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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V



     

 Part IV: The Survival of the UN-fit

Chapter 1

Evolution: An Irrational Faith

     IN 1964 George Gaylord Simpson presented the world with a kind of summary of his evolutionary philosophy under the title This View of Life. (1) I think it would be difficult to find in current literature any serious work containing so many dogmatic assertions, the strength of which depends so entirely upon the author's personal estimate of the value of his own opinion, nor a like series of pontifical assertions which, in the final analysis, rest upon so small a base of experimental evidence.
     
It is some measure of the fragility of his state of mind that he has felt it necessary to assure the reader so repeatedly that evolution is a fact. On one page alone, containing only twenty lines of type, he repeats the phrase "the fact of evolution" three times, twice within the first four lines. (2) Throughout the book this begging of the issue runs like an unending refrain. Evolution is a fact, not a theory; evolution is one of the few basic facts; it is an unassailable fact; a fact supported by all other facts; a fact which only dishonest biologists would argue against. (3) He has to admit that there are a few problems, but "solution of these problems is a triumphant theme of recent research." (4) If ever the sober propriety of true science has been abandoned for dogma, it is here; yet the author uses the word "dogma" only once and applies it to the concept of creation.
     
Observing the literature carefully over a period of some forty years, it is my impression that the sense of urgency and special pleading in assuring the public that Darwin was right, has increased steadily with the passage of time. At first evolution was presented as a tentative proposal. Then followed a period of facile assurance.

1. Simpson, G. G., This View of Life, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1964. Significantly, the subtitle is "The World of an Evolutionist."
2. Ibid., p.151. See also p.193.
3. Ibid., pp.10, vii, 62, 40, 51, 63, 151.
4. Ibid., p.63.

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     Now, as this assurance has begun to prove less well founded, we have entered a period of defensive reiteration. A situation has been reached where a small group of men whose names are now household words among biologists, has come to form a kind of College of Cardinals of a new Faith, which to challenge is heresy, the penalty being almost inevitably excommunication from the scientific fraternity. This happens in spite of the increasingly evident fact that virtually all the fundamentals of the orthodox evolutionary faith have shown themselves to be either of extremely doubtful validity or simply contrary to fact. This is true of the argument from homologies as a proof of relationships, from recapitulation as a proof of lines of descent, from the appeal to vestigial organs as a demonstration of progressive change, and now similarly from the whole concept of the struggle to survive and the survival of the fittest a concept which lies at the root of natural selection. So basic are these erroneous assumptions that the whole theory is now largely maintained in spite of rather than because of the evidence. But it must be maintained and Pinnock makes a keen observation in this respect: (5)

     The myth of Evolution is so entwined in the current world view that its absurdities are seldom even noticed. It ought to be apparent to the casual observer of the history of science since Darwin, that the theory he propounded, far from becoming better established, is becoming shakier with every passing year. If you ignore for a moment the brain washing of magazines with a Time-Life mentality, and listen to the experts in the various fields, you would soon realize that the data on which this grand hypothesis depends are slender indeed, and capable of a dozen different constructions. . . .
     The reason Evolution is believed and taught as a fact is not due to the evidence for it, but rather due to the need for it [his emphasis].

     As a consequence, for the great majority of students and for that large ill-defined group "the public," it has ceased to be a subject of debate. Because it is both incapable of proof and yet may not be questioned, it is virtually untouched by data which challenge it in any way. It has become in the strictest sense irrational. It is now nothing less than a dogma, an article of faith held with strong conviction and based on a logical extension of certain premises which are themselves as yet unproven and may be beyond proof. According to Simpson, those who refuse to accept it are either idiotic, dishonest, or both.
     
In Medieval times, the test of the truth of any proposition was not whether it had received experimental verification but whether it conformed to current orthodoxy. Whatever was agreeable to that

5. Pinnock, Clark H., Set Forth Your Case, Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey, 1967, p.38.

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orthodoxy was accepted as truth and needed no further validation. The position today with respect to the theory of evolution is very much the same. Little, if any, critical examination is applied to any particular piece of information or to any concept which it is felt lends support to it. But information or concepts which challenge the theory are almost never given a fair hearing by the "hierarchy." They are rather apt to be discounted out-of-hand, as Stanley Jaki said: "A successful theory can easily produce a state of mind that fails to recognize the presence of proofs to the contrary." (6)
     
Evolutionary philosophy has indeed become a state of mind, one might almost say a kind of mental prison rather than a scientific attitude. For wherever proof is, in the nature of the case, either lacking or impossible, the scientific attitude is to maintain an open mind. But this is precisely what the evolutionist is unwilling to allow. He will not admit that any alternative interpretation of the data is possible. Yet the data upon which his faith is postulated is equivocal; it is capable of being interpreted in two entirely different ways. To equate one particular interpretation of the data with the data itself is evidence of mental confusion, and this mental confusion leads to some extraordinary propositions.
     
For example, not long ago it was seriously suggested that man grows a beard because, in the past, it had a survival value. If a man is attacked by an animal which goes for his throat, his beard will tend to trigger the jaw-closing mechanism of the attacking animal prematurely and thereby save his life. I have not documented this beautiful piece of nonsense, but it was in a perfectly respectable scientific journal. A little reflection will show how flimsy such an argument really is. Half the world's population does not grow a beard, the female half the half which by nature of their reduced defensive equipment in terms of height and muscular strength ought perhaps to be more in need of a beard than the males! Furthermore it is primarily Caucasians who grow beards which could conceivably be adequate as a defense of this kind. So that two-thirds of the world's population of males have not been provided selectively with this natural (?) defense against predators. And finally, one might ask, would dogs or other such attacking enemies exist in sufficient numbers to constitute a threat of adequate dimensions to provide selective pressure enough -- and would they attack adults only?. . . What kind of sense does it make? That the editor of that journal should take such an idea seriously enough to accept the author's

6. Jaki, Stanley, The Relevance of Physics, University of Chicago Press, 1966, p.280.

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paper for inclusion suggests that the theory of evolution somehow or other is detrimental to ordinary intelligence and warps judgment.
     It can also lead to some astonishing instances of circular reasoning. In a paper entitled "The Dynamics of Evolutionary Change," G. Ledyard Stebbins wrote this statement:
(7)

     To be sure, many examples are known in which a new type of animal or plant appears suddenly and seems to be completely separate in respect to many large differences from any earlier fossil forms.
     To explain these apparent saltations Simpson assumes that the fossil record contains many highly significant gaps.

     Consider what this extraordinary statement means. There are many gaps. These gaps are labelled saltations. It sounds better than simply calling them gaps. . . . According to Stebbins, Simpson explains these saltations by saying there are probably "many highly significant gaps." In short, the many highly significant gaps which are called saltations are explained by the many highly significant gaps. There is surely something wrong with a mind so imprisoned in a theory that it is capable of presenting as a serious contribution to scientific theory this kind of "explanation."
     
Of course, the most favoured explanation of evolution at the present moment is Natural Selection acting upon random mutations within a population. But this explanation, of which Simpson assures the reader that the solution of its remaining problems "is a triumphant theme of recent research on evolution," is now being increasingly called in question, even by those who are themselves confirmed evolutionists. When Sir Julian Huxley published his Evolution in Action, a kind of ex cathedra pronouncement on the subject of natural selection, Sir James Gray reviewed the book in the English journal Nature, noting the fervour with which Huxley "preaches his gospel." Gray put it this way: (8)

     Darwinian orthodoxy demands implicit faith in the efficacy of natural selection operating on chance mutations. Subscribe to this, and all doubts and hesitations disappear; question it and be forever lost. The case for orthodoxy can seldom have been stated with greater cogency and enthusiasm than by Dr. Julian Huxley in "Evolution in Action."
     A few readers, perhaps rather pagan in their outlook, may think it a little strange that, if the case is quite so strong as they are asked to believe, it should

7. Stebbins, G. Ledyard, "The Dynamics of Evolutionary Change," in Human Evolution: Readings in Physical Anthropology, edited by N. Korn and F. Thompson, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1967, p 48.
8. Gray, Sir James, "The Case for Natural Selection," Nature, February 6, 1954, p.227, in reviewing Sir Julian Huxley's Evolution in Action, Chatto & Windus, London, 1953.

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still be necessary to argue the merits of natural selection with almost evangelistic vigour.

     Gray went on to point out that he is not challenging the concept of evolution itself. This he accepts. What he is challenging is the mechanism by which it is currently explained. And he notes that Huxley himself introduces an anomolous note when he says, "The human species today is burdened with many more deleterious mutant genes than can possibly exist in any specie of wild creature." At that point Gray commented, "It seems a great pity that Natural Selection should have met its Waterloo just when it was most needed."
     
Contrary to what most laymen think on the subject, it appears therefore, that natural selection does not necessarily lead to its supposed corollary, "the survival of the fittest." For if mutant genes indicate a deterioration in the organism at a basic level, as is almost universally agreed, then man is perhaps the un-fittest of all creatures. And yet he is supposed to be the climax of the evolutionary process, as Wood Jones pointed out with complete justice: (9)

     If, in the ordering of Nature, life on Earth was destined to flourish and multiply, to outfold its forms and increase its varieties, it must be recognized as a tragic failure of its destiny that, so far, it has merely achieved the emergence of the arch-destroyer of life, and the sources of food and shelter necessary for its maintenance.

     One might argue, of course, that given sufficient time man will come to grips with this problem and turn out in the end to be Nature's supreme achievement. However, there is more reason to believe that he will go on accumulating and increasing the number of mutant genes that he carries so that by the time he ought to be preparing to take his place as its paramount chief he may be so deteriorated as to be totally unfit. Moreover, there are even now signs that the complexification of his central nervous system has already begun to bring about his downfall just on a purely neurophysiological basis. Speaking on this matter, Raymond Pearl pointed out: (10)

     Proportionately 2.5 times more mammals than birds and reptiles die from causes affecting the nervous system. The corresponding figure for the more primitive of human groups is about 18.0. That for the most highly civilized and culturally advanced human groups is about 27.5.
     In other words it appears that in the evolutionary progress from reptiles and birds to the most advanced sorts of men, the relative mortality assignable

9. Jones, F. Wood, Trends of Life, Arnold, London, 1953, p.18.
10. Pearl, Raymond, Man the Animal, Principia Press, Indiana, 1946, p.9.

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to breakdown of the central nervous system has been multiplied more than twenty-seven fold.
     These figures are not to be regarded as absolutely precise appraisals, but roughly they do indicate something of the biological price that man has to pay for his high-toned brain.

     Interestingly enough, an editorial appeared in the English journal Endeavour that proposed that history bears out this progressive deterioration. Writing on "The Future of Man," Holmyard, after suggesting that there was little evidence of any improvement in man's intelligence over the last six or seven thousand years, felt it necessary to point out that there is some evidence in the opposite direction: (11)

     There is, however, another possible factor to be considered. Hitherto there is no sign that the progress of science is being hindered by the limitations of the human brain, but we may legitimately surmise that sooner or later a stage will be reached when the mind is inadequate to effect further advance.
     The continued existence of warfare may perhaps be taken as an indication that this stage has indeed already been arrived at, so far as morals and ethics are concerned; its eventual attainment in the quest for scientific knowledge would then be equally sure.

      If worthiness is an aspect of fitness, it is suddenly becoming increasingly apparent that the epitome of evolutionary processes is no longer either fit or worthy to survive. Man shows no improvement physically or mentally, nor in behaviour. At the end of his book, John Greene, still an evolutionist, recognized this fact and asked the question: (12)

     Is man in truth a kind of Prometheus unbound, ready and able to assume control of his own and cosmic destiny? Or is he, as the Bible represents him, a God-like creature who, having denied his creatureliness and arrogated to himself the role of Creator, contemplates his own handiwork with fear and trembling lest he reap the wages of sin, namely, death? The events of the twentieth century bear tragic witness to the realism of the Biblical portrait of man.

     Natural selection is a meaningless concept unless it leads to the survival of the fittest and to the elimination of the unfit. The fitness of all forms of life (apart from man), by and large, impresses the naturalist everywhere he looks. It impressed Darwin. It could be evidence of the hand of God; or it could be evidence of some natural law which sees to it that all unfit forms are eliminated, constantly, unfailingly, being given no chance to perpetuate their kind. Darwin thought he had discovered this mechanism, the struggle to survive,

11. Holmyard, E. J., "The Future of Man," Endeavour, January 1946, p.2.
12. Greene, John C., The Death of Adam, Iowa State University Press, 1959, p.338.

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leading to the survival of the fittest. And the very temper of the times in which he lived prepared the public to welcome a concept which seemed to justify the ruthless exploitation of the weak by the strong, a philosophy deeply engrained as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. (13) In his autobiography, Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune in steel, described as follows his conversion to evolution on reading Darwin and Spencer: (14)

     I remember that light came as in a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural but I had found the truth of evolution. "All is well since all grows better," became my motto, my true source of comfort. Man was not created with an instinct for his own degradation, but from the lower he had risen to the higher forms. Nor is there any conceivable end to his march to perfection. His face is turned to the light; he stands in the sun and looks upward. 

     Ashley Montagu observed in connection with Big Business that John D. Rockefeller (who certainly should have known better) said, "The growth of a large business is merely the survival of the fittest. . . . This is not an evil tendency in business. It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God." Montagu commented: (15)

     Darwinism was offered as no mere apology. It was more positive than that, it was a validation, a biological justification for competition. This doctrine has become part of the behavioral equipment, the system of overt beliefs, of almost everyone in the western world today. . . .
    This view of life is completely false. Yet it largely motivates the conduct of most persons in the western world. And it has brought man into the sorry state of personal, interpersonal, and international conflict in which he finds himself today.

     It seemed so entirely proper, and the arguments which Darwin used to support the concept so very reasonable, and the evidence which he selected to illustrate how it works in Nature so convincing, that very few people paused long enough to ask whether it was really true.
     
In retrospect, we can see now that many of the catch-phrases with which he bolstered his thesis ought to have been challenged from the very beginning. Is Nature really in a constant state of warfare? Do animals over-populate the territory they occupy so that many of them are constantly on the border of starvation and only the

13. Calverton, V. F., The Making of Man, Modern Library, New York, 1931, p.2. He said, "Every force in the environment, economic and social, conspired to the success of the doctrine."
14. Davidheiser, Bolton, Evolution and Christian Faith, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Nutley, New Jersey, 1969, p.350.
15. Montagu, Ashley, On Being Human, Schuman, New York, 1951, p.22.

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very fit survive? Is it true that animals are entirely "selfish" and that they are neither altruistic nor interdependent? Do only the fit survive?
     
The fact is that, little by little, a more careful examination of what goes on in Nature has shown that the answer to every one of these questions is negative. It is the object of this Paper to give some of the evidence now available that Nature does not necessarily eliminate or "select out" the unfit, a circumstance which naturalists in their desire to find a mechanism for evolution for a long while tended to overlook. Nature is not in a state of constant warfare. Animals do not under normal circumstances over-populate the territory they occupy. Cooperation and interdependence in the community life of animals is not a rare thing, but seems rather to be an essential part of the very fabric of it. The whole concept of natural selection, which is still so fundamental to current evolutionary theory, only makes sense if we assume that it eliminates the unfit and that this process of elimination results from struggle of some sort. But what is becoming increasingly apparent is that there is as much co-operation as there is struggle in Nature, and indeed probably more. The unfit often survive, and when they do it is not infrequently because members of their own species actually assist them to do so.
     
In short, the premises of evolutionary theory are about as invalid as they could possibly be. Yet this new knowledge has made only a very small dent in the armour of current biological orthodoxy. If evolutionary theory was strictly scientific, it should have been abandoned long ago. But because it is more philosophy than science, it is not susceptible to the self-correcting mechanisms that govern all other branches of scientific enquiry. Nevertheless, it can only be a matter of time before there must come some pretty fundamental revisions. Although he had in mind certain problems in connection with the part played by mutations, Waddington admitted, even in this regard, at the Alpbach Symposium in Switzerland, "I think we are going to see some extraordinary changes in our ideas about evolution pretty soon." (16) But at present no matter how frequently the old foundations are undermined by further knowledge, only to be replaced by alternative foundations which in their turn prove equally insecure belief in evolution remains unshaken, whereby we may know that it is indeed a dogma.
     
In the next two chapters, some of the basic assumptions relative to the supposed operation of Natural Selection are re-examined in the

16. Waddington, Sir C. H., "The Theory Or Evolution Today," in Beyond Reductionism, edited by A. Koestler and J. R. Smythies, Hutchinson, London, 1969, p.392.

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light of certain facts about the web of life which have tended to be ignored or overlooked. And it will be seen that these facts stand clearly against not only the theory of evolution per se, but also against the extension of this theory as a key to the understanding of human behaviour.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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