Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/425

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
409
EDITOR'S TABLE.

Editor's Table.

 

A VOICE FROM THE PULPIT.

WE called attention last month to a weak attack on the doctrine of evolution by a certain Mr. A. J. Smith, Superintendent of Public Schools in the city of St. Paul. The only thing which gave any consequence to the deliverance in question was that it was addressed to a large gathering of public-school teachers, who might possibly have been unduly influenced in their appreciation of it by the speaker's official position. We are glad now to learn that, very shortly after the publication of Superintendent Smith's address, an excellent statement of the true relation of the doctrine of evolution to education was made in one of the city pulpits by the Rev. S. G. Smith, who did not boast, as the superintendent had done, of having made an exhaustive study of the subject, but who, nevertheless, showed that he had a grasp of it which the other altogether lacked. The Rev. Mr. Smith's discourse would have merited attention wherever it might have been delivered; but, considered as a pulpit utterance, it seems to us to possess a special and very encouraging significance. We need hardly say that the pulpit has not always been friendly to broad scientific views, but in this case it has spoken with a candor, a breadth, and an intelligence which the lecture platform can not do more than equal, and which it would certainly be too much to look for in all our colleges.

"The law of evolution," said the reverend gentleman, "is as universal in its application as the law of gravitation. It holds that in every realm the simple tends to become complex, and that the complex is more stable than the simple. Motion and matter have a history in which the simple and the indefinite take on variety of organization and definiteness of adaptation." This is a statement in which the author of the Synthetic Philosophy would probably have very little change to suggest. Mr. Smith does not, like so many who discuss the subject in a superficial manner, confound evolution with Darwinism. Darwinism, he recognizes, may, in its particular explanations as to the origin of species and the descent of life, be in error; but evolution is universal in its scope, and can only fail if it can be shown that the fundamental postulates on which it rests, such as the instability of the homogeneous, the continuity of motion, the law of rhythm, etc., are not to be depended on. Must a person have made the circle of the sciences and comprehended all knowledge before he can reasonably profess a belief in evolution? No, says Mr. Smith; when the foundations of a doctrine have been clearly laid, when they have been tested by many different investigators from many different points of view, and when these, almost without exception, affirm that the doctrine is not only in harmony with, but lends a new and deeper significance to, the several orders of fact with which they are individually concerned, any person of ordinary intelligence is justified in considering that doctrine as satisfactorily proved and giving it his personal adhesion.

What chiefly excited the ire of Superintendent A. J. Smith was the contention of evolutionists that the modern child reflects the earlier stages of human development. He