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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V


Part I: The Preparation of the Earth For Man

Chapter 9

Supernatural Selection:
A New Name for an Old Concept

     THE IDEAS set forth thus far in this Paper are by no means new. There are many good reasons now to resurrect an older view which was eclipsed by Darwinism, and to re-examine its implications in the light of new knowledge and of the manifest bankruptcy of current evolutionary philosophy. Indeed, evolutionary philosophy has been so detrimental to society in terms of its influence on international politics and on the spirit of Big Business over the last sixty years since 1914, that it ought to be judged by its fruits and replaced.
Darwin himself was very conscious of his departure from a view of Nature which had previously been held by Naturalists regarding the purposeful preparation.of the earth for man, and there are not a few who believe that this awareness was the cause of the disease in his own spirit. Indeed, he seemed almost anxious to preserve the older view, if not to embellish it, in the second of two essays which he published in 1842 and 1844, which were really the forerunners of The Origin of Species . In these he admitted the reasonableness of the view which he was nevertheless destined to demolish. He proposed the existence of (138)

     . . . a Being with penetration sufficient to perceive differences in the outer and innermost organization (of living things) quite imperceptible to man, and with forethought extending over future centuries to watch with unerring ease and to select for any object the offspring of an organism produced under the foregoing circumstances; I can see no conceivable reason why he could not form a new race (or several, were he to separate the stock of the original organism and work on several islands) adapted to new ends.
     As we assume his discrimination and his forethought, and his steadiness of object, to be incomparably greater than these qualities in man, so we may suppose the beauty and complications of the adaptation of the new races and

138. Darwin, Francis, editor, The Foundations of The Origin of Species: Two Essays Written in 1842 and 1844 by Charles Darwin, Cambridge University Press, 1909, pp.85ff. in second essay.

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their differences from the original stock to be greater than in the domestic races produced by man's agency. . . . With time enough, such a Being might rationally aim at almost any result.

     Almost a century before, Comte George Louis Buffon had said he believed that man could effect the variation that he did by horticulture and animal breeding, only because the potential was there to begin with. Man did not really create anything new, but only permitted what was already present to find expression in new ways. As he put it, the basis of man's power to alter nature lay in natural variability. Man simply reinforced the agency of natural causes. He wrote: (139)

     Every animal was adapted to a particular region with a particular climate and food supply. When animals were forced to abandon their natural habitat, i.e., by human intervention or by any "revolution on the globe," they underwent changes in physique and appearance which in the course of time became hereditary; changes in one part of the body produced modifications in other parts, so that the whole appearance was materially altered.

     Some fifty years later, we find a distinguished London surgeon, James Parkinson, writing in 1804: "If the fossil record should show progress from simple to complex forms of life, this progress must have been intended by God and He must have arranged a series of appropriate settings for each act of the drama." (140)
     Fifty years later still, the renowned anatomist, Sir Richard Owen, addressed himself to the same issue but went somewhat further, since a great deal more was by then known of the nature of the fossil record, in elaborating what was just before Darwin's time to be a well-rounded and highly satisfying synthesis of Christian faith and geological knowledge. Owen wrote: (141)

    The recognition of an ideal example for the vertebrate animals proves that the knowledge of such a being as man must have existed before man appeared; for the Divine Mind that planned the archtype also foreknew all its modifications. The archtypical idea was manifested in the flesh, under diverse modifications, upon this planet, long prior to the existence of those animal species that actually exemplify it [emphasis mine].

     In a similar vein, Sir Humphry Davy had written a few years before, "There seems, as it were, a gradual approach to the present system of things, and a succession of destructions and creations preparatory to the existence of man.'' (142)

139. Buffon: quoted by J. C. Greene, The Death of Adam,Iowa State University Press, 1959, p.148.
140. Parkinson, James, Organic Remains of a Former World, vol.1, London, 1804, p.467.
141. Owen, Sir Richard: quoted by G. C . Gillispie, Genesis and Geology, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1951, pp.204, 205
142. Davy, Sir Humphry, Consolation in Travel, Dialogue III, 3rd edition, London, 1831.

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     To Buffon, as to most of his contemporaries, it seemed obvious that such modifications due to environmental influences would naturally become fixed in the line. He did not stop to ask whether such modifications would become un-fixed if the organisms were returned to their former habitat. It is known today that this does in fact happen, and such modifications are termed dauermodifications. Alfred Kuhn on this wrote: (143)

     The form and size of cells can be modified strongly and in various ways by environmental factors. Certain modifications of form are retained for a long time after the conditions change, and it often takes a large number of generations before a new form, corresponding to the new conditions, is acquired.

     There cannot, therefore, be the slightest objection from the point of view of current biological theory to the concepts here under review, provided that we allow the possibility of creation with a purpose. Such a view meets all the requirements of the present evidence. And the idea of fiat creation is not as verboten today as it was even a generation ago. Certainly in explaining the existence of matter, fiat creation has to be introduced. H. Bondi, in his book Cosmology, went so far as to say in this regard, "The creation here discussed is the formation of matter not out of radiation but out of nothing" [emphasis mine]. (144) And in his Physics and Philosophy, W. Heisenberg warned that science should be prepared for "phenomena of a qualitatively new character" upon probing deeper into the structure of things. (145) Thomas Huxley admitted in a letter to Darwin that creation in the ordinary sense of the word was perfectly conceivable. He felt that "the a priori arguments against theism and, given a Deity, against creative acts, are devoid of reasonable foundation." (146) The temper of the times was then far more favorable to recognition of concepts of this kind. Long before this, Charles Lyell, in his famous Principles of Geology, had said: (147)

We must suppose that when the Author of Nature creates an animal or a plant, all the possible circumstances in which its descendants are destined to live are foreseen, and that an organization is conferred upon it which will enable the species to perpetuate itself and survive under all the varying circumstances to which it must inevitably be exposed.

     At about the same time, William Whewell, one of the keenest

143. Kuhn, Alfred, Lectures on Developmental Physiology, Springer-Verlad, New York, 1971, p.83.
144. Bondi, H., Cosmology, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, 1960, p.144.
145. Heisenberg, W., Physics and Philosophy, Harper, New York, 1958, p.165.
146. Huxley, Thomas, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, edited by Francis Darwin, vol.2, Murray, London, 1887, p.187.
147. Lyell, Charles, Principles of Geology, vol.2, London, 1830-33, pp.24, 25.

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minds of his day, was speaking boldly of the need to leave the option of divine creative activity open. In an essay entitled, "Indications of the Creator," when speaking of the sudden and explosive expansion of new lines, particularly just before the appearance of man, he wrote: (148)

     We may form various hypotheses with regard to the sudden or gradual manner in which we may suppose the distribution (of living things) to have taken place. We may assume that at the beginning of the present order, a stock of each species was placed in the vegetable or animal province to which it belonged by some cause outside of the common order of nature. . . .
     Hence, even on natural grounds, the most intelligible view of the history of the animal and vegetable kingdoms seems to be that . . . at the beginning of each cycle, a creative power was exerted of a kind to which there was nothing at all analogous in the succeeding part of the same cycle. . . .
     Thus we are led by our reasonings to this view, that the present order of things was commenced by an act of creative power entirely different to any agency which has been exerted since. None of the influences which have modified the present races of animals and plants since they were placed in their habitations of the earth's surface can have had any efficacy in producing them to begin with.

    This reflects my own view that the demand for creative activity exists chiefly at the beginning of each of these cycles of new forms of life by which geologists are now accustomed to distinguish the successive ages or lesser periods. Only providential superintendence with respect to the physical changes in the environment and the division of the genetic materials in each generation would be needed in addition, to give the whole process the appearance of purposeful direction which it certainly has.     
Lyell himself seems to have gradually changed his position however, for I can find nothing comparable to the admissions of his earlier Principles appearing in his somewhat later Manual of Elementary Geology, which was published in 1855. But Alfred Russell Wallace in 1870, in spite of his thinking which was following a line very similar to that of Charles Darwin, was still willing to acknowledge that there might have been divine creative activity, when he wrote, evidently with some trepidation: (149)

     We must, therefore, admit the possibility that, if we are not the highest intelligences in the universe, some higher intelligence may have directed the process by which the human race was developed. . . . I must confess that this has the disadvantage of requiring the intervention of some distinct individual

l48. Whewell,William: quoted by W. H. Hoare, The Veracity of the Book of Genesis, Longmans Green London, 1860, pp.165, 166.
149. Wallace, Alfred Russell, Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, Macmillan, London, 1870, page unknown.

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intelligence to aid in the production of what we can hardly avoid considering as the ultimate aim and outcome of all organized existence � intellectual, ever-advancing, spiritual man.

     Well, it was a noble try �but a rather timid one that could only speak of some distinct individual intelligence rather than a personal, omniscient God. My impression is that Wallace would have spoken a little more boldly in his later years. Even Darwin seems to have been troubled by the apparent atheism in his views and suggested that his concept was, after all, a grand testimony to the wise forethought and creative powers of the Almighty. But he clearly hoped by this statement to lessen somewhat the shock of his essentially non-Christian approach. Once he had discovered that the shock he feared was not too harmful to his own acceptance, he entirely dropped any appeal to the supernatural.
Charles Lyell, whose writings had tremendously influenced Darwin, still hesitated to relinquish the idea of creative intervention, even after he had observed the immediate success of Darwin's Origin of Species. On May 5, 1869, he wrote to Darwin: (150)

     I was therefore not opposed to (Wallace's) idea, that the supreme intelligence might possibly direct variation in a way analogous to that in which even the limited powers of man might guide it in selection, as in the case of the breeder and horticulturalist. In other words, since I feel that progressive development or evolution cannot be entirely explained by natural selection, I rather hail Wallace's suggestion that there may be a Supreme Will and Power which may not abdicate its [sic] functions of interference but may guide the forces and laws of nature.

     For myself, the nearest reflection of my own views, in this earlier period in the development of geological theory, is to be found in the two works of Louis Agassiz who, after a most notable career in Europe, was in 1841 appointed to the Chair of Natural History at Harvard. The first is his Essay on Classification, published in 1859, and the second his Principles of Zoology published in 1907. In his Essay, he wrote: (151)

     Who can look upon such a series . . . and not read in them the successive manifestations of a thought, expressed at different times in forms ever new and yet tending to the same end, onwards to the coming of Man whose advent is already prophesied in the first appearance of the earliest fishes.

     Subsequently, in his Principles, he wrote: (152)

150. Lyell, Charles: quoted by R. T. Clark and J. D. Bales, Why Scientists Accept Evolution, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1966, p.17.
151. Agassiz, Louis, Essay on Classification, Harvard University Press, 1859, pp.166, 161.
152. Agassiz, Louis, Principles of Zoology, quoted by an unnamed author (F.W.H.) in God 's History of the World, Nisbet, London, 1907, p.149.

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     It is evident that there is a manifest progress in the succession of beings on the face of the earth. This progress consists in an increasing similarity to the presently living fauna and among the vertebrates especially in their increasing resemblance to man. But this connection is not the consequence of a direct lineage between the faunas of different ages. There is nothing like parental descent connecting them.
     The fishes of the Paleozoic Age are in no respect the ancestors of the reptiles of the Secondary Age, nor does man descend from the mammals 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 view of the Creator Himself, whose aim in forming the earth, in allowing it to undergo the successive changes which geology has pointed out, and in creating successively all the different animals which have passed away, was to introduce man upon the face of our globe. Man is the end toward which all the animal creation has tended from the first appearance of the first paleozoic fishes [emphasis mine].

     That is where the picture was when Darwin shattered it. At the time the success of his Origin of Species was undoubtedly evidence of a widespread and growing dissatisfaction with the view that saw all natural history as divinely guided toward the coming of man. This inevitably led to the view that man had a special destiny, and this, in turn, underscored the fact of his moral responsibility and a probable judgment to come. This was an uncomfortable idea, and it is obvious that men were anxious to escape from it. But I believe we shall yet see a change � and a return to a view of the earth's past history that will be less hostile to certain basic elements of the Christian world view.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved


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