by George McCready Price (1870-1963)
(This was ©1925 by Southern Publishing Assoc.)
PUBLIC DOMAIN - FREE to Copy & Use
Chapter One - The Problem
THERE are a great many people who constantly wonder why we are having all this fuss about the theory of evolution. Many think it a shame that professing Christians should engage in such an unseemly quarrel as is now going on between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists. These lovers of peace are ready to become indignant at both parties. They inquire, Is not the present controversy worse than useless and quite contrary to the spirit of Christian harmony and good will? This war in the churches seems to them of the same order as the late war among the nations, and almost as disgraceful to our modern civilization.
But there are genuine reasons for the present situation. And the reader's attention is invited to a brief study of these reasons throughout the following pages.
The common notion that the crux of the whole difference between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists lies in their opposite attitudes toward the theory of organic evolution is not wrong. But the general public is wrong on two very important points.
1. It is wrong in supposing that this difference of attitude toward the theory of evolution is concerned chiefly with the theory of man's origin from the lower animals by natural development. This is partly true; but such a statement of the problem really evades or covers up the chief point at issue after all.
The religious problem connected with evolution is primarily the problem of sin, which has been and always will be the greatest problem confronting mankind. The fact of sin cannot be denied; as G. K. Chesterton remarks, it is a fact as practical as potatoes. It is as undeniable as the dirt on one's face or the rent in one's coat. The problem arises when we attempt to account for it, or when we try to find a remedy for it.
The Real Differences
Evolution professes to account for sin; but it has no proper remedy
for it. Christianity accounts for sin, and also guarantees a remedy for
it,— a remedy both for the individual instance of sin in the person of
the sinner, and also for the sin of the world as a whole. And it is because
the evolutionary account of sin and the Christian account of sin are opposed
to each other that we are having all this present controversy. Also the
two methods of dealing with sin and of forecasting its outcome, are radically
This idea of the past eternity of matter has given rise to the doctrine of a finite or limited God, who is doing the best He can under the circumstances, and needs our co-operation in fighting against the evil tendencies of the stuff of which the universe is composed. This doctrine, which is alike dishonoring to God and disgraceful to the people who teach it, has been advocated by J. S. Mill, William James, and other philosophers, and has been parroted by such modern writers as H. G. Wells.
As for a remedy for sin, Christianity has a well-known one, attested by its great cloud of witnesses, its millions of twice-born men and women, and also attested by the transformations it has effected in communities and nations wherever it has been tried. It also has a very definite program for the future, whenever the rebellion against God that is now in progress will have been finally disposed of by the Eternal One. In contrast with this positive promise of Christianity, evolution tries to encourage us with the hazy hope that at some far-off time the world will, as Mr. Mauro expresses it, become "a more comfortable place for the man of the future to sin and die in." There is no point of comparison between these two programs; it is all contrast.
Such are some of the major points in dispute that cluster around the
theory of organic evolution, as contrasted with the Bible doctrine of a
Theory at the Mercy of Facts
2. It is wrong in supposing that the theory of evolution is in as favorable a condition as it was a decade or two ago. And in saying this I do not refer merely to Darwinism, but to the evolution theory as a whole.
The theory of evolution is based on scientific evidence; and whenever new discoveries arise which throw discredit upon the theories based upon our previous knowledge, the theories always have to be revised, or sometimes even thrown away entirely. Facts must always have the right of way over theories, no matter how venerable with age these theories are. Every scientific theory held today is at the mercy of the facts that may be discovered tomorrow. As evolution is primarily a scientific theory, its tenure of life is just as precarious as that of any other theory. And it is primarily because many thousands of people have become convinced that the theory of evolution is scientifically unsound and impossible, that we are witnessing the present widespread agitation of these questions.
But certain limitations of our discussion must be made; for evolution as a world-philosophy of universal range is clearly beyond the scope of our present purpose. As a universal philosophy, evolution starts with the star-mist; it deals with the long-past history of our globe and its plants and animals; and it has come to be applied to all matters of history, sociology, and ethics. The present writer has devoted other works to the discussion of various parts of this general subject. Here it is planned to consider briefly some of the more recent discoveries which have a bearing upon the problem of organic evolution. The alleged fact of man's development from animal ancestors i stands or falls with the thesis of organic evolution, as an explanation of the origin of plants and animals in general. Accordingly, this will be the problem considered in this book.
Evolutionists Disagree on Evolution
That this phase of the general subject is not by any means as definitely
settled as some people have long supposed it to be, will appear from the
following statement made by Dr. Wm. Emerson Ritter, professor of zoology
in the University of California:
"If one scans a bit thoughtfully the landscape of human life for the last few decades, he can hardly fail to see signs that the whole battle ground of evolution will have to be fought over again; this time not so much between scientists and theologians, as among scientists themselves."—Science, April 4, 1922, p. 398.
Not all scientists are reactionaries or standpatters; the really big
ones are progressives, and are willing to follow wherever the real facts
lead them. Such men as J. P. Lotsy, of Holland, William Bateson of England,
and Thomas Hunt Morgan of this country, are very far from being satisfied
with the evidences hitherto relied upon to prove the methods or even the
fact of organic evolution. The botanists especially are discarding most
of the older views regarding the methods of organic development; among
them may be mentioned Dukinfield Henry Scott, H. B. Guppy, John C. Willis,
and A. G. Tansley, all leaders among the scientists of England. But some
of the zoologists are not far behind, as for instance, Arthur Willey, J.
T. Cunning-ham, and E. W. MacBride. All of these men still profess to believe
in the general doctrine of organic development; but they are in hopeless
disagreement among themselves as to how this development has come
about; and almost every one of them has openly repudiated those subsidiary
theories that were taught by Charles Darwin and on which the latter made
the general doctrine of organic evolution "a going concern," as J. Arthur
Thomson puts it.
But if the science of biology is today hopelessly entangled in disagreements regarding the value of natural selection or the inheritance of acquired characters, or regarding the facts of genetics and of embryology as supports for organic evolution, the science of geology has ceased to be the strong supporting foundation on which Darwin constructed his theory. The New Geology is no longer evolutionary at all; it has become the New Catastrophism; and it is safe to say that this collapse of the evolutionary form of geology is one of the chief reasons for the present predicament of the general doctrine of organic evolution.