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- Darwiniana - 20/52 -


into prominence. But we cannot perceive that Darwin's theory brings in any new kind of scientific difficulty, that is, any with which philosophical naturalists were not already familiar.

Since natural science deals only with secondary or natural causes, the scientific terms of a theory of derivation of species--no less than of a theory of dynamics--must needs be the same to the theist as to the atheist. The difference appears only when the inquiry is carried up to the question of primary cause--a question which belongs to philosophy. Wherefore, Darwin 's reticence about efficient cause does not disturb us. He considers only the scientific questions. As already stated, we think that a theistic view of Nature is implied in his book, and we must charitably refrain from suggesting the contrary until the contrary is logically deduced from his premises. If, however, he anywhere maintains that the natural causes through which species are diversified operate without an ordaining and directing intelligence, and that the orderly arrangements and admirable adaptations we see all around us are fortuitous or blind, undesigned results--that the eye, though it came to see, was not designed for seeing, nor the hand for handling--then, we suppose, he is justly chargeable with denying, and very needlessly denying, all design in organic Nature; otherwise, we suppose not. Why, if Darwin's well-known passage about the eye[III-10] equivocal though some of the language be--does not imply ordaining and directing intelligence, then he refutes his own theory as effectually as any of his opponents are likely to do. He asks:

"May we not believe that [under variation proceeding long enough, generation multiplying the better variations times enough, and natural selection securing the improvements] a living optical instrument might be thus formed as superior to one of glass as the works of the Creator are to those of man?"

This must mean one of two things: either that the living instrument was made and perfected under (which is the same thing as by) an intelligent First Cause, or that it was not. If it was, then theism is asserted; and as to the mode of operation, how do we know, and why must we believe, that, fitting precedent forms being in existence, a living instrument (so different from a lifeless manufacture) would be originated and perfected in any other way, or that this is not the fitting way? If it means that it was not, if he so misuses words that by the Creator he intends an unintelligent power, undirected force, or necessity, then he has put his case so as to invite disbelief in it. For then blind forces have produced not only manifest adaptions of means to specific ends--which is absurd enough--but better adjusted and more perfect instruments or machines than intellect (that is, human intellect) can contrive and human skill execute--which no sane person will believe.

On the other hand, if Darwin even admits--we will not say adopts--the theistic view, he may save himself much needless trouble in the endeavor to account for the absence of every sort of intermediate form. Those in the line between one species and another supposed to be derived from it he may be bound to provide; but as to "an infinite number of other varieties not intermediate, gross, rude, and purposeless, the unmeaning creations of an unconscious cause," born only to perish, which a relentless reviewer has imposed upon his theory--rightly enough upon the atheistic alternative--the theistic view rids him at once of this "scum of creation." For, as species do not now vary at all times and places and in all directions, nor produce crude, vague, imperfect, and useless forms, there is no reason for supposing that they ever did. Good-for-nothing monstrosities, failures of purpose rather than purposeless, indeed, sometimes occur; but these are just as anomalous and unlikely upon Darwin's theory as upon any other. For his particular theory is based, and even over-strictly insists, upon the most universal of physiological laws, namely, that successive generations shall differ only slightly, if at all, from their parents; and this effectively excludes crude and impotent forms. Wherefore, if we believe that the species were designed, and that natural propagation was designed, how can we say that the actual varieties of the species were not equally designed? Have we not similar grounds for inferring design in the supposed varieties of species, that we have in the case of the supposed species of a genus? When a naturalist comes to regard as three closely related species what he before took to be so many varieties of one species how has he thereby strengthened our conviction that the three forms are designed to have the differences which they actually exhibit? Wherefore so long as gradatory, orderly, and adapted forms in Nature argue design, and at least while the physical cause of variation is utterly unknown and mysterious, we should advise Mr. Darwin to assume in the philosophy of his hypothesis that variation has been led along certain beneficial lines. Streams flowing over a sloping plain by gravitation (here the counterpart of natural selection) may have worn their actual channels as they flowed; yet their particular courses may have been assigned; and where we see them forming definite and useful lines of irrigation, after a manner unaccountable on the laws of gravitation and dynamics, we should believe that the distribution was designed.

To insist, therefore, that the new hypothesis of the derivative origin of the actual species is incompatible with final causes and design, is to take a position which we must consider philosophically untenable. We must also regard it as highly unwise and dangerous, in the present state and present prospects of physical and physiological science. We should expect the philosophical atheist or skeptic to take this ground; also, until better informed, the unlearned and unphilosophical believer; but we should think that the thoughtful theistic philosopher would take the other side. Not to do so seems to concede that only supernatural events can be shown to be designed, which no theist can admit--seems also to misconceive the scope and meaning of all ordinary arguments for design in Nature. This misconception is shared both by the reviewers and the reviewed. At least, Mr. Darwin uses expressions which imply that the natural forms which surround us, because they have a history or natural sequence, could have been only generally, but not particularly designed--a view at once superficial and contradictory; whereas his true line should be, that his hypothesis concerns the order and not the cause, the how and not the why of the phenomena, and so leaves the question of design just where it was before.

To illustrate this from the theist's point of view: Transfer the question for a moment from the origination of species to the origination of individuals, which occurs, as we say, naturally. Because natural, that is, "stated, fixed, or settled," is it any the less designed on that account? We acknowledge that God is our maker--not merely the originator of the race, but our maker as individuals--and none the less so because it pleased him to make us in the way of ordinary generation. If any of us were born unlike our parents and grandparents, in a slight degree, or in whatever degree, would the case be altered in this regard?

The whole argument in natural theology proceeds upon the ground that the inference for a final cause of the structure of the hand and of the valves in the veins is just as valid now, in individuals produced through natural generation, as it would have been in the case of the first man, supernaturally created. Why not, then, just as good even on the supposition of the descent of men from chimpanzees and gorillas, since those animals possess these same contrivances? Or, to take a more supposable case: If the argument from structure to design is convincing when drawn from a particular animal, say a Newfoundland dog, and is not weakened by the knowledge that this dog came from similar parents, would it be at all weakened if, in tracing his genealogy, it were ascertained that he was a remote descendant of the mastiff or some other breed, or that both these and other breeds came (as is suspected) from some wolf? If not, how is the argument for design in the structure of our particular dog affected by the supposition that his wolfish progenitor came from a post-tertiary wolf, perhaps less unlike an existing one than the dog in question is to some other of the numerous existing races of dogs, and that this post-tertiary came from an equally or more different tertiary wolf? And if the argument from structure to design is not invalidated by our present knowledge that our individual dog was developed from a single organic cell, how is it invalidated by the supposition of an analogous natural descent, through a long line of connected forms, from such a cell, or from some simple animal, existing ages before there were any dogs?

Again, suppose we have two well-known and apparently most decidedly different animals or plants, A and D, both presenting, in their structure and in their adaptations to the conditions of existence, as valid and clear evidence of design as any animal or plant ever presented: suppose we have now discovered two intermediate species, B and C, which make up a series with equable differences from A to D. Is the proof of design or final cause in A and D, whatever it amounted to, at all weakened by the discovery of the intermediate forms? Rather does not the proof extend to the intermediate species, and go to show that all four were equally designed? Suppose, now, the number of intermediate forms to be much increased, and therefore the gradations to be closer yet--as close as those between the various sorts of dogs, or races of men, or of horned cattle: would the evidence of design, as shown in the structure of any of the members of the series, be any weaker than it was in the case of A and D? Whoever contends that it would be, should likewise maintain that the origination of individuals by generation is incompatible with design, or an impossibility in Nature. We might all have confidently thought the latter, antecedently to experience of the fact of reproduction. Let our experience teach us wisdom.

These illustrations make it clear that the evidence of design from structure and adaptation is furnished complete by the individual animal or plant itself, and that our knowledge or our ignorance of the history of its formation or mode of production adds nothing to it and takes nothing away. We infer design from certain arrangements and results; and we have no other way of ascertaining it. Testimony, unless infallible, cannot prove it, and is out of the question here. Testimony is not the appropriate proof of design: adaptation to purpose is. Some arrangements in Nature appear to be contrivances, but may leave us in doubt. Many others, of which the eye and the hand are notable examples, compel belief with a force not appreciably short of demonstration. Clearly to settle that such as these must have been designed goes far toward proving that other organs and other seemingly less explicit adaptations in Nature must also have been designed, and clinches our belief, from manifold considerations, that all Nature is a preconcerted arrangement, a manifested design. A strange contradiction would it be to insist that the shape and markings of certain rude pieces of flint, lately found in drift-deposits, prove design, but that nicer and thousand-fold more complex adaptations to use in animals and vegetables do not a fortiori argue design.

We could not affirm that the arguments for design in Nature are conclusive to all minds. But we may insist, upon grounds already intimated, that, whatever they were good for before Darwin's book appeared, they are good for now. To our minds the argument from design always appeared conclusive of the being and continued operation of an intelligent First Cause, the Ordainer of Nature; and we do not see that the grounds of such belief would be disturbed or shifted by the adoption of Darwin's hypothesis. We are not blind to the philosophical difficulties which the thoroughgoing implication of design in Nature has to encounter, nor is it our vocation to obviate them It suffices us to know that they are not new nor peculiar difficulties--that, as Darwin's theory and our reasonings upon it did not raise these perturbing spirits, they are not bound to lay them. Meanwhile, that the doctrine of design encounters the very same difficulties in the material that it does in the moral world is Just what ought to be expected.

So the issue between the skeptic and the theist is only the old one, long ago argued out--namely, whether organic Nature is a result of design or of chance. Variation and natural selection open no third alternative; they concern only the question how the results, whether fortuitous or designed, may have been brought about. Organic Nature abounds with unmistakable and irresistible indications of design, and, being a connected and consistent system, this evidence carries the implication of design throughout the whole. On the other hand, chance carries no probabilities with it, can never be developed into a consistent system, but, when applied to the explanation


Darwiniana - 20/52

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