Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/810

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

man has thriven mightily and prevailed, adaptation in general presents itself to him in a favorable light. Occasionally, when his crops are destroyed by some insect-pest wonderfully adapted for its work, or when his cattle are infested with deadly parasites, or when some germ of disease is multiplying a million-fold in his own frame, he sees that all adaptations are not yoked to his especial service.

His lordship seems to suppose that the believers in the doctrine of the survival of the fittest are bound to show that there has been a steady improvement of type from the first dawn of life. To show how gross and inexcusable a misunderstanding this is, I need only quote two sentences from Sir Charles Lyell's "Antiquity of Man": "One of the principal claims," observes the great geologist, "of Mr. Darwin's theory to acceptance is that it enables us to dispense with a law of progression as a necessary accompaniment of variation. It will account equally well for what is called degradation or a retrograde movement toward a simpler structure, and does not require Lamarck's continual creation of monads; for this was a necessary part of his system in order to explain how, after the progressive power had been at work for myriads of ages, there were as many beings of the simplest structure in existence as ever."[1]

Writing thus in ignorance of what the law of the survival of the fittest, as formulated by Darwin, and accepted by modern men of science, really means, his lordship is able to ask such pointless questions as whether the law is illustrated in the slaughtering of the flower of a nation in war, and whether it is the fittest who survive famines, pestilences, shipwrecks, etc. His lordship evidently does not himself believe there is any provision for the survival of the fittest in the providential government of the world; yet, strange to say, he taunts evolutionists with this lack in the general scheme of things. If it be an embarrassment to their theory, how much more should it be to the bishop's theology! The evolutionist might, however, turn round and instruct the divine out of his own pocket Bible, where it is expressly stated that the wicked shall not live out half his days; and then out of the newspapers which continually show us what happens to the violent and bloody man, to the intemperate, and to various other classes of evil-doers. The evolution philosophy does not guarantee, as has been already shown, continuous progress in what, from the human stand-point, may seem the best directions; but evolutionists are able to note, and do note with satisfaction, that the qualities which the moral sense of mankind most approves do in point of fact tend to the survival of their possessors. War itself illustrates the principle; seeing that the most important element of strength abroad is cohesion at home, a condition which must depend on a relatively high development of social justice. To take an example from our own history: English arms would not have been so successful as they have been

  1. Fourth edition, p. 459.