Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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marked varieties. Truly it is not wonderful if the searcher

1 See p. 339.


of biological literature of to-day, in unison, so one gathers,
with the physicists, should exclaim in his despair, " All that
I know is that nothing can be known." 1

It is now time to turn to the consideration of the real
disturbing element in all this volte-face as to Darwinism.
That it is not a universal volte-face has already been admitted
and emphasised. What has caused the partial alteration of
opinion to which we have been calling attention ? We have
already seen that the discovery of radium at once produced
an extraordinary bouleversement of views in the physical
wing of science. The discoveries of Abbot Mendel have not
been as all-powerful as yet, since their significance is still
disputed by very competent critics ; but they have assuredly
worked a very remarkable change in scientific opinion during
the short time that they have really been before the world.
Mendel was an Augustinian monk and ended his days as
Abbot of Briinn. Prior to his election to that position, the
occupations of which most unfortunately put an end to his
scientific discoveries, he devoted a great deal of attention
to experiments in connection with inheritance. Unfortu-
nately he buried these researches in the archives of a local
natural history society and they attracted little if any
attention, greatly to their author's chagrin, but with no
reduction in his confidence as to their ultimate success.
Mendel's papers were read to the society in Briinn in the
years 1865 and 1869. It will be remembered that the
" Origin of Species " appeared in 1859, some years before
the publication of Mendel's papers. It is curious but seems
nevertheless to be a fact that Darwin never heard of Mendel's

It has often been speculated as to the effect that Mendelian
discoveries might have had upon Darwin's views. Mendel
died in 1884, and his discoveries seemed to be buried, with
many a score of others, under the ever-accumulating cairn
of scientific papers. It was not until 1900 that three

1 After proclaiming his doubts as to biology, the writer of the address
in question does not hesitate to build on our foundation of ignorance some
of those political theories which were alluded to in chapter xxxiv, and to
deal in those onslaughts on " superstition" and " mysticism" which we
have been accustomed to hear for these fifty years past from the upholders
of totally different theories.


scientific workers, de Vries being one of them, called the
attention of biologists to his long-forgotten works. Since
that date the number of papers which have appeared on
the Mendelian theory and the experiments which have been
made in connection therewith have been alike almost count-
less ; and it may safely be said that the discoveries of the
Augustinian Abbot have caused as much ferment in the
scientific world as those of Darwin did at the time of their
appearance. Like Darwin's theories, those of Mendel have
been acclaimed by their supporters as being the last pos-
sible word of science on the subject and as a solid founda-
tion of ideas not merely biological but political. It will,
therefore, be well to give some brief account of the theories
themselves and of certain important deductions in connec-
tion with them. 1

Mendel's experiments were made largely but by no means
exclusively on peas, but since his death they have been
applied to all sorts of forms, vegetable and animal. In the
last analysis his method depends upon the segregation of
characters, not individuals. For example, peas may be
tall or dwarfish, their seeds may be smooth or wrinkled,
green or yellowish, and so on. Mendel, by careful study,
directed to single characters, such as the above, arrived at
certain conclusions which form the so-called Mendelian
laws. 2 Let us take the best-known example perhaps of his
theory, that of the tall and short peas. Mendel took two
varieties of peas, which he had already found to breed true,
as regards height. The normal height of one was six feet
(tall), and of the other, one and a half (dwarf). These two
strains were crossed with one another, sometimes the pollen
of the tall being used, sometimes that of the dwarf. The

1 The subject of Mendelism has developed an enormous literature and
a most complicated technical terminology. The classical work on the
subject is that by Bateson, " Mendel's Principles of Heredity," Camb.
Univ. Press, 1909, which contains a translation of the two original papers.
A good account of a less technical character will be found in Lock's inter-
esting book " Recent Progress in the Study of Variation, Heredity and
Evolution," London, John Murray, 1906. A short sketch of Mendel's life
and work will be found in " Twelve Catholic Men of Science," published
by the Catholic Truth Society, 1912.

2 I give these as I gave them in my " Facts and Theories," p. 153, as
that explanation was made as simple and as complete as possible.


results were the same in both cases. In all cases the result
was that the offspring were all " tails," some of them even
taller than the parent " tall." Mendel, therefore, called
" tallness," in this instance, the dominant, and " dwarfish-
ness " the recessive character. It might have been thought
by the hasty observer that dwarfishness had been wiped out,
but what was the result of the sowing of the seeds of the self-
fertilised hybrids ? A mixed generation consisting of " tails "
and " dwarfs," but — most significant fact — of no inter-
mediate forms. Further, it was found that the " tails "
were to the " dwarfs " as three is to one. The seeds from
this second hybrid generation were also saved, those from
each individual plant being carefully harvested and separ-
ately sown. What was the result ? The seeds of the
: ' dwarf " recessives bred perfectly true, none but " dwarfs "

But not so the " tails." Some of these bred true, pro-
ducing only " tails," but some of them acted like the first
hybrid generation of " tails," and produced a generation
of " tails " and " dwarfs " in the proportion of three of the
former to one of the latter. Further experiments with
other pairs of characteristics such as yellow and green
colour, led Mendel to lay down the law that " in every case
where the inheritance of an alternative pair of characters
was concerned, the effect of the cross in successive genera-
tions was to produce three, and only three, different sorts of
individuals, viz. dominants which bred true, dominants
which gave both dominant and recessive offspring in the
ratio of three to one, and recessives which always bred true."
What happens in the case of the true-breeding forms appears
to be that the opposite factor, of whatever kind that may
be, has become eliminated.

The supporters of the Mendelian law make great claims
for it, urging that it is on a level with the discoveries of
Newton and that it has been found applicable to all kinds
of characters, mental as well as physical. In considering
these claims and assertions the wise will remember the
chorus of approval from scientific men which welcomed the
" Law '" of Natural Selection and the gradual waning of
that theory, and will " wait and see " before they come to


look upon Mendel as the discoverer of the key to all biological
riddles. This, however, can and should be said ; that, as
to the truth of the Mendelian law in certain cases at least it
seems as if there can be no doubt. Its opponents, I think,
admit this, but they claim that its applicability is not
universal, wherein they may or may not be right. Time
alone can show the result of long-continued experi-

Meantime this at least may be said that in common with
other Laws of Nature it compels us to recognise a Law-
giver. This is even admitted by so firm a monist as Plate. 1
Plate says we can know nothing of this Law-giver — his own
independent opinion — but the main point is that he admits
that if there is a Law there must be a source for that Law
in the shape of a Law-giver. One would have thought that
this was a self-evident proposition, but it is not so to some
minds. There is a curious passage in the writings of one of
the greatest Mendelians of the day — indeed the leader of
that body — to which I have elsewhere called attention.
He says that " with the experimental proof that variation
consists largely in the unpacking and repacking of an
original complexity, it is not so certain as we might like to
think that the order of these events is not predetermined." 2
It is a little difficult to understand why " we " should not
like to think that things were predetermined. Science is
supposed to direct its attention to the elucidation of facts,
and above all things to be entirely unbiassed by any parti
pris in her judgments.

Father Wasmann says in one of his books 3 that " in
many scientific circles there is an absolute theophobia, a
dread of the Creator," which he regrets because he believes
" that it is due chiefly to a defective knowledge of Christian
philosophy and theology." Therein most people with any
knowledge of these subjects will agree with the learned
Jesuit. If there be a Predeterminer and a Law-giver, and

1 See his admissions in the discussion between himself and others on
the materialistic side and Wasmann for the opposite in Wasmann 's
" Problem of Evolution," London, Kegan Paul, 1909. The passage in
question will be found on p. 10S.

* Bateson in " Darwin and Modern Science," p. 101.

s " Problem of Evolution," p. 47.


if, as Christians believe, He is the God in whom we place
our trust, it is not easy to understand why " we "
should not like to think of Him, and why it should be
regarded as rather in the nature of an insult to suggest
that Science points Him out to us in the most unmistakable

2 B


IN this chapter we shall attempt to sum up the conclu-
sions which we are entitled to come to respecting the
evolutionary theories of to-day and their relation — so dire-
fully misunderstood in the past— to religious dogma.

i. We must keep before our minds the fact that trans-
formism, however probable it may seem, is not by any means
a proved fact. Perhaps it never will be proved : perhaps
it is insusceptible of proof : at any rate, it remains unproved
to-day, and this in spite of the absurdly confident state-
ments of primers and small manuals never tired of pro-
claiming that transformism is as much a certitude of science
as gravitation. It is quite certain that the overwhelming
majority of biologists accept transformism as the solution
of the question of species and their origin. Here and there
a voice, like that of Fleischmann, cries out against it, but
it cannot be said that such utterances have any effect upon
scientific opinion, though they lead men careful of science
to admit the unproved character of the evolutionary hypo-
thesis. Thus Professor T. H. Morgan, whilst differing from
Fleischmann and admitting that his views have had little
if any effect in weakening the belief of the biological world
in the truth of evolution, adds : " He has done, neverthe-
less, good service in recalling the fact that, however prob-
able the theory [of evolution] may appear, the evidence is
indirect and exact proof is still wanting." 1

In connection with the point now under consideration and
the probable impossibility of arriving at any time at what
could with any accuracy be described as a proof of evolu-

1 In his most interesting and suggestive book, *' Evolution and Adapta-
tion," Macmillan Co., New York, 1903, p. 57.



tion, the following passage from one of Wasmann's works
is much to the point. The doctrine of evolution, he points
out, is " not an experimental science and can never be one.
It is essentially a theory based upon a group of hypotheses
which are in harmony with one another, and afford the most
probable explanation of the origin of organic species. We
cannot demand to see the evolution of species taking place
before our eyes, in such a way as to give us a direct con-
firmation of the theory of evolution. Man was born far too
late, and lives far too short a time, to be able to make such
a demand. Imagine a fly, destined to live but one day,
which comes to life one beautiful morning in spring, and sees
all around it the trees in full blossom. That the blossoms
came forth from buds which gradually unfolded, and that
the blossoms in their turn will lose their petals and develop
into fruit, all this must remain hidden from the fly during its
few hours of life. It might therefore be tempted to believe
that the blossoms all around were created by the good
God exactly as it sees them, and will remain unchanged for
ever. The fly would be greatly mistaken, and even as an
ephemeral fly, if it had intelligence, it might perceive some
slight signs that the splendour of the blossoms was not
unchanging. It might see that, in the course of a few hours,
some buds had already opened more fully, some blossoms
had lost their petals either partially or wholly. The opening
buds are those rare traces of modification of species which
we can still prove to have taken place, although within
comparatively narrow limits. If we continue the simile,
the falling petals are the species in process of extinction,
and the fallen leaves are the extinct species known to us
only as fossils, which reveal to us the fate of all organic
species on earth : they come and go and give place to their
successors, and though the duration of their existence may
be reckoned in thousands or even millions of years — as is
that of many kinds of the brachiopod genus Lingula — yet
for them, as for each of us, there is a beginning and an end." 1
Fr. Wasmann from his long and fruitful study of ants
and their inquilines, 2 comes to the conclusion that "the

1 " Problem of Evolution," p. 6. * A term used for insects having

a common habitation and associated with the ants.


principle of the theory of evolution is the only one which
supplies us with a natural explanation " of the phenomena
in question, for which reason he accepts it "as far as its
application is supported by actual proofs." 1 To this con-
clusion the present writer has no hesitation in subscribing
and believes that it would meet with acceptance from most
scientific biologists.

ii. We must further remember that some of the arguments
which at first seemed most potently to support the theory
of transformism have now broken down, either completely
or in part. For example, the phylogenetic argument which
arranges plants and animals in beautiful series on the assump-
tion that a genealogical tree can be constructed for them,
as it can for some royal or noble family whose ancestry and
connections are set down in the Almanach de Gotha, seems
to have completely broken down in face of the facts brought
to light by Mendel and his followers, and briefly recapitu-
lated in the preceding chapter. Driesch does not hesitate
to speak of the " phantasy christened Phylogeny." After
having pointed that " the gallery of ancestors " which Lieb-
mann said was all that phylogeny provides us with, was not
even reliable, he proceeds : " Far more eloquent than any
amount of polemics is the fact that vertebrates, for instance,
have already been ' proved ' to be descended from, firstly,
the amphioxus ; secondly, the annelids ; thirdly, the
Sagitta type of worms ; fourthly, from spiders ; fifthly,
from Limulus, a group of crayfishes ; and sixthly, from
echinoderm larvae. That is the extent of my acquaintance
with the literature, with which I do not pretend to be
specially familiar. Emil du Bois-Reymond said once that
phylogeny of this sort is of about as much scientific value
as are the pedigrees of the heroes of Homer, and I think we
may fully endorse his opinion on this point." 2

Then again there is the recapitulation argument, which
taught that the history of the individual represented or
reproduced that of the race. It too is badly damaged by
Mendelian principles and, apart from that, is abandoned by

1 Op. cit., p. 14.

8 The first quotation is from " History and Science of Vitalism,"
p. 140, the second from " The Science and Philosophy of the Organism,"
Vol. I, p. 256.


others such as Kellogg, who says it " is chiefly conspicuous
now as a skeleton on which to hang innumerable excep-
tions," and that " the recapitulation theory is mostly wrong ;
and what is right in it is mostly so covered up by the wrong
part, that few biologists longer have any confidence in
discovering the right." 1 No doubt other biologists take up
a diametrically opposite position, but there is no denying
that the theory in question does not occupy the strong
position which it seemed to do during the years imme-
diately succeeding its first promulgation by Haeckel and
Fritz Miiller.

iii. It is now perfectly clear that, whatever may or may
not be its value, Natural Selection is in no sense the full
explanation of and justification for a transformist theory
that it was at first claimed to be. On this head sufficient
has already been said.

iv. Mendelism does not offer any very special support
to the transformist theory as commonly understood — indeed
it suggests this difficulty, that whilst evolution would seem
to assume an ascent from simplicity to complexity, Men-
delism exhibits nature in the constant process of shedding
characters and thus proceeding from a greater to a less

Such at least would seem to be the teaching given us by
those who insist that even those characters which appear
to be new in a variety or in an individual are not really
so, were there all the time in petto — " stopped down," so to
speak, by other and stronger characteristics, the removal of
which has permitted the appearance of those which up to
that time had been hidden. Professor Bateson discusses
this point in the address from which quotation was made
in the last chapter, and admits that it " involves a certain
effort " to " reverse our habitual modes of thought " and
ask ourselves whether " we are limited to the old view that
evolutionary progress is from the simple to the complex,
and whether after all it is conceivable that the process was
the other way about." 2 And all this because, for other

1 " Darwinism To-Day," London, George Bell & Sons, 1907, pp, j§
and 2i.

* British Association Address, 1914, 1, pp. j«f, |&


reasons of course, " we have got to recognise that there
has been an evolution, that somehow or other the forms of
life have risen from fewer forms." It is evident that we are
as far away from the explanation of the mechanism of
evolution as we were in pre-Darwinian days.

v. We get no certain teaching as to whether that was
monophyletic or polyphyletic. Darwin, as we have already
seen, was himself somewhat doubtful on this point, 1 but
it is certainly true that whilst a monophyletic commence-
ment of evolution was not exactly de fide amongst faithful
Darwinians it would for a time at least have been decidedly
daring to doubt it. Yesterday it was generally believed that
life started from a single source ; to-day many would agree
that there were several such sources.

Wasmann 2 says that " the assumption of a monophyletic
evolution of the whole kingdom of organic life is a delightful
dream without any scientific support," and that " the same
may be said of the assumed monophyletic evolution of the
whole animal kingdom on the one hand, and of the whole
vegetable kingdom on the other, from one primary form
respectively." Of course, it may be argued that Wasmann is
not only a believer in religion but a Jesuit, and one must
therefore discount his opinion heavily. But he has witnesses
not thus discredited. Fleischmann, for example, says that
it is impossible to trace back the chief types of the animal
kingdom to one primitive form. Yes, but Fleischmann is
an opponent of evolution and therefore biassed. Of course
everybody is biassed who does not shout with the largest
crowd, but what about Oscar Hertwig, who is certainly un-
tainted with any of the suspicious qualities of the two writers
last quoted ? Hertwig is thus quoted by Wasmann :
" Evidence of the monophyletic development of different
races is altogether wanting, and we are forced more and
more to accept the theory of development from a variety of
stocks." Further, he states that Boveri, and a number of
other zoologists, botanists and palaeontologists 3 hold the
same view. Finally, Bateson, 4 who certainly has no theo-

1 See p. 336. B " Problem of Evolution," p. 15.

e For whom see " Problem of Evolution," p. 16-
* Address, I, p, 18,


logical taint, and who is a stout supporter of the general
theory of evolution, says : " We should be greatly helped
by some indication as to whether the origin of life has been
single or multiple. Modern opinion is, perhaps, inclining
to the multiple theory, but we have no real evidence."

It ought not to be forgotten that it was Bateson how
in the great work which first caused a rift in the strict
Darwinian phalanx, 1 set at the head of his Introduction the
pregnant text " All flesh is not the same flesh : but there
is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another
of fishes, and another of birds."

vi. The remarkable facts connected with what is called
" convergence " are quite unexplained by Darwinian views
but receive or may receive an explanation in terms of
polyphyletic evolution. Some brief account of what is
meant by this term may here be given, since the subject
is one of great intrinsic interest, apart altogether from its
bearing on the point with which we are now concerned. 2

Convergence is a term applied " to resemblances amongst
animals which are not due to direct relationship or genetic
affinity ; in other words, which are not derived by inherit-
ance from common ancestors, but which result from inde-
pendent functional adaptation to similar ends." 3 Every-
body knows that the hedgehog and the porcupine are both
of them covered with spines, yet the first is an insectivore
and the last a rodent, races widely separated from one
another. There are two kinds of flying fish — Exocetus,
which is a herring-like form, and Dactylopterns, which is a
gurnard. These belong to different families, yet both of them
can pursue a limited flight in the air and both of them owe
this power to the fact that their pectoral fins are elongated
and expanded — a remarkable modification which cannot be
explained by any relationship between the two creatures.

Here is another and more remarkable example. Most
persons will be aware that mammalia are divided into

1 " Materials for the Study of Variation Treated with Special Regard
to Discontinuity in the Origin of Species," London, Macmillan, 1894.

i For a careful and most interesting study of this subject the reader
may be referred to " Convergence in Evolution," by A. Willey, London,
Murray, 1911.

3 Op. cit,, p. 52.



non-placental and placental divisions, the former having a
much narrower range of habitat than the latter, which are
all over the world. On the old theory of phylogeny both of
these were thought of as arising from a common form which
dichotomised into the two great divisions. On this theory
it is certainly difficult to explain the curious series of re-
semblances in habit and adaptation to which Mr. Willey
draws attention in his book and which may thus be tabu-
lated :


(Large-eyed forms)














(Small-eyed forms)


vii. It has been claimed that a belief in evolution under
any shape or form necessarily goes with a monistic view of
the universe, by which is meant that form of monism which
excludes all idea of a Creator. It has already been shown
that this is absurd, for all really instructed teachers of a
Transformist doctrine from Darwin onwards have been
insistent in their teaching that evolution does not account
for the beginning of things and makes no pretension to do
so. We must invoke some explanation, unless, with Huxley

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 34 of 38)