The Development Of Darwinism

In studying it we should like to follow a method somewhat different from

that usually observed in apologetic writings. "Darwinism," even in its

technical, biological form, never was quite, and is to-day not at all a

unified and consistent system. It has been modified in so many ways and

presented in such different colours, that we must either refrain

altogether from attempting to get into close quarters with it, or we must

make ourselves acquainted to some extent with the phases of the theory as

it has gradually developed up to the present day. This is the more

necessary and useful since it is precisely within the circle of technical

experts that revolts from and criticisms of the Darwinian theory have in

recent years arisen; and these are so incisive, so varied, and so

instructive, that through them we can adjust our standpoint in relation to

the theory better than in any other way. And in thus letting the

biologists speak for themselves, we are spared the fatal task of entering

into the discussion of questions belonging to a region outside our own

particular studies.

We cannot, however, give more than a short sketch. But even such a sketch

may do more towards giving us a general knowledge of the question and

showing us a way out of the difficulties it raises than any of the current

"refutations." To supplement this sketch, and facilitate a thorough

understanding of the problem, we shall give somewhat fuller references

than are usual to the relevant literature. And the same method will be

pursued in the following chapter, which deals with the mechanical theory

of life. This method throws more upon the reader, but it is probably the

most satisfactory one for the serious student.

The reactions from the Darwinism of the schools which we have just

referred to, and to which the second half of this chapter is devoted, are,

of course, of a purely scientific kind. And while we are devoting our

attention to them, we must not be unfaithful to the canon laid down in the

previous chapter, namely that with reference to the question of teleology

in the religious sense no real answer can be looked for from scientific

study, not even if it be anti-Darwinian. In this case, too, it is

impossible to read the convictions and intuitions of the religious

conception of the world out of a scientific study of nature: they precede

it. But here, too, we may find some accessory support and indirect

corroboration more or less strong and secure. This may be illustrated by a

single example. It will be shown that, on closer study, it is not

impossible to subordinate even the apparently confused tangle of

naturalistic factors of evolution which are summed up in the phrase

"struggle for existence" to interpretation from the religious point of

view. But matters will be in quite a different position if the whole

theory collapses, and instead of evolution and its paths being given over

to confusion and chance, it appears that from the very beginning and at

every point there is a predetermination of fixed and inevitable lines

along and up which it must advance. In many other connections

considerations of a like nature will reveal themselves to us in the course

of our study.

Darwinism, as popularly understood, is the theory that "men are descended

from monkeys," and in general that the higher forms of life are descended

from the lower, and it is regarded as Darwin's epoch-making work and his

chief merit--or fault according to the point of view--that he established

the Theory of Descent. This is only half correct, and it leaves out the

real point of Darwinism altogether. The Theory of Descent had its way

prepared by the evolutionist ideas and the speculative nature-philosophy

of Goethe, Schelling, Hegel and Oken; by the suggestions and glimmerings

of the nature-mysticism of the romanticists; by the results of comparative

anatomy and physiology; was already hinted at, at least as far as

derivation of species was concerned, in the works of Linne himself; was

worked out in the "zoological philosophies," by the elder Darwin, by

Lamarck, Etienne Geoffrey St. Hilaire and Buffon; was in the field long

before Charles Darwin's time; was already in active conflict with the

antagonistic theory of the "constancy of species," and had its more or

less decided adherents. Yet undoubtedly it was through and after Darwin

that the theory grew so much more powerful and gained general acceptance.

The Dependence Of The Order Of Nature The Ego facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail