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A Critical Glance Into Darwin
by [?]


It is never safe to question Darwin’s facts, but it is always safe to question any man’s theories. It is with Darwin’s theories that I am mainly concerned here. He has already been shorn of his selection doctrines as completely as Samson was shorn of his locks, but there are other phases of his life and teachings that invite discussion.

The study of Darwin’s works begets such an affection for the man, for the elements of character displayed on every page, that one is slow in convincing one’s self that anything is wrong with his theories. There is danger that one’s critical judgment will be blinded by one’s partiality for the man.

For the band of brilliant men who surrounded him and championed his doctrines–Spencer, Huxley, Lyall, Hooker, and others–one feels nothing more personal than admiration; unless the eloquent and chivalrous Huxley–the knight in shining armor of the Darwinian theory–inspires a warmer feeling. Darwin himself almost disarms one by his amazing candor and his utter self-abnegation. The question always paramount in his mind is, what is the truth about this matter? What fact have you got for me, he seems to say, that will upset my conclusion? If you have one, that is just what I am looking for.

Could we have been permitted to gaze upon the earth in the middle geologic period, in Jurassic or Triassic times, we should have seen it teeming with huge, uncouth, gigantic forms of animal life, in the sea, on the land, and in the air, and with many lesser forms, but with no sign of man anywhere; ransack the earth from pole to pole and there was no sign or suggestion, so far as we could have seen, of a human being.

Come down the stream of time several millions of years–to our own geologic age–and we find the earth swarming with the human species like an ant-hill with ants, and with a vast number of forms not found in the Mesozoic era; and the men are doing to a large part of the earth what the ants do to a square rod of its surface. Where did they come from? We cannot, in our day, believe that a hand reached down from heaven, or up from below, and placed them there. There is no alternative but to believe that in some way they arose out of the antecedent animal life of the globe; in other words that man is the result of the process of evolution, and that all other existing forms of life, vegetable and animal, are a product of the same movement.

To explain how this came about, what factors and forces entered into the transformation, is the task that Darwin set himself. It was a mighty task, and whether or not his solution of the problem stands the test of time, we must yet bow in reverence before one of the greatest of natural philosophers; for even to have conceived this problem thus clearly, and to have placed it in intelligible form before men’s minds, is a great achievement.

Darwin was as far from being as sure of the truth of Darwinism as many of his disciples were, and still are. He said in 1860, in a letter to one of his American correspondents, “I have never for a moment doubted that, though I cannot see my errors, much of my book [“The Origin of Species”] will be proved erroneous.” Again he said, in 1862, “I look at it as absolutely certain that very much in the ‘Origin’ will be proved rubbish; but I expect and hope that the framework will stand.”

Its framework is the theory of Evolution, which is very sure to stand. In its inception his theory is half-miracle and half-fact. He assumes that in the beginning (as if there ever was or could be a “beginning,” in that sense) God created a few forms, animal and vegetable, and then left it to the gods of Evolution, the chief of which is Natural Selection, to do the rest. While Darwin would not admit any predetermining factors in Evolution, or that any innate tendency to progressive development existed, he said he could not look upon the world of living things as the result of chance. Yet in fortuitous, or chance, variation he saw one of the chief factors of Evolution.