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EVOLUTION AND CREATION.
Two hypotheses are current concerning the origin of living beings :-one that each species has been separately created for the fulfilment of special adaptations to surrounding circumstances; the other that each species has been gradually evolved or produced by the action of surrounding circumstances from an anterior and simpler form, that all animals and plants have arisen from one or more prototypes, and that their origin was in common with all the other various kinds of matter out of which our globe is formed.
Each of these hypotheses has its own supporters; each has from time to time been attacked, by those who believe in the other, as absurd and untenable. The first theory (that of special creations) is more
EVOLUTION NOT ATHEISTIC.
largely received, from a general impression that the “Doctrine of Evolution,” as the second hypothesis is called, is atheistic in its tendency, and because it is supposed to be in direct antagonism to Revelation.
With regard to the first objection, that the doctrine of evolution is atheistic in its tendency, it is easily shown that such is not the case.
The ultimate scientific ideas which we are able to grasp are those of Energy and Matter. That the absolute nature of these is incomprehensible, is of little moment; we recognize their existence. From the action of energy on matter and of matter on energy, Evolution results--a marvellous and complex NATURE arises. Matter in all its phases, which are innumerable, is correlated with energy, and energy in all its relations is correlated with matter; and the result of these correlations is an harmonious and beautiful universe, capable of having its laws and relations comprehended, to some degree at least, by intelligent Man. The teleological school have always held that the adaptations of special means to special ends is in itself evidence of an intelligent Creator ; but surely the adaptation of energy to matter to the end that a universe shall arise is infinitely higher evidence! The adaptation of one great means to one great end is undoubtedly a grander and vaster conception ; for as in the
former we conceive the great Creator acting in a manner peculiarly human, in the latter conception we realize with Malbranche “ that God desires that his conduct as well as his work should bear the character of his attributes : not content that the universe honours him by its excellence and beauty, he even desires that the means he uses should glorify him by their simplicity, their fertility, their universality, and their uniformity”*. How much more consistent is the belief that creation was complete at its birth and possessed within itself at the first moment all that the past has developed and all that future ages will bring in their progressive course, than that it is capable of improvement at intervals by new creations.
An objection will be urged by some against these views that if the universe has been so created, the Creator has ceased to act and influence creation. Such an objection is unscientific ; for as time is only relative and only affects creation, it can in no wise be conceived to influence an eternal Creator f.
The hypothesis of evolution establishes in our minds the ultimate scientific ideas of Energy and Matter, with their relations of sequence or time and of distance or space, as the only ultimate scientific
* Malbranche,‘Ninth Conversation on Metaphysics,' sect. x.
+ This view is given by Jules Simon, in his · Natural Religion,' p. 160.
ENERGY AND MATTER.
ideas. We learn that all changes of condition are due to a cause; and thus we are compelled to believe that a first cause exists : this is the ultimate religious idea. We may hold this belief without inconsistency; for as we know of but two ultimate modes of existence (Energy and Matter), we cannot know that the law of Causation exists beyond them.
Hence, whether organisms were evolved or whether they were created in the form in which we now see them, it is equally absurd to disbelieve in the existence of an adequate cause ; and although we cannot know the nature of the first cause, we learn that its effects are intelligibly correlated. Again, though the theory of evolution explains to us how organisms have arisen, it can teach us nothing of the why. The purpose of creation remains as inscrutable as ever.
With regard to the second objection (the supposed antagonism of Evolution to Revelation), it has long been conceded that it is impossible to test Science by Revelation ; indeed it would be as reasonable to object to established astronomical facts on this ground as to the doctrine of evolution.
The hypothesis of evolution is supported by facts, analogy, and reason; whilst that of special creations is unsupported, and would have few
EVOLUTION NOT ANTAGONISTIC TO RELIGION. 5
adherents if the facts were calmly and dispassionately viewed. It would then appear, most undoubtedly, that the theory of evolution, although at first apparently antagonistic, on a limited view, to the doctrines of religion, when viewed by an unbiased mind in its largest relations affords the firmest basis on which religion can possibly rest. Those who object on the ground of religion should remember that the theory explains the purpose of the constant struggle for life, with all its concomitant pain, which we continually see around us; it shows how good arises from all the socalled evils of existence, as these are the means by which perfection is attained *.
* This subject is treated of at great length by Mr. Spencer, in his · Principles of Biology,' part iii. cap. ii.