Page 2, 13th June 1941

13th June 1941
Page 2
Page 2, 13th June 1941 — EVOLUTION Arguments Answered

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EVOLUTION Arguments Answered

Sir,—First of all I would like to thank those of your readers who have written to me personally. Due to pressure of work I have not been able to answer any of them; I will as soon as possible. I would like alsti to thank Mr. E. Little for his courteous letter on the law of evidence. Mr. E. Polimeni's entrance into this controversy was welcome from my point of view. It was refreshing to read from his letter that I had unconsciously expressed the belief of some Catholic theologians when I wrote on February 28 that Evolution was regarded by many scientists us " the self-evident method by which Nature works out the plan of Creation." I think Mr. Polimeni has crystallized what I have been trying to say in several letters, i.e., that if only Catholic philosophers would accept the scientific themy of Organic Evolution, in the same way as biologists do, then much good would be done. A mere denial of the theory is worse than useless, and seems to have given the materialists the chance they were waiting for.

Without labouring the opinion I expressed about the place of Genetics in Evolution, I hope my last letter gave Dr. Sutherland sonic idea of my meaning. Genetics is a very new science, and its deeper implications are only beginning to be realised. In any case, I think Dr. Sutherland's definition of Genetics as the " Science of Breeding " is incomplete, and will convey a wrong impression to the general leader.

When I gave Mr. Dewar a certain percentage representing the number of antievolutionists I at least indicated how I arrived at that figure. Mr. Dewar, in some particular way, thinks 7 per cent. would be nearer the mark. How did he obtain this figure and also the 4,750? Like a triumphant warrior, he loudly proclaims that he has found another avowed anti-evolutionist, namely, Mr. D. P. Murray. Can this gentleman not see that the triumph is really on my side? In any case, Mr. Dewar's quotation from the entomologist does not mean what he says it does, Mr. Murray certainly expresses a disbelief in Neo-Lamarckism, but this is only one evolutionary theory.

I can't respect biologists who have not the courage of their convictions. The biological journals the world over do not give one the impression that there are many of these kind of people. Mr. Dewar has missed my point in this connection. He seems to think that he is strengthening his position by advertising to the Catholic world that his scientific papers are not accepted by scientific periodicals. In other words, he would like to be regarded as a martyr. 1 ask Mr. Dewar to consider that the attitude he is taking up about his rejected paper is not altogether reasonable.

I quite agree with Mr. Little that direct evidence is necessary to establish a demonstrable fact. But our reason, I claim, teaches us that we can establish other facts by other means. Mr. Dewar would love to take the question of Evolution to the Courts. He asserts he would win. But would he if the jury, for example, contained some biologists? He is too sure about this. Must I believe that the Law Courts only accept direct evidence. Some years ago there was a certain murder trial, called, I believe, the Rouse Case. There was no direct evidence against the man charged with the murder, and yet he suffered the extreme penalty. I conclude from this that direct evidence establishes a fact immediately, but in.:Inca evidence along many converging lines enables an ordinary unbiased human reason to arrive at a fact also, lf we do not accept this we stultify our mental life ; we deny our reason; we become irrational creatures. So it seems to me.

I resent Mr. Dewar's implications that I hold the view that I am " descended " from an ape or tarsier. In my first letter to the CATHOLIC HERALD I made it clear that this kind of statement shows ignorance of first principles. St. Thomas Aquinas in his day philosophised on many things: some of his arguments were based on an acceptance of some of the scientific ideas of the period. If he could do that, why can't our Catholic philosophers and theologians do the same in these days, especially in Biology, which, surely, is a fertile field, and which, because of the nature of the subject, is so liable to misrepresentation and misapplication, as H. J. P. points out. Mr. Dewar may not be able to see it, but this paragraph indicates the position I have taken up, and the reason why I started the controversy. It is both an appeal and a question.

Dr. O'Gorman's second letter was much more welcome than his first, although be reiterated many statements I have already made. He has now (unintentionally, I think) given greater support to the main thesis of my arguments, I would like to point out that 1 did not say that Darwin was the first evolutionist. Since the " Origin of Species " Biology has leapt forward at a tremendous rate, and this progress can be directly attributed to the theories in that book.

Dr. O'Gorman asks us to prove Evolution to a reasonable satisfaction and he would accept it. I have stated time and time again that this has been done, and is shown by the overwhelming number of pro-evolutionary biologists as shown by their research journals. In this connection books are not as important as original papers. To finish this part of the argument let me quote from " Evolution, Genetics and Eugenics," by H. H. Newman, p. 51. " The nature of the proof of organic evolution is this: that, using the concept of organic evolution as a working hypothesis, it has been possible to rationalise and render intelligible a vast array of observed phenomena, the real facts upon which evolution rests. Thus classification, comparative anatomy, embryology. palaeontology, zoogeography and phytogeography, serology, genetics become consistent and orderly sciences when based upon evolutionary foundations, and when viewed in any other way they are thrown into the utmost confusion. There is no generalisation known to man which is of the least value in giving these bodies of fact any sort of scientific coherence and unity. In other words, the working hypothesis works, and is therefore acceptable as truth until overthrown by a more workable hypothesis." Very many biologists will accept that statement. In years to come the theory as we know it may be overthrown, but I venture to suggest that the idea underlying it will always be retained, just as Dalton's Atomic Theory was Qvertbrown but its principle still remains.

To conclude, it gives me great pleasure to conclude that our late Holy Father was of the opinion that the time had come to discuss such matters as these. My reason for this opinion is the re-institution of the Papal Academy of Science, and the fact that the first subject for discussion was to be " the age of the earth "---the logical starting point, I think, for the consideration of biological evolutionary theory, or perhaps evolution in its full meaning.

PHILIP G. Foritneott.L. Department of Botany and Genetics, King's College,

Newcastle-on-Tyne 2.

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