly simple: just taking a card out of one place and putting it into another place where we may think it more properly belongs. And then if we can convince our fellow scientists over the world that our rearrangement is justified, our adjustment will stand,—until some one else arises to do a better job. When a new set of rocks is found in any part of the world it is simplicity itself for any one acquainted with the fossil index system to assign these new beds to their proper place, though of course the one doing this must be prepared to defend his assignment with pertinent and sufficient taxonomic reasons.
In view of these facts, we need not be concerned as to the fate of the geological classification of the fossils. It is a purely artificial system, just as is the modern classification; but both are useful, and so far as they represent true relationships they will both stand unaffected by any change we may make in our opinions as to how the fossils were buried. But in view of this purely artificial character of the geological series, what a strange sight is presented by the usual methods employed to "prove" the exact order in which evolution has taken place, such for instance as the use made of the graded series of fossil "horses," to illustrate some particular theory of just how organic development has occurred. One might just as well arrange the modern dogs from the little spaniel to the St. Bernard, for the geological series is just as artificial as would be this of the dogs.
2. Another conclusion from the facts enumerated above is that there has obviously been a great world catastrophe, and that this must be assigned as the cause of a large part,—just how large a part it is at present difficult to say,—of the changes recorded in the fossiliferous rocks. This sounds very much like a modern confirmation of the ancient record of a universal Deluge; and I say confidently that no one who will candidly examine the evidence now available on this point can fail to be impressed with the force of the argument for a world catastrophe as the general conclusion to be drawn from the fossiliferous rocks all over the globe.
3. Finally, there is the further conclusion, the only conclusion now possible, if there is no definite order in which the fossils occur, namely, that life in all its varied forms must have originated on the globe by causes not now operative, and this Creation of all the types of life may just as reasonably have taken place all at once, as in some order prolonged over a long period.
As I have pointed out in my "Fundamentals," a strict scientific method may destroy the theory of Successive Ages, and it may show that there has been a great world catastrophe. But here the work of strict inductive science ends. It cannot show just how or when life or the various kinds of life did originate, it can only show how it did not. It destroys forever the fantastic scheme of a definite and precise order in which the various types of life occurred on the globe, and thus it leaves the way open to say that life must have originated by just such a literal Creation as is recorded in the first chapters of the Bible. But this is as far as it can be expected to go. It is strong evidence in favor of a direct and literal Creation; but it furnishes this evidence by indirection, that is, by demolishing the only alternative or rival of Creation that can command a moment's attention from a rational mind.
But if life is not now being created from the not-living, if new kinds of life are not now appearing by natural process, if above all we cannot prove in any way worthy of being called scientific that certain types of life lived before others, if in fine man himself is found fossil and no one fossil can be proved older than another or than that of man himself, why is not a literal Creation demonstrated as a scientific certainty for every mind capable of appreciating the force of logical reasoning?
CREATION AND THE CREATOR
We need not here attempt to discuss the existence or even the nature of God. The Infinite One in all His attributes is above and beyond discussion. But there are some things that we can very profitably gather together as the net results of modern scientific investigation regarding the origin of things; and to this task we must now address ourselves in a very brief way.
We shall not attempt to deal with the astronomical aspects of the question, or the origin of our world as a planet or the origin of the solar system. This would lead us too far afield. We shall make more progress in dealing with the questions nearest at hand, namely, the origin of the present order of things on our globe.
First we must summarize the facts as we now know them in the five departments of knowledge with which we have had to deal.
1. Both matter and energy seem now to be at a standstill, so far as creation is concerned; no means being known to science whereby the fixed quantity of both with which we have to deal in this world can be increased (or diminished) in the slightest degree.
2. The origin of life is veiled in a mist that science has not dispelled and does not hope to dispel. By none of the processes that we call natural can life now be produced from the not-living.
3. Unicellular forms can come only from preexisting cells of the same kind; and even the individual cells of a multicellular organism, when once differentiated, reproduce only other cells after their own kind.
4. Species of plants and animals have wonderful powers of variation; but these variations seem to be regulated and predestined in accordance with definite laws, and in no instance known to science has this variation resulted in producing what could properly be called a distinct new kind of plant or animal.
5. Geology has been supposed to prove that there has been a long succession of distinct types of life on the globe in a very definite order extending through vast ages of time. This is now known to be a mistake. Most living forms of plants and animals are also found as fossils; but there is no possible way of telling that one kind of life lived and occupied the world before others, or that one kind of life is intrinsically older than any other or than the human race.
In view of such facts as these, what possible chance is there for a scheme of organic evolution?
Must we not say that every possible form of the development theory is hereby ruled out of court? There can be no thought of the gradual development of organic nature by every-day processes in a world where such facts prevail. Rather must we say, with the force of the accumulated momentum of all that has been won by modern science, that, instead of the animals and plants on our world having arisen by a long-drawn-out process of change and development of one kind into another, there must have been just such a literal Creation at the beginning as the Bible describes. As we stand with uncovered head and bowed form in the presence of this great truth, it would seem almost like sacrilege to attempt by rhetoric to adorn it. Its inevitableness, its majesty, its transcendent importance for our generation, would only be obscured by so doing.
The essential idea of the Evolution theory is uniformity. It seeks to show that the present orders of plant and animal life originated by causes or processes identical with those now said to be operating in our modern world. It denies that at any particular time in the past causes and processes were in operation to originate the present order of nature which were essentially different from the processes now operating in our world under what we call natural law. Evolution seeks to smooth out all distinction between Creation and the modern regime of "natural law."
On the other hand, the essential idea of the Christian doctrine of Creation is that, back at a period called "the beginning," forces and powers were brought into exercise and results were accomplished which have not since been exercised or accomplished. In other words, the origin of the world and the things upon it was essentially and radically different from the manner in which the present order of nature is now being sustained and perpetuated. The mere matter of time is in no way the essential idea in the problem. The question of how much time was occupied in the work of Creation is of no importance, neither is the question of how long ago it took place. The one essential idea is that the processes and methods of Creation are beyond us, for we have nothing with which to measure it; Creation and the reign of "natural law" are essentially incommensurable. The one thing that the doctrine of Creation insists upon is that the origin of our world and of the things upon it must have been brought about by some direct and unusual manifestation of the power of the Being whom we call the Creator; and that since this original Creation the things of nature have been perpetuated and sustained by processes and methods which (though still essentially inscrutable by us) we call the order of nature and the reign of natural law.
But in view of the series of facts enumerated in the previous pages, the doctrine of Creation is established by modern scientific discoveries almost like the conclusion of a mathematical problem.
How are modern intelligent men and women to avoid any longer this inevitable conclusion of a literal Creation as the method of origin for our world and the things upon it?
The facts enumerated in the previous pages are not new; it is only the present grouping and arrangement of them, and the conclusions drawn from them, that are new. Of all the leading facts enumerated above, only the last one, the one regarding geology, is any longer a subject of serious discussion by educated people. And the general facts as stated above regarding geology have been proved (by the present writer) with such a wealth of facts and arguments that they also must speedily be acknowledged by scientists, when the latter take the trouble to study these facts and arguments. And with geology once adjusted to a system of real inductive science, instead of being as hitherto under the hypnotic control of speculative fancies and subjective methods, there is no longer any room for speculations regarding the origin of our world by evolutionary processes. It becomes almost a mathematical Q.E.D. that things were made in the beginning by methods and processes that are no longer operative, so far as science can observe. This means a real Creation, in the Bible sense of the term, something distinct from the means by which nature is now being sustained and carried on. Any attempt to describe the why or the how of this Creation would be useless speculation; but this much is science, and science that is to-day all the more impressive and conclusive because it has been won by centuries of conflict with every conceivable opposing prejudice.
In conclusion we may attempt to speak in a brief way of the present relationship between the Creator and the things which He has made, and if possible to dispel the sad confusion prevailing in many minds between God's continued immediate action in certain departments of nature and His action in other departments through the intermediate use of second causes.
On every hand we hear proclaimed a form of the doctrine of God's omnipresence (usually called the divine "immanence") which not only denies all distinction between the original Creation and the present perpetuation of the world, but a form which practically denies all second causes, and which cannot well be distinguished from pantheism, though it would be a spiritualistic or "idealistic" form of pantheism, or "monism," to use the favorite modern term. These extreme advocates of what they term the divine "immanence" go so far as to deny all second causes. And while they are fond of proclaiming this idea as an entirely new discovery, and proclaiming it with all the enthusiasm of proselytes to a new religion, they are also prone to state the (seemingly) opposed doctrine of second causes in such a way that it amounts to a mere caricature, a burlesque, picturing a sort of "absentee" God, who started the universe running and now merely stands by and watches it go. Thus pantheism and deism are often spoken of as the only alternatives for the choice of the modern man; for the real teachings of the Bible and of Christian philosophy are as completely ignored as if they had never been formulated or taught by intelligent people.
Let us first consider the scientific aspects of the doctrine of second causes, and the doctrine of God's immediate acting in various departments (or all departments) of nature.
1. We cannot deny that the will of man is a real cause, producing continual changes in the world about us. More than this, if there are not also second causes outside of the will of free intelligent personalities, the whole universe must be a gigantic deception; for it seems to be full of second causes. Long chains of what seem like second causes exist, made up of infinite numbers of links, as when the sun carries an amount of water up into the air, the latter dropping the water upon a mountain in the form of rain, gravity rolling it down the slope in vast force, sweeping away villages and towns, changing the fates of individuals and of nations. To quote two familiar examples from Stewart and Tait: "In a steam engine the amount of work produced depends upon the amount of heat carried from the boiler into the condenser; and this amount depends in its turn upon the amount of coal which is burned in the furnace of the engine. In like manner the velocity of the bullet which issues from the rifle depends upon the transformation of the energy of the powder; this in turn depends upon the explosion of the percussion cap; this again upon the fall of the trigger; and lastly this upon the finger of the man who fires the rifle." Thus even the very strongest opponents of the idea of second causes never deny that the latter seem to surround us on every side, and that it would be possible to trace a continuous line of apparent effects and causes back to the very beginning.
[Footnote 54: "The Unseen Universe," p. 184.]
This view of the matter, it is evident, readily leads to a deistic view of the universe,—or to that burlesque of the Christian view spoken of as the doctrine of an "absentee God," watching His universe run from the outside, slightly concerned with what it does.
2. On the other hand, a careful study of the correlation of forces shows us that the great First Cause is still very closely related to the operation of His universe. We may start, for instance, with the old argument from the evidences of design in nature, which, though often sneered at of late, cannot be cavalierly dismissed in this way; for, as Dugald Stewart has well said, "every combination of means to an end implies intelligence." But the direct or immediate action of the great Intelligence behind nature is manifest in the marvellous behavior of the cells; which, instead of behaving in a way to indicate that their life processes are due to properties inherent in the atoms and molecules composing them, show every appearance of being mere automata under the direct control of an intelligent, purpose-filled Mind,—a Mind external to themselves, it is true, and gloriously transcending them, but constantly, ceaselessly exercised by an immediate action which we may well call "immanent," in the original and proper sense of this term. Yet vital action is capable of exact correlation with the other forces of nature; and thus the modern law of the correlation of forces teaches us that the energy behind life must be the same as the energy pervading all nature, the various manifestations of which we know as light, heat, gravity, electricity, etc. Thus while the study of the behavior of life or the doctrine of "vitalism" might encourage us to think that in the cells and in the behavior of protoplasm we are witnessing the direct action of an intelligent Creator; yet we find that by the correlation of forces we must say the same about all the physical and chemical phenomena of nature. In other words, while the study of mere physical and chemical action might easily lead us to a strong belief in second causes, or to the belief that in this department of nature at least certain "properties" had been imparted to matter and it had then been left to act largely by itself; yet, since the vital processes of living organisms are capable of exact correlation with all other forces, such as light, heat, and electricity, the direct action of this universal all-controlling Mind in all the phenomena of nature seems demonstrated beyond a doubt, leaving apparently little or no room for any action of second causes.