CREATION AND ITS RECORDS.
[Greek: Pistei nooumen kataertisthai tous aionas rhemati theou eis to mi ek fainomenon to Blepomenon gegonenai.]—HEB. xi. 3.
CREATION AND ITS RECORDS.
A brief statement of Christian Belief with reference to Modern facts and Ancient Scripture.
B.H. BADEN-POWELL, C.I.E., F.R.S.E.
* * * * *
THE ELEMENT OF FAITH IN CREATION
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION STATED
CREATIVE DESIGN IN INORGANIC MATTER
THE CREATION OF LIVING MATTER
THE MARKS OF CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE IN THE EVOLUTION OF ORGANIC FORMS
THE DESCENT OF MAN
FURTHER DIFFICULTIES REGARDING THE HISTORY OF MAN
THE GENESIS NARRATIVE—ITS IMPORTANCE
SCRIPTURE METHODS OF REVELATION
METHODS OF INTERPRETING THE NARRATIVE—ASSUMPTIONS OF MEANING TO CERTAIN TERMS
THE GENESIS NARRATIVE CONSIDERED GENERALLY (i.) THE FIRST PART OF THE NARRATIVE (ii.) THE SECOND PART
THE INTERPRETATION SUPPORTED BY OTHER SCRIPTURES
AND SUPPORTED BY THE CONTEXT
THE DETAILS OF THE CREATION NARRATIVE
PROFESSOR DELITZSCH ON THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Among the recollections that are lifelong, I have one as vivid as ever after more than twenty-five years have elapsed; it is of an evening lecture—the first of a series—given at South Kensington to working men. The lecturer was Professor Huxley; his subject, the Common Lobster. All the apparatus used was a good-sized specimen of the creature itself, a penknife, and a black-board and chalk. With such materials the professor gave us not only an exposition, matchless in its lucidity, of the structure of the crustacea, but such an insight into the purposes and methods of biological study as few could in those days have anticipated. For there were as yet no Science Primers, no International Series; and the "new biology" came upon us like the revelation of another world. I think that lecture gave me, what I might otherwise never have got (and what some people never get), a profound conviction of the reality and meaning of facts in nature. That impression I have brought to the attempt which this little book embodies. The facts of nature are God's revelation, of the same weight, though not the same in kind, as His written Word.
At the same time, the further conviction is strong in my mind, not merely of the obvious truth that the Facts and the Writing (if both genuine) cannot really differ, but further, that there must be, after all, a true way of explaining the Writing, if only it is looked for carefully—a way that will surmount not only the difficulty of the subject, but also the impatience with which some will regard the attempt. Like so many other questions connected with religion, the question of reconciliation produces its double effect. People will ridicule attempts to solve it, but all the same they will return again and again to the task of its actual solution.
That the latter part of the proposition is true, has recently received illustration in the fact that a review like the Nineteenth Century, which has so little space to spare, has found room in four successive numbers for articles by Gladstone, Huxley, and H. Drummond, on the subject of "Creation and its Records." May I make one remark on this interesting science tournament? I can understand the scientific conclusions Professor Huxley has given us. I can also understand Mr. Gladstone, because he values the Writing as the professor values the Facts. But one thing I can not understand. Why is Professor Huxley so angry or so contemptuous with people who value the Bible, whole and as it stands, and want to see its accuracy vindicated? Why are they fanatics, Sisyphus-labourers, and what not? That they are a very large group numerically, and hardly contemptible intellectually, is, I think, obvious; that a further large group (who would not identify themselves wholly with the out-and-out Bible defenders) feel a certain amount of sympathy, is proved by the interest taken in the controversy. Yet all "reconcilers" are ridiculed or denounced—at any rate are contemptuously dismissed. Can it be that the professor has for the moment overlooked one very simple fact?
[Footnote 1: November, December, 1885; and January, February, 1886.]
The great bulk of those interested in the question place their whole hope for their higher moral and spiritual life in this world and the next on one central Person—the LORD JESUS CHRIST. If He is wrong, then no one can be right—there is no such thing as right: that is what they feel. It will be conceded that it is hardly "fanatical" to feel this. But if so, surely it is not fanatical, but agreeable to the soberest reason, further to hold that this (to them sacred) PERSON did (and His apostles with Him) treat the Book of Genesis as a whole (and not merely parts of it) as a genuine revelation—or, to use the popular expression, as the Word of GOD. That being so, can it be matter for surprise or contemptuous pity, that they should be anxious to vindicate the Book, to be satisfied that the MASTER was not wrong? That is the ultimate and very real issue involved in the question of Genesis.
As long as people feel that, they must seek the reconciliation of the two opposing ideas. If the attempt is made in a foolish or bitter spirit, or without a candid appreciation of the facts, then the attempt will no doubt excite just displeasure. But need it always be so made?
As to the first part of my proposition that attempts to reconcile religion and science are received with a certain dislike, it is due partly to the unwisdom with which they are sometimes made. Prof. H. Drummond speaks of the dislike as general.
If this is so, I, as a "reconciler," can only ask for indulgence, hoping that grace may be extended to me on the ground of having something to say on the subject that has not yet been considered.
Nor, as regards the impatience of the public, can I admit that there is only fault on one side. In the first place, it will not be denied that some writers, delighted with the vast, and apparently boundless, vision that the discovery (in its modern form) of Evolution opened out to them, did incautiously proceed, while surveying their new kingdom, to assert for it bounds that stretch beyond its legitimate scope.
[Footnote 1: In the Introduction to his well-known book, "Natural Law in the Spiritual World."]
Religionists, on the other hand, imagining, however wrongly, that the erroneous extension was part of the true scientific doctrine, attacked the whole without discrimination.
While such a misapprehension existed, it was inevitable that writers anxious alike for the dignity of science and the maintenance of religion, should step in to point out the error, and effect a reconciliation of claims which really were never in conflict.
It is hardly the fault of "religionists" that it was at first supposed that one could not hold the doctrine of evolution without denying a "special" creation and a designing Providence. It was on this very natural supposition that the first leading attack—attributed to the Bishop of Oxford—proceeded. And the writer fell into the equally natural mistake of taking advantage of the uncompleted and unproved state of the theory at the time, to attack the theory itself, instead of keeping to the safer ground, namely, that whatever might ultimately be the conclusion of evolutionists, it was quite certain that no theory of evolution that at all coincided with the known facts, offered any ground for argument against the existence of an Intelligent Lawgiver and First Cause of all; nor did it tend in the slightest to show that no such thing as creative design and providence existed in the course of nature.
What the discovery of evolution really did, was to necessitate a revision of the hitherto popularly accepted and generally assumed and unquestioned notion of what creation was. And it has long appeared to me, that while now the most thoroughgoing advocates of evolution generally admit that their justly cherished doctrine has nothing to say to the existence of a Creator, or to the possibility of design—which may be accepted or denied on other grounds—the writers on the side of Christianity have not sufficiently recognized the change which their views ought to undergo.
As long as this is the case, there will continue to be a certain "conflict," not indeed between science and religion, but of the kind which has been vividly depicted by the late Dr. Draper.
It can scarcely have escaped the notice of the most ordinary reader that, in the course of that interesting work, the author has very little to say about religion—at any rate about religion in any proper sense of the term. The conflict was between a Church which had a zeal for God without knowledge, and the progress of scientific thought; it was also a conflict between discovered facts, and facts which existed, not in the Bible, but in a particular interpretation, however generally received, of it.
The present work is therefore addressed primarily to Christian believers who still remain perplexed as to what they ought to believe; and its aim is to prevent, if may be, an unreasonable alarm at, and a useless opposition to, the conclusions of modern science; while, at the same time, it tells them in simple language how far those conclusions really go, and how very groundless is the fear that they will ever subvert a true faith that, antecedent to the most wonderful chain of causation and methodical working which science can establish, there is still a Divine Designer—One who upholds all things "by the word of His power."
The doctrine of evolution is still the ignotum to a great many, and it is therefore, according to the time-honoured proverb, taken pro magnifico, as something terribly adverse to the faith. Nor can it be fairly denied, as I before remarked, that some of the students of the theory have become so enamoured of it, so carried away by the intoxication of the gigantic speculation it opens out to the imagination, that they have succumbed to the temptation to carry speculation beyond what the proof warrants, and thus lend some aid to the deplorable confusion, which would blend in one, what is legitimate inference and what is unproved hypothesis or mere supposition.
It only remains to say that the basis of this little book is a short course of lectures in which I endeavoured to disarm the prejudices of an educated but not scientifically critical audience, by simply stating how far the theory of cosmical evolution had been really proved—proved, that is, to the extent of that reasonable certainty which satisfies the ordinary "prudent man" in affairs of weight and importance. I have tried to show that evolution, apart from fanciful and speculative extensions of it, allows, if it does not directly establish, that the operation of nature is not a chance or uncontrolled procedure, but one that suggests a distinct set of lines, and an orderly obedience to pre-conceived law, intelligently and beneficently (in the end) designed.
There are obviously two main points which the Christian reader requires to have made clear. The first is that, the modern theory of evolution being admitted, the constitution of matter in the universe and the principles of development in organic life, which that theory establishes, not only do not exclude, but positively demand, the conception of a Divine artificer and director. The second point, which is perhaps of still greater weight with the believer, is that where revelation (which is his ultimate standard of appeal) has touched upon the subject of creation, its statements are not merely a literary fancy, an imaginary cosmogony, false in its facts though enshrining Divine truth, but are as a whole perfectly true.
Whatever novelty there may be, is to be found in the treatment of the second subject. The first portion of the work is only a brief and popular statement of facts, quite unnecessary to the scientific reader but probably very necessary to the large body of Churchmen, who have not studied science, but are quite able to appreciate scientific fact and its bearings when placed before them in an untechnical form, and divested of needless details and subordinate questions.
But it is around the supposed declarations of Scripture on the subject of creation that the real "conflict" has centred. Let us look the matter quite fairly in the face. We accept the conclusion that (let us say) the horse was developed and gradually perfected or advanced to his present form and characteristics, by a number of stages, and that it took a very long time to effect this result. Now, if there is anywhere a statement in Holy Writ that (a) a horse was per saltum called into existence in a distinctive and complete form, by a special creative fiat, and that (b) this happened not gradually, but in a limited and specified moment of time, then I will at once admit that the record (assuming that its meaning is not to be mistaken) is not provably right, if it is not clearly wrong; and accept the consequences, momentous as they would be. If, in the same way, the Record asserts that man, or at least man the direct progenitor of the Semitic race, was a distinct and special creation, his bodily frame having some not completely explained developmental connection with the animal creation, but his higher nature being imparted as a special and unique creative endowment out of the line of physical development altogether, then I shall accept the Record, because the proved facts of science have nothing to say against it, whatever Drs. Buchner, Vogt, Haeckel, and others may assert to the contrary.
[Footnote 1: With whose history, as leading up to the advent of the Saviour in the line of David, the Bible is mainly concerned.]
In the first of my two instances, the popular idea has long been that the sacred record does say something about a direct and separate creative act; and this idea has been the origin and ground of all the supposed conflict between science and "religion." As long as this idea continues, it can hardly be said that a book addressed to the clearing up of the subject is unnecessary or to be rejected per se.
As to the method in which this subject will be dealt with, I shall maintain that the Scripture does not say anything about the horse, or the whale, or the ox, or any other animal, being separately or directly created. And the view thus taken of the Record I have not met with before. This it is necessary to state, not because the fact would lend any value to the interpretation—rather the contrary; but because it justifies me in submitting what, if new, may be intrinsically important, to the judgment of the Church; and it also protects me from the offence of plagiarism, however unwitting. If others have thought out the same rendering of the Genesis history, so much the better for my case; but what is here set down occurred to me quite independently.
A study of the real meaning of the Record, in the light of what may be fairly regarded as proved facts, cannot be without its use to the Christian. If it be true that a certain amount of information on the subject of creation is contained in revelation, it must have been so contained for a specific purpose—a purpose to be attained at some stage or other of the history of mankind. It is possible also that the study will bring to light a probable, or at any rate a possible, explanation of some of those apparent (if they are not real) "dead-locks" which occur in pursuing the course of life history on the earth.
Such considerations will naturally have more weight with the Christian believer than with those who reject the faith. But at least the advantage of them remains with the believer, till the contrary is shown. The extreme evolutionist may cling to the belief that at some future time he will be able to account for the entrance of LIFE into the world's history, that he will be able to explain the connection of MIND with MATTER; or he may hope that the sterility of certain hybrid forms will one day be explained away, and so on. But till these things are got over, the believer cannot be reproached as holding an unreasonable belief when his creed maintains that Life is a gift and prerogative of a great Author of Life; that Mind is the result of a spiritual environment which is a true, though physically intangible, part of nature; and that the absence of any proof that variation and development cross certain—perhaps not very clearly ascertained, but indubitably existing—lines, points to the designed fixing of certain types, and the restriction of developmental creation to running in certain lines of causation up to those types, and not otherwise.
It can never be unreasonable to believe anything that is in exact accordance with facts as ascertained at any given moment of time—unless, indeed, the fact is indicated by other considerations as being one likely to disappear from the category of fact altogether.
Enough has thus, I hope, appeared, to make the appearance of this little work, at least excusable; what more may be necessary to establish its claim to be read must depend on what it contains.
I have only to add that I can make no pretension to be a teacher of science. I trust that there is no material error of statement; if there is, I shall be the first to retract and correct it. I am quite confident that no correction that may be needed in detail will seriously affect the general argument.
[Footnote 1: At present it is an ascertained fact that certain chemical substances are elements incapable of further resolution. But there are not wanting indications which would make it a matter of no surprise at all, if we were to learn to-morrow that the so-called element had been resolved. Such a fact is an example of what is stated in the text; and a belief based on the absolute and unchangeable stability of such a fact would not be unassailable. But none of the above stated instances of "dead-lock" in evolution are within "measurable distance" of being resolved.]
THE ELEMENT OF FAITH IN CREATION.
In the extract placed on the title-page, the author of the Epistle clearly places our conclusion that God "established the order of creation"—the lines, plans, developmental-sequences, aims, and objects, that the course of creation has hitherto pursued and is still ceaselessly pursuing, in the category of faith.
Of course, from one point of view—very probably that of the writer of the Epistle—this conclusion is argued by the consideration that the human mind forms no distinct conception of the formation of solid—or any other form of—matter in vacuo, where nothing previously existed. And what the mind does not find within its own power, but what yet is true in the larger spiritual kingdom beyond itself, is apprehended by the spiritual faculty of faith.
[Footnote 1: [Greek: Kataertisthai tous aionas]. This implies more than the mere originating or supplying of a number of material, organic, or inorganic (or even spiritual) forms and existences. Whatever may be the precise translation of [Greek: aion], it implies a chain of events, the cause and effect, the type and the plan, and its evolution all included.]
But from another point of view, the immediate action of faith is not so evident. If, it might be said, the law of evolution, or the law of creation, or whatever is the true law, is, in all its bearings, a matter to be observed and discovered by human science, then it is not easy to see how there is any exercise of faith. We should be more properly said to know, by intellectual processes of observation, inference, and conclusion, that there was a Law Giver, an Artificer, and a First Cause, so unlimited in power and capacity by the conditions of the case, that we must call Him "Divine."
And many will probably feel that their just reasoning on the subject leads them to knowledge—knowledge, i.e., as approximately certain as anything in this world can be.
But the text, by the use of the term [Greek: aion], implies (as I suggested) more than mere production of objects; it implies a designed guidance and preconceived planning. If it were merely asserted that there is a first cause of material existence, and even that such a cause had enough known (or to be inferred) about it, to warrant our writing "First Cause" with capitals, then the proposition would pass on all hands without serious question. But directly we are brought face to face, not merely with the isolated idea of creation of tangible forms out of nothing (as the phrase is), but rather with the whole history and development of the world and its inhabitants, we see so many conflicting elements, such a power of natural forces and human passions warring against the progress of good, and seeming to end only too often in disaster, that it becomes a matter of faith to perceive a Divine providence underlying and overruling all to its own ends.
The fact is, that directly we make mention of the "aeons"—the world's age histories—we are met with that Protean problem that always seems to lurk at the bottom of every religious question: Why was evil permitted? Mr. J.S. Mill, many readers will recollect, concluded that if there was a God, that God was not perfectly good, or else was not omnipotent. Now of course our limited faculties do not enable us to apprehend a really absolute and unlimited omnipotence. We can only conceive of God as limited by the terms of His own Nature and Being. We say it is "impossible for God to lie," or for the Almighty to do wrong in any shape; in other words, we are, in this as in other matters where the finite and the Infinite are brought into contact, led up to two necessary conclusions which cannot be reconciled. We can reason out logically and to a full conclusion, that given a God, that God must be perfect, unlimited and unconditioned. We can also reason out, provided we take purely human and finite premises, another line of thought which forbids us to suppose that a Perfect God would have allowed evil, suffering, or pain; and this leads us exactly or nearly to Mr. Mill's conclusion.
Whenever we are thus brought up to a dead-lock, as it were, there is the need of faith, which is the faculty whereby the finite is linked on to the Infinite. For this faith has two great features: one is represented by the capacity for assimilating fact which is spiritual or transcendental, and therefore not within the reach of finite intellect; the other is represented by the capacity for reliance on, and trust in, the God whose infinite perfections we cannot as finite creatures grasp or follow.
In the difficult scheme of the world's governance, in the storms, earthquakes, pestilences, sufferings of all kinds—signs of failure, sickness, and decay, and death, signs of the victory of evil and the failure of good—we can only believe in God, and that all will issue in righteous ends. And our belief proceeds, as just stated, on two lines: one being our spiritual capacity for knowing that GOD IS, and that we, His creatures, are the objects of His love; the other being the fact that we only see a very little end of the thread, or perhaps only a little of one thread out of a vast mass of complicated threads, in the great web of design and governance, and that therefore there is wide ground for confidence that the end will be success. We rely confidently on God. If it is asked, Why is it a part of faith to have a childlike confidence in an unseen God?—we reply, that the main origin of such confidence is to be found in the wonderful condescension of God exhibited in the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection.
This is not the place to enter on a detailed examination of the essential importance of these great central facts of Christian belief in establishing faith in the unseen, and distinguishing its grasp from the blind clutches of credulity; but a single consideration will suffice at least to awaken a feeling of a wide vista of possibility when we put it thus: Do we wonder at the spectacle of a righteous man, passing his life in suffering and poverty, seemingly stricken by the Divine hand?—But is not the case altered when we reflect that the Hand that thus smites is a hand itself pierced with the Cross-nails of a terrible human suffering, undergone solely on man's account?
It can be proved easily, by exhaustive examples, to be the case, that wherever the finite is brought into contact with the Infinite, that there must be a dead-lock, a leading up successively to two conclusions, one of which is almost, if not quite, contrary to the other. A very striking instance of this is the question of Predestination and Free-will. From the finite side, I am conscious that I am a free agent: I can will to rise up and to lie down. It is true that my will may be influenced, strongly or feebly, by various means—by the effect of habit, by the inherited tendency of my constitution, by some present motive of temptation, and so forth: but the will is there—the motive-influence or inclining-power is not the will, but that which affects or works on will. A motive pulls me this way, another pulls me that; but in the end, my will follows one or the other. I can, then, do as I please. On the other hand, Infinite Knowledge must know, and have known from all eternity, what I shall do now, and at every moment of my future being: and for Omnipotence to know from all eternity what will be, is, in our human sense, practically undistinguishable from the thought that the Power has predestined the same; and man cannot of course alter that. Here, then, by separate lines of thought, we are brought to two opposite and irreconcilable conclusions. It is so always. We cannot ourselves imagine how a fixed set of laws and rules can be followed, and yet the best interests of each and every one of God's creatures be served as truly as if God directly wielded the machinery of nature only for the special benefit of the individual. The thing is unthinkable to us: yet directly we reason on the necessarily unlimited capability of a Divine Providence, we are led to the conclusion that it must be possible. Here then is the province of Faith.
[Footnote 1: The Scripture clearly recognizes the two opposing lines. In one place we read, "Thou hast given them a law which shall not be broken;" in another, "All things work together for good to them that love God."]
It is by Faith, then—combined with only a limited degree of knowledge, founded on observation and reasoning—that we understand that "the aeons were constituted by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (the phenomenal has its origin in the non-phenomenal).
While allowing, then, the element of Faith in our recognition of a Creator and Moral Governor of the world, our care is in this, as in all exercises of faith, that our faith be reasonable. We are not called on to believe so as to be "put to confusion," intellectually, as Tait and Balfour have it.
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION STATED.
It will strike some readers with a sense of hopelessness, this demand for a reason in our faith. A special and very extensive knowledge is required, it seems, to test the very positive assertion that some have chosen to make regarding the "explosion" of the Christian faith in the matter of Creation.
We are told in effect that every thing goes by itself—that given some first cause, about which we know, and can know, nothing, directly primordial matter appears on the scene, and the laws of sequence and action which observed experience has formulated and is progressively formulating are given, then nothing else is required; no governance, no control, and no special design. So that in principle a Creator and Providence are baseless fancies; and this is further borne out by the fact, that when the Christian faith ventures on details as to the mode of Creation it is certainly and demonstrably wrong. If these propositions are to be controverted, it must be in the light of a knowledge which a large body of candid and earnest believers do not possess.
Fortunately, however, the labours of many competent to judge have placed within the reach of the unscientific but careful student, the means of knowing what the conclusions of Science really are, as far as they affect the questions we have to consider. At least, any inquirer can, with a little care and patient study, put himself in a position to know where the difficulty or difficulties lie, and what means there are of getting over them. His want of technical knowledge will not be in his way, so far as his just appreciation of the position is concerned. Without pretending to take up ground which has already been occupied by capable writers whose books can easily be consulted, I may usefully recapitulate in a simple form, and grouped in a suitable order, some of the points best worth noting.
The theory of cosmical evolution is not, in its general idea, a new thing. The sort of evolution, however, that was obscurely shadowed forth by the early sages of India (much as it is the fashion now to allude to it) really stands in no practical relation to the modern and natural theory which is associated with the name of CHARLES DARWIN, and which has been further taken up by Mr. HERBERT SPENCER and others as the foundation for a complete scheme of cosmic philosophy. The theory is now, in its main features, admitted by every one. But there are a few who would push it beyond its real ascertained limits, and would substitute fancies for facts; they are not content to leave the lacunae, which undoubtedly do exist, but fill them up by hypothesis, passing by easy steps of forgetfulness from the "it was possibly," "it was likely to have been," to the "it must have been," and "it was"!
To all such extensions we must of course object; there are gaps in the scheme which can be filled in with really great probability, and in such cases there will be no harm done in admitting the probability, while still acknowledging it as such. An overcautious lawyer-like captiousness of spirit in such matters will help no cause and serve no good purpose. Nor is it at all difficult in practice to draw the line and say what is fairly admissible conjecture and what is not. There are other gaps, however, that at present, no real analogy, no fair inferential process, can bridge over; and to all speculations on such subjects, if advanced as more than bare and undisguised guesses, objection must be taken.
If this one line had been fairly and firmly adhered to from the first, it can hardly be doubted that much of the acrimony of controversy would have been avoided. It is just as essential at the present moment to insist on the point as ever. But to proceed. Stated in the extreme form, the theory is, that given matter as a beginning, that matter is thenceforth capable, by the aid of fixed and self-working laws, to produce and result in, all the phenomena of life—whether plant, animal, or human—which we see around us. Matter developes from simple to complex forms, growing by its own properties, in directions determined by the circumstances and surroundings of its existence.
[Footnote 1: It is enough to instance the theories of Dr. Buchner and, in earlier days, of Oken. The Haeckel and Virchow incident in this connection, and the noble protest of the latter against positive teaching of unproved speculation, are in the recollection of all.]
If I may put this a little less in the abstract, but more at length, I should describe it thus:—
Astronomers, while watching the course of the stars, have frequently observed in the heavens what they call nebulae. With the best telescopes these look like patches of gold-dust or luminous haze in the sky. Some nebulae, it is supposed, really consist of whole systems of stars and suns, but at so enormous a distance that with our best glasses we cannot make more out of them than groups of apparent "star-dust" But other nebulae do not appear to be at this extreme distance, and therefore cannot consist of large bodies. And when their light is examined with the aid of a spectroscope, it gives indications that such nebulae are only masses of vapour, incandescent, or giving out light on account of their being in a burning or highly heated condition.
[Footnote 1: The biological evolutionist will, I am aware, object to this, saying that the origin of the cosmos and nebular theories are matters of speculation with which he is not concerned—they are no part of evolution proper. But I submit that the general philosophical evolution does include the whole. At any rate, the materialist view of nature does take in the whole, in such a way as the text indicates.]
Now, it is supposed that, in the beginning of the world, there was, in space, such a nebula or mass of incandescent vapour, which, as it was destined to cool down and form a world, philosophers have called "cosmic gas."
This cosmic gas, in the course of time, began to lose its heat, and consequently to liquefy and solidify, according to the different nature of its components; and thus a globe with a solid crust was formed, the surface of which was partly dry and partly occupied by water, and diversified by the abundant production of the various earths, gases, metals, and other substances with which we are familiar. These substances, in time, and by the slow action of their own laws and properties, combined or separated and produced further forms. But to come at once to the important part of the theory, we must at once direct our attention to four substances; these would certainly, it is said (and that no doubt is quite true) be present; they are oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon. The first three would be, when the earth assumed anything like its present conditions of temperature and air-pressure, invisible gases, as they are at present; the fourth is a substance which forms the basis of charcoal, and which we see in a nearly pure form crystallized in the diamond.
Now, if these substances are brought together under certain appropriate conditions, the oxygen and hydrogen can combine to form water; the carbon and the oxygen will form carbonic acid; while nitrogen will join with hydrogen to form that pungent smelling substance with which we are familiar as ammonia. Again, let us suppose that three compound substances—water, carbonic acid, and ammonia—are present together with appropriate conditions; it is said that they will combine to form a gummy transparent matter, which is called protoplasm. This protoplasm may be found in small shapeless lumps, or it may be found enclosed in cells, and in various beautifully shaped coverings, and it is also found in the blood, and in all growing parts or organs of all animals and plants of every kind whatsoever.
Protoplasm, then, is the physical basis of life. Simple, uniform, shapeless protoplasm, combined out of the substances just named, first came into existence; and as, however simple or shapeless, it always exhibits the property of life, it can henceforth grow and develop from simpler to ever increasingly complex forms, without any help but that of surrounding circumstances—the secondary causes which we see in operation around us.
If some readers should say they have never seen protoplasm, I may remind them where every one has, at some time or another, met with it. If you cut a stick of new wood from a hedge, and peel off the young bark, you know that the bark comes off easily and entire, leaving a clean white wand of wood in your hand; but the wand feels sticky all over. This sticky stuff is nothing more than transparent growing protoplasm, which lies close under the inner bark.
At first, the materialist holds, protoplasm appeared in very simple forms, just such as can still be found within the sea, and in ponds. But the lower organized forms of life are extremely unstable, and a different environment will always tend to evoke continuous small changes, so that there may be advance in forms of all kinds. For if by chance some creature exhibits a variation which is favourable to it in the circumstances in which it is placed, that creature will be fitter than the others which have not that variation. And so the former will survive, and as they multiply, their descendants will inherit the peculiarity. Thus, in the course of countless generations, change will succeed change, till creatures of quite a complex structure and specialized form have arisen. As the circumstances of life are always infinitely various, the developments take place in many different directions; some fit the creature for life in deep seas, some for flying in the air, some for living in holes and crevices, some for catching prey by swift pursuit, others for catching it by artful contrivance, and so forth. Many changes will also arise from protective necessity: if an insect happens to be like a dead leaf, it will escape the notice of birds which would snap up a conspicuously coloured one; and so the dull-coloured will survive and perpetuate his kind, while the others are destroyed. On the other hand, beauty in colour and form may have its use. This is chiefly exhibited in the preference which the females of a species show for the adorned and showy males.
[Footnote 1: Not really of course "by chance," but simply owing to such circumstances as cannot be accounted for by any direct antecedents.]
Supposing an organism developed so far as to be a bird, but only with dull or ugly feathers. By accident one male bird, say, gets a few bright-coloured feathers on his head. Here his appearance will attract birds of the other sex; and then by the law of heredity, his offspring are sure to repeat the coloured feathers, till at last a regularly bright-crested species-arises. In this way natural variability, acted on by the necessities of environment (which cause the survival of the fittest specimens) and the principle of heredity, viz., that the offspring repeat the features of the parents, aided by the principle of sexual selection, have been the origin and cause of all the species we see in the world.
Thus we have an unbroken series—certain substances condensing out of cosmic vapour, some of them combining to form the variety of rocks, soils, metals, &c., and others giving rise to protoplasm which grows' and develops into a thousand shapes and hues, of insect, fish, reptile, bird, and beast.
And then it is, that charmed with the completeness and symmetry of such a theory, and overlooking the difficulties that crop up here and here—demanding some Power from without to bridge them over—certain extreme theorists have rushed to the conclusion that in all this there is no need of any external Creator or Providence—nothing but what we call secondary causes, ordinary causes which we see at work around us all day and every day.
How inconceivable, they add, is the truth of the Book of Genesis, which asserts the successive creation of fully-formed animals by sudden acts of command; and all accomplished in a few days at the beginning of the world's human history!
This I believe to be a fair outline, though of course a very rough and general one, of the Theory of Evolution as regards the forms of matter and living organisms. Now it will at once strike the candid reader, that even granted the whole of the scheme as stated, there is nothing in it that has any answer to the objection,—But may I not believe that a wise Creator conceived and established the whole plan—first creating MATTER and FORCE, then superadding LIFE at a certain stage, and then drawing out the type and design according to which everything was to grow and develop? Is not such a production and such a design the true essence of Creation? Can all these things happen without such aid? Let us then look more closely at some of the steps in the evolution just described. And let us stop at the very beginning—the first term of the series.
We may agree (in the absence of anything leading to a contrary conclusion) that matter may first have appeared as a cosmic gas, or incandescent vapour in space. It is probable, if not certain, that our earth is a mass that has only cooled down on the surface, the centre being still hot and to some extent, at any rate, molten; and in the sun we have the case of an enormous globe surrounded with a photosphere, as it is called—a blaze of incandescent substances, which our spectroscopes tell us are substances such as we have on earth now in cooled or condensed condition—iron, oxygen, hydrogen, and other such forms of matter.
First of all, how did any substance, however vapoury and tenuous, come to exist, when previously there was nothing?
If we admit, that there was a time when even cosmic gas did not exist, then there must have been an Agent, whose fiat caused the change. And as that Agent does not obviously belong to the material order, it must belong to the spiritual or non-material; for the two orders together exhaust the possibilities of existence. If, however, it is urged that "primal matter"—cosmic vapour—containing the "potentiality" of all existence, is eternal and alway existed of itself, then we are brought face to face with innumerable difficulties. In the first place, the existence of matter is not the only difficulty to be got over; not the only dead-lock along the line. We pass it over and go on for a time, and then we come to another—the introduction of LIFE. I will not pause to consider that here; we shall see presently that it is impossible to regard life as merely a quality or property of matter. When we have passed that, we have a third stoppage, the introduction of Reason or Intelligence; and then a fourth, the introduction of the Spiritual faculties, which cannot be placed on the same footing as mere reason. So that to get over the first point, and dispense with a Cause or a Creator of matter, is of no avail: it is incredible that there should be no Creator of matter, but that there should be a Creator of life—an Imparter of reason, an Endower of soul.
But let us revert to the first stage and look at the nature of MATTER.
CREATIVE DESIGN IN INORGANIC MATTER.
I take as self-evident the enormous difficulty of self-caused, self-existent matter. And when we see that matter acting, not irregularly or by caprice, but by law (as every class of philosopher will admit), then it is still further difficult to realize that matter not only existed as a dead, simple, inactive thing, but existed with a folded-up history inside it, a long sequence of development—not the same for all particles, but various for each group: so that one set proceeded to form the object, and another the environment of the object; or rather that a multitude of sets formed a vast variety of objects, and another multitude of sets formed a vast variety of environments. When we see matter acting by law, then if there is no Creator, we have the to us unthinkable proposition of law without a lawgiver!
On the other hand, if we shut out some of the difficulties, keep our eye on one part of the case only—and that is what the human mind is very apt to do—we can easily come round to think that, after all, elementary matter—cosmic gas—is a very simple thing; and looks really as if no great Power, or Intellect, were required to account for its origin. After all, some will say, if we grant your great, wise, beneficent, designing Creator, the finite human mind has as little idea of a self-existing God, as it has of self-existing matter and self-existing law. You postulate one great mystery, we postulate two smaller ones; and the two together really present less "unthinkableness" to the mind than your one. That is so far plausible, but it is no more. To believe in a GOD is to believe in One Existence, who necessarily (by the terms of our conception) has the power both of creating matter, designing the forms it shall take, and originating the tendencies, forces, activities—or whatever else we please to call them—which drive matter in the right direction to get the desired result. To believe not only that matter caused itself, but that the different forces and tendencies, and the aims and ends of development, were self-caused, is surely a much more difficult task. It is the existence of such a variety, it is the existence of a uniform tendency to produce certain though multitudinous results, that makes the insuperable difficulty of supposing matter always developing (towards certain ends) to be self-caused.
The advocates of "eternal matter" really overcome the difficulty, by shutting their eyes to everything beyond a part of the problem—the existence of simple matter apart from any laws, properties, or affinities.
But the simplest drop of water, in itself, and apart from its mechanical relations to other matter, is really a very complex and a very wonderful thing; not at all likely to be "self-caused." Water is made up, we know, of oxygen and hydrogen—two elementary colourless, formless gases. Now we can easily divide the one drop into two, and, without any great difficulty, the two into four, and (perhaps with the aid of a magnifying glass) the four into eight, and so on, as long as the minute particle still retains the nature of water. In short, we speak of the smallest subdivision of which matter is capable without losing its own nature, as the molecule. All matter may be regarded as consisting of a vast mass of these small molecules.
Now, we know that all known matter is capable of existing either in a solid, liquid, or gaseous form, its nature not being changed. Water is very easily so dealt with. Some substances, it is true, require very great pressure or very great cold, or both, to alter their form; but even carbonic acid, oxygen, and hydrogen, which under ordinary conditions are gases, can with proper appliances be made both liquid and solid. Pure alcohol, has, I believe, never been made solid, but that is only because it is so difficult to get a sufficient degree of cold: there is no doubt that it could be done.
It might be supposed that the molecules of which dead matter (whether solid, liquid, or vapourous) is composed, were equally motionless and structureless. But it is not so: every molecule in its own kind is endowed with marvellous properties. In the first place, every molecule has a double capability of motion. In the solid form the molecules are so packed together that, of course, the motion is excessively restricted; in the liquid it is a little easier; in the gaseous state the molecules are in a comparatively "open order." In most substances that are solid under ordinary conditions, by applying heat continuously we first liquefy and ultimately vapourize them. In those substances which under ordinary conditions are gas (like carbonic acid, for instance), it is by applying cold, with perhaps great pressure as well, that we induce them to become liquid and solid; in fact, the process is just reversed. As we can most easily follow the process of heating, I will describe that. First, the solid (in most cases) gets larger and larger as it progresses to liquefaction, and when it gets to vapour, it suddenly expands enormously. Take a rod of soft iron, and reduce it to freezing temperature: let us suppose that in that condition it measures just a thousand inches long. Then raise the temperature to 212 degrees (boiling point), and it will be found to measure 1,012 inches. Why is that? Obviously, because the molecules have got a little further apart. If you heat it till the iron gets liquid, the liquid would also occupy still more space than the original solid rod; and if we had temperature high enough to make the melted iron go off into vapour, it would occupy an enormously increased space. I cannot say what it would be for iron vapour; but if a given volume of water is converted into vapour, it will occupy about 1,700 times the space it did when liquid, though the weight would not be altered.
It may here be worth while to mention that it is not invariably true that a substance gets contracted, and the molecules more and more pressed together, as it assumes a solid form. There is at least one exception. If we take 1,700 pints of steam, the water, as I said, on becoming cool enough to lose the vapourous form, will shrink into a measure holding a single pint; if we cooled lower still, it will get smaller and smaller in bulk (though of course not at all at the same rate) till it arrives at a point when it is just going to freeze; then suddenly (7 degrees above the freezing point) it again begins to expand. Ice occupies more space than cold water; its molecules get arranged in a particular manner by their crystallization.
On the admission of an intelligent Creator providing, by beneficent design, the laws of matter, it is easy to give a reason for this useful property. It prevents the inhabitants of northern climates being deprived of a supply of water. As it is, the solid water or ice expands, and, becoming lighter, forms at the top of the water, and the heavier warmer water remains below. But if ice always got denser and sank, the warmer liquid would be perpetually displaced and so come up to the surface, where it would freeze and sink in its turn. In a short time, then, all our water supplies would (whenever the temperature went down to freezing, which it constantly does in winter) be turned into solid ice. This would be a source of the gravest inconvenience to the population of a cold climate. If we deny a designing mind, the alternative is that this property of water is a mere chance.
But to return to molecules. Molecules are endowed with an inherent faculty of motion; only under the conditions of what we call the solid, they are so compressed, that there is no room for any motion appreciable to the senses. Even if the solid is converted into vapour, the molecules are still much restrained in their movements by the pressure of the air. But of late years, great improvements (partly chemical, partly mechanical) have been made in producing perfect vacua; that is to say, in getting glass or other vessels to be so far empty of air, that the almost inconceivably small residue in the receptacle has no perceptible effect on the action of a small quantity of any substance already reduced to the form of gas or vapour introduced into it. Dr. W. Crookes has made many beautiful experiments on the behaviour of the molecules of attenuated matter in vacua. The small quantity of vapour introduced contains only a relatively small number of molecules, which thus freed from all sensible restraint within the limits of the glass vessel used, are free to move as they will; they are observed to rush about, to strike against the sides of the vessel, and under proper conditions to shine and become radiant, and to exhibit extraordinary phenomena when subjected to currents of electricity. So peculiar is the molecular action thus set up, that scientific men have been tempted to speak of a fourth condition of matter (besides the three ordinary ones, solid, liquid, and gaseous), which they call the ultra-gaseous or radiant state of matter.
This marvel of molecular structure seems already to have removed us sufficiently far from the idea of a simple inert mass, which might be primordial and self-caused. But we have not yet done. Even imagining the extreme subdivision of the particles in one of Dr. Crookes' vacuum globes, the particles are still water. But we know that water is a compound substance. The molecule has nine parts, of which eight are hydrogen and one oxygen—because that is the experimentally known proportion in which oxygen and hydrogen combine to form water. As we can (in the present state of our knowledge) divide no farther, we call these ultimate fragments of simple or elementary substance atoms.
[Footnote 1: As to the possibility of indefinite subdivision of matter, see Sir W. Thomsons's lecture, Nature, June, 1883, et seq.]
Every substance, however finely divided into molecules, if it is not a simple substance, must therefore have, inside the molecular structure, a further atomic structure. And in the case of unresolvable or "elementary" substance, the molecule and the atom are not necessarily the same. For though there is reason to believe that, the molecule of these does consist, in some cases, of only one atom—in which case the atom and the molecule are identical; in other cases, the molecule is known to consist of more than one atom of the same element; and the atoms are capable of being differently arranged, and when so arranged have different properties or behaviour, though their nature is not changed. This property is spoken of by chemists as allotropism. No chemist on earth can detect the slightest difference in constitution between a molecule of ozone and one oxygen; but the two have widely different properties, or behave very differently. There is thus a great mystery about atoms and their possible differences under different arrangement, which is as yet unsolved. Those who wish to get an insight into the matter (which cannot be pursued farther here) will do well to read Josiah Cooke's "The New Chemistry," in the International Scientific Series. The mind is really lost in trying to realize the idea of a fragment of matter too small for the most powerful microscope, but existing in fact (because of faultless reasoning from absolutely conclusive experiments), and yet so constituted that it is practically a different thing when placed in one position or order, from what it is when placed in another.
Turning from this mystery, as yet so obscure, to what is more easily grasped, we shall hardly be surprised to learn, further, that every kind of, atom obeys its own laws, and that while atoms of one kind always have a tendency to combine with atoms of other kinds, it is absolutely impossible to get them to combine together except on certain conditions.
The difference between combination and mixture is well known. Shake sand and sugar in a bag for ever so long, but they will only mix, not combine or form any new substance even with the aid of electric currents; but place oxygen and hydrogen gas under proper conditions, and the gases will disappear, and water (in weight exactly equal to the weight of the volume of gases) will appear in their place.
It is only certain kinds of atoms that will combine at all with other kinds; and when they do so combine, they will only unite in absolutely fixed proportions, so that chemists have been able to assign to every kind of element its own combining proportion. The substances that will combine will do so in these proportions, or in proportions of any even multiple of the number, and in no other. Thus fourteen parts of nitrogen will combine with sixteen of oxygen; and we have several substances in nature, called nitrous oxide, nitric oxide, nitric di-oxide, &c., which illustrate this, in which fourteen parts of nitrogen combine with sixteen oxygen or fourteen nitrogen with a multiple of sixteen oxygen, or a multiple of fourteen nitrogen combine with sixteen oxygen, and so on.
See now where we have got to. When we had spoken of a tiny fragment of primal matter—a drop of water, for instance—it seemed as if there was no more to be said; but no, we found ourselves able to give a whole history of the molecules of which the substance consists; and when we had considered the molecule, we found a further beautiful and intricate order of atoms inside the molecule, as it were.
And there is no reason to suppose that science has yet revealed all that is possible to be known about atoms and molecules; so that if further wonders should be evoked, the argument will grow and grow in cumulative force.
Let me sum up the conclusion to be drawn from these facts in a quotation from a discourse of Sir John F.W. Herschel.
"When we see," says that eminent philosopher, "a great number of things precisely alike, we do not believe this similarity to have originated except from a common principle independent of them; and that we recognize this likeness, chiefly by the identity of their deportment under similar circumstances strengthens rather than weakens the conclusion.
"A line of spinning jennies, or a regiment of soldiers dressed exactly alike and going through precisely the same evolutions, gives us no idea of independent existence: we must see them act out of concert before we can believe them to have independent wills and properties not impressed on them from without.
"And this conclusion, which would be strong even if there were only two individuals precisely alike in all respects and for ever, acquires irresistible force when their number is multiplied beyond the power of imagination to conceive.
"If we mistake not, then, the discoveries alluded to effectually destroy the ideas of an eternal self-existent matter by giving to each of its atoms the essential characters at once of a manufactured article and of a subordinate agent."
In other words, continuing the metaphor of the trained army, we see millions upon millions of molecules all arranged in regiments, distinct and separate, and the regiments again made up of companies or individuals, each obeying his own orders in subordination to, and in harmony with, the whole: are we not justified in concluding that this army has not been only called into being by some cause external to itself; but further, that its constitution has been impressed upon it, and its equipments and organization directed, by an Infinite Intelligence?
There is, then, no such thing to be found in Nature as a simple, structureless "primal matter" which exhibits nothing tending to make self-causation or aboriginal existence difficult to conceive. To look at matter in that light is not only to take into consideration a part of the case; it is really to take what does not exist, a part that exists only in the imagination. The simplest form of matter we can deal with, exhibits within itself all the wondrous plan, law, and sequence of the molecular and atomic structure we have sketched out; and when we consider that, having taken matter so far, we have even then only introduced it to the verge of the universe, ushered it on to the threshold of a great "aeon," when and where it is to be acted on by "gravitation" and other forces, to act in relation to other matter, and to be endowed perhaps with LIFE, we shall feel that the self-existence—the uncaused existence of matter, and of the principles on which matter proceeds or acts, is in reality not a less mystery than the self-existence of a Designing and Intelligent Cause, but one so great as to be itself "unthinkable."
THE CREATION OF LIVING MATTER.
We now come to Living Matter; directing attention, first, to that elementary form of life as exhibited in simple protoplasm and in the lower forms of organism, and then to the perfect forms of bird and beast. In each case, we shall find the same evidence of Design and Intelligence, the same proof of "contrivance" and purpose, which we cannot attribute to the mere action of secondary causes.
The simplest form in which LIFE is manifested is in a viscid gelatinous substance without colour or form, called Protoplasm. Wherever there is life there is protoplasm. Protoplasm, as before remarked, lies just under the bark in trees, and is the material from which the growth of the wood and bark cells and fibres proceeds. Protoplasm, is also present in the muscles and in the blood, and wherever growth is going on.
But protoplasm also exists by itself; or, more properly speaking, there exist living creatures, both plant and animal, which are so simple in structure, so low in organization, that they consist of nothing but a speck of protoplasm. Such a creature is the microscopic amoeba. Sometimes these little specks of protoplasm are surrounded with beautifully formed "silicious shells—a skeleton of radiating spiculae or crystal-clear concentric spheres of exquisite symmetry and beauty." The simplest amoeba however, has no definite form; but the little mass moves about, expands and contracts, throws out projections on one side and draws them in on the other. It exhibits irritability when touched. It may be seen surrounding a tiny particle of food, extracting nutriment from it and growing in size. Ultimately the little body separates or splits up into two, each part thenceforth taking a separate existence.
[Footnote 1: Professor Allman.]
Now it is claimed that such a little organism contains the potentiality of all life; that it grows and multiplies, and develops into higher and higher organisms, into all (in short) that we see in the plant and animal world around us. This, it is argued, is all done by natural causes, not by any direction or guidance or intervention of a Divine agency.
Here we must stop to ask how this protoplasm, or simplest form of organic life, came to exist? How did it get its life—its property of taking nourishment, of growing and of giving birth to other creatures like itself?
The denier of creation replies, that just in the same way as, by the laws of affinity, other inanimate substances came together to produce the earth—salts and other compounds we see in the world around us—so did certain elements combine to form protoplasm. This combination when perfected has the property of being alive, just as water has the property of assuming a solid form or has any other of the qualities which we speak of as its properties.
Now it is perfectly true that, treated as a substance, you can take the gummy protoplasm, put it into a glass and subject it to analysis like any other substance. But simple as the substance appears, composition is really very complicated. Professor Allman tells us that so difficult and wonderful is its chemistry, that in fact really very little is known about it. The best evidence we have, I believe, makes it tolerably certain that protoplasm consists of a combination of ammonia, carbonic acid, and water, and that every molecule of it is made up of 76 atoms, of which 36 are carbon, 26 hydrogen, 4 nitrogen, and 10 oxygen.
But no chemist has ever been able either to account theoretically for such a composition, still less to produce it artificially. It is urged, however, that it may be only due to our clumsy apparatus and still very imperfect knowledge of chemistry, that we were unable artificially to make up protoplasm.
[Footnote 1: Nicholson ("Zoology," p. 4) gives for Albumen, which is nearly identical with protoplasm—Carbon, 144; Hydrogen, 110; Nitrogen, 18; Oxygen, 42; Sulphur, 2. These figures nearly equal those in the text, being those figures multiplied each by 4 (approximately) and without the trace of sulphur.]
And of course there is no answer to a supposition of this sort. Nevertheless there is no sort of reason to believe that protoplasm will ever be made; nor, if we could succeed in uniting the elements into a form resembling protoplasmic jelly, is there the least reason to suppose that such a composition would exhibit the irritability, or the powers of nutrition and reproduction, which are essentially the characteristics of living protoplasm. It is not too much to say that, after the close of the controversy about spontaneous generation, it is now a universally admitted principle of science that life can only proceed from life—the old omne vivum ex ovo in a modern form.
But here the same sort of argument that was brought forward regarding the possibility of matter and its laws being self-caused, comes in as regards life.
[Footnote 1: See "Critiques and Addresses," T.H. Huxley, F.R.S., p. 239. So much is this the case, that it is really superfluous, however interesting, to recall the experiments of Dr. Tyndall and others, which finally demonstrated that wherever primal animal forms, bacteria and other, "microbes," were produced in infusions of hay, turnip, &c., apparently boiled and sterilized and then hermetically sealed, there were really germs in the air enclosed in the vessel, or germs that in one form or another were not destroyed by the boiling or heating. Dr. Bastian's argument for spontaneous generation is thus completely overthrown. (See Drummond, "Natural Law," pp. 62-63.)]
The argument in the most direct form was made use of by Professor Huxley, but it is difficult to believe that so powerful a thinker could seriously hold to a view which will not bear examination, however neatly and brilliantly it may go off when first launched into the air. The argument is that life can only be regarded as a further property of certain forms of matter. Oxygen and hydrogen, when they combine, result in a new substance, quite unlike either of them in character, and possessing new and different properties. The way in which the combination is effected is a mystery, yet we do not account for the new and peculiar properties of water (so different from those of the original gases) as arising from a principle of "aquosity," which we have to invoke from another world. The answer is that the argument is from analogy, and that there is not really the remotest analogy between the two cases. It is true that, as far as we know, electricity is necessary to force a combination of the requisite equivalents of oxygen and hydrogen into water. But though we do not know why this is, or what electricity is, we can repeat the process as often as we will. But mark the difference; the water once existing is obviously only a new form of matter, in the same category with the gases it came from: it neither increases in bulk, nor takes in fresh elements to grow, and give birth to new drops of water. But protoplasm has something quite different—for there may be dead protoplasm and living protoplasm, both identical to the eye and to every chemical test. In either condition, protoplasm, as such, has properties of the same nature (though not of the same kind) as those of water, oxygen gas, or any other matter; it is colorless, heavy, sticky, elastic, and so forth; but besides all that (without the aid of electricity or any physical force we can apply) one has the power of producing more protoplasm—gathering for itself, by virtue of its inherent power, the materials for growth and reproduction.
If directly water was called into existence it could take in nourishment, and divide and go on producing more water—and if some water could do this, while other water (which no available test could distinguish from it in any other respect) could not, then we should be perfectly justified in giving a special name to this power, and calling it "aquosity" or "vitality" or anything else, it being out of all analogy to anything else which we call a "property" of matter.
In the introduction of LIFE into the aeon of organic developmental history, we have a clear and distinct period, as we had when matter came into view, or when the change was ushered in which set the cosmic gas cooling and liquefying, and turning to solid in various form.
The fact is that every organic form, whether plant or animal, derived from the protoplasmic compounds of carbon-dixoide, ammonia and water, is, as Mr. Drummond puts it, "made of materials which have once been inorganic. An organizing principle, not belonging to their kingdom, lays hold of them and elaborates them."
[Footnote 1: "Natural Law," p. 233.]
Thus by the introduction of LIFE we have a vastly enlarged horizon. Before, in the organic world, we had only the "principle" of solidifying or crystallizing, liquefying, and turning to gas or vapour, ever stopping when the state was attained. Or if a combination was in progress, still the result was only a rearrangement of the same bulk of materials (however new the form) in solid, liquid, or gas, but no increase, no nutrition, no reproduction. In the organic world we have something so different, that whether we talk of "property" or "principle," the things are entirely distinct.
The essential difference, stated as regards the mere facts of irritability or motion, nutrition and reproduction, is so grandly sufficient in itself, that one almost regrets to have to add on the other facts which further emphasize the distinction between life and any property of matter. But these further facts are highly important as regards another part of the argument. For while what has just been said almost demonstrates the necessity of a Giver of Life from a kingdom outside the organic, the further facts point irresistibly to the conclusion that we must predicate more about the Giver of Life that we can of an abstract and unknown Cause.
The original protoplasm, when dead, is undistinguishable by the eye, by chemical test, or by the microscope, from the same protoplasm when living; and living protoplasm, again, may be either animal or vegetable. Both are in every respect (externally) absolutely identical. Yet the one will only develop into a plant, the other only into an animal. Nor does it diminish the significance of the fact to say that the differentiation is now fixed by heredity. If we suppose protoplasm to be only a fortuitous combination of elements, what secondary or common natural cause will account for its acquisition of the fixed difference? It is true that some forms of plants exhibit some functions that closely approach the functions of what we call animal life; but, as we shall see presently, there is no evidence whatever that there is any bridge between the two—we have no proof that a plant ever develops into an animal. Here is one of the gaps which the theory of Evolution, true as it is to a certain extent, cannot bridge over; and we must not overlook the fact. We shall revert to it hereafter.
Can it be believed, then, that protoplasm, as the origin of life, is self-caused, and self-developed? And this is not all. I must briefly remind my readers that the way in which animal protoplasm deals with the elements of nutrition is quite opposite to that which plant protoplasm follows. I might, indeed, have mentioned this at an earlier stage, when I mentioned Professor Huxley's comparison of the chemical action in the formation of water with what he assumed to be the case in the formation of protoplasm. When water is formed, the two gases disappear, and an exactly equal weight of water appears in their place; but if living protoplasm is enabled to imbibe liquid or other nutriment containing ammonia, water, and carbonic acid, there is no disappearance of the three elements and an equivalent weight of living protoplasm appearing in its place. Protoplasm consumes the oxygen and sets free the carbonic acid. Both kinds of protoplasm do this, until exposed to the light; and then a difference is observed; for under the influence of light, animal protoplasm alone continues to act in this way, and vegetable protoplasm begins at once to develop little green bodies or corpuscles in its cells, and afterwards acts in a totally opposite way, taking the carbon into its substance and giving off the oxygen.
[Footnote 1: Certain fungi seem to afford an exception to this. The above is, I believe, true as a theoretical action of plants and animals in protoplasmic form. But practically, in all higher developments of either kind, other distinctions come into play; e.g., that plants can make use of inorganic matter, gases, and water, and elaborate them into organic matter. Animals cannot do this, they require more or less solid food—always requiring "complex organic bodies which they ultimately reduce to much simpler inorganic bodies. They are thus mediately or immediately dependent on plants for their subsistence" (Nicholson, "Zoology," 6th ed. p. 17). It is perhaps with reference to this that in the Book of Genesis the Creator is represented as giving plant life to the service of man and animals—while nothing is said of the preying of Carnivora and Insectivora on animal life.]
Not only then has each kind of protoplasm its own mysterious character impressed on it, and is compelled to act in a certain way; but still further, each particle of animal and vegetable protoplasm, when directed into its general course of development as plant or animal, will again only obey a certain course of development in its own line.
But we must proceed a step further; for those who would believe in the sufficiency of unaided Evolution, bid us bear in mind how very elementary the dawn of instinct or the beginning of reason is in the lowest forms which are classed as animal, and how very small is the gap between some highly organized plants and some animal forms, and argue therefore that they may justly regard the distinction as of minor importance, and hope that the "missing link" will be yet discovered and proved. At any rate, they minimize the difference, and urge that it is of no account if at least they can establish the sufficiency of a proved development extending unbroken from the lowest to the highest animal form. And having fixed attention on this side, no doubt there is a long stretch of smooth water over which the passage is unchecked.
[Footnote 1: At the risk of repetition I will remind the reader that nature contains nothing like a progressive scale from plant to animal. It is never that the highest plant can be connected with the lowest animal as in one series of links. The animal kingdom and the plant kingdom are absolutely apart. Both start from similar elementary proteinaceous structures; and both preserve their development upwards—each exhibiting some of the features of the other. It is at the bottom of each scale that resemblance is to be found, not between the top of one and the lowest members of the other.]
The Evolution theory is that all the different species of animals, birds, and other forms of life have been caused by the accumulation and perpetuation of numerous small changes which began in one or at most a few elementary forms, and went on till all the thousands of species we now know of were developed. It is a fact that all organic forms have a certain tendency to vary. I need only allude to the many varieties of pigeons, horses, cattle, and dogs which are produced by varying the food, the circumstances of life and so forth, and by selective breeding.
The contention then is: given certain original simple forms of life, probably marine or aquatic—for it is in the water that the most likely occur—these will gradually change and vary, some in one direction, some in another; that the changes go on increasing, each creature giving birth to offspring which exhibits the stored-up results of change, till the varied and finished forms—some reptile, some bird, some animal—which we now see around us, have been produced. And at last man himself was developed in the same way. All this, observe, is by the action of just such ordinary and natural causes as we now see operating around us—changes in food and in climate, changes in one part requiring a corresponding change in others, and so on.
[Footnote 1: The reader may find this admirably put in Wallace, "Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection," p. 302.]
Nature contains no sharply drawn lines. Plants are different from animals; but there are animals so low down in the scale of life that it is difficult to distinguish them from plants. Pigeons are distinct from pheasants, but the line at which the one species ends and the other begins is difficult to draw. This fact seems to invite some theory of one form changing into other. Accordingly the evolutionist explains the working of the process which he asserts to be sufficient to produce all the various forms of life in our globe.
After stating this more in detail than we have previously done, we shall be in a better position to judge if the process (which in the main we have no desire to deny or even to question) can dispense with guidance and the fixing of certain lines and limits within which, and of certain types towards which, the development proceeds. That is our point.
It is hardly necessary to illustrate the enormous destruction of life which goes on in the world. Even among the human race, the percentage of infants that die in the first months of their life is very large. But in the lower forms of life it is truly enormous. Only consider the myriads of insects that perish from hunger or accident, and from the preying of one species on another. If it were not so, the world would be overrun by plagues of mice, of birds, of insects of all kinds, and indeed by creatures of every grade. The term "struggle for existence" is, then, not an inapt one. All forms of living creatures have to contend with enemies which seek to prey upon or to destroy them, with the difficulty of obtaining food, and with what I may call the chances of nature—cold, storms, floods, disease, and so forth.
Now, it is obvious that if some creatures of a given kind possess some accidental peculiarity or modification in their formation which gives them (in one way or another) an advantage over their fellows, these improved specimens are likely to survive, and, surviving, to have offspring.
It is this perpetuation of advantageous changes, originally induced by the circumstances of environment, that is indicated by the term "natural selection." Nature chooses out the form best suited to the circumstances which surround it, and this form lives while the others die out. And this form goes on improving by slow successive changes, which make it more and more fit for the continually changing circumstances of its life.
Subordinate also to this natural selection is the principle that bright colour and other special qualities may be developed in the males of a race, because individuals with such advantages are more attractive, and therefore more easily find mates, than dull-coloured or otherwise less attractive individuals.
Of each of these principles I may give a simple example. Supposing a species of bird with a soft slender beak to be placed on an island, where the only food they could obtain was fruit enclosed in a hard or tough shell or covering. Supposing some birds accidentally possessed of a beak that was shorter and stouter than the others', these would be able to break open the shell and get at the fruit, while the others would starve. Some of the descendants of the birds with the stout beaks would inherit the same peculiarity, and in the course of several generations there would thus arise a species with short and strong, perhaps curved, beaks just fitted to live on fruits of the kind described. In a similar way the webbed feet of birds that swim were developed by their aquatic habits. And so with the long slender toes of the waders, which are so well fitted for walking over floating aquatic plants.
Of the other principle, sexual selection, a familiar example is the bright and showy colouring of the male birds of many species: the females of their species, as they need protection while helplessly sitting on their eggs, are dull-coloured like the bark of trees or the sand, among which their nests lie hid.
Some of the Himalayan pheasants exhibit this peculiarity to a marked degree. Originally, it is said, the male bird, which was more brightly coloured than the rest, got mated more easily by the preference shown to him for his bright colour.
The question is, can we suppose all this to go on, by self-caused laws and concurrence of circumstances, without a pre-existing design for the forms to reach or an external guidance in the processes?
THE MARKS OF CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE IN THE EVOLUTION OF ORGANIC FORMS.
The heading of this chapter does not mark a new departure, for we have been tracing existing forms of matter from the first, and have already seen the necessity of believing in Creative Intelligence and Guidance. We have seen that inorganic matter, with what we call its molecular or atomic structure, cannot be reasonably regarded as self-caused; and we have concluded with Sir J.F.W. Herschell that the sight of such a well-arranged army, performing its evolutions in a regular and uniform manner, irresistibly suggests a great Commander and Designer. We have further found that the advent of LIFE demands a Power ab extra. We have called attention to the gap, between plant and animal, which is ignored or made light of, chiefly on account of the close approach of the two kingdoms. But there is one broad distinction, namely, that of elementary reason and no reason, or of consciousness and unconsciousness, which is, in itself, a sufficient difficulty to pull us up shortly. We have not yet fully considered this matter, because it will come more appropriately at a later stage, and in the a fortiori form. But we have justly noted it here. We cannot account for the most elementary reason by any physical change; there is no analogy between the two. The connection of mind and matter is unexplainable; and no theory of development of physical form can say why, at any given stage, physical development begins to be accompanied by brain-power and consciousness. Admit candidly that the addition of intelligence at a certain stage, however mysteriously interwoven with structural accompaniments, is a gift ab extra, and we have at least a reasonable and so far satisfactory explanation.
But when we have got an animal form, however simple and elementary, with at least a recognizable "potentiality" of intelligence, we enter, as I said, a long stretch of apparently smooth water, over which, for an important part of our passage, we seem able to glide without any difficulty from the necessary intervention of the so-called supernatural. I have, then, to show that even here there is really no possibility of dispensing with a Creator who has a purpose, a designed scheme, and a series of type-forms to be complied with.