The authors of Science of Life assert that “no one now denies the truth of organic evolution except for those who are ignorant, or biased or superstitious.” New York’s Modern Pocket Library has published a series of books entitled Man and the Universe, the fifth of which series hails Darwin’s The Origin of Species as an epoch-making work, and points out that of all theories of genealogy, this one has at, one and the same time, received the maximum religious opposition and the maximum scientific acclaim.
G.G. Simpson contends that ‘the theory of evolution is a fact proved finally and conclusively, and is no more simply a conjecture or alternative hypothesis adopted just for the sake of scientific research.’ The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1958) accepts organic evolution as a truth and says that after Darwin, this theory has received a general acceptance among scientists and scholars. R.S. Lull writes:
Since Darwin’s day, evolution has been more and more generally accepted, until now in the minds of informed, thinking men there is no doubt that it is the only logical way whereby creation can be interpreted and understood. We are not so sure, however, as to the modus operandi, but we may rest assured that the process has been in accordance with great natural laws, some of which are as yet, unknown, perhaps unknowable.
One can estimate the popularity of this theory by the fact that, in his 700-page book, Lull has summarily dismissed the concept of the special creation of life in just one page and a few lines, whereas the whole of the rest of the book is devoted to the concept of organic evolution. Similarly, the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1958) devotes less than a quarter of a page to the concept of creationism, while fourteen pages have been devoted to the concept of organic evolution. Here too, the evolution of life is treated as a fact and it is stated that after Darwin, this concept gained general acceptance among scientists and the intelligentia. Now we come to the question of whether this theory, which still receives general acceptance, has been observed by its upholder’s own eyes, or its validity demonstrated by experiment. It must be conceded that, to date, this has not been done, nor will it ever be possible to do so. The reasons put forward for this are that the supposed process of organic evolution took place in too distant a past and that, in any case, it is too complicated to be subjected to observation or experiment. This is a ‘logical method’—to quote Lull—of explaining the phenomenon of creation.
Then what are those arguments in favour of organic evolution, which have led scholars of this modern age to proclaim the ‘truth’ of this concept? Here, I shall deal with some of their basic aspects.
1. The study of animal life shows that there are inferior and superior species. These range from single-cell life forms to those with billions of cells. They differ too qualitatively, in terms of their abilities.
2. When this initial observation is correlated with the fossils preserved in the various layers of the earth’s crust, it becomes apparent that an evolutionary order exists which correspond to the point in time at which they appeared on earth. The fossils of life forms that inhabited the earth millions of years ago, although buried in the earth, are still traceable. These reveal that in far distant ages, the animal species living on earth were very simple, but gradually evolved into more complex and developed forms. This means that all of the present forms of life did not come into existence at one point of time; the simpler forms came first and the more developed forms came later.
3. Another feature of the evolutionary process is that, in spite of the difference in species, life forms are marked by many resemblances in their biological systems. For instance, a fish resembles a bird; a horse skeleton resembles a man’s and so on. It follows from this that all the living species have descended from the same family having one common ancestor.
4. How did one species follow another? Did some transmutation take place? It becomes clear when we think of how an animal gives birth to many offspring, not all of which are uniform in their features, many actually being quite different from each other. These differences develop in the next generation and go on developing according to the process of natural selection. After hundreds of thousands of generations, this difference is increased to the extent that a small-necked sheep turns into a long-necked giraffe. This concept is considered so important that Haldane and Huxley, the editors of Animal Biology, have coined the term ‘Selection of Mutation’ of evolutionary changes.
It is this fourth criterion which is cited to prove the concept of evolution. That is, the supposition, or its effects, need not have come within our direct experience, but such observations have been made as help us to make a logical inference of the truth of the supposition, or, in other words, to verify the truth of the hypothesis.
The advocates of the theory of evolution have not yet, however, carried out any observation of, or experiments on the material basis of this theory. For instance, they cannot show in a laboratory how inanimate matter can give birth to life. The only basis they have for their claim is that the physical record shows that inanimate matter existed before life came into the universe. From this they infer that life came out of inanimate matter, just as a baby emerges from its mother’s womb. Similarly, the change of one species into another had not been experienced or observed. Experiments cannot be set up in a zoo to show how the mutation of a goat into a giraffe takes place. The inference that the species did not come into existence separately has been made purely on the basis of the similarities between species and the differences that exist between siblings.
The belief, too, that intelligence has developed out of instinct, implies that man has also evolved from animals. But, in actual fact, instinct has never been seen to develop into intelligence. This is also purely an inference based on geological research which demonstrates that fossils of animals endowed with instincts are found in the lower strata, while those endowed with intelligence are to be found in the upper strata.
In all such arguments, the link between supposition and truth is only one of inference and not one of experiment or observation. Yet, on the basis of such inferential arguments, the concept of evolution, in modern times, has been considered a scientific fact. That is, to the modern mind, the sphere of academic facts is not limited only to those events which are known by direct experience. Rather, what logically follows from experiments and observations can be just as well accepted as established scientific facts as those facts, which come directly or indirectly under our observation.
The statement is, nevertheless, debatable. Sir Arthur Keith, who is himself a staunch supporter of organic evolution, did not regard the theory of evolution either as an empirical or inferential fact, but as ‘a basic dogma of rationalism’.
A reputed Encyclopaedia on Science describes Darwinism as a theory based on ‘explanation without demonstration.’
Why is it, then, that an unobservable, and nondemonstrable process is accepted as a scientific fact?
Mander writes that it is because:
a) it is consistent with all known facts;
b) it enables scientists to explain vast multitudes of facts which are otherwise inexplicable.
c) it is the only theory devised which is consistent with the facts (p.112).
If this line of reasoning is considered valid enough to bear out organic evolution as a fact, the same formula could well be used to establish religion as a fact. The parallel being evident, it seems paradoxical that scientists should accept organic evolution as a fact, while rejecting religion as having no basis in fact. It is evident that their findings relate, not to the method or argument, but to the conclusion. If something, of a purely physical nature, is proved by the method of logical positivism, it is immediately accepted by scientists.
But if anything of a spiritual nature is so proved; it is rejected out of hand, for no better reason than that this conclusion throws them into a state of mental disarray. It does not fit in with their preconceived ideas! The case of the modern age versus religion is, strictly speaking that of predisposition, and not that of particular scientific reasoning.
From the above discussion, it becomes quite clear that it is not proper to regard religion, on the one hand, as being based on faith in the unseen, and treat science, on the other hand, as being based on observation. It must be admitted that science, no less than religion, is ultimately a matter of having faith in the unseen. Scientific findings, based on observation, are tenable only so long as they deal with the initial and external manifestations of nature, but when it comes to defining ultimate realities answering the question ‘Why’? and not the question ‘How?’ science must yield pride of place to religion, for it fails to answer this momentous question; it has to fall back upon faith in the unseen, something for which religion in latter times has been much criticized.