Karl Alois Kneller.

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form out of another in process of time.

"It is natural that such a conception should lead us to set
up some form of the theory of transformism. If I cannot
profess any great affection for that extreme form of it which
is popularised to-day in so many books and lectures, I am
yet convinced that, within the area on which I have specia-
lized, such transmutations of species are to be met with. . . .
But whether the whole organic world forms an unbroken
chain, every link of which is connected with and dependent
on its neighbour is a question which a scientist can hardly
hope to investigate to its depths : we are practically without
data for the determination of it." *

Waagen, having, as he believes, established the fact of
evolution as far as the ammonites subradiatus is concerned,
continues :

"The ground of this remarkable phenomenon is to be
sought, not in the external surroundings of the ammonites, but
in a law of its inner being, which guides and governs its
long evolution. This is an essential point on which I am
compelled to disagree with Darwin, for he ascribed all varia-
tions to the sole influence of environment." 2

"It is", concludes Waagen 3 , "still undemonstrated whether
the leading types ot be found in the organic world are genetic-
ally connected, or, on the contrary, whether after the creation



1 W. Waagen, Die Formenreihe des Ammonites subradiatus,
Mtinchen 1869, 4 5. (E. W. Benecke, Geognostisch-palaonto-
logische Beitrage, Mtinchen 1876, Heft 2.)

2 W. Waagen ante 61. 3 Ib. 77 f.



K. A. LOSSEN. 375

of the first organism, new organisms were not called into
existence by new acts of creation. Here is a vast field for
research. When once an hypothesis has been formulated
and given a sufficiently clear expression, it is the business
of science not to spin the hypothesis out in the air, but to
endeavour to bring to light irrefutable facts which shall de-
finitely establish or overthrow it. This is the proper and sole
use of research. ..."

A not less loyal Catholic than Waagen was K. A. Los-
sen. In 1874 he expressed himself as follows on the
question of evolution:

"As for the theory of descent I distinguish sharply be-
tween its application to the lower animals and its applica-
tion to man. As far as bodily structure goes, man stands
in such intimate relations with the lower animals, especially
with the monkey (he is much more akin to the latter e. g.
than the monkey is to the whale) that the more minute
differences which Zoology is able to discover between the
human frame and that of the ape, and of which so much
used to be made, do not seem to me to count. I find . . .
the real gulf between them in their psychical qualities, which
differ, not in degree, but in kind." "Language is and re-
mains the impassable chasm between man and the lower
animals. Assertions such as 'As language grows, mind comes
into existence', or 'language creates reason' are so obviously
nonsensical that we must treat them as deductions from a
materialistic theory, not as ideas of independent origin."

As for the theory of descent in general, Lossen declines
to make any final pronouncement. "To do that one needs
long experience, rich material, and zoological genius, three
things which I have not at command, though indeed a
number of people manage without their aid to become
enthusiastic Darwinians. But whether Theology and Philo-
sophy have any real interest in setting themselves absolutely
against every form of Darwinism, even the narrowest and
most guarded, I very much doubt. It is quite easy to con-
ceive the whole non-human, organic world as originating
from a primitive germ endowed by God with the capacity



37 6 XI. THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

of development; in that case the whole rich variety of exi-
stence would have been contained potentially in the first
act of creation." He believes most firmly "that this concep-
tion is in no way hostile to the idea of a positive, revealed
religion." l

Armand David also speaks in support of a modi-
fied form of the theory of evolution 2 .

"It is a remarkable fact that certain classes of birds are
confined to certain districts; they are represented there by
numerous species, which are nearly related to one another,
which play the same part in the same place. In other re-
gions they are completely lacking, although it would be
equally possible for them to live there, and their place has not
been filled by equivalent races. Thus the remarkable and
numerous family of the phasianidae includes more than forty
species, all of which are to be found in the neighbour-
hood of the Tibet Tableland, whilst on the rest of the globe,
no similar species are found. Similarly there are from 20
to 40 species of the family of the crateropods, which live in
the East and are very rich in individual specimens there, but
have no relations in Europe. Can we believe, in the face of
these and similar facts, that such a great number of related
species have been created from the beginning exactly as they
are now, and have all been located in one single spot on
the earth? Is it not more natural to look at the matter in
this way: When the chief types of animals had made their
appearance on this earth, when and how it pleased God -
for this will always be a secret for man they underwent
transformations which separated them by degrees into dif-
ferent varieties , races and species ; they emigrated and
spread themselves about in the neighbourhood of their
place of origin ? Thus we could understand how America,
for instance, possesses more than 400 species of colibri, whilst
in the rest of the tropics where these tiny creatures would



1 Jahresbericht der Gorres-Gesellschaft fiir das Jahr 1895, Koln
1896, 16.

2 Les Missions catholiques 20, Lyon-Paris-Bruxelles 1888, 247 f.



A. DAVID. O. HEER. 377

find it just as easy to live, not a single one is in existence.

Any one who has studied Nature attentively, knows that

among all classes of animals, similar facts can be observed
and similar observations made."

Oswald Heer and Fr. A. Quenstedt in their scientific
writings give constant expression to the firmness of their
religious belief. Both were opponents of Darwinism, but
not of every form of the theory of evolution. Heer's
position may be stated in the words of a memorial
article published shortly after his death *.

"In the last chapter of his 'Primitive World' Heer pro-
pounds his ideas on the development of the organic world. . . .
They are broadly these : All the members of the organic
world are genetically connected one with another; the de-
velopment of species from one another takes place however,
not by a gradual, continuous process, but in a sporadic fashion,
the periods during which species remain fixed being much
longer than those in which new species are suddenly brought
into existence. Heer thus maintains that in the history of
the earth, relatively short 'periods of creation' alternate with
longer periods during which species remain fixed and un-
changing. Heer thus accepts in its completeness the kernel
of Darwinism, but he rejects the notion of continuous varia-
tion, and consequently that also of natural selection. In
lieu of the origin of species through evolution he posits
origin through 're-coining'. How this 're-coining' is effected
he leaves in doubt; the development of one species (from
another) remains for us a riddle." :



1 Reprinted in the Vierteljahrschrift der Naturforschenden Gesell-
schaft in Ziirich XXVIII, Zurich 1883, 313.

2 Regarding Darwinism Heer says: "Es ist die Furcht vor der
ZweckmaCigkeit in der Natur und noch mehr vor dem dadurch not-
wendig gewordenen Zwecksetzer, welche manchen Naturforscher ver-
anlaCt hat, sich an die Lehre von der natiirlichen Zuchtwahl als
rettende Planke anzuklammern. . . . Es ist dies aber ein sehr zer-
brechliches Rettungsmittel , wie K. E. v. Baer, der grofite Forscher



378 XI. THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

Quenstedt also accepts a theory of evolution, though
not the Darwinian theory. After treating of the species
of animals which succeed one another in the history
of the earth he says l :

"Were we to suppose that these countless species were
called into life by repeated acts of creation only to be in
time utterly destroyed, what explanation would be possible
of the fact that types once established continue to repeat
themselves after the same model? For example, the thin-
shelled lingula runs back in an unbroken line to the oldest
mussels: more than one hundred species of it have been
unearthed in transition rocks, and they are not confined
to these, but are to be found in every marine formation.
In our clay-coals every blow of the hammer in certain
layers brings a large number to view, and this toughest
of all organisms is to be found to-day ; alive and flourishing,
in the tropics. In spite of superficial differences they are as
like one another as eggs. Surely we are warranted in con-
cluding that the life-thread of this family was never broken,
but that all its members have sprung from the same source ..."

As a further example Quenstedt 2 instances the Nautilus
which is found in the oldest formations, and which is as
like the living Nautilus umbilicatus of the Indian Ocean "as
mother to daughter". "Since the very beginning of my
scientific career I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the
theory of evolution. As I have often said jestingly, though
the saying greatly shocked some of my older colleagues,
were I the Lord God, I should have managed things in just
the same way. To create a conscious life, and then let it
die out in its agony, were the work of a cold though per-
haps an infinite Power ; there is warmth and wisdom in the
plan of creating a primitive germ in which all creation lies



auf dem Gebiet der Entwicklungsgeschichte . . ., nachgewiesen hat"

(Die Urwelt der Schweiz, Zurich 1883, Vorwort x).

1 Die Schopfung der Erde und ihre Bewohner, Stuttgart 1882, 39 f.

2 Ib. 41.



FR. A. QUENSTEDT. A. BRAUN. 379

implicit, and in evolving from it all that is to be called into
existence by the kindlier way of generation. ..."

On the theory of a struggle for life, "which can
be accepted only in a limited number of cases", and
on that of natural selection, Quenstedt comments as
follows 1 :

"Yonder giraffe (as Darwin would say) got its long neck,
not by continual stretching, but by natural selection. Africa
was once visited by a great drought, everything on the sur-
face of the soil was withered; only those animals survived
whose long necks enabled them to feed on the leaves of
the trees, and all the short-necks perished utterly. The
long-necks transmitted their peculiarity to their descendants ;
and such famines, frequently repeated, inevitably produced
the giraffe. These are the sort of notions that delight our
present-day men of science, and in spite of that they still
have the impudence to turn up their noses at Noah's Ark."

Twenty years earlier the great geologist had written :

"It is a much more probable conjecture that at no time
did nature completely break the thread of life, but that she
developed one living species from another. . . . Over the
'How ?' of this process, nature has dropped a veil which per-
haps we shall never lift. In such questions where the mind
finds nothing to lay firm hold of, feeling comes in to supply
the lack. And for myself, a Power which destroys to-day
what to-morrow it will be compelled to rebuild, appeals
less to me than one which deposits all creation germinally
in a primitive being and unfolds it by a gradual and ordered
evolution." '

We have already quoted the criticism of the physio-
logist Volkmann on evolution.

Alexander Braun, the botanist , accepts the
theory in its essentials. But he follows Heer in positing

1 Ib. 46 f.

2 Epochen der Natur, Tubingen 1861, 60; cf. 831.



38o XI. THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

periods of fixation of species as well as periods of
transformation. "A process of evolution without such
resting points can hardly be conceived." 1

Amongst English-speaking evolutionists we may appeal
first of all to Dana. Of the evolutionary hypothesis
in general he writes:

"There is no discordance with the Biblical account of
Creation, since, in it, there is one 'fiat' for the first intro-
duction of life and only three others for that of the animal
kingdom; and moreover, the language implies growth for
the rest, through laws established by the fiats." 2

And to explain the creation of man he invokes 3 :

"the special act of a Being above Nature, whose supreme
will is not only the source of natural law, but the working
force of Nature herself".

The American botanist Asa Gray published a book
in which he set himself to prove that the theory of
natural selection is in no way at variance with theo-
logy 4 . Lord Kelvin, the first of English physicists,
has written strongly, not against evolution as such, but
against that form of it which dismisses as superfluous



1 A. B r a u n , Uber die Bedeutung der Entwicklung in der Natur-
geschichte, Berlin 1872, 25.

2 Manual of Geology 603 604. 3 Ib.

4 Natural Selection not inconsistent with Natural Theology, London
1 86 1. Asa Gray (1810 1888) enjoyed a very high reputation in
America. "Everyone wanted to see him. Strangers waited in the garden
to catch a glimpse of his venerable head at the window of his
favourite room" (Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester literary
and philosophical Society, 4. Ser., I, Manchester 1888, 95). Cf. Be-
richte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft VI, Berlin 1 888, xxxi f.
Ib. xxxvn : "Obgleich Gray ein frommes Mitglied der orthodoxen
Kirche war, konnte er doch keinen Widerspruch zwischen Darwinismus
und Religion sehen."



DANA. GRAY. KELVIN. LYELL. 381

all idea of purposiveness or finality *. An upholder of
the theory of evolution was the celebrated geologist,
Charles Lyell. Concerning its philosophico-religious
bearing he says, for example, at the end of his book on
the Age of Man 2 :

"None of the authors above cited, while they admit fully
the analogy which exists between the faculties of man and
the inferior animals, are disposed to underrate the enormous
gap, which separates man from the brutes, and if they scarce-
ly allow him to be referable to a distinct order, and much
less to be a separate sub- class, on purely physical grounds,
it does not follow, that they would object to the reasoning
of M. Quatrefages, who says, in his work on the Unity of
the Human Species, that Man must form a kingdom by him-
self, if once we permit his moral and intellectual endowments
to have their due weight in classification." Lyell then quotes
the passage in which Quatrefages sums up what he takes to
be the characteristic marks distinguishing man from the ani-
mals. These the French scientist finds, not in anatomical
differences, nor even in the functions of perception and
evolution, but in the exclusively human faculty of appre-
hending abstract ideas of good and bad, right and wrong,
virtue and vice, in the exclusively human belief in a super-
natural world and supernatural beings or a single such
Being whom man fears and reverences. Quatrefages, in
two words, finds the differentia of man in his capacity for
religion and morality 3 .

"But", adds Lyell, "he omits to notice one essential cha-
racter which Dr. Sumner, the late Archbishop of Canterbury,
brought out in strong relief fifty years ago in his 'Records
of Creation'. 'There are writers', he observes, 'who have
taken an extraordinary pleasure in levelling the broad di-



1 Ante p. 36.

2 The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man, with remarks
on theories of the origin of species by variation, London 1863, 495 f.

3 Cf. A. de Quatrefages, Hist. genrale des Races humaines,
Paris 1887, 46.



382 XI. THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

stinction which separates Man from the brute creation.
Misled to a false conclusion by the infinite variety of Na-
ture's productions they have described a chain of existence
connecting the vegetable with the animal world, and the
different orders of animals one with another so as to rise
by an almost imperceptible gradation from the tribe of
Simiae to the lowest of the human race, and from these
upwards to the most refined. But if a comparison were to
be drawn, it should be taken not from the upright form,
which is by no means confined to mankind, nor even from
the vague term reason, which cannot always be accurately
separated from instinct, but from that power of progressive
and improvable reason, which is Man's exclusive and pe-
culiar endowment.

"It has been sometimes alleged, and may be founded in
fact, that there is less difference between the highest brute
animal and the lowest savage than between the savage and
the most improved man. But in order to warrant the pre-
tended analogy, it ought to be also true that this lowest
savage is no more capable of improvement than the Chim-
panzee or Orang-Outang.

"'Animals', he adds, 'are born what they are intended
to remain. Nature has bestowed upon them a certain rank,
and limited the extent of their capacity by an impassable
decree. Man she has empowered and obliged to become
the artificer of his own rank in the scale of beings by the
peculiar gift of improvable reason.'"

Having quoted a passage from Agassiz in which the latter
writes in a somewhat exaggerated strain of the points of
resemblance between man and the animals, Lyell goes on:

"We cannot imagine this world to be a place of trial
and moral discipline for any of the inferior animals, nor
can any of them derive comfort or happiness from faith in
a hereafter. To man alone is given this belief, so consonant
to his reason, so congenial to the religious sentiments im-
planted by nature in his soul, a doctrine which tends to
raise him morally and intellectually in the scale of being,
and the fruits of which are therefore most opposite in cha-
racter to those which grow out of error and delusion."



ALBERT GAUDRY. 383

Lyell concludes by saying: "We may imagine that events
and operations in general go on in virtue simply of forces
communicated at the first and without any subsequent inter-
ference, or we may hold that now and then, and only now
and then, there is a direct interposition of the Deity, or
lastly, we may suppose that all the changes are carried on
by the immediate, orderly and constant, however infinitely
diversified action of the intelligent, efficient Cause. They
who maintain that the origin of an individual, as well as
the origin of a species or a genus, can be explained only
by the direct action of the creative Cause, may retain their
favourite theory compatibly with the doctrine of transmuta-
tion." *

Albert Gaudry, Professor of Palaeontology at
the Natural History Museum of Paris, formulates as
follows the central idea of his book "On the Inter-
relations of the Members of the Animal Kingdom during
Geological Times" : "So long as we confine our attention
to actually living animals it is impossible to establish ge-
netic relations between them. But Palaeontology comes
to our aid, and shows that, in addition to those actually
living, a multitude of others have appeared on the earth
at various times. To these earlier earth-dwellers, science
now has to put the question : 'Are you isolated existences
that have sprung up here and there in the immense tract
of time, without any clearer or more comprehensible order
than that of the flowers in our meadows? Or are you
in bonds of relationship one with another, and under
the apparent diversity of nature shall we discover in
time the plan through which the Infinite Author has
stamped on all things the stamp of His unity?' This
effort to unveil the plan of creation is the task to which
all science is to-day applying itself."

1 The Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man , London
1863, 505.



384 XI. THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

"Palaeontologists are not agreed as to the manner
in which the plan has been realised. One school, im-
pressed by the many lacunae in the history of the earth
as known to us, believes in the independence of species,
and maintains that the Creator brought the plants and
animals of geological times into existence one by one,
but in such a way, as to suggest in their structure that
filiation which really exists only in thought. Others,
impressed on the contrary by the rapidity with which
these lacunae are filled up, maintain that this filiation
is material and genetic, and that the divine method was
to evolve each successive species from a living prede-
cessor. Personally I prefer this latter hypothesis, but
whether it be adopted or not, it would be impossible
to doubt the actual presence of a plan. The day will
come, I doubt not, when Palaeontology will unveil this
plan, and that day will be a glorious one, for if the
details of nature are so magnificent, how sublime must
its inspiring idea be!" 1

"If I have attempted", concludes Gaudry, "in this book
to bring forward certain arguments in favour of evolution,
I have deliberately avoided discussion of the methods
by which the Creator has produced those changes of
which Palaeontology shows us the picture. One theory
of the means adopted is what is called Darwinism.

. . . Assuredly the subject is one which demands the
attentive study of scientists. But I have to confess my
incompetence to deal with it. My task has been simply
to draw attention to those tokens of interrelation which
I think I perceive between the earth-dwellers of geo-



1 Les enchainements du monde animal dans les temps geologiques.
Fossiles primaires, Paris 1883, 3-



G. J. ROMANES. 385

logical times. It is for the physiologists ... to tell how
the variations are produced to-day, and consequently
how they were probably produced in remote ages." 1

We find nothing here of the "atheistical implications"
of evolution. Gaudry himself says, with regard to the
remarkable discoveries made by him at Pikermi in Greece,
that they filled him with reverence and gratitude to
God 2 .

G. J. Romanes (f 1894), a friend of Darwin, began
his career as a resolute opponent of the teleological
interpretation of nature, but the course of time and of
reflection led him back to a conviction of the existence
of God and to Christian faith and practice 3 . The circum-
stances of his life are still fresh in the general memory
and it is unnecessary to detail them.
/ "Through the misuse", writes E. Wasmann 4 , "which
Monism, especially the Monism of Haeckel, has made
of evolution, through the employment of it as a weapon
against theism, many conservative theologians have been
persuaded that the idea of evolution is intrinsically and
irreconcilably at variance with Christian belief." We



1 Les enchamements. Mammiferes tertiaires. (Nouveau tirage
conforme a 1'edition de 1873.) Paris s. a. (1895), 2 57-

2 Quelle ampleur de formes et quelle variete sur le theatre de
la vie ! Betes geantes et innombrables de Pikermi , la pensee de
vos imposantes cohortes a souvent transporte mon esprit; je ne peux
songer a vous sans m'elever jusqu'a 1'Artiste infini dont vous etes
1'ouvrage, et sans lui dire merci de nous faire assister aux grandes
scenes qui semblaient reservees pour lui seul, jusqu'au jour ou a te
souleve le voile sous lequel la paleontologie etait cachee. L. c. 259.

3 G. J. Romanes, Gedanken iiber Religion. Die religiose Ent-
wicklung eines Naturforschers vom Atheismus zum Christentum. Heraus-
gegeben von C h. Gore. Ubersetzt von E. Dennert, Gottingen 1899.

4 Stimmen aus Maria-Laach LXIII, Freiburg 1902, 296.
Kneller, Christianity. 25



386 XI. THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION.

have shown by our appeal to men of science how
groundless is this view. We have quoted the words
of scientists of the first rank who were evolutionists
without ceasing to be Christians, and who vehemently
denied that the two were opposed to each other.
The theory of evolution is not, therefore, atheistical.
Whether it is in accord with the actual facts of nature,
as observed and analysed by science, it is not the pur-
pose of this book to enquire.



RETROSPECT.

We have now completed our survey of the various
departments of science. The question which we set before
ourselves was this: Must the science of the nineteenth
century as a whole be regarded as hostile to religion?
Or in other words: Do the leaders of science in that
century exhibit such unanimity on ultimate problems,
and such vehemence of unbelief as justifies popularizers
of anti-Christian thought in resting their case on the
authority of "Science" and "the scientist"?



Online LibraryKarl Alois KnellerChristianity and the leaders of modern science; a contribution to the history of culture in the nineteenth century → online text (page 30 of 32)