Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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theological writers and the Fathers of the Church are never
tired of insisting on law and regularity and of warning us
against the idea of arbitrary interventions.

We cannot understand what is meant by Eternity : that
is obvious. But we can at least understand that it is some-
thing wholly different from Time. Further, we can under-
stand that if we try to think about Creation in terms of
Time when it is only comprehensible in terms of Eternity,
we shall find ourselves in impenetrable thickets of difficulty
and confusion.

So much has been said because the present writer has
often noticed that unnecessary difficulties arise in the mind,
as a result of the consideration of matters to be dealt with
in the next few chapters, for want of a due appreciation of
the points to which reference has been made above. So far

others as it has been to me, both in connection with the point under con-
sideration as well as that of Miracles themselves, considered in Chapter
XIV. He says: "So one might speak of Divine 'interferences' in
relation to miracles ; but the term always requires some explanation.
In relation to God we speak of the natural power and the obediential
power of things. They are convenient terms. If we take a field with its
natural elements and seed and moisture and the light and heat of the
sun, it has the natural power of bearing grass or some other crop. If we
suppose a field with its mineral and chemical elements, with moisture and
with the light and heat of the sun, but without any seed or germ of life,
leaving out spontaneous generation, it cannot vegetate ; it has not the
power of vegetation. But God could make it vegetate without putting
what we call ' seed ' into it, simply by His word. We say the field has
the capacity of ' obeying ' the word of God, and we call this power the
potentia obedientialis of nature. But God would have foreseen all from
eternity, and would have decreed one series of events as well as the other,
by the same Divine Act. Both series might thus be said to obey law, but
one series comes from the permanent powers of nature : the other series
does not ; and consequently when we see a miracle it brings vividly before
us the fact that there must be some Power other than created nature."


as we are concerned for the moment, the great fundamental
facts are that there is a Creator and a creation.

But it remains to be said that there are at least two con-
ceptions of that Creator, a Catholic conception and another.
This not being a treatise of Theology, it may be sufficient
to warn readers, if indeed such warning be necessary, that
the God of Catholic Theology transcends His creation which
indeed is only the representation of the Divine Idea.

The God of such writers as Bergson in his " Creative
Evolution," a being immanent in the universe and ignorant
of the direction in which evolution is making its progress,
is not the God of Catholic Theology. Nor, we may perhaps
add, is this an idea of God which in any way satisfies the
limited conception which our imagination is alone capable
of forming. To the plain man it seems clear that God must
be greater than His work, and that He must know what He
is doing. A force — one cannot call it a Deity — which urges
matter on without knowing in what direction or to what
ends it is being urged may be called a God by those who
believe in it, but it is nothing else than our old friend Blind
Chance, posing under a new name.


THERE are still quite a number of persons who suppose
that Darwinism and Transformism are exactly the
same thing, and that no one had ever thought of such a
thing as derivative creation, or of what is often called
evolution, until Darwin brought it before the world in his
famous book. Of course no educated person entertains this
idea, which has been exploded in numerous books for and
against the distinctive Darwinian views. From our point
of view, it is interesting to note that the question has been
one of debate amongst the Fathers of the Church from the
earliest times.

Reduced to its simplest form, transformism means that,
instead of making a sudden appearance from nothing, all
forms of life may have developed from other forms of life,
commencing with one simple undifferentiated form or per-
haps with a few such forms. From such lowly unicellular
form or forms there would branch off on the one hand animals
and on the other plants : each of these would afford other
divergencies until the present state of affairs was reached.
The lines of developments, the branchings and dichotomies,
form the subject of the study known as Phylogeny. Such,
in brief, is what is meant by transformism.

Now, no believer in an Omnipotent Creator will doubt that
it was possible for Him in an instant of time to create the
world, animals, plants and all — nay, even the fossil remains
in the world — if He chose to do so. All this is involved in
the theory of an Omnipotent Creator. He could do this if
He chose ; but obviously He could also by His fiat direct
that things should develop gradually and from one another
by a process of mediate creation. From Genesis we know



that the Creator did not create the world with its plants
and animals simultaneously — simultaneously, that is, from
our point of view, not from the standpoint of God, in whom,
as we have seen, there is no succession. What we do know
is that He created things or allowed things to come into
existence by stages. This matter has been already dealt
with in connection with the question of the Creation. 1 The
question as to whether things living appeared suddenly
out of nothing, or whether, once life was created, they
developed from earlier forms is the question of immediate
or mediate creation ; and both of these, as we have seen,
are equally possible to an Omnipotent Creator. This topic
has been freely debated by the Fathers of the Church ever
since the time of St. Augustine. Though Darwin did not
originate the theory of transformism it was the influence
of his book that made it a really live question in modern
times. Prior to this, this matter had been one of little more
than academic interest, and quite undebated by the man in
the street. Even the publication of Chambers's " Vestiges
of the Natural History of Creation," which appeared some
time before Darwin burst upon the world, had but little
real influence, and awakened comparatively little interest
even in the minds of the reading public. 2 After the issue
of Darwin's book a storm of controversy arose, and one of
its most effective critics was the late Professor Mivart. 3
With the special criticism of Natural Selection with which
the book was concerned we need not deal. The point of
interest at present is the chapter entitled " Theology and
Evolution," of which some account may be given, as the
book is out of print and hardly likely to come into the
hands of most readers.

The writer first discusses what is meant by creation,
distinguishing between immediate and mediate or deriva-
tive creation ; he then proceeds to show — what, at that
time at least, most persons certainly would hardly have

1 See Chapters XVI and XVII.

* This book was published anonymously in 1844 ; the " Origin of
Species " did not appear until fifteen years later.

3 " On the Genesis of Species." The author was then and for many
years later a devout Catholic. It is understood that he never deviated
from the views and criticisms expressed in the above-named work.


expected— that doctrines indistinguishable from that formu-
lated by Darwin as to descent — apart of course from his
subsidiary theories such as Natural Selection — were put
forward by some of the greatest ecclesiastical authorities.
St. Augustine, for example, speaks of a " potential '
creation of animals, the actual examples themselves only
to appear in later times. 1 This " potential " creation,
which is the same thing as mediate or derivative creation
as spoken of above, is approved of by St. Thomas Aquinas,
by Cornelius a Lapide and by Suarez. I am well aware
that St. Augustine's assent to the theory of mediate creation
has been disputed ; as this is a question for theologians and
critics, I shall not venture to intervene in it beyond saying
that Mivart, with the authorities cited by him, certainly
read St. Augustine in this way. So did Peter Lombard, and
so, I understand, does the Augustinian School of Theology.
Further, to the plain man, any other explanation of St.
Augustine's writings seems forced if not impossible. 2

But what is of real importance and what cannot be gain-
said, is the fact that mediate creation has been a subject
of discussion amongst theologians since the time of St.
Augustine, if no earlier, and that it has been received with
approval by some at least of them. Again, it may be well
to call attention to the fact that the essential thing is the
word Creation — the method thereof, though vastly important,
being much less so than the central truth insisted on in the

1 " Terrestria animalia, tanquam ex ultimo elemento mundi ultima ;
nihilominus potentialiter, quorum numeros tempus postea visibiliter
explicaret," De Genesi ad Litt., lib. v., cap. 5 n. 14 in Ben. Edit., Vol. Ill,
p. 186. I give the quotation and reference on the authority of the book
from which I am quoting.

- Those who desire to follow this controversy further will find it very
fully dealt with in " The Irish Ecclesiastical Record," Vol. V, Jauuary to
June, 1S99. Fr. Burton, cm., denies that St. Augustine was an evolutionist.
Fr. P. F. Coakley, o.s.a., takes up and defends the traditional view as to
the Saint. Fr. Coakley, p. 353, submits that with regard to the passages
in question from the works of the Saint, " their natural interpretation, and,
consequently, St. Augustine's meaning, is that ' God, simultaneously with
the creation of the world, created all living things, not in the perfect
species now known to us, but in certain primordial forms, from which, in
the course of ages, under the administration of Providence operating
through secondary causes, all existing organisms are evolved.' That this
proposition faithfully represents the mind of Augustine will be evident
by comparing its various clauses with the passages quoted ; and by
comparing it with, say, Darwin's definitions, it will likewise be seen to
embody the essential elements of the evolutionary hypothesis."


function and work of a Creator. Perhaps here it may be
well to clear away another misconception. There were a
certain number of people who rejoiced in Darwin's theory
because they thought that it did away with the necessity
for a Creator. There are even to-day, incredible as it may
seem, ignorant people who suppose that Darwin " knocked
the bottom," as they would put it, out of revelation and the
belief in a Creator. Such persons can never have read
Darwin's best-known book — indeed it may be suspected
that many of those who talk most loudly (and often, it may
be added most ignorantly) about these topics, owe their
acquaintance, such as it is, with Darwin and his ideas to
some one or more of the many misleading little manuals
which issue from the Press on the subject of evolution. At
any rate Darwin, himself 1 concluded his work with the
following words, often quoted and now to be quoted once
more : " There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several
powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator
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." It is of further
interest to know, as we do, that the words, " perhaps into
only one," were written into the original draft of the pas-
sage in pencil — the rest being in ink — and were, therefore, in
the nature of an afterthought. Though his religious views
became more and more nebulous, as he himself admits,
until the end of his life Darwin allowed the quoted passage
to stand in his greatest work. He thus admits that the
possibility of a Creator and a Creation is in nowise lessened
by his theory. That Creation is quite compatible with trans-
formism has been admitted by Huxley and indeed, it may
be said, by almost every scientific man who has written on
the subject.

We must be clear what this means : many of them do
not accept Creation as Catholics understand the word.
Such men would say that they do not know how things
began and care only to study them as they find them

1 In the " Origin of Species," etc., 6th ed., Vol. II, p. 305. See also the
" Foundations of the Origin of Species," 1909, pp. 52, n. 2, and 254, n. 4.


existing. But there is not one man who can maintain, if
challenged, that the idea of Creation and a Creator is in-
compatible with a belief in some theory of transformism.
Nay more, as we have already seen, it is claimed by some
of them at least (apart from believers in a revelation) that
creation must be assumed, if we are to form any theory as
to how things began. Once for all, then, it may be laid
down that the doctrine of transformism does not and cannot
dispense with the need for or belief in a Creator : nor, it
may be added, do any or all of the doctrines, whether true
or not, included under the general term of Darwinism.

Further, it has been claimed by some of the most active
supporters of Darwin's views that mediate creation gives
a more elevated idea of the Creator than the other theory.
The late A. R. Wallace 1 said : " Why should we suppose
the machine too complicated to have been designed by the
Creator so complete that it would necessarily work out
harmonious results ? The theory of ' continual interfer-
ence ' is a limitation of the Creator's power. It assumes
that He could not work by pure law in the organic, as He
has done in the inorganic world." 2 Charles Kingsley, who
was a firm believer in Revelation as well as an acceptor of
the theory of transformism, puts the point in question into
the form of an allegory in his delightful book " The Water-
Babies " — a work which, though marred by some of the
characteristic gibes at Catholicity from which its writer
could never abstain, contains much wisdom and, for those
who can understand it, a very complete exposition of the
philosophy of a Christian man of science. When Tom, the
Water-Baby, reached the Peace Pool in the course of his
wanderings he found Mother Carey sitting in the centre
" making old beasts into new all the year round." She took
the form of " the grandest old lady he had ever seen — a white
marble lady, sitting on a white marble throne. And from
the foot of the throne there swum away, out and out into
the sea, millions of new-born creatures of more shapes and
colours than man ever dreamed. And they were Mother

1 " Natural Selection," p. 280.

a The reader will note the confusion as to the word " interference,"
which has been dealt with in the preceding chapter.


Carey's children, whom she makes out of the sea-water all
day long. He expected, of course — like some grown people
who ought to know better — to find her snipping, piecing,
fitting, stitching, cobbling, basting, filing, planing, hammer-
ing, turning, polishing, moulding, measuring, chiselling,
clipping, and so forth, as men do when they go to work to
make anything. But, instead of that, she sat quite still
with her chin upon her hand, looking down into the sea
with two great grand eyes, as blue as the sea itself."

Tom told her that he had heard that she was " always
making new beasts out of old." To which she replied, " So
people fancy. But I am not going to trouble myself to make
things, my little dear. I sit here and make them make
themselves." 1

We may conclude, then, that a belief in transformism
does not in any kind of way exclude a belief in Creation
and a Creator, but that in the opinion of a number of
authorities it gives one, if possible, an even greater and
wider idea of the greatness and wisdom of the Maker of all

The erudite Jesuit Father Wasmann 2 maintains, with
not a few other men of science, that " a reasonable theory
of evolution necessitates our assuming the existence of a
personal Creator " ; he sketches the outlines of the problem
which we have been discussing, introducing a further element
which must not be passed over in silence. He says : 3 "In
order to explain the origin of the existing species of plants
and animals, we have to assume one of two things. We
may assume that the systematic species (e.g. lion, tiger,
polar bear) are invariable — apart from the formation of

1 The following parable addressed to those who hope to make a
" homunculus in a retort " may be quoted for the sake of any unfamiliar
with Kingsley's book. ' There was once a fairy who was so clever that
she found out how to make butterflies. I don't mean sham ones ; no :
but real live ones, which would fly, and eat, and lay eggs, and do every-
thing that they ought ; and she was so proud of her skill that she went
flying straight off to the North Pole, to boast to Mother Carey how she
could make butterflies. But Mother Carey laughed : ' Know, silly child,'
she said, ' that anyone can make things, if they will take time and trouble
enough : but it is not every one who, like me, can make things make
themselves.' "

2 In " Modern Biology and the Theory of Evolution," p. xxii (first
appeared in German in 1906), London, Kegan Paul, 1910.

* P. 255 seq.


varieties and breeds within the species — and that they
were created originally in their present form. Or we may
assume that the systematic species are variable, and
constitute definite lines of descent, within which an
evolution of species has taken place during the geological
periods. The first of these assumptions belongs to the
theory of permanence, the second to the theory of evolution
or descent. In the latter we must make a further distinc-
tion between monophyletic and polyphyletic evolution.
According to the monophyletic theory, all organisms have
originated in one single primitive cell, or perhaps there is
one pedigree for all animals and one for all plants, each
having one primitive ancestor. According to the poly-
phyletic theory there are several pedigrees for both plants
and animals, independent of one another, but each one going
back to one special primitive form as its starting-point.
In the following pages," he continues, " we shall see that
the latter assumption alone can claim to have any positive
scientific probability — and we shall see, moreover, that this
assumption is perfectly reconcilable with the Christian
doctrine of the Creation."

Into the discussion as to the two theories of evolution
just propounded it will not be possible to enter here, nor
would it be in place in what is avowedly only an outline of
the controversy as it affects religious ideas. From the
point of view urged in the previous chapter as to the absence
of succession in Eternity and the Creator, it makes little if
any matter whether scientific men eventually accept mono-
or polyphyletic evolution as the better explanation. The
act of Creation was single in either case — indeed, in any
case — and may be thought of in that way, however the
consequences of that act may have extended over untold

We may now pass from this comparatively simple matter
to consider some of the numerous theories and problems
included under the head of Darwinism — though some of
them were unknown to Darwin and others nave been
modified so that he would hardly recognise them and would
possibly even have found it necessary to oppose them.


EVERY theory of transformism is based upon and
must take into account two prime factors : Heredity
and Variation.

To put the thing into simple language, it must be obvious,
even to the most unobservant, that the offspring of any
couple, whilst more or less resembling that couple, also
more or less depart from their standard. In other words,
they inherit a general resemblance but they have varied
slightly, so that they do not present absolute facsimiles of
their parents. Those who have not thought about the
matter may say that there are numerous cases in which
the offspring do not resemble their parents ; but that is
taking a narrow view of the matter. No one has ever heard
of a cat giving birth to a dog, nor would a coloured child
be expected to proceed from parents of unmixed European
blood. The real wonder of heredity, which has ceased to
be a wonder because it is so universal, is the fact that
species breed true.

That there are small differences, which may be either
absolutely or relatively small, is the result of the second
factor, that of variation.

There are only two ways in which the biologist can deal
with these problems : he can try to explain them, or he
can assume them and pass to the consideration of the laws
of both or of either of them so far as such can be observed.
Darwin — without better success than others, as we shall
see — tried to explain heredity whilst he assumed variation.
Lamarck, with whose theories we shall shortly be concerned,
tried to explain — some think did explain — variation, but
assumed heredity. It will be convenient to devote a short



time to these two factors before proceeding to discuss the
more important theories associated with the name of Darwin.

Let us commence with heredity, as to which it may at
once be said that whilst we know a good deal about its
operations, we know little or nothing about its mechanism.
If heredity acts through material mechanism, it seems prob-
able that it may be the chromosomes (see Chapter XXV
and Note to Chapter) which are its vehicle. In the union
of a male cell with a female to form the fertilised ovum,
an equal number of chromosomes from the one unite with
the same number from the other. Thus the normal number
of chromosomes in a cell being — let us say — sixteen, the
fertilised ovum will contain the same number, of which
eight will have come from the male and eight from the female
cell. Moreover, in each of these cells there will have pre-
viously taken place a reduction whereby the normal chro-
mosomes of the cell have been reduced to half their number.
The union then of what we may look upon as two half -cells
constitutes once more a complete cell, with the full number
of chromosomes normal to the species ; and the cell thus
completed is the embryo from which the future individual
is developed. Evidently there is a profound significance
about the chromosomes, though at present we cannot prove
exactly what it is. It may be that its true meaning is im-
penetrable by our methods or instruments.

Darwin was not aware of the facts concerning the chromo-
somes which have been discovered since his time by the
use of more powerful microscopes and improved processes
of staining 1 the objects which are to be examined. But he
assumed a mechanical vehicle for the transmission of
hereditary characters and gave his theory the name of Pan-
genesis. In considering it or any other theory of heredity,
we must bear in mind the fact that extraordinarily trivial
defects or peculiarities of structure may be as faithfully
handed down as the grosser features, such as colour and the
like. Everybody has heard of the Hapsburg lip, and every-

1 The exceedingly thin slices or "sections" of animal tissues are
coloured or " stained " by various pigments such as logwood or aniline
dyes to render their various characteristic features more readily recogniz-
able. The technique of staining has been brought to great perfection,
since the days of Paxwin,


body must be aware of other small characters — such as the
peculiar set of the hair, the eyebrow and the like — which
have been handed down for generations in the same family.
Darwin's theory assumed that extraordinarily small germs
or fragments from all parts of the body were collected into
the male and female reproductive cells, and that when these
cells had united, the infinitesimally tiny fragments started
to grow, and thus reproduced an individual similar to those
from which they had sprung. Others than Darwin have
looked favourably on the same theory, and it is certain that

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 31 of 38)