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Darwin and Modern Science (1909)

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he object of this paper is first to point out certain elements of the Darwinian influence upon Religious thought, and then to show reason for the conclusion that it has been, from a Christian point of view, satisfactory. I shall not proceed further to urge that the Christian apologetic in relation to biology has been successful. A variety of opinions may be held on this question, without disturbing the conclusion that the movements of readjustment have been beneficial to those who remain Christians, and this by making them more Christian and not only more liberal. The theologians may sometimes have retreated, but there has been an advance of theology. I know that this account incurs the charge of optimism. It is not the worst that could be made. The influence has been limited in personal range, unequal, even divergent, in operation, and accompanied by the appearance of waste and mischievous products. The estimate which follows requires for due balance a full development of many qualifying considerations. For this I lack space, but I must at least distinguish my view from the popular one that our difficulties about religion and natural science have come to an end.

Concerning the older questions about origins—the origin of the world, of species, of man, of reason, conscience, religion—a large measure of understanding has been reached by some thoughtful men. But meanwhile new questions have arisen, questions about conduct, regarding both the reality of morals and the rule of right action for individuals and societies. And these problems, still far from solution, may also be traced to the influence of Darwin. For they arise from the renewed attention to heredity, brought about by the search for the causes of variation, without which the study of the selection of variations has no sufficient basis.

Even the existing understanding about origins is very far from universal. On these points there were always thoughtful men who denied the necessity of conflict, and there are still thoughtful men who deny the possibility of a truce.

It must further be remembered that the earlier discussion now, as I hope to show, producing favourable results, created also for a time grave damage, not only in the disturbance of faith and the loss of men—a loss not repaired by a change in the currents of debate—but in what I believe to be a still more serious respect. I mean the introduction of a habit of facile and untested hypothesis in religious as in other departments of thought.

Darwin is not responsible for this, but he is in part the cause of it. Great ideas are dangerous guests in narrow minds; and thus it has happened that Darwin—the most patient of scientific workers, in whom hypothesis waited upon research, or if it provisionally outstepped it did so only with the most scrupulously careful acknowledgment—has led smaller and less conscientious men in natural science, in history, and in theology to an over-eager confidence in probable conjecture and a loose grip upon the facts of experience. It is not too much to say that in many quarters the age of materialism was the least matter-of-fact age conceivable, and the age of science the age which showed least of the patient temper of inquiry.

I have indicated, as shortly as I could, some losses and dangers which in a balanced account of Darwin's influence would be discussed at length.

One other loss must be mentioned. It is a defect in our thought which, in some quarters, has by itself almost cancelled all the advantages secured. I mean the exaggerated emphasis on uniformity or continuity; the unwillingness to rest any part of faith or of our practical expectation upon anything that from any point of view can be called exceptional. The high degree of success reached by naturalists in tracing, or reasonably conjecturing, the small beginnings of great differences, has led the inconsiderate to believe that anything may in time become anything else.

It is true that this exaggeration of the belief in uniformity has produced in turn its own perilous reaction. From refusing to believe whatever can be called exceptional, some have come to believe whatever can be called wonderful.

But, on the whole, the discontinuous or highly various character of experience received for many years too little deliberate attention. The conception of uniformity which is a necessity of scientific description has been taken for the substance of history. We have accepted a postulate of scientific method as if it were a conclusion of scientific demonstration. In the name of a generalisation which, however just on the lines of a particular method, is the prize of a difficult exploit of reflexion, we have discarded the direct impressions of experience; or, perhaps it is more true to say, we have used for the criticism of alleged experiences a doctrine of uniformity which is only valid in the region of abstract science. For every science depends for its advance upon limitation of attention, upon the selection out of the whole content of consciousness of that part or aspect which is measurable by the method of the science. Accordingly there is a science of life which rightly displays the unity underlying all its manifestations. But there is another view of life, equally valid, and practically sometimes more important, which recognises the immediate and lasting effect of crisis, difference, and revolution. Our ardour for the demonstration of uniformity of process and of minute continuous change needs to be balanced by a recognition of the catastrophic element in experience, and also by a recognition of the exceptional significance for us of events which may be perfectly regular from an impersonal point of view.

An exorbitant jealousy of miracle, revelation, and ultimate moral distinctions has been imported from evolutionary science into religious thought. And it has been a damaging influence, because it has taken men's attention from facts, and fixed them upon theories.


With this acknowledgment of important drawbacks, requiring many words for their proper description, I proceed to indicate certain results of Darwin's doctrine which I believe to be in the long run wholly beneficial to Christian thought. These are:

The encouragement in theology of that evolutionary method of observation and study, which has shaped all modern research:

The recoil of Christian apologetics towards the ground of religious experience, a recoil produced by the pressure of scientific criticism upon other supports of faith:

The restatement, or the recovery of ancient forms of statement, of the doctrines of Creation and of divine Design in Nature, consequent upon the discussion of evolution and of natural selection as its guiding factor.

(1) The first of these is quite possibly the most important of all. It was well defined in a notable paper read by Dr Gore, now Bishop of Birmingham, to the Church Congress at Shrewsbury in 1896. We have learnt a new caution both in ascribing and in denying significance to items of evidence, in utterance or in event. There has been, as in art, a study of values, which secures perspective and solidity in our representation of facts. On the one hand, a given utterance or event cannot be drawn into evidence as if all items were of equal consequence, like sovereigns in a bag. The question whence and whither must be asked, and the particular thing measured as part of a series. Thus measured it is not less truly important, but it may be important in a lower degree. On the other hand, and for exactly the same reason, nothing that is real is unimportant. The "failures" are not mere mistakes. We see them, in St Augustine's words, as "scholar's faults which men praise in hope of fruit."

We cannot safely trace the origin of the evolutionistic method to the influence of natural science. The view is tenable that theology led the way. Probably this is a case of alternate and reciprocal debt. Quite certainly the evolutionist method in theology, in Christian history, and in the estimate of scripture, has received vast reinforcement from biology, in which evolution has been the ever present and ever victorious conception.

(2) The second effect named is the new willingness of Christian thinkers to take definite account of religious experience. This is related to Darwin through the general pressure upon religious faith of scientific criticism. The great advance of our knowledge of organisms has been an important element in the general advance of science. It has acted, by the varied requirements of the theory of organisms, upon all other branches of natural inquiry, and it held for a long time that leading place in public attention which is now occupied by speculative physics. Consequently it contributed largely to our present estimation of science as the supreme judge in all matters of inquiry (F.R. Tennant: "The Being of God in the light of Physical Science", in "Essays on some theological questions of the day". London, 1905.), to the supposed destruction of mystery and the disparagement of metaphysic which marked the last age, as well as to the just recommendation of scientific method in branches of learning where the direct acquisitions of natural science had no place.

Besides this, the new application of the idea of law and mechanical regularity to the organic world seemed to rob faith of a kind of refuge. The romantics had, as Berthelot ("Evolutionisme et Platonisme", pages 45, 46, 47. Paris, 1908.) shows, appealed to life to redress the judgments drawn from mechanism. Now, in Spencer, evolution gave us a vitalist mechanic or mechanical vitalism, and the appeal seemed cut off. We may return to this point later when we consider evolution; at present I only endeavour to indicate that general pressure of scientific criticism which drove men of faith to seek the grounds of reassurance in a science of their own; in a method of experiment, of observation, of hypothesis checked by known facts. It is impossible for me to do more than glance across the threshold of this subject. But it is necessary to say that the method is in an elementary stage of revival. The imposing success that belongs to natural science is absent: we fall short of the unchallengeable unanimity of the Biologists on fundamentals. The experimental method with its sure repetitions cannot be applied to our subject-matter. But we have something like the observational method of palaeontology and geographical distribution; and in biology there are still men who think that the large examination of varieties by way of geography and the search of strata is as truly scientific, uses as genuinely the logical method of difference, and is as fruitful in sure conclusions as the quasi-chemical analysis of Mendelian laboratory work, of which last I desire to express my humble admiration. Religion also has its observational work in the larger and possibly more arduous manner.

But the scientific work in religion makes its way through difficulties and dangers. We are far from having found the formula of its combination with the historical elements of our apologetic. It is exposed, therefore, to a damaging fire not only from unspiritualist psychology and pathology but also from the side of scholastic dogma. It is hard to admit on equal terms a partner to the old undivided rule of books and learning. With Charles Lamb, we cry in some distress, "must knowledge come to me, if it come at all, by some awkward experiment of intuition, and no longer by this familiar process of reading?" ("Essays of Elia", "New Year's Eve", page 41; Ainger's edition. London, 1899.) and we are answered that the old process has an imperishable value, only we have not yet made clear its connection with other contributions. And all the work is young, liable to be drawn into unprofitable excursions, side-tracked by self-deceit and pretence; and it fatally attracts, like the older mysticism, the curiosity and the expository powers of those least in sympathy with it, ready writers who, with all the air of extended research, have been content with narrow grounds for induction. There is a danger, besides, which accompanies even the most genuine work of this science and must be provided against by all its serious students. I mean the danger of unbalanced introspection both for individuals and for societies; of a preoccupation comparable to our modern social preoccupation with bodily health; of reflection upon mental states not accompanied by exercise and growth of the mental powers; the danger of contemplating will and neglecting work, of analysing conviction and not criticising evidence.

Still, in spite of dangers and mistakes, the work remains full of hopeful indications, and, in the best examples (Such an example is given in Baron F. von Hugel's recently finished book, the result of thirty years' research: "The Mystical Element of Religion, as studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and her Friends". London, 1908.), it is truly scientific in its determination to know the very truth, to tell what we think, not what we think we ought to think. (G. Tyrrell, in "Mediaevalism", has a chapter which is full of the important MORAL element in a scientific attitude. "The only infallible guardian of truth is the spirit of truthfulness." "Mediaevalism" page 182, London, 1908.), truly scientific in its employment of hypothesis and verification, and in growing conviction of the reality of its subject-matter through the repeated victories of a mastery which advances, like science, in the Baconian road of obedience. It is reasonable to hope that progress in this respect will be more rapid and sure when religious study enlists more men affected by scientific desire and endowed with scientific capacity.

The class of investigating minds is a small one, possibly even smaller than that of reflecting minds. Very few persons at any period are able to find out anything whatever. There are few observers, few discoverers, few who even wish to discover truth. In how many societies the problems of philology which face every person who speaks English are left unattempted! And if the inquiring or the successfully inquiring class of minds is small, much smaller, of course, is the class of those possessing the scientific aptitude in an eminent degree. During the last age this most distinguished class was to a very great extent absorbed in the study of phenomena, a study which had fallen into arrears. For we stood possessed, in rudiment, of means of observation, means for travelling and acquisition, qualifying men for a larger knowledge than had yet been attempted. These were now to be directed with new accuracy and ardour upon the fabric and behaviour of the world of sense. Our debt to the great masters in physical science who overtook and almost out-stripped the task cannot be measured; and, under the honourable leadership of Ruskin, we may all well do penance if we have failed "in the respect due to their great powers of thought, or in the admiration due to the far scope of their discovery." ("Queen of the Air", Preface, page vii. London, 1906.) With what miraculous mental energy and divine good fortune—as Romans said of their soldiers—did our men of curiosity face the apparently impenetrable mysteries of nature! And how natural it was that immense accessions of knowledge, unrelated to the spiritual facts of life, should discredit Christian faith, by the apparent superiority of the new work to the feeble and unprogressive knowledge of Christian believers! The day is coming when men of this mental character and rank, of this curiosity, this energy and this good fortune in investigation, will be employed in opening mysteries of a spiritual nature. They will silence with masterful witness the over-confident denials of naturalism. They will be in danger of the widespread recognition which thirty years ago accompanied every utterance of Huxley, Tyndall, Spencer. They will contribute, in spite of adulation, to the advance of sober religious and moral science.

And this result will be due to Darwin, first because by raising the dignity of natural science, he encouraged the development of the scientific mind; secondly because he gave to religious students the example of patient and ardent investigation; and thirdly because by the pressure of naturalistic criticism the religious have been driven to ascertain the causes of their own convictions, a work in which they were not without the sympathy of men of science. (The scientific rank of its writer justifies the insertion of the following letter from the late Sir John Burdon-Sanderson to me. In the lecture referred to I had described the methods of Professor Moseley in teaching Biology as affording a suggestion of the scientific treatment of religion.

Oxford, April 30, 1902.

Dear Sir,

I feel that I must express to you my thanks for the discourse which I had the pleasure of listening to yesterday afternoon.

I do not mean to say that I was able to follow all that you said as to the identity of Method in the two fields of Science and Religion, but I recognise that the "mysticism" of which you spoke gives us the only way by which the two fields can be brought into relation.

Among much that was memorable, nothing interested me more than what you said of Moseley.

No one, I am sure, knew better than you the value of his teaching and in what that value consisted.

Yours faithfully

J. Burdon-Sanderson.

In leaving the subject of scientific religious inquiry, I will only add that I do not believe it receives any important help—and certainly it suffers incidentally much damaging interruption—from the study of abnormal manifestations or abnormal conditions of personality.

(3) Both of the above effects seem to me of high, perhaps the very highest, importance to faith and to thought. But, under the third head, I name two which are more directly traceable to the personal work of Darwin, and more definitely characteristic of the age in which his influence was paramount: viz. the influence of the two conceptions of evolution and natural selection upon the doctrine of creation and of design respectively.

It is impossible here, though it is necessary for a complete sketch of the matter, to distinguish the different elements and channels of this Darwinian influence; in Darwin's own writings, in the vigorous polemic of Huxley, and strangely enough, but very actually for popular thought, in the teaching of the definitely anti-Darwinian evolutionist Spencer.

Under the head of the directly and purely Darwinian elements I should class as preeminent the work of Wallace and of Bates; for no two sets of facts have done more to fix in ordinary intelligent minds a belief in organic evolution and in natural selection as its guiding factor than the facts of geographical distribution and of protective colour and mimicry. The facts of geology were difficult to grasp and the public and theologians heard more often of the imperfection than of the extent of the geological record. The witness of embryology, depending to a great extent upon microscopic work, was and is beyond the appreciation of persons occupied in fields of work other than biology.


From the influence in religion of scientific modes of thought we pass to the influence of particular biological conceptions. The former effect comes by way of analogy, example, encouragement and challenge; inspiring or provoking kindred or similar modes of thought in the field of theology; the latter by a collision of opinions upon matters of fact or conjecture which seem to concern both science and religion.

In the case of Darwinism the story of this collision is familiar, and falls under the heads of evolution and natural selection, the doctrine of descent with modification, and the doctrine of its guidance or determination by the struggle for existence between related varieties. These doctrines, though associated and interdependent, and in popular thought not only combined but confused, must be considered separately. It is true that the ancient doctrine of Evolution, in spite of the ingenuity and ardour of Lamarck, remained a dream tantalising the intellectual ambition of naturalists, until the day when Darwin made it conceivable by suggesting the machinery of its guidance. And, further, the idea of natural selection has so effectively opened the door of research and stimulated observation in a score of principal directions that, even if the Darwinian explanation became one day much less convincing than, in spite of recent criticism, it now is, yet its passing, supposing it to pass, would leave the doctrine of Evolution immeasurably and permanently strengthened. For in the interests of the theory of selection, "Fur Darwin," as Muller wrote, facts have been collected which remain in any case evidence of the reality of descent with modification.

But still, though thus united in the modern history of convictions, though united and confused in the collision of biological and traditional opinion, yet evolution and natural selection must be separated in theological no less than in biological estimation. Evolution seemed inconsistent with Creation; natural selection with Providence and Divine design.

Discussion was maintained about these points for many years and with much dark heat. It ranged over many particular topics and engaged minds different in tone, in quality, and in accomplishment. There was at most times a degree of misconception. Some naturalists attributed to theologians in general a poverty of thought which belonged really to men of a particular temper or training. The "timid theism" discerned in Darwin by so cautious a theologian as Liddon (H.P. Liddon, "The Recovery of S. Thomas"; a sermon preached in St Paul's, London, on April 23rd, 1882 (the Sunday after Darwin's death).) was supposed by many biologists to be the necessary foundation of an honest Christianity. It was really more characteristic of devout NATURALISTS like Philip Henry Gosse, than of religious believers as such. (Dr Pusey ("Unscience not Science adverse to Faith" 1878) writes: "The questions as to 'species,' of what variations the animal world is capable, whether the species be more or fewer, whether accidental variations may become hereditary...and the like, naturally fall under the province of science. In all these questions Mr Darwin's careful observations gained for him a deserved approbation and confidence.") The study of theologians more considerable and even more typically conservative than Liddon does not confirm the description of religious intolerance given in good faith, but in serious ignorance, by a disputant so acute, so observant and so candid as Huxley. Something hid from each other's knowledge the devoted pilgrims in two great ways of thought. The truth may be, that naturalists took their view of what creation was from Christian men of science who naturally looked in their own special studies for the supports and illustrations of their religious belief. Of almost every laborious student it may be said "Hic ab arte sua non recessit." And both the believing and the denying naturalists, confining habitual attention to a part of experience, are apt to affirm and deny with trenchant vigour and something of a narrow clearness "Qui respiciunt ad pauca, de facili pronunciant." (Aristotle, in Bacon, quoted by Newman in his "Idea of a University", page 78. London, 1873.)

Newman says of some secular teachers that "they persuade the world of what is false by urging upon it what is true." Of some early opponents of Darwin it might be said by a candid friend that, in all sincerity of devotion to truth, they tried to persuade the world of what is true by urging upon it what is false. If naturalists took their version of orthodoxy from amateurs in theology, some conservative Christians, instead of learning what evolution meant to its regular exponents, took their view of it from celebrated persons, not of the front rank in theology or in thought, but eager to take account of public movements and able to arrest public attention.

Cleverness and eloquence on both sides certainly had their share in producing the very great and general disturbance of men's minds in the early days of Darwinian teaching. But by far the greater part of that disturbance was due to the practical novelty and the profound importance of the teaching itself, and to the fact that the controversy about evolution quickly became much more public than any controversy of equal seriousness had been for many generations.

We must not think lightly of that great disturbance because it has, in some real sense, done its work, and because it is impossible in days of more coolness and light, to recover a full sense of its very real difficulties.

Those who would know them better should add to the calm records of Darwin ("Life and Letters" and "More Letters of Charles Darwin".) and to the story of Huxley's impassioned championship, all that they can learn of George Romanes. ("Life and Letters", London, 1896. "Thoughts on Religion", London, 1895. "Candid Examination of Theism", London, 1878.) For his life was absorbed in this very struggle and reproduced its stages. It began in a certain assured simplicity of biblical interpretation; it went on, through the glories and adventures of a paladin in Darwin's train, to the darkness and dismay of a man who saw all his most cherished beliefs rendered, as he thought, incredible. ("Never in the history of man has so terrific a calamity befallen the race as that which all who look may now (viz. in consequence of the scientific victory of Darwin) behold advancing as a deluge, black with destruction, resistless in might, uprooting our most cherished hopes, engulphing our most precious creed, and burying our highest life in mindless destruction."—"A Candid Examination of Theism", page 51.) He lived to find the freer faith for which process and purpose are not irreconcilable, but necessary to one another. His development, scientific, intellectual and moral, was itself of high significance; and its record is of unique value to our own generation, so near the age of that doubt and yet so far from it; certainly still much in need of the caution and courage by which past endurance prepares men for new emergencies. We have little enough reason to be sure that in the discussions awaiting us we shall do as well as our predecessors in theirs. Remembering their endurance of mental pain, their ardour in mental labour, the heroic temper and the high sincerity of controversialists on either side, we may well speak of our fathers in such words of modesty and self- judgment as Drayton used when he sang the victors of Agincourt. The progress of biblical study, in the departments of Introduction and Exegesis, resulting in the recovery of a point of view anciently tolerated if not prevalent, has altered some of the conditions of that discussion. In the years near 1858, the witness of Scripture was adduced both by Christian advocates and their critics as if unmistakeably irreconcilable with Evolution.

Huxley ("Science and Christian Tradition". London, 1904.) found the path of the blameless naturalist everywhere blocked by "Moses": the believer in revelation was generally held to be forced to a choice between revealed cosmogony and the scientific account of origins. It is not clear how far the change in Biblical interpretation is due to natural science, and how far to the vital movements of theological study which have been quite independent of the controversy about species. It belongs to a general renewal of Christian movement, the recovery of a heritage. "Special Creation"—really a biological rather than a theological conception,—seems in its rigid form to have been a recent element even in English biblical orthodoxy.

The Middle Ages had no suspicion that religious faith forbad inquiry into the natural origination of the different forms of life. Bartholomaeus Anglicus, an English Franciscan of the thirteenth century, was a mutationist in his way, as Aristotle, "the Philosopher" of the Christian Schoolmen, had been in his. So late as the seventeenth century, as we learn not only from early proceedings of the Royal Society, but from a writer so homely and so regularly pious as Walton, the variation of species and "spontaneous" generations had no theological bearing, except as instances of that various wonder of the world which in devout minds is food for devotion.

It was in the eighteenth century that the harder statement took shape. Something in the preciseness of that age, its exaltation of law, its cold passion for a stable and measured universe, its cold denial, its cold affirmation of the power of God, a God of ice, is the occasion of that rigidity of religious thought about the living world which Darwin by accident challenged, or rather by one of those movements of genius which, Goethe ("No productiveness of the highest in the power of anyone."—"Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret". London, 1850.) declares, are "elevated above all earthly control."

If religious thought in the eighteenth century was aimed at a fixed and nearly finite world of spirit, it followed in all these respects the secular and critical lead. ("La philosophie reformatrice du XVIIIe siecle (Berthelot, "Evolutionisme et Platonisme", Paris, 1908, page 45.) ramenait la nature et la societe a des mecanismes que la pensee reflechie peut concevoir et recomposer." In fact, religion in a mechanical age is condemned if it takes any but a mechanical tone. Butler's thought was too moving, too vital, too evolutionary, for the sceptics of his time. In a rationalist, encyclopaedic period, religion also must give hard outline to its facts, it must be able to display its secret to any sensible man in the language used by all sensible men. Milton's prophetic genius furnished the eighteenth century, out of the depth of the passionate age before it, with the theological tone it was to need. In spite of the austere magnificence of his devotion, he gives to smaller souls a dangerous lead. The rigidity of Scripture exegesis belonged to this stately but imperfectly sensitive mode of thought. It passed away with the influence of the older rationalists whose precise denials matched the precise and limited affirmations of the static orthodoxy.

I shall, then, leave the specially biblical aspect of the debate—interesting as it is and even useful, as in Huxley's correspondence with the Duke of Argyll and others in 1892 ("Times", 1892, passim.)—in order to consider without complication the permanent elements of Christian thought brought into question by the teaching of evolution.

Such permanent elements are the doctrine of God as Creator of the universe, and the doctrine of man as spiritual and unique. Upon both the doctrine of evolution seemed to fall with crushing force.

With regard to Man I leave out, acknowledging a grave omission, the doctrine of the Fall and of Sin. And I do so because these have not yet, as I believe, been adequately treated: here the fruitful reaction to the stimulus of evolution is yet to come. The doctrine of sin, indeed, falls principally within the scope of that discussion which has followed or displaced the Darwinian; and without it the Fall cannot be usefully considered. For the question about the Fall is a question not merely of origins, but of the interpretation of moral facts whose moral reality must first be established.

I confine myself therefore to Creation and the dignity of man.

The meaning of evolution, in the most general terms, is that the differentiation of forms is not essentially separate from their behaviour and use; that if these are within the scope of study, that is also; that the world has taken the form we see by movements not unlike those we now see in progress; that what may be called proximate origins are continuous in the way of force and matter, continuous in the way of life, with actual occurrences and actual characteristics. All this has no revolutionary bearing upon the question of ultimate origins. The whole is a statement about process. It says nothing to metaphysicians about cause. It simply brings within the scope of observation or conjecture that series of changes which has given their special characters to the different parts of the world we see. In particular, evolutionary science aspires to the discovery of the process or order of the appearance of life itself: if it were to achieve its aim it could say nothing of the cause of this or indeed of the most familiar occurrences. We should have become spectators or convinced historians of an event which, in respect of its cause and ultimate meaning, would be still impenetrable.

With regard to the origin of species, supposing life already established, biological science has the well founded hopes and the measure of success with which we are all familiar. All this has, it would seem, little chance of collision with a consistent theism, a doctrine which has its own difficulties unconnected with any particular view of order or process. But when it was stated that species had arisen by processes through which new species were still being made, evolutionism came into collision with a statement, traditionally religious, that species were formed and fixed once for all and long ago.

What is the theological import of such a statement when it is regarded as essential to belief in God? Simply that God's activity, with respect to the formation of living creatures, ceased at some point in past time.

"God rested" is made the touchstone of orthodoxy. And when, under the pressure of the evidences, we found ourselves obliged to acknowledge and assert the present and persistent power of God, in the maintenance and in the continued formation of "types," what happened was the abolition of a time-limit. We were forced only to a bolder claim, to a theistic language less halting, more consistent, more thorough in its own line, as well as better qualified to assimilate and modify such schemes as Von Hartmann's philosophy of the unconscious—a philosophy, by the way, quite intolerant of a merely mechanical evolution. (See Von Hartmann's "Wahrheit und Irrthum in Darwinismus". Berlin, 1875.)

Here was not the retrenchment of an extravagant assertion, but the expansion of one which was faltering and inadequate. The traditional statement did not need paring down so as to pass the meshes of a new and exacting criticism. It was itself a net meant to surround and enclose experience; and we must increase its size and close its mesh to hold newly disclosed facts of life. The world, which had seemed a fixed picture or model, gained first perspective and then solidity and movement. We had a glimpse of organic history; and Christian thought became more living and more assured as it met the larger view of life.

However unsatisfactory the new attitude might be to our critics, to Christians the reform was positive. What was discarded was a limitation, a negation. The movement was essentially conservative, even actually reconstructive. For the language disused was a language inconsistent with the definitions of orthodoxy; it set bounds to the infinite, and by implication withdrew from the creative rule all such processes as could be brought within the descriptions of research. It ascribed fixity and finality to that "creature" in which an apostle taught us to recognise the birth-struggles of an unexhausted progress. It tended to banish mystery from the world we see, and to confine it to a remote first age.

In the reformed, the restored, language of religion, Creation became again not a link in a rational series to complete a circle of the sciences, but the mysterious and permanent relation between the infinite and the finite, between the moving changes we know in part, and the Power, after the fashion of that observation, unknown, which is itself "unmoved all motion's source." (Hymn of the Church— Rerum Deus tenax vigor, Immotus in te permanens.)

With regard to man it is hardly necessary, even were it possible, to illustrate the application of this bolder faith. When the record of his high extraction fell under dispute, we were driven to a contemplation of the whole of his life, rather than of a part and that part out of sight. We remembered again, out of Aristotle, that the result of a process interprets its beginnings. We were obliged to read the title of such dignity as we may claim, in results and still more in aspirations.

Some men still measure the value of great present facts in life—reason and virtue and sacrifice—by what a self-disparaged reason can collect of the meaner rudiments of these noble gifts. Mr Balfour has admirably displayed the discrepancy, in this view, between the alleged origin and the alleged authority of reason. Such an argument ought to be used not to discredit the confident reason, but to illuminate and dignify its dark beginnings, and to show that at every step in the long course of growth a Power was at work which is not included in any term or in all the terms of the series.

I submit that the more men know of actual Christian teaching, its fidelity to the past, and its sincerity in face of discovery, the more certainly they will judge that the stimulus of the doctrine of evolution has produced in the long run vigour as well as flexibility in the doctrine of Creation and of man.

I pass from Evolution in general to Natural Selection.

The character in religious language which I have for short called mechanical was not absent in the argument from design as stated before Darwin. It seemed to have reference to a world conceived as fixed. It pointed, not to the plastic capacity and energy of living matter, but to the fixed adaptation of this and that organ to an unchanging place or function.

Mr Hobhouse has given us the valuable phrase "a niche of organic opportunity." Such a phrase would have borne a different sense in non- evolutionary thought. In that thought, the opportunity was an opportunity for the Creative Power, and Design appeared in the preparation of the organism to fit the niche. The idea of the niche and its occupant growing together from simpler to more complex mutual adjustment was unwelcome to this teleology. If the adaptation was traced to the influence, through competition, of the environment, the old teleology lost an illustration and a proof. For the cogency of the proof in every instance depended upon the absence of explanation. Where the process of adaptation was discerned, the evidence of Purpose or Design was weak. It was strong only when the natural antecedents were not discovered, strongest when they could be declared undiscoverable.

Paley's favourite word is "Contrivance"; and for him contrivance is most certain where production is most obscure. He points out the physiological advantage of the valvulae conniventes to man, and the advantage for teleology of the fact that they cannot have been formed by "action and pressure." What is not due to pressure may be attributed to design, and when a "mechanical" process more subtle than pressure was suggested, the case for design was so far weakened. The cumulative proof from the multitude of instances began to disappear when, in selection, a natural sequence was suggested in which all the adaptations might be reached by the motive power of life, and especially when, as in Darwin's teaching, there was full recognition of the reactions of life to the stimulus of circumstance. "The organism fits the niche," said the teleologist, "because the Creator formed it so as to fit." "The organism fits the niche," said the naturalist, "because unless it fitted it could not exist." "It was fitted to survive," said the theologian. "It survives because it fits," said the selectionist. The two forms of statement are not incompatible; but the new statement, by provision of an ideally universal explanation of process, was hostile to a doctrine of purpose which relied upon evidences always exceptional however numerous. Science persistently presses on to find the universal machinery of adaptation in this planet; and whether this be found in selection, or in direct-effect, or in vital reactions resulting in large changes, or in a combination of these and other factors, it must always be opposed to the conception of a Divine Power here and there but not everywhere active.

For science, the Divine must be constant, operative everywhere and in every quality and power, in environment and in organism, in stimulus and in reaction, in variation and in struggle, in hereditary equilibrium, and in "the unstable state of species"; equally present on both sides of every strain, in all pressures and in all resistances, in short in the general wonder of life and the world. And this is exactly what the Divine Power must be for religious faith.

The point I wish once more to make is that the necessary readjustment of teleology, so as to make it depend upon the contemplation of the whole instead of a part, is advantageous quite as much to theology as to science. For the older view failed in courage. Here again our theism was not sufficiently theistic.

Where results seemed inevitable, it dared not claim them as God-given. In the argument from Design it spoke not of God in the sense of theology, but of a Contriver, immensely, not infinitely wise and good, working within a world, the scene, rather than the ever dependent outcome, of His Wisdom; working in such emergencies and opportunities as occurred, by forces not altogether within His control, towards an end beyond Himself. It gave us, instead of the awful reverence due to the Cause of all substance and form, all love and wisdom, a dangerously detached appreciation of an ingenuity and benevolence meritorious in aim and often surprisingly successful in contrivance.

The old teleology was more useful to science than to religion, and the design-naturalists ought to be gratefully remembered by Biologists. Their search for evidences led them to an eager study of adaptations and of minute forms, a study such as we have now an incentive to in the theory of Natural Selection. One hardly meets with the same ardour in microscopical research until we come to modern workers. But the argument from Design was never of great importance to faith. Still, to rid it of this character was worth all the stress and anxiety of the gallant old war. If Darwin had done nothing else for us, we are to-day deeply in his debt for this. The world is not less venerable to us now, not less eloquent of the causing mind, rather much more eloquent and sacred. But our wonder is not that "the underjaw of the swine works under the ground" or in any or all of those particular adaptations which Paley collected with so much skill, but that a purpose transcending, though resembling, our own purposes, is everywhere manifest; that what we live in is a whole, mutually sustaining, eventful and beautiful, where the "dead" forces feed the energies of life, and life sustains a stranger existence, able in some real measure to contemplate the whole, of which, mechanically considered, it is a minor product and a rare ingredient. Here, again, the change was altogether positive. It was not the escape of a vessel in a storm with loss of spars and rigging, not a shortening of sail to save the masts and make a port of refuge. It was rather the emergence from narrow channels to an open sea. We had propelled the great ship, finding purchase here and there for slow and uncertain movement. Now, in deep water, we spread large canvas to a favouring breeze.

The scattered traces of design might be forgotten or obliterated. But the broad impression of Order became plainer when seen at due distance and in sufficient range of effect, and the evidence of love and wisdom in the universe could be trusted more securely for the loss of the particular calculation of their machinery.

Many other topics of faith are affected by modern biology. In some of these we have learnt at present only a wise caution, a wise uncertainty. We stand before the newly unfolded spectacle of suffering, silenced; with faith not scientifically reassured but still holding fast certain other clues of conviction. In many important topics we are at a loss. But in others, and among them those I have mentioned, we have passed beyond this negative state and find faith positively strengthened and more fully expressed.

We have gained also a language and a habit of thought more fit for the great and dark problems that remain, less liable to damaging conflicts, equipped for more rapid assimilation of knowledge. And by this change biology itself is a gainer. For, relieved of fruitless encounters with popular religion, it may advance with surer aim along the path of really scientific life-study which was reopened for modern men by the publication of "The Origin of Species".

Charles Darwin regretted that, in following science, he had not done "more direct good" ("Life and Letters", Vol. III. page 359.) to his fellow-creatures. He has, in fact, rendered substantial service to interests bound up with the daily conduct and hopes of common men; for his work has led to improvements in the preaching of the Christian faith.

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