Humanism vs. Christianity
The Polarization of America
by Patrick Vosse
Evolutionism vs. Creationism
Chapter 5 - A History and Description of Evolution
It all started with Charles Darwin.
Darwin was born 12 February 1809 into a wealthy family. Many
in his family were Unitarians and Freethinkers.
This foundation would influence his lifetime work. The interesting
connection between Unitarianism and Humanism is discussed in Chapter 13.
Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin
(1731-1802) was a distinguished naturalist with his
own intriguing ideas about evolution. While he never
thought of natural selection, he did argue that
all life could a have a single common ancestor.
However, he struggled with the concepts of a mechanism
for this descent. He also discussed the effects of
competition and sexual selection on possible changes in species.
As a backdrop to Darwin's
life, we should discuss the philosophical
culture that had developed in Europe. The Renaissance
opened the door to freedom of thought and expression of ideas. The
repression of a Political Church and royalty was
broken and a new liberalism was growing in popularity. Empiricists such
as Locke and Voltaire challenged religious
belief and claimed that the only existence we can know is that which
can be experience or acquired through logic.
Atheism could be professed without fear and, during
Darwinís lifetime, philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche,
and Marx became increasingly popular,
particularly in the universities.
Darwin attended the
prestigious University of Edinburgh as a medical student but he disliked
the lectures and found them boring. He shifted his focus to natural
history and neglected his medical studies. He pursued independent
biological field studies and learned how to classify organisms
(see Appendix 1). His frustrated father then sent him to Christís
College, Cambridge in 1828 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts
degree in preparation for the Anglican clergy. This was a better fit and
in 1831, Darwin graduated 10th out of a class of 178.
While at Christ's
College, Darwin met several naturalists sparking his
interest in biology and natural history. The most influential of these
natural scientists were theistic and saw God's influence in
all of nature. Of these naturalists, botany professor John
Stevens Henslow became a close friend and mentor to
Darwin. It is interesting to note that a work of great influence
on Darwinís thinking was William
Paleyís Natural Theology, which made an argument for divine
design in nature, not unlike the modern Intelligent Design
proponents discussed earlier.
The Voyage of the Beagle
After graduation, Darwin
returned home and within two weeks received a letter from Professor
Henslow proposing that Darwin join the Captain of the
Beagle, Robert FitzRoy, in a
self-funded position on the two-year expedition to gain experience.
The ship would sail in four weeks. Darwinís father agreed
to fund the adventure.
The voyage lasted nearly five years.
Darwin spent most of that time on land investigating
geology and making natural history collections while the Beagleís crew
surveyed and charted the coasts of South
America. He kept complete notes of his observations
and theoretical speculations, and periodically sent specimens to
Cambridge with letters including a copy of
his journal. Darwin had some expertise in
geology, beetle collecting and dissecting
marine invertebrates, but in
all other areas was a novice and merely collected specimens for expert
appraisal by others.
Geology and the Fossils
On their first stop at St Jago,
Darwin found that a white band high in the
volcanic rock cliffs that included seashells.
FitzRoy had given him the first volume of Charles Lyell's
Principles of Geology, which set out
concepts of land slowly rising or falling over immense periods in a
consistent manner over time. At Punta Alta in Patagonia, he found
fossils of large extinct
mammals in cliffs next to
modern seashells, indicating recent extinction with no signs of change
in climate or catastrophe.
He identified the extinct Megatherium,
with bony armor that appeared to him like a giant version of the armor
on local armadillos. To the south, he saw stepped plains of shingle and
seashells in raised beaches showing a series of elevations. He read
Lyellís second volume and accepted its view of "centers of creation"
of species, but his discoveries and theorizing
challenged Lyell's ideas of smooth continuity and of extinction of
species. Darwin was beginning to form his hypothesis.
On the Galapagos Islands
Darwin looked for evidence
attaching wildlife to an older "centre of creation",
mockingbirds allied to those
in Chile but differing from island to island. He observed
variations in the shape of tortoise shells by which one could tell which
island they came from. When organizing his notes as the ship sailed
home, Darwin wrote that if his growing suspicions about the
mockingbirds, the tortoises and other observations
were correct, "such facts would undermine the stability
of species". He later wrote that such facts "seemed to me to throw some
light on the origin of species". At this point Darwin had
not yet formed a complete hypothesis, his thoughts were
mere speculation based on a few observations.
Organizing the Observations
The Beagle returned on 2
October 1836. Darwin was already a celebrity in scientific
circles because, in December 1835, his mentor Henslow had
given selected naturalists a pamphlet summarizing Darwinís geological
letters. Darwin contacted naturalists who were available
to catalogue the collection of botanical specimens. Darwinís father
organized the financing that enabled Darwin to be a self-funded
As such, he did not need the credentials of the more
legitimate scientists. Darwin then sought experts to describe the
zoological collections. Here the possibility of scientific bias emerges.
Darwin speculates on a possible explanation for his observations, then
hires reputable scientist to "confirm" his "hypothesis".
It has been done before and, as we will discuss later in the book, is
still being done to the determent of good science. This type of data
manipulation is the reason the peer review step of the scientific method
is so important.
Formulating the Hypothesis
In December Darwin, wrote
his first paper, showing that the South American landmass was slowly
rising, and with Lyell's backing, read it to the Geological
Society of London on 4 January 1837. On the same day, he presented his
mammal and bird specimens to the Zoological Society for analysis. The
ornithologist John Gould announced that the Galapagos
birds that Darwin had thought a mixture of blackbirds,
"gros-beaks" and finches, were, in fact, twelve separate species
of finches. (Appendix 1 gives a brief discussion on the
scientific classification of organisms.) Most historical accounts of Darwinís fieldwork accept Gouldís
observation at face value and it became the cornerstone of Darwinís
hypothesis. However, the birds required additional
consideration. The difference in the finches was the shape of the beak,
an adaptation that occurred to facilitate feeding on different seeds in
each birdís local environment. Is the shape of a beak sufficient to
classify the organism as a separate species? As discussed in Appendix 1,
the classification of organisms is a man-made organization, logical but
at the same time arbitrary. If Gould classified the finches as
adaptations of a species, i.e. races, that would not have advanced his
friendís hypothesis of evolution. By classifying the
finches as separate species, Darwin could claim evidence of natural
selection that results in evolution. Compared to the different breeds of
dogs, cats, horses, and the variations among humans, all of which are
within their respective species, slight variations in the shape of a
beak does not appear to be consistent with species differentiation used
in other organisms. Compare slight (and the variations were
slight) variation in beak shape to the difference between a lanky 6-foot
6-inch tall Swede with blond hair, pale skin, blue eyes and a rotund
5-foot 2-inch black-haired, black-eyed, brown-skinned Eskimo. Gouldís
convenient classification of the finches was a scientific bias that
would become commonplace among the Evolutionists.
All this information that flooded Darwin
demanded some sort of explanation. The geological
evidence that the South American land mass was rising and
that marine fossils could be found at high elevations
seemed to link biology and geology. The fossils of extinct organisms
buried in ancient geological strata
hinted to a process of extinction. Finches and other organisms on
different islands of the Galapagos appeared to be
different species, having adapted to specific
environmental conditions. At the same time Darwin
was considering these observations, many of his companions
were developing concepts of natural development based on "Laws of Nature"
and not "ad hoc" miracles of
creation. Darwinís background with
a strong freethinking influence made him a ready advocate.
In December of 1837, he began his
notebook on Transmutation of Species and in it developed perhaps the first evolutionary tree.
He proposed that the birds from the various Galapagos
Islands were separate
species and not merely adaptations (for a discussion on
species see Appendix 1). By March of 1838, Darwin was
recording his speculation that
one species can change into another species and that new species arise
to replace extinct species. Darwin was strongly influenced by Malthusí
An Essay on the Principle of Population.
Malthus proposed that
unless the human population is kept in check, its
increases in a
geometrical progression and
would eventually exceed the required minimum food supply. This is known
as a Malthusian catastrophe. As species always breed
beyond available resources, favorable variations would make organisms
better at surviving and passing the
variations on to their offspring,
while unfavorable variations would be lost. This would result in the
formation of new species. As Darwin describes it:
In October 1838, that is, fifteen
months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for
amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate
the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long-continued
observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me
that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be
preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. The result of this
would be the formation of new species. Here, then,
I had at last got a theory by which to work.
Darwin had been courting
his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, but she expressed concern that since she was
a Unitarian and he an Atheist, they would
be separated in the afterlife. Nevertheless, love overcame these doubts
and they were married in January of 1839 in a liberal
Anglican church. The ceremony was modified to accommodate Emmaís
By early 1839, the newly wed Darwin
had the essential outline for his natural selection
and transmutation of species.
By mid-year, he had developed his ideas into a significant
essay, essentially a first draft of the work that was eventually to be
published. But by 1856, several works had been published that put forth
arguments similar to Darwinís concepts and he was encouraged to publish
a comprehensive work that detailed his hypothesis as
soon as possible in order to establish his precedence as the originator
of the concepts he had been developing.
The truth is that Darwin was
not alone in this field and if he had not established his work on
evolution, someone else would have done so. However, to
write a book with so much detail and novel ideas would take time. So, in
July, Darwin published On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties;
and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of
Selection in an effort to establish his claim on the evolutionary
principles. Although the essay was published in several journals, it was
mostly ignored or not well received.
Actually, Darwin was not
ready to publish. However, because the competition was breathing down
his neck, he had to proceed even though he did not have a mechanism to
explain how evolution occurred. Darwin's
major work, On the Origin of Species by
Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the
Struggle for Life, went
on sale 22 November 1859. The demand was remarkable and the book sold
out immediately. The premise of the book was summarized in a paragraph
in the introduction:
As many more individuals of each
species are born than can possibly survive; and as,
consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it
follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner
profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions
of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and
thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance,
any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.
And he concluded the book with the
There is grandeur in this view of life,
with its several powers, having been originally breathed
into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone
cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a
beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and
are being, evolved.
However, the book was not well received
by several of Darwin's peer scientists, i.e.
scientists not on his payroll. Darwin avoided
specifically stating that the principles of natural selection
applied to man. But the implication was clear and the popular
press made fun of his "men from monkey" evolution.
The Church of England was divided in its opinion. The conservatives simply dismissed the ideas as false. However, liberals
(Political and Philosophical churches) allowed that evolution could be how God created the various organisms.
Although Darwin did not expressly state that man was a product of the natural selection process (even
though he definitely held that opinion), his contemporaries were not so reticent. Lyell and Huxley were particularly
successful in publishing books that specifically included man in the evolutionary process of natural selection.
During the decade that
followed publication of the book, the controversy grew. However, the
debate centered on the various opinions, usually strongly biased, each
We should pause at this point to review the status of the
evolution hypothesis as regards the scientific method.
The First Step, observations, was accomplished during Darwinís voyage on the Beagle. These observations were coupled with observations by others in the areas of geology. Together they formulate a body of data regarding the diversity of species each adapted to its environment. The observations also included the geological modifications to the earth over time and the accompanying fossil record that appeared to show simple life forms in the older geological strata and more complex organisms in the newer strata. The fossil record also shows that many species have become extinct and may have been replaced by new species.
The Second Step, formulate a question, was accomplished during the years following the Beagle voyage. The question was: how could one explain the uniquely adapted species within the current environments as well as the extinction and emergence of organisms over time? The question he formulated had to fit the requirements of the scientific method and the liberal thinkers of the time. The answer to the question could not include the influence of a God, therefore, the question, properly phrased was, how can one explain the uniquely adapted species within the current environments as well as the extinction and emergence of organisms over time by natural means?
The Third Step, formulate a hypothesis, was accomplished by the publication of his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. We should at this point summarize Darwinís hypothesis:
Characteristics are passed from parents to offspring (but he did not know how).
Organisms tend to over-reproduce. This causes an environmental stress and competition for limited resources. In addition, environments can change in ways that cause changes in resources resulting in stress.
Those organisms that have characteristics favorable to the competition will more likely succeed and reproduce and, therefore, pass on their characteristics. Those organisms that have characteristics less favorable to the competition will be less likely to survive and will not pass on their less favorable characteristics.
Over time, the competition changes the characteristics of the organisms such that only those who have the favorable characteristics remain and the less favorable characteristics are eliminated.
Given sufficient time and environmental stress of the correct type, the group of organisms will eventually evolve into a different species.
The above are a synthesis of various hypotheses Darwin combined into his own concept of evolution. The concepts Darwin borrowed from his peers are:
Evolution: The world is not constant or recently created nor
perpetually cycling. Rather, is steadily changing, and organisms
are transformed over time.
Common descent: Every group of organisms
descended from a common ancestor. All groups
of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms,
ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth.
Multiplication of species: Species multiply, either by
splitting into daughter species or by "budding". Budding is the
establishment of geographically isolated founder populations that
evolve into new species.
Gradualism: Evolutionary change takes place through the
gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new
Natural selection: Evolutionary change comes about
through the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively
few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well adapted
combination of inheritable characteristics, give rise to the next
However, neither Darwin nor his contemporaries progressed beyond the third step of the scientific method process. They did not design experiments that would prove outcomes predicted by the hypothesis. Nor did they publish the data for others to review and reproduce. And without this, the hypothesis could not advance. At this point, the evolution hypothesis was an unproven concept, speculation, with nothing to support it. Even Darwinís closest companions Gray, Hooker, Huxley and Lyell had reservations; and, as scientists, they should. But eventually they supported him and went on to add their own contributions to the evolution position.
However, not all of Darwin's
peers accepted this hypothesis. Adam
Sedgwick, Darwinís geology professor and the person responsible for
introducing Darwin to the concept of epic geological
periods, faulted him on not being inductive in his thinking (in other
words Darwin did not adhere to the scientific method).
professor of geology at Harvard, did not think that the geological
evidence supported the time period necessary for the
gradual speciation to occur. He is quoted as saying about Darwinís hypothesis: It is a scientific mistake,
untrue in its facts, unscientific in its method, and mischievous in its
Henry Charles Fleming Jenkins,
professor of engineering at the prestigious
Glasgow University felt it was too speculative an idea without enough
data to support it. Of Darwin's hypothesis,
The chief arguments used to establish
the theory rests on conjecture. We are asked to
believe all these "maybes" happening on an enormous scale, in order that
we may believe the final Darwinian "maybe" as to the origin of species.
The general form of his argument is as follows: all
these things may have been, therefore my theory is possible, and since
my theory is a possible one, all those hypotheses which it requires are
rendered probable. There is little direct evidence that any of these
maybes actually have been. Many of these assumed possibilities are
The famous Lord Kelvin
(William Thomson): felt that Darwin's estimates of the age
of the Earth were far too long (Darwin himself had estimated that the
geology of southern England was 306,662,400 years old.). His
measurements of radiation done at the end of the century led him to
believe that the Earth was too young for life to develop.
anatomist/paleontologist: strongly disagreed with Darwin
and over his career he continuously debated Darwin and Huxley.
Even Darwin had problems with his "theory". He admitted that
it was difficult to use natural selection as and
explanation for complicated structures such as the
human eye. In the Origin of Species, he states:
With all its inimitable contrivances
for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different
amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic
aberration might at first appear absurd in the highest possible degree,
but nevertheless, if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye
to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its
possessor, can be shown to exist, then it is quite possible the theory
can account for such development.
However, he never offered such proof
and so, with the waive of an arrogant hand, simply dismissed
the objection. Much of Darwin's hypothesis
was based on the work of paleontologists and the
fossil record they were rapidly developing. But the fossil
record itself raises serious objections to the hypothesis. As Darwin
writes of his concern in The Origin of Species:
The number of intermediate
varieties, which have formerly existed must be truly
enormous. Why then is not every geological
formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology
assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and
this, perhaps is the most obvious and serious objection which can be
urged against the theory.
But this was more than "a serious
objection". The observations not only did not support
the evolution hypothesis they
contradicted it. Normally this in itself would be sufficient to generate
numerous articles in scientific journals debunking the hypothesis.
Normally, but not in this case.
How could Darwin's
hypothesis gain such widespread acceptance within the
scientific community with such prominent opponents? Much
of Darwinís success was due as much to aggressive public relations on
the part of Darwin and his friends as it was to any scientific evidence
they presented. Darwin put almost as much effort into promoting his
hypothesis as he did in developing it. For example, Darwin shrewdly
distributed first edition copies of The Origin of Species
to those he regarded as the most influential.
This may appear an insignificant move on his part but, in 19th century
Briton, to receive a book by its author with a letter complementing the
recipient assured either a favorable comment or at least reduced
criticism. Darwin may have been a dilettante scientist
without serious credentials, but he was a shrewd self-promoter who
launched a successful propaganda campaign on behalf of his hypothesis.
Darwin and his followers
fully understood the importance of media, and they did all
they could to enlist the press on their behalf. Darwin's followers
purchased a science journal, Natural History Review,
and refashioned it as a mouthpiece for their scientific ideas. They also
developed relationships with a group of British publishers in order to
produce a steady stream of books promoting evolutionary theory
among the general public as well as the scientific elite.
Darwin organized, and indexed articles about his hypothesis,
and would circulate positive reviews, even if he had to
pay for their publication out of his own pocket.
Within a few years, Darwin's
supporters had developed into a powerful group within the scientific
community. That group would control the scientific media
of the day, at least in regards to evolution.
His opponents were individual scientists without an agenda and were no
match for Darwinís well organized media campaign. The rigor of the
scientific method had been abandoned in favor of
a form of pseudoscience based on media blitz and
propaganda. Objections to Darwin based on scientific procedure were
drowned out by popular opinion.
However, much of Darwinís success in
successfully promoting evolution was not due to scientific acceptance.
Humanists found in evolution the "Holy Grail" of their philosophy. The
Humanists of the late 19th century were less concerned with
the truth of Darwinís hypothesis and more concerned with its
implications. Many of the scientists that supported evolution were also
Humanists and could see the advantage of supporting evolution even
though it was not yet ready for prime time. With a sufficient number of
Humanist scientists, politicians, and influential elite promoting
evolution, it was easy to establish a "consensus opinion" against which
legitimate scientific challenges would be shouted down. As we discuss in
Part 3, Humanists use these same tactics today, not just for promoting
evolution, but for most of the Humanist issues on their agenda.
Of Monkeys and Men
When Darwin published
the Origin of Species in 1859, he was well aware of the controversy it would cause and he
merely suggested that man should be included in the evolutionary
process. But as the propaganda spread by the media gained
momentum and evolution became imbedded in the scientific
community, he became bolder and more confident that he
had sufficient support to challenge the religious
opponents as well as those scientists that continued to object to his
lack of scientific rigor. In 1871, he published The Descent of Man
and Selection in Relation to Sex.
After the publication of The Origin of Species, even
some supporters of Darwin could not accept that humans were
included in the evolutionary process. Those objecting, and these
included Wallace the co-founder of evolution, observed
that the gap in mental abilities between man and even the most
intelligent ape was too great to be explained by natural selection.
The Descent of Man was written largely in response to these objections. However,
this objection continues today unanswered and is a serious difficulty
In The Descent of Man,
Darwin identifies similarities in the
basic organs between man and other animals. He also noted similarities
in the embryological development that point to the human embryo
proceeding through stages of development that mirror the evolutionary
process. He suggested that there were mental similarities between man
and higher animals. He answered the opponentís objection to the mental
gap between man and ape as one of degree not kind. In The Descent of
Man, Darwin clearly establishes his position that all life
descended from a common ancestor.
In The Descent of Man,
Darwin introduced his concept of
sexual selection in the evolutionary process. He was perplexed at
exhibited by animals that had no apparent advantage in survival. Some,
in fact, such as the peacockís tail were a definite disadvantage. This
seemed to challenge his hypothesis and required
explanation. Darwin proposed that different characteristics could be
selected if they conveyed a reproductive advantage to the individual.
Males in particular received the benefits of sexual selection, either by
acquiring weapons with which to fight over females, or by acquiring
beautiful plumage with which to attract the female animals.
Much of The Descent of Man is
devoted to providing evidence for sexual selection in nature,
which he also ties in to the development of aesthetic instincts in
human beings and the differences in coloration between the human races.
Thus, through the selection of the fittest members of the community
for mating partners, the characteristics of the strongest
and most suitable for survival are passed on to the next generation.
But Darwin does not stop at
the inheritance of physical traits. He did not
distinguish between mind and body in the process of inheritance and
proposed that mental characteristics
are passed on from one generation to another. Darwin
argued that social and moral instincts are evolved and that the
development of civilization from primitive to highly civilized is also a
product of human evolution. This, according to Darwin
had caused an aberration in evolution. As Darwin states in The
Descent of Man:
We civilised men, on the other hand,
do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for
the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our
medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life
of every one to the last moment. There is reason to
believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak
constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak
members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has
attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must
be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want
of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a
domestic race; but excepting in the case of man itself, hardly any one
is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
Darwin felt that these
instincts towards helping the "weak members" was part of our social
evolution and concluded that "nor could we check our
sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without
deterioration in the noblest part of our nature ...we
must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving
and propagating their kind." Darwin believed that the "savage races"
of man would be replaced by the "civilised races" at some point in the
near future: "At some future period, not very distant as measured by
centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate,
and replace, the savage races throughout the world." This concept would
result in some very negative consequences and form one of the principles
of Humanist philosophy in the early 20th century.
Eugenics Ė A Philosophy of Racism
During the period between the publication
of his two books, Darwin collaborated extensively with his
cousin, Francis Galton. Galtonís position was that mental qualities such
as intelligence, skill, and temperament were
inherited in the same way as physical traits. He argued that society had
to take control of the hereditary
process and not leave it to natural selection.
By doing so, society could avoid over-breeding by "less fit" members of
society and the under-breeding of the "more fit" ones. His position was
clear, social institutions, such as
insane asylums, were allowing "inferior" humans to survive and reproduce at levels faster than the more "superior" humans. This would result in a degradation of society. It was during this period that Darwin coined the now popular phrase, survival of the fittest. This philosophy is called eugenics, which is defined as: a scientific field involving the controlled breeding of humans in order to achieve desirable traits in future generations. Eugenics may be an inevitable consequence of Darwinís hypothesis that manís mental characteristics are a function of his brain. Man is merely an advanced animal, differing from lower animal only in degree not in kind.
The social control of hereditary included, 1) the identification and classification of individuals and their families into groups such as poor, mentally ill, blind, 'promiscuous women', homosexuals and entire "racial" groups such as the Roma and Jews as "degenerate" or "unfit" then, 2) their segregation or institutionalization, their sterilization, euthanasia, or mass extermination. Darwin and friends provided justification for genocide.
Eugenics appealed to many outside the scientific community (many in the scientific community called it pseudoscience). After all, if you were an educated cultured member of society, then you were one of the "superior humans". Eugenics is an example of mixing philosophy with science. It was also the beginning of the trend to use evolution as a political tool to advance other principles of the Humanist philosophy; more on that in Part 3.
From an economic point of view, eugenics justified exploitation of the "inferior human". One could morally dismiss arguments against colonization, elimination of aboriginal societies, and slavery by standing behind "eugenics". Eugenic grew in popularity, not as a science but as a social philosophy, throughout the first half of the 20th century. Among its proponents were H. G. Wells, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Emile Zola, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, William Keith Kellogg, Margaret Sanger, Winston Churchill, and Sidney Webb. Perhaps the most notorious proponent of eugenics, however, was Adolph Hitler who put the idea to a practical and gruesome use. We will revisit the subject of eugenics in Chapter 13.
Charles the Chauvinistic Racist
Darwin taught that women
were biologically and intellectually inferior to men. The
intelligence gap that Darwinists believed existed between males and
females was not minor. He considered it to be of a level that caused
some evolutionists to classify the sexes as two
distinct psychological species, males as homo frontalis
and females as homo parietalis, referring to the parts of the
brain that corresponded to the predominant thinking processes of each
sex. Darwin himself concluded that the differences between male and
female humans were so enormous that he was amazed that Ďsuch different
beings belong to the same speciesí. He was surprised that Ďeven greater
differences still had not been evolved.í
In Descent, Darwin
introduced his discussion of psychology. Darwin thought "savages" had
smaller brains and more prehensile limbs than the "higher" races. (So
much for good objective observation!) Their lives were dominated more by
instinct and less by reason. He placed them in an
intermediate position between nature and man. And Darwin
extended this placement by analogy to include not only children and
congenital idiots but also women, some of whose powers of intuition, of
rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation were "characteristic of the
lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state of civilization"í (Descent
1871:326Ė327). Something tells me that Charlie may have had problems
with his wife, Emma, other than a religious difference, particularly if
she read his work.
Although Darwin and his
supporters were successful in using the media to oppose
legitimate scientific objections, they had no influence on the
conservative clergy. The Church of England had begun to
split into the conservative, more evangelical, and
the liberal, more philosophical and social
components. The conservatives
dismissed Darwin outright but the liberals
embraced evolution as a tool of Godís work, overlooking the fact that it denied a divine
In an increasingly liberal
society with many clergy leaning toward the
Social-Philosophical Church, those clergy
that opposed Darwin's evolution were those
who were more fundamental in their faith. Scriptures state
that man was made in God's image and is unique in all creation. To say that man is just another
animal developed by a natural process without a God, was unacceptable to
the traditional Christian faith. The objections from the
conservative Christian community
continue to this day and form the basis for the Humanism-Christianity
Back to the Drawing Board
Media hype and clever propaganda can only
go so far and the inevitable happened. It was recognized, even by many
of Darwin's supporters that his hypothesis
did not explain many observations and could not
advance. So the evolutionists set out to evolve the
evolution hypothesis to better explain evolution (sorry
about the pun Ė I thought it was funny).
The Urban Legend Theory
In 1809, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
proposed in his Philosophie Zoologique the folk wisdom
that characteristics which
were needed were acquired (or diminished) during the lifetime of an
organism then passed on to the
offspring. Examples of what is
traditionally called Lamarckism (also known as "soft
inheritance"), would include
giraffes that stretch their necks to reach
leaves high in trees, strengthen and gradually lengthen their necks.
These giraffes have offspring with slightly longer necks. Another
example is a
blacksmith strengthens the
muscles in his arms through hard work. His sons will have similar
muscular development when they mature. He incorporated this mechanism
into his thoughts on evolution (thatís
right, the concept of evolution did not originate with Darwin), seeing it as resulting in the adaptation of
life to local environments. This was a commonly held concept,
more like an "urban legend" that a scientific proposal. Darwin
partially incorporated this idea into his Origin of Species because his
hypothesis needed a mechanism for transmitting
characteristics from one generation to another.
The rejection of
Lamarckism came from August Weissmann's
germ plasm theory developed in the 1880ís. Weissman realized that the cells that
produce the germ plasm, or gametes (i.e. sperm and egg),
separate from the
somatic cells that make up the other body
tissues at an early stage in embryonic development. Since he could see
no obvious means of communicating characteristics between the two, he
established that the inheritance of acquired characteristics was
therefore impossible. This is known as Weismann's barrier.
Mendelís Inheritance Principle
The next modification to Darwinís hypothesis was the concept of Gregor Mendelís (1822-1884) mechanisms of genetic
inheritance of characteristics.
Mendelís work lay in obscurity until 1900 when it was rediscovered.
Darwin did not include a reasonable mechanism for
transferring characteristics from one generation to
another in a way that could accommodate consistency and at the same time
allow for modification. In Darwinís, The Origin of Species, he proposed a
mechanism for transferring characteristics called pangenesis.
Pangenesis states that all the bodyís cells participate
in passing on characteristics to offspring
by shedding "gemmules" prior to fertilization. This concept has never
been verified by observation and is now discredited by biologists.
It shows the poor foundation upon which Darwin based his
Mendel showed that the contributions of each parent retained their integrity rather than blending with the contribution of the other parent. He conceived the idea of heredity units, which he called "factors" (later these were determined to be genes), one of which is a recessive characteristic and the other dominant. Mendel said that factors normally occur in pairs in ordinary body cells, yet segregate during the formation of sex cells. Each member of the pair becomes part of the separate sex cell.
Mendel conducted numerous experiments and supported his conclusions with rigorous statistical analysis. In other words, good science. It is interesting to note that at approximately the same time, Darwin was conducting similar experiments and made similar observations but completely missed the significance. Darwin was so focused on the concept of quantitative variation as the mechanism for evolution that he was unable to see the laws of inheritance that the experiments clearly demonstrated to Mendel. In other words, Darwin was not objective and ignored data that did not agree with his preconceived ideas. For Darwin, evolution had become a philosophy not a science, not unlike Evolutionist today. Early Mendelians viewed hard inheritance as incompatible with natural selection and favored saltationism instead.
In 1937, Theodosius Dobzhansky published Genetics and the Origin of Species that emphasized that real world populations had far more genetic variability than had previously been assumed. For example, the height of the average human male is about 5 feet 10 inches. However, the height of human males can vary from 3 feet to 7 feet. What we consider the "standard species" is only an example taken from a wide variety.
The Statistical Approach
The geneticist Ronald Fisher (1890-1962), was one of the primary authors of the modern
synthesis modification to Darwin's hypothesis.
His most famous work The Genetical Theory of Natural
Selection, published in 1930, developed ideas concerning sexual
selection and population dynamics.
Fisher also developed statistical
analyses of genetic factors in
populations. Up to now, scientists focused on evolutionary changes at
the individual level. Fisher proposed that evolution is
a matter of gene frequencies and distribution. He created the modern field of population
genetics. He approached evolution as a general
population rather than the individual dynamic was a significant
departure from Darwin's original concept.
Figure 1, below, shows the typical "bell
curve" that describes how random events are
distributed. This is called Gaussian distribution. If we measure a
certain characteristic of a species, such as height, the
measurements of several individuals will be distributed as shown in the
figure. Fisher suggested that it is the individuals at the extreme ends
of the curve that drive the evolutionary process.
Figure 1. Gaussian distribution or "bell" curve.
For example, assume the curve represents
plant resistance to draught, with low resistance on the left and high
resistance on the right. If a prolonged draught occurs, only a small
remnant of the draught-resistance plants (on the right) will survive.
They will reproduce offspring that are more draught-resistant than the
previous general population.
Another example is bacterial resistance
to antibiotics. A population of bacteria will have a resistance
distribution as shown in Figure 1. On the left of the curve, there are a
few bacteria that are very susceptible to the antibiotic and will die
after only a few doses. Others in the population require more doses of
the antibiotic before they die. There are a few members of the
population that are highly resistant to the antibiotic. Several more
doses are required to kill them. These are on the right of the curve. If
the antibiotic administration is stopped before the highly resistant
bacterial are killed, there will be a remnant that survive to reproduce
offspring resistant to that particular antibiotic.
Note that in these examples the species adapts to stress conditions and is only modified. The new
population remains the same species. Much of Fisherís work was used in
establishing eugenic policies. If one eliminated the weak and
undesirable members of the population, the resulting population would be
We should again pause to check on the status of the evolution
hypothesis 70 years after Darwin published The Origin of Species.
The following are the significant points:
Many established scientists considered Darwin's original
proposal regarding the inheritance mechanism as
flawed or incomplete at best or even pseudoscience.
Darwin and Mendel both conducted experiments that
determined the principles of the hereditary
mechanism but whereas Mendel was objective in his
observations and proceeded according to the
scientific method to become the father of
the science of genetics. Darwin, the
scientific dilettante, ignored what the observations indicated
because it would challenge his concept (later proved to be
erroneous) for the mechanism of natural selection.
Even with significant modifications to Darwin's original
hypothesis, scientists could not
proceed with experiments to prove it. Nor was there any progress in
showing that evolution is falsifiable
as required by the scientific method.
progress in the evolution hypothesis
was to recognize some of the flaws in the original premise. But
there was still no explanation about the mechanism
by which hereditary
changed and were passed on to subsequent generation.
Bringing It All Together
By the mid-1930ís, there had been
considerable advances in the field of biology. Some of these discoveries
had possible application to the evolution hypothesis,
which had not yet been completely developed. Fisherís
general population approach was accepted as a solution
to some of the problems raised by Darwin's original
hypothesis. But the evolution hypothesis still lacked unity and
consistency. Much of the work of geneticists during the first part of
the century did not support natural selection.
This, and the fact that the gaps observed by paleontologists in the fossil record, as Darwin
himself noted, did not support gradual changes as required by
the evolution hypothesis raised serious
objections to the hypothesis.
Modern evolutionary synthesis developed during the 1930ís and 40ís. This was an attempt to reconcile the inconsistencies between the discoveries of scientists and evolution by natural selection. It remains as the predominant hypothesis today. By the 1960ís, great advances had been made in genetics and molecular biology as well as in population statistics. The discoveries in genetics promised the long searched for mechanism of evolution from one species to another. Modern evolutionary synthesis combines the hard science of geneticists, population statisticians, and paleontologists with evolutionary science. Modern evolutionary synthesis holds the following tenants (for a discussion of genetics and terms used here see Appendix 2):
All evolutionary phenomena can be
explained by known genetic mechanisms and
the evidence observed by naturalists.
gradual. Small genetic changes are ordered by natural
selection. Apparent gaps in the development of
species (or other taxa) are explained as originating
gradually through geographical separation and extinction (not saltation).
selection is overwhelmingly
the main mechanism of change. Even slight advantages are
important if continued.
carried in natural populations is a key factor in evolution.
The effect of ecological factors such as niche occupation
and the significance of barriers to gene flow are all important.
the ability to explain historical observations by
extrapolation from micro (adaptation such as skin color in human races)
to macroevolution (development of new species) is
proposed. Gradualism does not mean constant rate of
The difficulty is that Evolutionists
attempted to include various elements that were
supported by hard science and then claim that they proved
the evolutionary process, but they did not. Their logic was
illogical. Their thinking is analogous to the following example.
Master artists use special paints to make a masterpiece.
Master artists use interesting models when painting a masterpiece.
Master artists use special brushes when painting a masterpiece.
If I use the paints of Van Gough, the
model used by Da Vinci in the Mona Lisa, and the brushes of Rembrandt, I
still will not have a masterpiece. Unless I have the capacity and talent
within myself to make a masterpiece, I will not be able to make one.
Borrowing the components that have gone into other masterpieces cannot,
by themselves, make my work a masterpiece.
In the same way, Evolutionists
have borrowed the established elements from other
scientific disciplines that were developed through rigorous application
of the scientific method. They have attempted to
integrate them into the evolution hypothesis
asserting that their rigor makes evolutionary science
rigorous. However, the borrowed jargon and misappropriation of otherís
work has not resulted in a "masterpiece". Unless the evolution
hypothesis has the inherent capacity for truth, it will never be a
There are still no experiments that
establish change from one species to another. And there is
still no proposal for establishing evolution as
falsifiable. Modern evolutionary synthesis is merely a modification of the original
incomplete hypothesis proposed by Darwin.
During the later half of the 20th
century, modifications to the evolution hypothesis
were proposed. But not all Evolutionists
agree on exactly what the evolution mechanism
is and no evolution from on species to
another by natural selection has been demonstrated by any proposed
Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Dry Bones
Perhaps the most compelling argument for
evolution is given by the work of paleontologists,
scientists who study geological
structures and the fossil record associated with the
various layers. As one digs deeper into the earth, the
strata are older, having been buried by dust, alluvial, volcanic, or
other deposits or moved by the earthís constant dynamics, such as
earthquakes. As the paleontologists dig into the earth, they discover
fossils and they can approximate the age of the fossil by
associating it with the age of the geological strata.
These scientists made an interesting
observation. The fossils in the lower, older, geological
strata were simple, less developed and the fossils in
the higher, younger strata were more complex and better developed. The
implication was clear; organisms
began millions of years ago with simple biological structures and
became more complex over time. The fossil evidence also
demonstrated that over time many organisms became extinct. The fossil
record appeared to support the evolution hypothesis
that species evolved into new species better
equipped to survive environmental pressures and the
less fit species became extinct. Paleontology
provides the best physical evidence for evolution. But there is a
The evolution hypothesis is based on a gradual change in the genetic
makeup of a species as it evolves from the
original to the new form; slow, smooth changes that involve millions of
intermediate steps with the corresponding
intermediate organisms. However,
the fossil record does not support this hypothesis. The
between species are missing. We mentioned Darwin's concern
about this problem earlier when he wrote in The Origin of Species:
The number of intermediate varieties,
which have formerly existed, must be truly enormous. Why then is not
every geological formation and every stratum
full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any
such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most
obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.
The fact is the fossil
record only partially supports Darwin's evolution
hypothesis and at the same time
contradicts it. It was obvious that a major modification of the
evolution hypothesis was necessary. However, the problem was broader
than paleontology disagreeing with Darwinís
hypothesis. The fossil record did not agree with the Evolutionistís interpretation of genetics. A
history of the development of genetics and how Evolutionists
have interpreted discoveries in genetics to support
evolution is given in Appendix 2. The data developed by
geneticists does not include any documentation of one species
changing into another species. However, it does offer the
Evolutionist the mechanism by which such a change
might occur. The various mechanisms of genetic
modification support the slow, gradual change proposed by Darwin but
they do not explain the gaps in the fossil record. As
evolutionary biologist, N. Eldredge states, "Most
families, orders, classes, and phyla appear rather suddenly in the
fossil record, often without anatomically intermediate
forms smoothly interlinking evolutionarily derived descendant taxa with
their presumed ancestors."
During the 1970ís the concept of
punctuated equilibrium was developed as an answer to the problem of
the millions of "missing links" in the fossil record. Punctuated
equilibrium is a proposal that a species
remains stable for most of its geographical history. This is
because any genetic changes in individuals within the
general population are diluted by the normal genetic
characteristics of that
population. The fossil record would, in that case, only
show the normal characteristics. For example, if the majority of a
population had big feet and only 1/10th of a percent had
small feet, the fossil record would probably miss the small-foot bones.
However, small, isolated pockets of
individuals with genetic variation (e.g. small feet) can
exist in the fringe of the general population. When environmental
stress challenges the species, the
general population is eliminated and the modified group survives. In
that case, the fossil record would show the original population to be
extinct and the sudden appearance of the new species. This is an
interesting hypothesis but not universally accepted
mainly because the fringe population would not have such a great
difference from the general population as seen in the fossil record.
Some explain the gaps in the fossil records by
migration. In this proposal, the missing links developed elsewhere and
later migrated to the paleontological dig. None of these proposals is
supported by actual empirical experimentation and are,
for the most part, mere speculation.
It is obvious that, after 150 years of
intense efforts to confirm evolution by natural selection as a
legitimate scientific principle, there are still significant
deficiencies. How significant are these deficiencies?
Unitarians do not believe in the Trinity
and do not believe that Jesus is the son
of God but merely a prophet and teacher. Freethought
holds that all knowledge must be supported by factual evidence
and logic and rejects all beliefs that are not
supported by reason and scientific principles, e.g.
 Uniformitarianism assumes
that the natural processes that operated in the past operate
today in the exact same manner.
 Saltationism is a sudden change from one generation
to the next that is large, or very large, in
comparison with the usual variation of an
 Eldredge, N., 1989,
Macro-Evolutionary Dynamics: Species, Niches, and Adaptive
Peaks, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, New York, p. 22.
Copyright © 2011 by Patrick Vosse
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