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EVOLUTIONARY CONTROVERSY Theatrical Battle Cries
Modern Anthropology versus Biblical Statements on Human Origin. By Sir Thomas Ambrose Fleming, M.A., D.Sc., F.R.S. (Victoria Institute. 4d.) Darwinism and Its Critics. By Professor Sir Arthur Keith, M.D., F.R.S. (Watts and Co. 1/-.)
Reviewed by W. R. THOMPSON, Ph.D., F.R.S.
Asi have said in previous articles, I cannot see any alternative to the idea of evolution as a purely scientific hypothesis; and for this reason do not feel disposed to criticise too severely those who consider it to be a fact. Nevertheless it is clear that those who defend it as a fact are on rather slippery ground. The great Victorian controversialists who induced the public to accept Evolution as a fact based their arguments rather on the evidence they expected to get, than on the evidence they actually had. They really believed, I think, that the evidence required would quite soon be discovered. The inherent plausibility ctf the theory and of the hypothesis of natural selection as an evolutionary mechanism were in themselves almost sufficient to produce conviction. A ii events for a long time past there has been, in scientific cirL..es, very little argument as to the fact of evolution. • Most of the work done has consisted in an application of the theory, assumed to be true, or, in other words, in an interpretation of facts in terms of the evolutionary idea.
Controversy Reviving I think it is fair to say that evolutionists have not yet had sufficient time to demonstrate the truth of their hypothesis; but it is difficult to deny that they have already had a great deal more time than they thought they would need and have not yet been able to get the evidence they hoped to get.
There are indications that the younger generation of biologists has lost intereast in the discussion of Evolution and is turning to other fields of investigation, in which more positive results can be obtained. There is some danger that the problem may recede into the background of biology without ever having been properly solved. It seems, however, that thanks to the efforts (Jr several energetic critics, the con
troversy is reviving. I hope that these critics will keep pegging away. A thorough discussion of the problem of Evolution, on the basis of the evidence now available, would be extremely beneficial.
Fleming Champions Bible Sir Ambrose Fleming, who is a distinguished physicist, well acquainted with scientific method and the nature of scientific evidence, is one of the foremost scientific opponents of the theory of Evolution. His recent presidential address to the Victorian Institute. now published in a second revised edition, is, / think, in the main, simply a restatement of views he had already expressed (e.g., Nineteenth Century, Jan. 1928; Evolution and Creation, Marshall, Morgan & Scott, London).
Sir Ambrose Fleming's general thesis, if I understand him correctly, Is that the Biblical account of the origin of man must be accepted, unless the evolutionary origin of man (including the human soul) has been proved. He considers that the proofs advanced by the evolutionists are inadequate and that we must therefore accept the Biblical account, particularly since adherence to the doctrine of evolution is, in his view, "entirely inconsistent with the belief in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity."
Imagination, Not Science He concludes that "this sedulously propagated hypothesis of man's agelong evolution by Darwinian natural selection from a stock which has also produced the anthropoid apes. and that all man's superiority is due to a 'spontaneous acquirement' of a larger brain, upright position, improved foot or hand and powers of speech 'acquired' over vast periods of time, is the production rather of V• imagination than based on in cl. table evidence."
Keith Replies Lne pamphlet by Sir Arthur Keith, well-known for his contributions to anthropology and evolutionary speculation is, according to the publishers, an extension of an essay that appeared in the Literary Guide, and Is now offered to the public "In the hope that it will counteract the threatened propaganda in defence of the doctrine of Special Creation as opposed to the scientific Theory of Evolution." It purports to reply --apparently on behalf of some curious sect whose members are known among themselves as Rationahsts—not only to Sir Ambrose Fleming but to several other critics of evolutionary theory and upholders of Christian and even Theistic views, such as Mr Arnold Lunn, Mr Hilaire Bellew. Sir Arthur Eddington, Sir James Jeans, Father Woodlock and the Archbishop of York.
Evolution and Christianity The loose and rambling character of Sir Arthur Keith's argument makes his pamphlet difficult to review without devoting more space to it than it is worth. He takes the trouble to cite theological opinion in the person of the Dean of St Paul's, described, for the purpose of that narticular argument, as "c01,1rageOUS and thoughtful"—against the opinion of Sir Ambrose Fleming regarding the incompatibility between evolutionism and Christianity, but it seems clear from what he says elsewhere that he does not himself consider the supernatural content of Christianity (a personal God. Creation, miracles, the existence and immortality of the human souli to be compatible with orthodox evolutionary beliefs. He cites, without any notable disapproval and even with a certain amount of righteous gusto. Dr David Forsyth's suggestion that Christianity is a "Sadistic" religion.
Keith Attacks Catholics
Broadly speaking we may say that Sir Arthur Keith's Christian opponents fall into two main classes: the Fundamentalists, who reject evolution altogether and the moderate evolutionists who accept a great deal of the evolutionary hypothesis. It is Interesting to note that Sir Arthur's animosity is mainly directed against the second group, and particularly against the Catholics: "It is rather the Catholic Church than the Fundamentalists that we have to fear," says Sir Arthur, "especially if this Church succeeds in regaining in England its ancient prestige."
In case you do not know exactly. what dread consequences might follow from a Catholic revival, Sir Arthur will reveal the awful secret. "Such a revival," he continues. "might well bring upon us hundreds of priests animated by a fiery spirit of ignorance such as Father F. Woodlock, S.J., M,C., has made us familiar with in more recent years."
The Danger of Father Woodlock Why is Father Woodlock thus singled out for attack? The pnly reasons given are, in the first place, that he had the temerity to criticise Darwin, and, still worse. to pity him for the inadequate character of his theological reasoning. "I cite the behaviour of this arrogant and ignorant priest in dealing with Darwin," says Sir Arthur Keith, "as an example of what may be meted out to men of Science should the Catholic Church once more gain ascendancy in England." I have cited the remarks of Sir Arthur Keith as an example of the tosh an eminent scientist can produce when he begins to write, not as a scientist, but as a "Rationalist."
The Rationalist Liturgy Though Sir Arthur Keith devotes a section of his pamphlet to Mr Arnold Lunn, he makes no attempt to answer Lunn's criticisms of evolutionary doctrines. As for Mr Douglas Dewar, neither he nor his arguments are even Mentioned. Perhaps it was felt that they might disturb the happy certainties of "Rationalist" readers. "A belief in Evolution," says Sir Arthur, "is a basal doctrine in the Rationalist liturgy." This sentence supports the contention of those who say that for some biologists, Darwinism long ago ceased to be a scientific hypothesis and became a religion. I think, however, that there are not very many representatives of this school of thought among the younger biologists. The battle cries of Sir Arthur Keith sound a little theatrical to-day.
THRILLERS OUT OF THE ORDINARY
Death in the Stocks. By Georgette Meyer. (Longman& 7/6.) Crime on a Cruise. By Kathlyn Rhodes. • (Hutchinson, 7/6.) A Century of Detective Stories, with an introduction by G. K. Chesterton. (Hutchinson. 3/6.)
Reviewed by M. de la BEDOYERE
A. OST of us abandoned detectivestory lovers like our fare pure and clean. Sy. that 3Fic clo not mean that we are greatly concerned with morals (though we ought to be, and a book in which a murder is recognised to be a sin as well as a problem provides much better reading), but that we do not like irrelevant love affairs, witting characters, wisecracks for their own sake, to disturb the serious business of unravelling the detective problem. Still this very fact sets a high standard in pure detection, and I, for one, prefer some good irrelevance to incompetent pure detection.
Miss Heyer in Death in the Stocks is by no Means only concerned with pure detection—indeed she brings her murderer out of a hat in the end rather like a conjurer; but she does write an extraordinarily amusing study of a hard-headed conventional detective trying to make sense of the reactions of some very, very modern Chelsea artist B.Y.Ps. And with great brilliance, having introduced us to the oddest people, she brines in an even odder one in the middle of the book. Poor detective Hannasyde! A novel well out of the run of ordinary detective fiction, and well worth reading.
Miss Kathlyn Rhodes appears to be in the habit of writing novels that sell in their two or three hun
dred thousands. Far be it then from me to presume to judge her. She misses no opportunity of gaining the heart of the great British public in a love story of a writer and his pretty secretary who finds herself involved, entirely against her will, it need hardly be added, with a gang of murderers and dope
traffickers. It is truly remarkable how she steers through such thrills and horridnesses without striking a note that would sound false to the most sentimental reader. A genteel murder story I should call it. And, as it happened, I couldn't put it down.
Of a century of detective stories, brightly introduced by Mr Chesterton and containing the best names and stories, I can only say that at 3/6 for over a thousand pages, it is as good value as this newspaper for 2d—aad Pill SaY Lam than Ulall