Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/133

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ties in the way of its acceptance, but gave no hint of the considerations which have forced it on the belief of nearly all students of zoölogy and biology. In like manner he brought forward the objection urged by Sir William Thompson (now Lord Kelvin) and Prof. Tait, as regards the time limit fixed by the laws of radiation for the possible existence of life on the earth, and left it to be understood that it was of an altogether insuperable character, which is far from being the case. The greatest disservice, however, which he did to the cause of science was in taking his stand, against the theory of natural selection, upon the doctrine of design. It needs but a few moments of careful and candid consideration to show that the doctrine of design means the death of scientific investigation. If things are so because they were intentionally made so, or because certain processes were miraculously expedited, then the universe may be the theater of Will, but not of forces the operation of which we can hope to understand. It is worthy of remark that his lordship did not even mention the familiar phenomenon of the struggle for life. That is something which can not be denied; and yet nothing is plainer than that the struggle for life means natural selection, and must, under certain circumstances, tend to the formation of new species. Prof. Karl Pearson, discussing this point in the Fortnightly Review for September, well observes that "every man who has lived through a hard winter, every man who has examined a mortality table, every man who has studied the history of nations, has probably seen natural selection at work." Lord Salisbury himself admits that Darwin "has, as a matter of fact, disposed of the doctrine of the immutability of species. . . . Few" (he adds) "are now found to doubt that animals separated by differences far exceeding those that distinguish what we know as species have yet descended from common ancestors," Well, how has this been brought about? Did the Divine Being, by an arbitrary act of will, simply change at a given moment the progeny of a given pair of animals so that one or more new species, or what we call species, should be originated, or was there some natural process of physical causation at work to produce the result? If the former alternative is to be adopted, then, as we have already said, all investigation ot causes becomes futile: if the latter, then it matters little whether we accept Darwin's theory or some other; and certainly no one would wish to take his stand on Darwin's theory if a better—one which would fit the facts more closely—were available. The reason why the doctrine of design is so popular is partly because it is such a saver of intellectual toil, and partly because, by making knowledge impossible, it glorifies ignorance. It reduces biology to that "merely statistical" level from which, according to Lord Salisbury himself, it was the glory of Darwin to have raised it. What is left for the student of Nature save to record facts as he finds them, when every question as to how things have come to be as they are receives but the one reply, "The Creator designed them so"?

The unfriendly attitude of Lord Salisbury toward the doctrine of evolution is clearly shown by a remark he dropped when talking about the elements. "If," he said, "they were organic beings, all our difficulties would be solved by muttering the comfortable word 'evolution'—one of those indefinite words from time to time vouchsafed to humanity, which have the gift of alleviating so many perplexities and masking so many gaps in our knowledge." Lord Salisbury was addressing a presumably learned audience: why should men of the caliber of his hearers be disposed to "mutter "the word evolution without regard either to its proper meaning or to its application to the matter in hand? What the unlearned