Karl Alois Kneller.

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Johannes Leunis (f 1873), who won considerable
distinction in Botany, was a Catholic priest 4 . His cele-
brated "Synopsis of the three Kingdoms of Nature"
gives a survey of the subject, so exhaustive and syste-
matic, that, brought down to date by various editors,
it still holds its ground as a standard text-book. . . .
Leunis' "Guide to Nature-study" gave a great impulse
in that respect to his generation in Germany.

With Leunis we may associate an Austrian savant,
Franz de Paula Hladnik (f 1844 at Laibach).
He was at once priest, professor, and botanist. As a
teacher he raised scientific teaching in the Laibach

1 Berichte der deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft V (1887), XLIX.

2 Leopoldina XXXIII, Halle 1897, *5

3 Ib. 149.

4 L. Kellner, Lebensblatter 2 , Freiburg 1892, 19 23. K. L.
Grube, Job. Leunis nach seinem Leben und Wirken , Hannover
1876. Natur u. Schule I, Leipzig u. Berlin 1902, 257 264. Frank-
furter Zeitung vom 6. Juni 1902 (Wochenausgabe) Nr. 23, p. 362 (only
School Anecdotes).


Gymnasium to a very high standard; he "held a fore-
most place in Botany", and enjoyed the friendship of
all the masters of that science. His writings scientific,
spiritual, and ascetic were never given to the public 1 .

"One of the first, probably the very first", to com-
bine photography with the microscope, was Francesco
Castracane degli Antelminelli (f 1899). He
specialised on the diatoms, one of the minutest of
the algae. The collection of diatoms obtained by
the celebrated Challenger Expedition was sent to him
for examination ; he discovered three new genera,
225 new species, and some 30 varieties. His contri-
butions to the biological study of his subject were per-
haps of even greater importance than those made from
the point of view of systematisation. Castracane was
a Catholic priest, and a man of the most remarkable
piety 2 .

Equally fervent and simple in his Catholicity was
Philipp Parlatore (f 1877). His principal work in
Botany was a Flora Italiana, six volumes of which had
been completed at his death. He wrote the sections
on Gnetaceae and Conifers for De Candolle's Pro-
dromus, and those on umbellates and grasses for Webb's
"Natural History of the Canary Islands" and published
descriptions of the flora of the Mont-Blanc range and
of Lapland founded on original observation. In his

1 C. v. Wurzbach, Biographisches Lexikon des Kaisertums
Osterreich IX, Wien 1863, 60.

2 Biologisches Zentralblatt XX, Leipzig 1900, 401 412 433 451.
A short memoir by P. Damanti, I contributi del Clero italiano
alia scienza botanica nel secolo XIX, Palermo 1902, enumerates
some twenty members of the Italian clergy , who have done good
work in botany.


scientific works we find numerous passages in which
he breaks out into reverent praise of the Author of
creation *.

Of the more recently deceased masters of Botany
we may cite Max Westermaier (f 1903), Professor
at Freiburg (in Switzerland) from 1896, as an example
of a scientist who combined the scientific with the re-
ligious temper 2 . On the religious significance of scientific
research he writes as follows:

"Radical errors in science in other words, a falsification
of what stands written in the book of nature is all the
more capable of corrupting the human mind inasmuch as the
reward set on a true knowledge of the physical universe is
no other and no less than a true knowledge of God. This
path to God is open to all men, even to those who have
never heard of Christ or Christianity, and all reasonable
men must perceive and pursue it. And it is because true
science is so great and noble a thing, that false science must
produce such bitter and fatal fruits." 3


"It is evident", writes the celebrated zoologist Richard
Owen at the end of his work ''The Principles of Zoology",
"that there is a manifest progress in the succession of beings
on the surface of the earth. This progress consists in an in-
creasing similarity to the living fauna, and among the verte-

1 Gedenkrede von Kard. L. Haynald in Lilerarische Berichte
aus Ungarn, herausgeg. von P. Hunfalvy III, Budapest 1879. Aus-
zug in Natur und Offenbarung XXVI, Miinster 1880, 177 183. Cf.
Allgemeine Zeitung 1854, 1577; 1877, 3974.

2 Kolnische Volkszeitung 1903, Nr. 502. Rev. de Fribourg XXXIV,
Fribourg 1903, 296 f; XXXV (1904) 73 f.

3 Jahresbericht der Gorres-Gesellschaft fur das Jahr 1895, Koln
1896, 19.


brates, especially in their increasing resemblance to man. But
this connection is not the consequence of a direct lineage
between the fauna of different ages. There is nothing like
parental descent connecting them. The fishes of the palaeo-
zoic age are in no respects the ancestors of the reptiles of
the secondary age, nor does man descend from the mam-
mals which preceded him in the tertiary age. The link
by which they are connected is of a higher and immaterial
nature; and their connection is to be sought in the plan
of the Creator Himself. . . . Man is the end towards which all
the animal creation has tended from the first appearance
of the first palaeozoic fishes." l

A problem and a double attempt to solve it are con-
veyed in these words.

One has only to glance at a comparative table in the
first good scientific treatise that comes to hand to see,
under the rich variety of forms presented by the fish,
the mammal, or the bird family, a fundamental identity
of structure. These resemblances obtain not only be-
tween the classes making up a given family but also
between one family and another, whether fish, mammal,
or bird. The skeleton exhibits certain invariable character-
istics, and we find in the most widely different varieties
the same sense organs, and nervous and nutritive systems.
If we take as an example, any given organ, eye or ear
or stomach, we can trace it from its simple beginning
in the lower forms of life to the term of its development
in the higher forms, and discover the same fundamental
characteristics under endless variations. This unity under
multiplicity obviously constitutes a problem of the first
importance. How are we to explain it? The old answer
was very simple? The whole animal kingdom is the

1 Quoted by Hugh Miller, The Testimony of the Rocks, Edin-
burgh 1857, 210.


work of a Mind, a Supreme Intelligence which, delight-
ing in order, fashioned the bewildering multiplicity of
things after the same model, thus setting on them the
seal of spirit. This explanation does not exclude the
idea of "evolution" in animal life, but we must use the
word in the sense which it bears when we speak of
the Ionian and Corinthian styles as an "evolution" of
the Doric. The evolution does not go forward in the
things themselves, so that one actually develops out
of another, but in the ideas of things as they lie, pre-
ordained and perfect, in the mind of the Creator.

But this theory does not meet all the facts of the
case. On the contrary it immediately raises the fresh
question : What means did God adopt in order to
give actual existence to His plan of creation? Did He
produce each species by a special and immediate act
of creation, or did he produce one by genetic deve-
lopment from another? Such development, within certain
limits, we have constantly before our eyes in the case
e. g. of dogs, pigeons, and rabbits. Can we conceive
the process as operating over a wider area, and regard
the rabbit and the hare, the wolf and the fox as springing
from the same original species? Can we go still farther
and conceive the whole animal kingdom as evolving (as
the oak evolves from the acorn) from a primitive germ
of life, endowed by the Creator with an extreme plasti-
city and a power to acquire and perpetuate differentia-
tions, the whole process being of course governed by
an unchanging law of evolution?

These questions are very far from novel ; they have
been before Zoology ever since it entered on its modern
phase. Buffon at the outset of his career set himself
to answer them. He declared at first for the limitless


mutability of species, then for their absolute immutabil-
ity except as regards the origin of races. The theory
of evolution is not in itself opposed to theism. It has
unfortunately been misused in recent times to support
atheism, and still lies under reproach and suspicion.
But it is in no way irreconcilable with the most fervent
belief in God 1 . This is evident as regards the more
guarded and limited forms of the theory. As for the
more sweeping form which conceives the whole organic
world as sprung from one primitive protoplasmal germ,
it is, so far, a pure hypothesis; and if it should come
to be demonstrated, the total process will appear so
immense and magnificent that it will be impossible for
a stable intellect to contemplate it without invoking as
its source an infinite Creator. . . But we are transgressing
our limits in discussing the intrinsic validity and signi-
ficance of the theory of evolution. Our busines in
this book is simply to consult the pioneers of evo-
lution, and learn their view as to the religious import
of their work.

We begin with Lamarck 2 (f 1829). The concluding
words of his Philosophic Zoologique show how little
ground there is for setting the authority of his name
against belief in God, or against the idea of purposiveness
in nature. In every department of nature, says the great

1 Cf. J. Knabenbauer, Glaube und Deszendenztheorie , in
Stimmen aus Maria-Laach XIII, Freiburg 1877, 69 86 121 138.
E. Wasmann, Gedanken zur Entwicklungslehre, ib. LXIII (1902)
281 307. F. de Hummelauer, Commentarius in Genesin, Paris.
1895, I2 9- P- Schanz, Apologie des Christentums I 3 , Freiburg
I903> 327ff and the Literature cited.

2 Cf. A. S. Packard, Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution, his
Life and Work, London 1902.


founder of Evolution , we find an incessant cycle of
change. But nature as a whole is "unchangeable" so
long as it shall please the sublime Author to maintain
it in existence. Nature should be regarded as a tota-
lity, constituted by all its parts, existing not exclusi-
vely for any of these parts but for an end known only
to the Author of all. Each part being necessitated to
change, and cease to be, in order to bring forth a fresh
existence, has an interest contrary to that of the whole;
and, if the part reasons, it pronounces the whole defec-
tive. "But in truth the whole is perfect, and completely
accomplishes the end for which it is designed." In another
passage Lamarck quotes with approval the saying of
Lavoisier that, in creating light, God had diffused over
the earth the principle of organisation, sensation, and
thought J .

Lamarck had traced back all animal forms to one
primitive form, product of a primary act of genera-
tion, but the next great exponent of evolution took

1 La Nature, cet ensemble immense d'etres et de corps divers,
dans toutes les parties duquel subsiste un cercle eternel de mouve-
ments et de changements que des lois regissent, ensemble seul im-
mutable, tant qu'il plaira a son Sublime Auteurde le faire exister,
doit etre consideree comme un tout constitue par ses parties, dans
un but que son Auteur seul connait, et non pour aucune d'elles ex-
clusivement. Chaque partie devant necessairement changer et cesser
d'etre pour en constituer une autre , a un interet contraire a celui
du tout ; et si elle raisonne , elle trouve ce tout mal fait. Dans la
realite, cependant, ce tout est parfait et remplit completement le but
pour lequel il est destine (Lamarck, Philosophic zoologique II,
nouv. ed. par Charles Martins, Paris 1873, 426). Un savant
celebre (Lavoisier, Chimie I 202) a dit, avec raison, que Dieu,
en apportant la lumiere, avait repandu sur la terre le principe de
1'organisation, du sentiment et de la pensee (Lamarck ante 76).


a less daring view. Etienne Geoffrey Saint-
Hilaire (f 1844) held that all living animals were
sprung from antediluvian ancestors and that they were
fundamentally identical in structure under infinite ex-
ternal differences. But he neither believed that the first
living organism had come into being by spontaneous
generation, nor did he regard it as the source and origin
of the whole animal kingdom. He anticipated more
recent ideas very markedly in tracing back modifications
to the continuous self-adaptation of organisms to their
external circumstances, and in drawing attention to the
development of the embryo as a summary and model
of the successive stages of evolution in general 1 .

It is well-known that Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire had a
fierce battle with Cuvier with regard to the unity of
plan in animals. Contemporary opinion awarded the
palm of victory to Cuvier. It is well to remember that
to Geoffroy's mind this unity of plan was in no way an
irreligious conception.

"But far from regarding the formula", writes J. B. Dumas 2 ,
"as laying fetters on the freedom or power of the Creator,

1 Cf. A. de Quatrefages in the Revue des deux mondes,
15 decembre 1868, 854858.

2 Mais loin de considerer cette formule comme mettant une entrave
a la liberte du Createur ou comme imposant une gene a sa puissance,
1'illustre anatomiste voyait dans la decouverte de ce principe nouveau ;
au profit de la pensee humaine, un pas de plus vers la connaissance
de Dieu. Son fils rappelle avec raison, a ce propos, que Newton,
si profbndement religieux , apres avoir admire" 1'unite de plan qui
regne dans les cieux, apres 1'avoir signalee comme demontrant 1'inter-
vention de la sagesse et de 1'intelligence de 1'Etre toujours vivant,
en reconnait une nouvelle preuve dans cette autre unite de plan et
d'execution, signe caracteristique de toute beaute, qui s'observe chez
les animaux (Discours I, Paris 1885, 239).


the great anatomist regarded it as a principle the discovery
of which brought the human mind one step nearer to the
true knowledge of God. His son * recalled in this connection
that a mind so deeply religious as Newton's, haying cele-
brated and signalised the unity of plan discernible in the
heavens as a proof of the presence of the Wisdom and
Intellect of God, passed on to draw the same inference from
the unity of plan, traceable in the animal kingdom, and to
praise it as the characteristic stamp of all beauty."

In the story of Saint-Hilaire's life the most prejudiced
will seek in vain for any token of hostility to religion.
During the great Revolution he displayed wonderful
courage and self-sacrifice in securing the liberation of
imprisoned priests , and in aiding their flight from
France. In the July Revolution of 1830 he gave shelter
to the Archbishop of Paris, Mgr. de Quelen, in his
house in the Jar din des PI antes. When he was in his
last years stricken with blindness he saw in his affliction
a friendly dispensation of Providence for which he should
be grateful 2 . The same resignation marked his bearing
at the approach of death 3 ; and his first words to his
daughter on hearing that his illness was fatal, were:
"We must soon part, but we shall meet again." 4

1 Isidor Geoffrey St.-Hilaire (f 1861), also wrote his father's life.

2 He wrote to a young lady, a friend of his : Dieu a voulu cette
douleur pour racheter 1'exces de ma bien vive satisfaction. . . . Soyons
reconnaissants des faveurs de la Providence (Isidore Geoffrey
Saint-Hilaire, Vie, travaux et doctrine scientifique d'Etienne
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Paris 1841, 411).

3 Ib. 414.

4 Nous allons nous quitter; nous nous retrouverons (ib. 413). -
Le 19 juin 1844 M. Geoffroy s'eteignit doucement . . .; recevant
1'adieu de son enfant cheri, lui dit avec calme : Sois-en sure, 6 ma
fille, nous nous reverrons (Flourens, Eloges hist. I 265).

Kneller, Christianity. 24


Geoffrey's ablest supporter was a scientist whom we
have already learned to know as an ardent Catholic -
Am per ei. As early as 1803 he had hit upon the
same guiding ideas as Geoffroy. He took his side in
the controversy with Cuvier, and every declaration of
the latter was submitted by Ampere in his lectures to
searching and vigorous criticism. Ampere published an
essay on the subject 2 .

Cuvier's victory, or supposed victory in the polemical
battle of 1830 put a check on the progress of the
theory of evolution. One of the very few leaders of
science to hold stubbornly to it was a Catholic, D'O malius
d'Halloy 3 . He maintained steadily that the animals
now living have come in direct line of descent from
ancestors, specimens of which are found in fossil depo-
sits. He advocated these views in 1838 in his hand-
book of Geology, in 1846 in six public meetings in
the Belgian Academy , and again in the Academy
in 1873, in a lecture on transformism. To the as-
sertion that this theory is necessarily irreligious in its
drift D'Omalius gives a vigorous denial. Thus he writes
in his Geology:

"It is not inappropriate to remark here, that from what
has been said above as to the transformation and develop-
ment of living forms, no argument whatever can be drawn
against the immateriality of the human soul. We must not
confound the physical with the moral order, and just as our
religious beliefs must not prevent us from seeing the facts
of nature as they actually are, so, but with still greater rea-

1 See ante p. 120.

2 C.-A. Valson, La vie et les travaux d'Andre-Marie Ampere,
Lyon 1897, 333336.

3 V. ante p. 269.


son, we ought not to employ the observations of our gross
senses to attack dogmas belonging to quite another order
of being.

"Although I regard all organisms now living as sprung by
way of reproduction from those of the earlier ages, I do
not mean that man is to regard the polyps as the source of
his nobler faculties. Though it be true that the human species
has in the course of ages undergone modifications, this circum-
stance does not in any way affect the existence of that im-
material principle with which, as religion informs us, the
Creator has endowed man, that principle being as compa-
tible with other bodily forms as with that which distinguishes
man to-day. But more than that, not a single one of the
facts unveiled by geognostic observation can be regarded
as refuting the account given in Genesis. . . ."

1 D'un autre cold, il n'est pas hors de propos de faire observer
ici que Ton ne peut tirer de ce qui a ete dit ci-dessus sur les change-
ments de formes et sur le perfectionnement survenus dans la nature
vivante aucun argument centre 1'immaterialite de Tame de 1'homme ;
on doit eviter de confondre 1'ordre moral et 1'ordre physique ; car de
meme que nos croyances religieuses ne doivent pas nous empecher
de voir les faits de la nature tels qu'ils sont, nous devons encore
moins nous appuyer sur quelques observations faites avec nos sens
grossiers, pour attaquer des dogmes qui tiennent a un ordre de choses
tout different.

Du reste, quoique je considere les etres vivant aujourd'hui comme
provenant par la voie de reproduction de ceux des temps anciens,
je n'entends pas dire que 1'homme doit reconnaitre un polype comme
la souche de sa noble race. Mais quand il serait vrai que 1'espece
humaine aurait aussi subi des changements de formes dans la serie
des temps, cette circonstance ne ferait rien a 1'existence du principe
immateriel dont la religion nous apprend que Dieu a doue 1'homme,
ce principe etant tout aussi compatible avec d'autres formes qu'avec
celle qui distingue 1'homme d'aujourd'hui. Mais il y a plus, c'est
qu'aucun des faits constates par les observations geognostiques ne
peut etre considere comme destructif de la relation contenue dans
la Genese . . . (Geologic par J. J. D'Omalius-d'Halloy,
Bruxelles, Societe pour 1'emancipation intellectuelle, 259).



All those whose opinions we have so far cited came
before Darwin, and, as everybody knows, Darwin gave
the theory of evolution a new impulse and direction.

As for Darwin himself, obviously we cannot call him
as a witness on behalf of religion. He was an unbeliever,
or rather an agnostic. His education goes far to explain
this. He lost his mother when he was only eight years of
age; his father was a free-thinker, and the teacher of the
school to which he was sent was a Unitarian, that is, sub-
stantially, a rationalist. In spite of this he was at first an
orthodox Protestant, but in process of time he ceased to
believe in the Bible, and in the existence of God.

The enemies of religion will, none the less, find Darwin
an unsatisfactory standard-bearer. The grounds on which
he based his disbelief in the existence of God are thoroughly
unconvincing *, and his attitude was never that of a man
certain of his position. The Duke of Argyll records a con-
versation which he had with Darwin about a year before
the death of the latter. "In the course of that conversation
I said to Mr. Darwin with reference to some of his own
remarkable works on the 'Fertilisation of Orchids' and upon
'The Earthworms' and various other observations he made
of the wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature
I said it was impossible to look at these without seeing that
they were the effect and the expression of mind. I shall
never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He looked at me very
hard, and said : 'Well, that often comes over me with over-
whelming force \ but at other times', and he shook his head
vaguely, adding, 'it seems to go away'." 2

To W. Graham, Darwin wrote in 1881 : "You have ex-
pressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and
clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the
result of chance." To this declaration he adds an ex-

1 V. its refutation e. g. in Bern. Boedder, Natural Theology,
London 1891, 182 200).

2 Good Words, Ap. 1885, 244; cited by Francis Darwin, The
life and letters of Charles Darwin I, London 1888, 316).


pression of the "terrible doubt" that always beset his in-
cipient conviction on this point l - - a doubt namely as to
whether the human mind was capable of attaining certainty
on such questions. But if we begin by distrusting our reason
we shall find ourselves brought to an absolute stop, and unable
even to determine whether two and two make four or five.
Darwin's position on all the higher issues of life remained
one of suspended judgment and irresolution. He was never,
he tells us himself, "an atheist in the sense of denying the
existence of God". He goes, on to say that on the whole
(and as he grew older the description became more and
more accurate) "agnosticism" was a much truer characteri-
sation of his philosophical outlook 2 . He wavered between
theism and atheism. If we bear in mind that he never
spent much systematic thought on religion and its relations
with science, and that speculation proper was very far from
being his forte , we shall see with what little effect his
authority can be invoked on the side of unbelief.

We have shown that, before the appearance of Darwin
there were many Christian savants who found no dif-
ficulty in reconciling evolution with religion. Is this still
possible, or has everything been radically changed by
the fact that evolution has been used as a battering-
ram to beat down Revelation? We do not incline to
this latter view : despite the tumult of Darwinism we
have always had both theologians and scientists who
were able to show that there are evolution-theories and

Let us take as an example Wilhelm Waag*en (f 1900),
a great scientist, and a Catholic whose faith bore the
test of pain and suffering. He was the first to extend
to Palaeontology the theory of evolution , in a book
dealing with a species of ammonites.

1 Ib. 316.

2 F. Darwin, Life of Ch. Darwin I 304.


"Up to the present, Palaeontology has been regarded as
a science all but identical with Zoology, the only difference
being that the one dealt with dead, the other with living, ani-
mals. But one point has been overlooked, namely, that in Palae-
ontology the chronological element is an essential feature

The method of exposition of the one must therefore differ
widely from that of the other ; for while in Zoology we have
simply to determine and describe the form of a living species,
in Palaeontology we have, before all, to elucidate the historical
relations of various types, and the organic evolution of one

Online LibraryKarl Alois KnellerChristianity and the leaders of modern science; a contribution to the history of culture in the nineteenth century → online text (page 29 of 32)