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Darwin and Modern Science by A.C. Seward

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We see, then, that the theory of evolution has influenced philosophy in a
variety of forms. It has made idealistic thinkers revise their relation to
the real world; it has led positivistic thinkers to find a closer
connection between the facts on which they based their views; it has made
us all open our eyes for new possibilities to arise through the prima facie
inexplicable "spontaneous" variations which are the condition of all
evolution. This last point is one of peculiar interest. Deeper than
speculative philosophy and mechanical science saw in the days of their
triumph, we catch sight of new streams, whose sources and laws we have
still to discover. Most sharply does this appear in the theory of
mutation, which is only a stronger accentuation of a main point in
Darwinism. It is interesting to see that an analogous problem comes into
the foreground in physics through the discovery of radioactive phenomena,
and in psychology through the assumption of psychical new formations (as
held by Boutroux, William James and Bergson). From this side, Darwin's
ideas, as well as the analogous ideas in other domains, incite us to
renewed examination of our first principles, their rationality and their
value. On the other hand, his theory of the struggle for existence
challenges us to examine the conditions and discuss the outlook as to the
persistence of human life and society and of the values that belong to
them. It is not enough to hope (or fear?) the rising of new forms; we have
also to investigate the possibility of upholding the forms and ideals which
have hitherto been the bases of human life. Darwin has here given his age
the most earnest and most impressive lesson. This side of Darwin's theory
is of peculiar interest to some special philosophical problems to which I
now pass.


Among philosophical problems the problem of knowledge has in the last
century occupied a foremost place. It is natural, then, to ask how Darwin
and the hypothesis whose most eminent representative he is, stand to this

Darwin started an hypothesis. But every hypothesis is won by inference
from certain presuppositions, and every inference is based on the general
principles of human thought. The evolution hypothesis presupposes, then,
human thought and its principles. And not only the abstract logical
principles are thus presupposed. The evolution hypothesis purports to be
not only a formal arrangement of phenomena, but to express also the law of
a real process. It supposes, then, that the real data--all that in our
knowledge which we do not produce ourselves, but which we in the main
simply receive--are subjected to laws which are at least analogous to the
logical relations of our thoughts; in other words, it assumes the validity
of the principle of causality. If organic species could arise without
cause there would be no use in framing hypotheses. Only if we assume the
principle of causality, is there a problem to solve.

Though Darwinism has had a great influence on philosophy considered as a
striving after a scientific view of the world, yet here is a point of view
--the epistemological--where philosophy is not only independent but reaches
beyond any result of natural science. Perhaps it will be said: the powers
and functions of organic beings only persist (perhaps also only arise) when
they correspond sufficiently to the conditions under which the struggle of
life is to go on. Human thought itself is, then, a variation (or a
mutation) which has been able to persist and to survive. Is not, then, the
problem of knowledge solved by the evolution hypothesis? Spencer had given
an affirmative answer to this question before the appearance of "The Origin
of Species". For the individual, he said, there is an a priori, original,
basis (or Anlage) for all mental life; but in the species all powers have
developed in reciprocity with external conditions. Knowledge is here
considered from the practical point of view, as a weapon in the struggle
for life, as an "organon" which has been continuously in use for
generations. In recent years the economic or pragmatic epistemology, as
developed by Avenarius and Mach in Germany, and by James in America, points
in the same direction. Science, it is said, only maintains those
principles and presuppositions which are necessary to the simplest and
clearest orientation in the world of experience. All assumptions which
cannot be applied to experience and to practical work, will successively be

In these views a striking and important application is made of the idea of
struggle for life to the development of human thought. Thought must, as
all other things in the world, struggle for life. But this whole
consideration belongs to psychology, not to the theory of knowledge
(epistemology), which is concerned only with the validity of knowledge, not
with its historical origin. Every hypothesis to explain the origin of
knowledge must submit to cross-examination by the theory of knowledge,
because it works with the fundamental forms and principles of human
thought. We cannot go further back than these forms and principles, which
it is the aim of epistemology to ascertain and for which no further reason
can be given. (The present writer, many years ago, in his "Psychology"
(Copenhagen, 1882; English translation London, 1891), criticised the
evolutionistic treatment of the problem of knowledge from the Kantian point
of view.)

But there is another side of the problem which is, perhaps, of more
importance and which epistemology generally overlooks. If new variations
can arise, not only in organic but perhaps also in inorganic nature, new
tasks are placed before the human mind. The question is, then, if it has
forms in which there is room for the new matter? We are here touching a
possibility which the great master of epistemology did not bring to light.
Kant supposed confidently that no other matter of knowledge could stream
forth from the dark source which he called "the thing-in-itself," than such
as could be synthesised in our existing forms of knowledge. He mentions
the possibility of other forms than the human, and warns us against the
dogmatic assumption that the human conception of existence should be
absolutely adequate. But he seems to be quite sure that the thing-in-
itself works constantly, and consequently always gives us only what our
powers can master. This assumption was a consequence of Kant's
rationalistic tendency, but one for which no warrant can be given.
Evolutionism and systematism are opposing tendencies which can never be
absolutely harmonised one with the other. Evolution may at any time break
some form which the system-monger regards as finally established. Darwin
himself felt a great difference in looking at variation as an evolutionist
and as a systematist. When he was working at his evolution theory, he was
very glad to find variations; but they were a hindrance to him when he
worked as a systematist, in preparing his work on Cirripedia. He says in a
letter: "I had thought the same parts of the same species more resemble
(than they do anyhow in Cirripedia) objects cast in the same mould.
Systematic work would be easy were it not for this confounded variation,
which, however, is pleasant to me as a speculatist, though odious to me as
a systematist." ("Life and Letters", Vol. II. page 37.) He could indeed
be angry with variations even as an evolutionist; but then only because he
could not explain them, not because he could not classify them. "If, as I
must think, external conditions produce little DIRECT effect, what the
devil determines each particular variation?" (Ibid. page 232.) What
Darwin experienced in his particular domain holds good of all knowledge.
All knowledge is systematic, in so far as it strives to put phenomena in
quite definite relations, one to another. But the systematisation can
never be complete. And here Darwin has contributed much to widen the world
for us. He has shown us forces and tendencies in nature which make
absolute systems impossible, at the same time that they give us new objects
and problems. There is still a place for what Lessing called "the
unceasing striving after truth," while "absolute truth" (in the sense of a
closed system) is unattainable so long as life and experience are going on.

There is here a special remark to be made. As we have seen above, recent
research has shown that natural selection or struggle for life is no
explanation of variations. Hugo de Vries distinguishes between partial and
embryonal variations, or between variations and mutations, only the last-
named being heritable, and therefore of importance for the origin of new
species. But the existence of variations is not only of interest for the
problem of the origin of species; it has also a more general interest. An
individual does not lose its importance for knowledge, because its
qualities are not heritable. On the contrary, in higher beings at least,
individual peculiarities will become more and more independent objects of
interest. Knowledge takes account of the biographies not only of species,
but also of individuals: it seeks to find the law of development of the
single individual. (The new science of Ecology occupies an intermediate
position between the biography of species and the biography of individuals.
Compare "Congress of Arts and Science", St Louis, Vol. V. 1906 (the Reports
of Drude and Robinson) and the work of my colleague E. Warming.) As
Leibniz said long ago, individuality consists in the law of the changes of
a being. "La loi du changement fait l'individualite de chaque substance."
Here is a world which is almost new for science, which till now has mainly
occupied itself with general laws and forms. But these are ultimately only
means to understand the individual phenomena, in whose nature and history a
manifold of laws and forms always cooperate. The importance of this remark
will appear in the sequel.


To many people the Darwinian theory of natural selection or struggle for
existence seemed to change the whole conception of life, and particularly
all the conditions on which the validity of ethical ideas depends. If only
that has persistence which can be adapted to a given condition, what will
then be the fate of our ideals, of our standards of good and evil? Blind
force seems to reign, and the only thing that counts seems to be the most
heedless use of power. Darwinism, it was said, has proclaimed brutality.
No other difference seems permanent save that between the sound, powerful
and happy on the one side, the sick, feeble and unhappy on the other; and
every attempt to alleviate this difference seems to lead to general
enervation. Some of those who interpreted Darwinism in this manner felt an
aesthetic delight in contemplating the heedlessness and energy of the great
struggle for existence and anticipated the realisation of a higher human
type as the outcome of it: so Nietzsche and his followers. Others
recognising the same consequences in Darwinism regarded these as one of the
strongest objections against it; so Duhring and Kropotkin (in his earlier

This interpretation of Darwinism was frequent in the interval between the
two main works of Darwin--"The Origin of Species" and "The Descent of Man".
But even during this interval it was evident to an attentive reader that
Darwin himself did not found his standard of good and evil on the features
of the life of nature he had emphasised so strongly. He did not justify
the ways along which nature reached its ends; he only pointed them out.
The "real" was not to him, as to Hegel, one with the "rational." Darwin
has, indeed, by his whole conception of nature, rendered a great service to
ethics in making the difference between the life of nature and the ethical
life appear in so strong a light. The ethical problem could now be stated
in a sharper form than before. But this was not the first time that the
idea of the struggle for life was put in relation to the ethical problem.
In the seventeenth century Thomas Hobbes gave the first impulse to the
whole modern discussion of ethical principles in his theory of bellum
omnium contra omnes. Men, he taught, are in the state of nature enemies
one of another, and they live either in fright or in the glory of power.
But it was not the opinion of Hobbes that this made ethics impossible. On
the contrary, he found a standard for virtue and vice in the fact that some
qualities and actions have a tendency to bring us out of the state of war
and to secure peace, while other qualities have a contrary tendency. In
the eighteenth century even Immanuel Kant's ideal ethics had--so far as can
be seen--a similar origin. Shortly before the foundation of his definitive
ethics, Kant wrote his "Idee zu einer allgemeinen Weltgeschichte" (1784),
where--in a way which reminds us of Hobbes, and is prophetic of Darwin--he
describes the forward-driving power of struggle in the human world. It is
here as with the struggle of the trees for light and air, through which
they compete with one another in height. Anxiety about war can only be
allayed by an ordinance which gives everyone his full liberty under
acknowledgment of the equal liberty of others. And such ordinance and
acknowledgment are also attributes of the content of the moral law, as Kant
proclaimed it in the year after the publication of his essay (1785) (Cf.
my "History of Modern Philosophy" (English translation London, 1900), I.
pages 76-79.) Kant really came to his ethics by the way of evolution,
though he afterwards disavowed it. Similarly the same line of thought may
be traced in Hegel though it has been disguised in the form of speculative
dialectics. ("Herrschaft und Knechtschaft", "Phanomenologie des Geistes",
IV. A., Leiden, 1907.) And in Schopenhauer's theory of the blind will to
live and its abrogation by the ethical feeling, which is founded on
universal sympathy, we have a more individualistic form of the same idea.

It was, then, not entirely a foreign point of view which Darwin introduced
into ethical thought, even if we take no account of the poetical character
of the word "struggle" and of the more direct adaptation, through the use
and non-use of power, which Darwin also emphasised. In "The Descent of
Man" he has devoted a special chapter ("The Descent of Man", Vol. I. Ch.
iii.) to a discussion of the origin of the ethical consciousness. The
characteristic expression of this consciousness he found, just as Kant did,
in the idea of "ought"; it was the origin of this new idea which should be
explained. His hypothesis was that the ethical "ought" has its origin in
the social and parental instincts, which, as well as other instincts (e.g.
the instinct of self-preservation), lie deeper than pleasure and pain. In
many species, not least in the human species, these instincts are fostered
by natural selection; and when the powers of memory and comparison are
developed, so that single acts can be valued according to the claims of the
deep social instinct, then consciousness of duty and remorse are possible.
Blind instinct has developed to conscious ethical will.

As already stated, Darwin, as a moral philosopher belongs to the school
that was founded by Shaftesbury, and was afterwards represented by
Hutcheson, Hume, Adam Smith, Comte and Spencer. His merit is, first, that
he has given this tendency of thought a biological foundation, and that he
has stamped on it a doughty character in showing that ethical ideas and
sentiments, rightly conceived, are forces which are at work in the struggle
for life.

There are still many questions to solve. Not only does the ethical
development within the human species contain features still unexplained
(The works of Westermarck and Hobhouse throw new light on many of these
features.); but we are confronted by the great problem whether after all a
genetic historical theory can be of decisive importance here. To every
consequent ethical consciousness there is a standard of value, a primordial
value which determines the single ethical judgments as their last
presupposition, and the "rightness" of this basis, the "value" of this
value can as little be discussed as the "rationality" of our logical
principles. There is here revealed a possibility of ethical scepticism
which evolutionistic ethics (as well as intuitive or rationalistic ethics)
has overlooked. No demonstration can show that the results of the ethical
development are definitive and universal. We meet here again with the
important opposition of systematisation and evolution. There will, I
think, always be an open question here, though comparative ethics, of which
we have so far only the first attempts, can do much to throw light on it.

It would carry us too far to discuss all the philosophical works on ethics,
which have been influenced directly or indirectly by evolutionism. I may,
however, here refer to the book of C.M. Williams, "A Review of the Systems
of Ethics founded on the Theory of Evolution" (New York and London, 1893.),
in which, besides Darwin, the following authors are reviewed: Wallace,
Haeckel, Spencer, Fiske, Rolph, Barratt, Stephen, Carneri, Hoffding,
Gizycki, Alexander, Ree. As works which criticise evolutionistic ethics
from an intuitive point of view and in an instructive way, may be cited:
Guyau "La morale anglaise contemporaine" (Paris, 1879.), and Sorley,
"Ethics of Naturalism". I will only mention some interesting contributions
to ethical discussion which can be found in Darwinism besides the idea of
struggle for life.

The attention which Darwin has directed to variations has opened our eyes
to the differences in human nature as well as in nature generally. There
is here a fact of great importance for ethical thought, no matter from what
ultimate premiss it starts. Only from a very abstract point of view can
different individuals be treated in the same manner. The most eminent
ethical thinkers, men such as Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant, who
discussed ethical questions from very opposite standpoints, agreed in
regarding all men as equal in respect of ethical endowment. In regard to
Bentham, Leslie Stephen remarks: "He is determined to be thoroughly
empirical, to take men as he found them. But his utilitarianism supposed
that men's views of happiness and utility were uniform and clear, and that
all that was wanted was to show them the means by which their ends could be
reached." ("English literature and society in the eighteenth century",
London, 1904, page 187.) And Kant supposed that every man would find the
"categorical imperative" in his consciousness, when he came to sober
reflexion, and that all would have the same qualifications to follow it.
But if continual variations, great or small, are going on in human nature,
it is the duty of ethics to make allowance for them, both in making claims,
and in valuing what is done. A new set of ethical problems have their
origin here. (Cf. my paper, "The law of relativity in Ethics,"
"International Journal of Ethics", Vol. I. 1891, pages 37-62.) It is an
interesting fact that Stuart Mill's book "On Liberty" appeared in the same
year as "The Origin of Species". Though Mill agreed with Bentham about the
original equality of all men's endowments, he regarded individual
differences as a necessary result of physical and social influences, and he
claimed that free play shall be allowed to differences of character so far
as is possible without injury to other men. It is a condition of
individual and social progress that a man's mode of action should be
determined by his own character and not by tradition and custom, nor by
abstract rules. This view was to be corroborated by the theory of Darwin.

But here we have reached a point of view from which the criticism, which in
recent years has often been directed against Darwin--that small variations
are of no importance in the struggle for life--is of no weight. From an
ethical standpoint, and particularly from the ethical standpoint of Darwin
himself, it is a duty to foster individual differences that can be
valuable, even though they can neither be of service for physical
preservation nor be physically inherited. The distinction between
variation and mutation is here without importance. It is quite natural
that biologists should be particularly interested in such variations as can
be inherited and produce new species. But in the human world there is not
only a physical, but also a mental and social heredity. When an ideal
human character has taken form, then there is shaped a type, which through
imitation and influence can become an important factor in subsequent
development, even if it cannot form a species in the biological sense of
the word. Spiritually strong men often succumb in the physical struggle
for life; but they can nevertheless be victorious through the typical
influence they exert, perhaps on very distant generations, if the
remembrance of them is kept alive, be it in legendary or in historical
form. Their very failure can show that a type has taken form which is
maintained at all risks, a standard of life which is adhered to in spite of
the strongest opposition. The question "to be or not to be" can be put
from very different levels of being: it has too often been considered a
consequence of Darwinism that this question is only to be put from the
lowest level. When a stage is reached, where ideal (ethical, intellectual,
aesthetic) interests are concerned, the struggle for life is a struggle for
the preservation of this stage. The giving up of a higher standard of life
is a sort of death; for there is not only a physical, there is also a
spiritual, death.


The Socratic character of Darwin's mind appears in his wariness in drawing
the last consequences of his doctrine, in contrast both with the audacious
theories of so many of his followers and with the consequences which his
antagonists were busy in drawing. Though he, as we have seen, saw from the
beginning that his hypothesis would occasion "a whole of metaphysics," he
was himself very reserved as to the ultimate questions, and his answers to
such questions were extorted from him.

As to the question of optimism and pessimism, Darwin held that though pain
and suffering were very often the ways by which animals were led to pursue
that course of action which is most beneficial to the species, yet
pleasurable feelings were the most habitual guides. "We see this in the
pleasure from exertion, even occasionally from great exertion of the body
or mind, in the pleasure of our daily meals, and especially in the pleasure
derived from sociability, and from loving our families." But there was to
him so much suffering in the world that it was a strong argument against
the existence of an intelligent First Cause. ("Life and Letters" Vol. I.
page 310.)

It seems to me that Darwin was not so clear on another question, that of
the relation between improvement and adaptation. He wrote to Lyell: "When
you contrast natural selection and 'improvement,' you seem always to
overlook...that every step in the natural selection of each species implies
improvement in that species IN RELATION TO ITS CONDITION OF
LIFE...Improvement implies, I suppose, EACH FORM OBTAINING MANY PARTS OR
ORGANS, all excellently adapted for their functions." "All this," he adds,
"seems to me quite compatible with certain forms fitted for simple
conditions, remaining unaltered, or being degraded." (Ibid. Vol. II. page
177.) But the great question is, if the conditions of life will in the
long run favour "improvement" in the sense of differentiation (or harmony
of differentiation and integration). Many beings are best adapted to their
conditions of life if they have few organs and few necessities. Pessimism
would not only be the consequence, if suffering outweighed happiness, but
also if the most elementary forms of happiness were predominant, or if
there were a tendency to reduce the standard of life to the simplest
possible, the contentment of inertia or stable equilibrium. There are
animals which are very highly differentiated and active in their young
state, but later lose their complex organisation and concentrate themselves
on the one function of nutrition. In the human world analogies to this
sort of adaptation are not wanting. Young "idealists" very often end as
old "Philistines." Adaptation and progress are not the same.

Another question of great importance in respect to human evolution is,
whether there will be always a possibility for the existence of an impulse
to progress, an impulse to make great claims on life, to be active and to
alter the conditions of life instead of adapting to them in a passive
manner. Many people do not develop because they have too few necessities,
and because they have no power to imagine other conditions of life than
those under which they live. In his remarks on "the pleasure from
exertion" Darwin has a point of contact with the practical idealism of
former times--with the ideas of Lessing and Goethe, of Condorcet and
Fichte. The continual striving which was the condition of salvation to
Faust's soul, is also the condition of salvation to mankind. There is a
holy fire which we ought to keep burning, if adaptation is really to be
improvement. If, as I have tried to show in my "Philosophy of Religion",
the innermost core of all religion is faith in the persistence of value in
the world, and if the highest values express themselves in the cry
"Excelsior!" then the capital point is, that this cry should always be
heard and followed. We have here a corollary of the theory of evolution in
its application to human life.

Darwin declared himself an agnostic, not only because he could not
harmonise the large amount of suffering in the world with the idea of a God
as its first cause, but also because he "was aware that if we admit a first
cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came and how it arose."
("Life and Letters", Vol. I. page 306.) He saw, as Kant had seen before
him and expressed in his "Kritik der Urtheilskraft", that we cannot accept
either of the only two possibilities which we are able to conceive: chance
(or brute force) and design. Neither mechanism nor teleology can give an
absolute answer to ultimate questions. The universe, and especially the
organic life in it, can neither be explained as a mere combination of
absolute elements nor as the effect of a constructing thought. Darwin
concluded, as Kant, and before him Spinoza, that the oppositions and
distinctions which our experience presents, cannot safely be regarded as
valid for existence in itself. And, with Kant and Fichte, he found his
stronghold in the conviction that man has something to do, even if he
cannot solve all enigmas. "The safest conclusion seems to me that the
whole subject is beyond the scope of man's intellect; but man can do his
duty." (Ibid. page 307.)

Is this the last word of human thought? Does not the possibility, that man
can do his duty, suppose that the conditions of life allow of continuous
ethical striving, so that there is a certain harmony between cosmic order
and human ideals? Darwin himself has shown how the consciousness of duty
can arise as a natural result of evolution. Moreover there are lines of
evolution which have their end in ethical idealism, in a kingdom of values,
which must struggle for life as all things in the world must do, but a
kingdom which has its firm foundation in reality.


Professor of Social Philosophy in the University of Toulouse and Deputy-
Professor at the Sorbonne, Paris.

How has our conception of social phenomena, and of their history, been
affected by Darwin's conception of Nature and the laws of its
transformations? To what extent and in what particular respects have the
discoveries and hypotheses of the author of "The Origin of Species" aided
the efforts of those who have sought to construct a science of society?

To such a question it is certainly not easy to give any brief or precise
answer. We find traces of Darwinism almost everywhere. Sociological
systems differing widely from each other have laid claim to its authority;
while, on the other hand, its influence has often made itself felt only in
combination with other influences. The Darwinian thread is worked into a
hundred patterns along with other threads.

To deal with the problem, we must, it seems, first of all distinguish the
more general conclusions in regard to the evolution of living beings, which
are the outcome of Darwinism, from the particular explanations it offers of
the ways and means by which that evolution is effected. That is to say, we
must, as far as possible, estimate separately the influence of Darwin as an
evolutionist and Darwin as a selectionist.

The nineteenth century, said Cournot, has witnessed a mighty effort to
"reintegrer l'homme dans la nature." From divers quarters there has been a
methodical reaction against the persistent dualism of the Cartesian
tradition, which was itself the unconscious heir of the Christian
tradition. Even the philosophy of the eighteenth century, materialistic as
were for the most part the tendencies of its leaders, seemed to revere man
as a being apart, concerning whom laws might be formulated a priori. To
bring him down from his pedestal there was needed the marked predominance
of positive researches wherein no account was taken of the "pride of man."
There can be no doubt that Darwin has done much to familiarise us with this
attitude. Take for instance the first part of "The Descent of Man": it is
an accumulation of typical facts, all tending to diminish the distance
between us and our brothers, the lower animals. One might say that the
naturalist had here taken as his motto, "Whosoever shall exalt himself
shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
Homologous structures, the survival in man of certain organs of animals,
the rudiments in the animal of certain human faculties, a multitude of
facts of this sort, led Darwin to the conclusion that there is no ground
for supposing that the "king of the universe" is exempt from universal
laws. Thus belief in the imperium in imperio has been, as it were,
whittled away by the progress of the naturalistic spirit, itself
continually strengthened by the conquests of the natural sciences. The
tendency may, indeed, drag the social sciences into overstrained analogies,
such, for instance, as the assimilation of societies to organisms. But it
will, at least, have had the merit of helping sociology to shake off the
pre-conception that the groups formed by men are artificial, and that
history is completely at the mercy of chance. Some years before the
appearance of "The Origin of Species", Auguste Comte had pointed out the
importance, as regards the unification of positive knowledge, of the
conviction that the social world, the last refuge of spiritualism, is
itself subject to determininism. It cannot be doubted that the movement of
thought which Darwin's discoveries promoted contributed to the spread of
this conviction, by breaking down the traditional barrier which cut man off
from Nature.

But Nature, according to modern naturalists, is no immutable thing: it is
rather perpetual movement, continual progression. Their discoveries batter
a breach directly into the Aristotelian notion of species; they refuse to
see in the animal world a collection of immutable types, distinct from all
eternity, and corresponding, as Cuvier said, to so many particular thoughts
of the Creator. Darwin especially congratulated himself upon having been
able to deal this doctrine the coup de grace: immutability is, he says,
his chief enemy; and he is concerned to show--therein following up Lyell's
work--that everything in the organic world, as in the inorganic, is
explained by insensible but incessant transformations. "Nature makes no
leaps"--"Nature knows no gaps": these two dicta form, as it were, the two
landmarks between which Darwin's idea of transformation is worked out.
That is to say, the development of Darwinism is calculated to further the
application of the philosophy of Becoming to the study of human

The progress of the natural sciences thus brings unexpected reinforcements
to the revolution which the progress of historical discipline had begun.
The first attempt to constitute an actual science of social phenomena--
that, namely, of the economists--had resulted in laws which were called
natural, and which were believed to be eternal and universal, valid for all
times and all places. But this perpetuality, brother, as Knies said, of
the immutability of the old zoology, did not long hold out against the ever
swelling tide of the historical movement. Knowledge of the transformations
that had taken place in language, of the early phases of the family, of
religion, of property, had all favoured the revival of the Heraclitean
view: panta rei. As to the categories of political economy, it was soon
to be recognised, as by Lassalle, that they too are only historical. The
philosophy of history, moreover, gave expression under various forms to the
same tendency. Hegel declares that "all that is real is rational," but at
the same time he shows that all that is real is ephemeral, and that for
history there is nothing fixed beneath the sun. It is this sense of
universal evolution that Darwin came with fresh authority to enlarge. It
was in the name of biological facts themselves that he taught us to see
only slow metamorphoses in the history of institutions, and to be always on
the outlook for survivals side by side with rudimentary forms. Anyone who
reads "Primitive Culture", by Tylor,--a writer closely connected with
Darwin--will be able to estimate the services which these cardinal ideas
were to render to the social sciences when the age of comparative research
had succeeded to that of a priori construction.

Let us note, moreover, that the philosophy of Becoming in passing through
the Darwinian biology became, as it were, filtered: it got rid of those
traces of finalism, which, under different forms, it had preserved through
all the systems of German Romanticism. Even in Herbert Spencer, it has
been plausibly argued, one can detect something of that sort of mystic
confidence in forces spontaneously directing life, which forms the very
essence of those systems. But Darwin's observations were precisely
calculated to render such an hypothesis futile. At first people may have
failed to see this; and we call to mind the ponderous sarcasms of Flourens
when he objected to the theory of Natural Selection that it attributed to
nature a power of free choice. "Nature endowed with will! That was the
final error of last century; but the nineteenth no longer deals in
personifications." (P. Flourens, "Examen du Livre de M. Darwin sur
l'Origine des Especes", page 53, Paris, 1864. See also Huxley, "Criticisms
on the 'Origin of Species'", "Collected Essays", Vol. II, page 102, London,
1902.) In fact Darwin himself put his readers on their guard against the
metaphors he was obliged to use. The processes by which he explains the
survival of the fittest are far from affording any indication of the design
of some transcendent breeder. Nor, if we look closely, do they even imply
immanent effort in the animal; the sorting out can be brought about
mechanically, simply by the action of the environment. In this connection
Huxley could with good reason maintain that Darwin's originality consisted
in showing how harmonies which hitherto had been taken to imply the agency
of intelligence and will could be explained without any such intervention.
So, when later on, objective sociology declares that, even when social
phenomena are in question, all finalist preconceptions must be distrusted
if a science is to be constituted, it is to Darwin that its thanks are due;
he had long been clearing paths for it which lay well away from the old
familiar road trodden by so many theories of evolution.

This anti-finalist doctrine, when fully worked out, was, moreover,
calculated to aid in the needful dissociation of two notions: that of
evolution and that of progress. In application to society these had long
been confounded; and, as a consequence, the general idea seemed to be that
only one type of evolution was here possible. Do we not detect such a view
in Comte's sociology, and perhaps even in Herbert Spencer's? Whoever,
indeed, assumes an end for evolution is naturally inclined to think that
only one road leads to that end. But those whose minds the Darwinian
theory has enlightened are aware that the transformations of living beings
depend primarily upon their conditions, and that it is these conditions
which are the agents of selection from among individual variations. Hence,
it immediately follows that transformations are not necessarily
improvements. Here, Darwin's thought hesitated. Logically his theory
proves, as Ray Lankester pointed out, that the struggle for existence may
have as its outcome degeneration as well as amelioration: evolution may be
regressive as well as progressive. Then, too--and this is especially to be
borne in mind--each species takes its good where it finds it, seeks its own
path and survives as best it can. Apply this notion to society and you
arrive at the theory of multilinear evolution. Divergencies will no longer
surprise you. You will be forewarned not to apply to all civilisations the
same measure of progress, and you will recognise that types of evolution
may differ just as social species themselves differ. Have we not here one
of the conceptions which mark off sociology proper from the old philosophy
of history?

But if we are to estimate the influence of Darwinism upon sociological
conceptions, we must not dwell only upon the way in which Darwin impressed
the general notion of evolution upon the minds of thinkers. We must go
into details. We must consider the influence of the particular theories by
which he explained the mechanism of this evolution. The name of the author
of "The Origin of Species" has been especially attached, as everyone knows,
to the doctrines of "natural selection" and of "struggle for existence,"
completed by the notion of "individual variation." These doctrines were
turned to account by very different schools of social philosophy.
Pessimistic and optimistic, aristocratic and democratic, individualistic
and socialistic systems were to war with each other for years by casting
scraps of Darwinism at each other's heads.

It was the spectacle of human contrivance that suggested to Darwin his
conception of natural selection. It was in studying the methods of pigeon
breeders that he divined the processes by which nature, in the absence of
design, obtains analogous results in the differentiation of types. As soon
as the importance of artificial selection in the transformation of species
of animals was understood, reflection naturally turned to the human
species, and the question arose, How far do men observe, in connection with
themselves, those laws of which they make practical application in the case
of animals? Here we come upon one of the ideas which guided the researches
of Galton, Darwin's cousin. The author of "Inquiries into Human Faculty
and its Development" ("Inquiries into Human Faculty", pages 1, 2, 3 sq.,
London, 1883.), has often expressed his surprise that, considering all the
precautions taken, for example, in the breeding of horses, none whatever
are taken in the breeding of the human species. It seems to be forgotten
that the species suffers when the "fittest" are not able to perpetuate
their type. Ritchie, in his "Darwinism and Politics" ("Darwinism and
Politics" pages 9, 22, London, 1889.) reminds us of Darwin's remark that
the institution of the peerage might be defended on the ground that peers,
owing to the prestige they enjoy, are enabled to select as wives "the most
beautiful and charming women out of the lower ranks." ("Life and Letters
of Charles Darwin", II. page 385.) But, says Galton, it is as often as not
"heiresses" that they pick out, and birth statistics seem to show that
these are either less robust or less fecund than others. The truth is that
considerations continue to preside over marriage which are entirely foreign
to the improvement of type, much as this is a condition of general
progress. Hence the importance of completing Odin's and De Candolle's
statistics which are designed to show how characters are incorporated in
organisms, how they are transmitted, how lost, and according to what law
eugenic elements depart from the mean or return to it.

But thinkers do not always content themselves with undertaking merely the
minute researches which the idea of Selection suggests. They are eager to
defend this or that thesis. In the name of this idea certain social
anthropologists have recast the conception of the process of civilisation,
and have affirmed that Social Selection generally works against the trend
of Natural Selection. Vacher de Lapouge--following up an observation by
Broca on the point--enumerates the various institutions, or customs, such
as the celibacy of priests and military conscription, which cause
elimination or sterilisation of the bearers of certain superior qualities,
intellectual or physical. In a more general way he attacks the democratic
movement, a movement, as P. Bourget says, which is "anti-physical" and
contrary to the natural laws of progress; though it has been inspired "by
the dreams of that most visionary of all centuries, the eighteenth." (V.
de Lapouge, "Les Selections sociales", page 259, Paris, 1896.) The
"Equality" which levels down and mixes (justly condemned, he holds, by the
Comte de Gobineau), prevents the aristocracy of the blond dolichocephales
from holding the position and playing the part which, in the interests of
all, should belong to them. Otto Ammon, in his "Natural Selection in Man",
and in "The Social Order and its Natural Bases" ("Die naturliche Auslese
beim Menschen", Jena, 1893; "Die Gesellschaftsordnung und ihre naturlichen
Grundlagen". "Entwurf einer Sozialanthropologie", Jena, 1896.), defended
analogous doctrines in Germany; setting the curve representing frequency of
talent over against that of income, he attempted to show that all
democratic measures which aim at promoting the rise in the social scale of
the talented are useless, if not dangerous; that they only increase the
panmixia, to the great detriment of the species and of society.

Among the aristocratic theories which Darwinism has thus inspired we must
reckon that of Nietzsche. It is well known that in order to complete his
philosophy he added biological studies to his philological; and more than
once in his remarks upon the "Wille zur Macht" he definitely alludes to
Darwin; though it must be confessed that it is generally in order to
proclaim the in sufficiency of the processes by which Darwin seeks to
explain the genesis of species. Nevertheless, Nietzsche's mind is
completely possessed by an ideal of Selection. He, too, has a horror of
panmixia. The naturalists' conception of "the fittest" is joined by him to
that of the "hero" of romance to furnish a basis for his doctrine of the
Superman. Let us hasten to add, moreover, that at the very moment when
support was being sought in the theory of Selection for the various forms
of the aristocratic doctrine, those same forms were being battered down on
another side by means of that very theory. Attention was drawn to the fact
that by virtue of the laws which Darwin himself had discovered isolation
leads to etiolation. There is a risk that the privilege which withdraws
the privileged elements of Society from competition will cause them to
degenerate. In fact, Jacoby in his "Studies in Selection, in connexion
with Heredity in Man", ("Etudes sur la Selection dans ses rapports avec
l'heredite chez l'homme", Paris, page 481, 1881.), concludes that
"sterility, mental debility, premature death and, finally, the extinction
of the stock were not specially and exclusively the fate of sovereign
dynasties; all privileged classes, all families in exclusively elevated
positions share the fate of reigning families, although in a minor degree
and in direct proportion to the loftiness of their social standing. From
the mass of human beings spring individuals, families, races, which tend to
raise themselves above the common level; painfully they climb the rugged
heights, attain the summits of power, of wealth, of intelligence, of
talent, and then, no sooner are they there than they topple down and
disappear in gulfs of mental and physical degeneracy." The demographical
researches of Hansen ("Die drei Bevolkerungsstufen", Munich, 1889.)
(following up and completing Dumont's) tended, indeed, to show that urban
as well as feudal aristocracies, burgher classes as well as noble castes,
were liable to become effete. Hence it might well be concluded that the
democratic movement, operating as it does to break down class barriers, was
promoting instead of impeding human selection.

So we see that, according to the point of view, very different conclusions
have been drawn from the application of the Darwinian idea of Selection to
human society. Darwin's other central idea, closely bound up with this,
that, namely, of the "struggle for existence" also has been diversely
utilised. But discussion has chiefly centered upon its signification. And
while some endeavour to extend its application to everything, we find
others trying to limit its range. The conception of a "struggle for
existence" has in the present day been taken up into the social sciences
from natural science, and adopted. But originally it descended from social
science to natural. Darwin's law is, as he himself said, only Malthus' law
generalised and extended to the animal world: a growing disproportion
between the supply of food and the number of the living is the fatal order
whence arises the necessity of universal struggle, a struggle which, to the
great advantage of the species, allows only the best equipped individuals
to survive. Nature is regarded by Huxley as an immense arena where all
living beings are gladiators. ("Evolution and Ethics", page 200;
"Collected Essays", Vol. IX, London, 1894.)

Such a generalisation was well adapted to feed the stream of pessimistic
thought; and it furnished to the apologists of war, in particular, new
arguments, weighted with all the authority which in these days attaches to
scientific deliverances. If people no longer say, as Bonald did, and
Moltke after him, that war is a providential fact, they yet lay stress on
the point that it is a natural fact. To the peace party Dragomirov's
objection is urged that its attempts are contrary to the fundamental laws
of nature, and that no sea wall can hold against breakers that come with
such gathered force.

But in yet another quarter Darwinism was represented as opposed to
philanthropic intervention. The defenders of the orthodox political
economy found in it support for their tenets. Since in the organic world
universal struggle is the condition of progress, it seemed obvious that
free competition must be allowed to reign unchecked in the economic world.
Attempts to curb it were in the highest degree imprudent. The spirit of
Liberalism here seemed in conformity with the trend of nature: in this
respect, at least, contemporary naturalism, offspring of the discoveries of
the nineteenth century, brought reinforcements to the individualist
doctrine, begotten of the speculations of the eighteenth: but only, it
appeared, to turn mankind away for ever from humanitarian dreams. Would
those whom such conclusions repelled be content to oppose to nature's
imperatives only the protests of the heart? There were some who declared,
like Brunetiere, that the laws in question, valid though they might be for
the animal kingdom, were not applicable to the human. And so a return was
made to the classic dualism. This indeed seems to be the line that Huxley
took, when, for instance, he opposed to the cosmic process an ethical
process which was its reverse.

But the number of thinkers whom this antithesis does not satisfy grows
daily. Although the pessimism which claims authorisation from Darwin's
doctrines is repugnant to them, they still are unable to accept the dualism
which leaves a gulf between man and nature. And their endeavour is to link
the two by showing that while Darwin's laws obtain in both kingdoms, the
conditions of their application are not the same: their forms, and,
consequently, their results, vary with the varying mediums in which the
struggle of living beings takes place, with the means these beings have at
disposal, with the ends even which they propose to themselves.

Here we have the explanation of the fact that among determined opponents of
war partisans of the "struggle for existence" can be found: there are
disciples of Darwin in the peace party. Novicow, for example, admits the
"combat universel" of which Le Dantec ("Les Luttes entre Societies humaines
et leurs phases successives", Paris, 1893,) speaks; but he remarks that at
different stages of evolution, at different stages of life the same weapons
are not necessarily employed. Struggles of brute force, armed hand to hand
conflicts, may have been a necessity in the early phases of human
societies. Nowadays, although competition may remain inevitable and
indispensable, it can assume milder forms. Economic rivalries, struggles
between intellectual influences, suffice to stimulate progress: the
processes which these admit are, in the actual state of civilisation, the
only ones which attain their end without waste, the only ones logical.
From one end to the other of the ladder of life, struggle is the order of
the day; but more and more as the higher rungs are reached, it takes on
characters which are proportionately more "humane."

Reflections of this kind permit the introduction into the economic order of
limitations to the doctrine of "laisser faire, laisser passer." This
appeals, it is said, to the example of nature where creatures, left to
themselves, struggle without truce and without mercy; but the fact is
forgotten that upon industrial battlefields the conditions are different.
The competitors here are not left simply to their natural energies: they
are variously handicapped. A rich store of artificial resources exists in
which some participate and others do not. The sides then are unequal; and
as a consequence the result of the struggle is falsified. "In the animal
world," said De Laveleye ("Le socialisme contemporain", page 384 (6th
edition), Paris, 1891.), criticising Spencer, "the fate of each creature is
determined by its individual qualities; whereas in civilised societies a
man may obtain the highest position and the most beautiful wife because he
is rich and well-born, although he may be ugly, idle or improvident; and
then it is he who will perpetuate the species. The wealthy man, ill
constituted, incapable, sickly, enjoys his riches and establishes his stock
under the protection of the laws." Haycraft in England and Jentsch in
Germany have strongly emphasised these "anomalies," which nevertheless are
the rule. That is to say that even from a Darwinian point of view all
social reforms can readily be justified which aim at diminishing, as
Wallace said, inequalities at the start.

But we can go further still. Whence comes the idea that all measures
inspired by the sentiment of solidarity are contrary to Nature's trend?
Observe her carefully, and she will not give lessons only in individualism.
Side by side with the struggle for existence do we not find in operation
what Lanessan calls "association for existence." Long ago, Espinas had
drawn attention to "societies of animals," temporary or permanent, and to
the kind of morality that arose in them. Since then, naturalists have
often insisted upon the importance of various forms of symbiosis.
Kropotkin in "Mutual Aid" has chosen to enumerate many examples of altruism
furnished by animals to mankind. Geddes and Thomson went so far as to
maintain that "Each of the greater steps of progress is in fact associated
with an increased measure of subordination of individual competition to
reproductive or social ends, and of interspecific competition to co-
operative association." (Geddes and Thomson, "The Evolution of Sex", page
311, London, 1889.) Experience shows, according to Geddes, that the types
which are fittest to surmount great obstacles are not so much those who
engage in the fiercest competitive struggle for existence, as those who
contrive to temper it. From all these observations there resulted, along
with a limitation of Darwinian pessimism, some encouragement for the
aspirations of the collectivists.

And Darwin himself would, doubtless, have subscribed to these
rectifications. He never insisted, like his rival, Wallace, upon the
necessity of the solitary struggle of creatures in a state of nature, each
for himself and against all. On the contrary, in "The Descent of Man", he
pointed out the serviceableness of the social instincts, and corroborated
Bagehot's statements when the latter, applying laws of physics to politics,
showed the great advantage societies derived from intercourse and
communion. Again, the theory of sexual evolution which makes the evolution
of types depend increasingly upon preferences, judgments, mental factors,
surely offers something to qualify what seems hard and brutal in the theory
of natural selection.

But, as often happens with disciples, the Darwinians had out-Darwined
Darwin. The extravagancies of social Darwinism provoked a useful reaction;
and thus people were led to seek, even in the animal kingdom, for facts of
solidarity which would serve to justify humane effort.

On quite another line, however, an attempt has been made to connect
socialist tendencies with Darwinian principles. Marx and Darwin have been
confronted; and writers have undertaken to show that the work of the German
philosopher fell readily into line with that of the English naturalist and
was a development of it. Such has been the endeavour of Ferri in Italy and
of Woltmann in Germany, not to mention others. The founders of "scientific
socialism" had, moreover, themselves thought of this reconciliation. They
make more than one allusion to Darwin in works which appeared after 1859.
And sometimes they use his theory to define by contrast their own ideal.
They remark that the capitalist system, by giving free course to individual
competition, ends indeed in a bellum omnium contra omnes; and they make it
clear that Darwinism, thus understood, is as repugnant to them as to

But it is at the scientific and not at the moral point of view that they
place themselves when they connect their economic history with Darwin's
work. Thanks to this unifying hypothesis, they claim to have constructed--
as Marx does in his preface to "Das Kapital"--a veritable natural history
of social evolution. Engels speaks in praise of his friend Marx as having
discovered the true mainspring of history hidden under the veil of idealism
and sentimentalism, and as having proclaimed in the primum vivere the
inevitableness of the struggle for existence. Marx himself, in "Das
Kapital", indicated another analogy when he dwelt upon the importance of a
general technology for the explanation of this psychology:--a history of
tools which would be to social organs what Darwinism is to the organs of
animal species. And the very importance they attach to tools, to
apparatus, to machines, abundantly proves that neither Marx nor Engels were
likely to forget the special characters which mark off the human world from
the animal. The former always remains to a great extent an artificial
world. Inventions change the face of its institutions. New modes of
production revolutionise not only modes of government, but modes even of
collective thought. Therefore it is that the evolution of society is
controlled by laws special to it, of which the spectacle of nature offers
no suggestion.

If, however, even in this special sphere, it can still be urged that the
evolution of the material conditions of society is in accord with Darwin's
theory, it is because the influence of the methods of production is itself
to be explained by the incessant strife of the various classes with each
other. So that in the end Marx, like Darwin, finds the source of all
progress in struggle. Both are grandsons of Heraclitus:--polemos pater
panton. It sometimes happens, in these days, that the doctrine of
revolutionary socialism is contrasted as rude and healthy with what may
seem to be the enervating tendency of "solidarist" philanthropy: the
apologists of the doctrine then pride themselves above all upon their
faithfulness to Darwinian principles.

So far we have been mainly concerned to show the use that social
philosophies have made of the Darwinian laws for practical purposes: in
order to orientate society towards their ideals each school tries to show
that the authority of natural science is on its side. But even in the most
objective of theories, those which systematically make abstraction of all
political tendencies in order to study the social reality in itself, traces
of Darwinism are readily to be found.

Let us take for example Durkheim's theory of Division of Labour ("De la
Division du Travail social", Paris, 1893.) The conclusions he derives from
it are that whenever professional specialisation causes multiplication of
distinct branches of activity, we get organic solidarity--implying
differences--substituted for mechanical solidarity, based upon likenesses.
The umbilical cord, as Marx said, which connects the individual
consciousness with the collective consciousness is cut. The personality
becomes more and more emancipated. But on what does this phenomenon, so
big with consequences, itself depend? The author goes to social morphology
for the answer: it is, he says, the growing density of population which
brings with it this increasing differentiation of activities. But, again,
why? Because the greater density, in thrusting men up against each other,
augments the intensity of their competition for the means of existence; and
for the problems which society thus has to face differentiation of
functions presents itself as the gentlest solution.

Here one sees that the writer borrows directly from Darwin. Competition is
at its maximum between similars, Darwin had declared; different species,
not laying claim to the same food, could more easily coexist. Here lay the
explanation of the fact that upon the same oak hundreds of different
insects might be found. Other things being equal, the same applies to
society. He who finds some unadopted speciality possesses a means of his
own for getting a living. It is by this division of their manifold tasks
that men contrive not to crush each other. Here we obviously have a
Darwinian law serving as intermediary in the explanation of that progress
of division of labour which itself explains so much in the social

And we might take another example, at the other end of the series of
sociological systems. G. Tarde is a sociologist with the most pronounced
anti-naturalistic views. He has attempted to show that all application of
the laws of natural science to society is misleading. In his "Opposition
Universelle" he has directly combatted all forms of sociological Darwinism.
According to him the idea that the evolution of society can be traced on
the same plan as the evolution of species is chimerical. Social evolution
is at the mercy of all kinds of inventions, which by virtue of the laws of
imitation modify, through individual to individual, through neighbourhood
to neighbourhood, the general state of those beliefs and desires which are
the only "quantities" whose variation matters to the sociologist. But, it
may be rejoined, that however psychical the forces may be, they are none
the less subject to Darwinian laws. They compete with each other; they
struggle for the mastery of minds. Between types of ideas, as between
organic forms, selection operates. And though it may be that these types
are ushered into the arena by unexpected discoveries, we yet recognise in
the psychological accidents, which Tarde places at the base of everything,
near relatives of those small accidental variations upon which Darwin
builds. Thus, accepting Tarde's own representations, it is quite possible
to express in Darwinian terms, with the necessary transpositions, one of
the most idealistic sociologies that have ever been constructed.

These few examples suffice. They enable us to estimate the extent of the
field of influence of Darwinism. It affects sociology not only through the
agency of its advocates but through that of its opponents. The
questionings to which it has given rise have proved no less fruitful than
the solutions it has suggested. In short, few doctrines, in the history of
social philosophy, will have produced on their passage a finer outcrop of




The object of this paper is first to point out certain elements of the
Darwinian influence upon Religious thought, and then to show reason for the
conclusion that it has been, from a Christian point of view, satisfactory.
I shall not proceed further to urge that the Christian apologetic in
relation to biology has been successful. A variety of opinions may be held
on this question, without disturbing the conclusion that the movements of
readjustment have been beneficial to those who remain Christians, and this
by making them more Christian and not only more liberal. The theologians
may sometimes have retreated, but there has been an advance of theology. I
know that this account incurs the charge of optimism. It is not the worst
that could be made. The influence has been limited in personal range,
unequal, even divergent, in operation, and accompanied by the appearance of
waste and mischievous products. The estimate which follows requires for
due balance a full development of many qualifying considerations. For this
I lack space, but I must at least distinguish my view from the popular one
that our difficulties about religion and natural science have come to an

Concerning the older questions about origins--the origin of the world, of
species, of man, of reason, conscience, religion--a large measure of
understanding has been reached by some thoughtful men. But meanwhile new
questions have arisen, questions about conduct, regarding both the reality
of morals and the rule of right action for individuals and societies. And
these problems, still far from solution, may also be traced to the
influence of Darwin. For they arise from the renewed attention to
heredity, brought about by the search for the causes of variation, without
which the study of the selection of variations has no sufficient basis.

Even the existing understanding about origins is very far from universal.
On these points there were always thoughtful men who denied the necessity
of conflict, and there are still thoughtful men who deny the possibility of
a truce.

It must further be remembered that the earlier discussion now, as I hope to
show, producing favourable results, created also for a time grave damage,
not only in the disturbance of faith and the loss of men--a loss not
repaired by a change in the currents of debate--but in what I believe to be
a still more serious respect. I mean the introduction of a habit of facile
and untested hypothesis in religious as in other departments of thought.

Darwin is not responsible for this, but he is in part the cause of it.
Great ideas are dangerous guests in narrow minds; and thus it has happened
that Darwin--the most patient of scientific workers, in whom hypothesis
waited upon research, or if it provisionally outstepped it did so only with
the most scrupulously careful acknowledgment--has led smaller and less
conscientious men in natural science, in history, and in theology to an
over-eager confidence in probable conjecture and a loose grip upon the
facts of experience. It is not too much to say that in many quarters the
age of materialism was the least matter-of-fact age conceivable, and the
age of science the age which showed least of the patient temper of inquiry.

I have indicated, as shortly as I could, some losses and dangers which in a
balanced account of Darwin's influence would be discussed at length.

One other loss must be mentioned. It is a defect in our thought which, in
some quarters, has by itself almost cancelled all the advantages secured.
I mean the exaggerated emphasis on uniformity or continuity; the
unwillingness to rest any part of faith or of our practical expectation
upon anything that from any point of view can be called exceptional. The
high degree of success reached by naturalists in tracing, or reasonably
conjecturing, the small beginnings of great differences, has led the
inconsiderate to believe that anything may in time become anything else.

It is true that this exaggeration of the belief in uniformity has produced
in turn its own perilous reaction. From refusing to believe whatever can
be called exceptional, some have come to believe whatever can be called

But, on the whole, the discontinuous or highly various character of
experience received for many years too little deliberate attention. The
conception of uniformity which is a necessity of scientific description has
been taken for the substance of history. We have accepted a postulate of
scientific method as if it were a conclusion of scientific demonstration.
In the name of a generalisation which, however just on the lines of a
particular method, is the prize of a difficult exploit of reflexion, we
have discarded the direct impressions of experience; or, perhaps it is more
true to say, we have used for the criticism of alleged experiences a
doctrine of uniformity which is only valid in the region of abstract
science. For every science depends for its advance upon limitation of
attention, upon the selection out of the whole content of consciousness of
that part or aspect which is measurable by the method of the science.
Accordingly there is a science of life which rightly displays the unity
underlying all its manifestations. But there is another view of life,
equally valid, and practically sometimes more important, which recognises
the immediate and lasting effect of crisis, difference, and revolution.
Our ardour for the demonstration of uniformity of process and of minute
continuous change needs to be balanced by a recognition of the catastrophic
element in experience, and also by a recognition of the exceptional
significance for us of events which may be perfectly regular from an
impersonal point of view.

An exorbitant jealousy of miracle, revelation, and ultimate moral
distinctions has been imported from evolutionary science into religious
thought. And it has been a damaging influence, because it has taken men's
attention from facts, and fixed them upon theories.


With this acknowledgment of important drawbacks, requiring many words for
their proper description, I proceed to indicate certain results of Darwin's
doctrine which I believe to be in the long run wholly beneficial to
Christian thought. These are:

The encouragement in theology of that evolutionary method of observation
and study, which has shaped all modern research:

The recoil of Christian apologetics towards the ground of religious
experience, a recoil produced by the pressure of scientific criticism upon
other supports of faith:

The restatement, or the recovery of ancient forms of statement, of the
doctrines of Creation and of divine Design in Nature, consequent upon the
discussion of evolution and of natural selection as its guiding factor.

(1) The first of these is quite possibly the most important of all. It
was well defined in a notable paper read by Dr Gore, now Bishop of
Birmingham, to the Church Congress at Shrewsbury in 1896. We have learnt a
new caution both in ascribing and in denying significance to items of
evidence, in utterance or in event. There has been, as in art, a study of
values, which secures perspective and solidity in our representation of
facts. On the one hand, a given utterance or event cannot be drawn into
evidence as if all items were of equal consequence, like sovereigns in a
bag. The question whence and whither must be asked, and the particular
thing measured as part of a series. Thus measured it is not less truly
important, but it may be important in a lower degree. On the other hand,
and for exactly the same reason, nothing that is real is unimportant. The
"failures" are not mere mistakes. We see them, in St Augustine's words, as
"scholar's faults which men praise in hope of fruit."

We cannot safely trace the origin of the evolutionistic method to the
influence of natural science. The view is tenable that theology led the
way. Probably this is a case of alternate and reciprocal debt. Quite
certainly the evolutionist method in theology, in Christian history, and in
the estimate of scripture, has received vast reinforcement from biology, in
which evolution has been the ever present and ever victorious conception.

(2) The second effect named is the new willingness of Christian thinkers
to take definite account of religious experience. This is related to
Darwin through the general pressure upon religious faith of scientific
criticism. The great advance of our knowledge of organisms has been an
important element in the general advance of science. It has acted, by the
varied requirements of the theory of organisms, upon all other branches of
natural inquiry, and it held for a long time that leading place in public
attention which is now occupied by speculative physics. Consequently it
contributed largely to our present estimation of science as the supreme
judge in all matters of inquiry (F.R. Tennant: "The Being of God in the
light of Physical Science", in "Essays on some theological questions of the
day". London, 1905.), to the supposed destruction of mystery and the
disparagement of metaphysic which marked the last age, as well as to the
just recommendation of scientific method in branches of learning where the
direct acquisitions of natural science had no place.

Besides this, the new application of the idea of law and mechanical
regularity to the organic world seemed to rob faith of a kind of refuge.
The romantics had, as Berthelot ("Evolutionisme et Platonisme", pages 45,
46, 47. Paris, 1908.) shows, appealed to life to redress the judgments
drawn from mechanism. Now, in Spencer, evolution gave us a vitalist
mechanic or mechanical vitalism, and the appeal seemed cut off. We may
return to this point later when we consider evolution; at present I only
endeavour to indicate that general pressure of scientific criticism which
drove men of faith to seek the grounds of reassurance in a science of their
own; in a method of experiment, of observation, of hypothesis checked by
known facts. It is impossible for me to do more than glance across the
threshold of this subject. But it is necessary to say that the method is
in an elementary stage of revival. The imposing success that belongs to
natural science is absent: we fall short of the unchallengeable unanimity
of the Biologists on fundamentals. The experimental method with its sure
repetitions cannot be applied to our subject-matter. But we have something
like the observational method of palaeontology and geographical
distribution; and in biology there are still men who think that the large
examination of varieties by way of geography and the search of strata is as
truly scientific, uses as genuinely the logical method of difference, and
is as fruitful in sure conclusions as the quasi-chemical analysis of
Mendelian laboratory work, of which last I desire to express my humble
admiration. Religion also has its observational work in the larger and
possibly more arduous manner.

But the scientific work in religion makes its way through difficulties and
dangers. We are far from having found the formula of its combination with
the historical elements of our apologetic. It is exposed, therefore, to a
damaging fire not only from unspiritualist psychology and pathology but
also from the side of scholastic dogma. It is hard to admit on equal terms
a partner to the old undivided rule of books and learning. With Charles
Lamb, we cry in some distress, "must knowledge come to me, if it come at
all, by some awkward experiment of intuition, and no longer by this
familiar process of reading?" ("Essays of Elia", "New Year's Eve", page
41; Ainger's edition. London, 1899.) and we are answered that the old
process has an imperishable value, only we have not yet made clear its
connection with other contributions. And all the work is young, liable to
be drawn into unprofitable excursions, side-tracked by self-deceit and
pretence; and it fatally attracts, like the older mysticism, the curiosity
and the expository powers of those least in sympathy with it, ready writers
who, with all the air of extended research, have been content with narrow
grounds for induction. There is a danger, besides, which accompanies even
the most genuine work of this science and must be provided against by all
its serious students. I mean the danger of unbalanced introspection both
for individuals and for societies; of a preoccupation comparable to our
modern social preoccupation with bodily health; of reflection upon mental
states not accompanied by exercise and growth of the mental powers; the
danger of contemplating will and neglecting work, of analysing conviction
and not criticising evidence.

Still, in spite of dangers and mistakes, the work remains full of hopeful
indications, and, in the best examples (Such an example is given in Baron
F. von Hugel's recently finished book, the result of thirty years'
research: "The Mystical Element of Religion, as studied in Saint Catherine
of Genoa and her Friends". London, 1908.), it is truly scientific in its
determination to know the very truth, to tell what we think, not what we
think we ought to think. (G. Tyrrell, in "Mediaevalism", has a chapter
which is full of the important MORAL element in a scientific attitude.
"The only infallible guardian of truth is the spirit of truthfulness."
"Mediaevalism" page 182, London, 1908.), truly scientific in its employment
of hypothesis and verification, and in growing conviction of the reality of
its subject-matter through the repeated victories of a mastery which
advances, like science, in the Baconian road of obedience. It is
reasonable to hope that progress in this respect will be more rapid and
sure when religious study enlists more men affected by scientific desire
and endowed with scientific capacity.

The class of investigating minds is a small one, possibly even smaller than
that of reflecting minds. Very few persons at any period are able to find
out anything whatever. There are few observers, few discoverers, few who
even wish to discover truth. In how many societies the problems of
philology which face every person who speaks English are left unattempted!
And if the inquiring or the successfully inquiring class of minds is small,
much smaller, of course, is the class of those possessing the scientific
aptitude in an eminent degree. During the last age this most distinguished
class was to a very great extent absorbed in the study of phenomena, a
study which had fallen into arrears. For we stood possessed, in rudiment,
of means of observation, means for travelling and acquisition, qualifying
men for a larger knowledge than had yet been attempted. These were now to
be directed with new accuracy and ardour upon the fabric and behaviour of
the world of sense. Our debt to the great masters in physical science who
overtook and almost out-stripped the task cannot be measured; and, under
the honourable leadership of Ruskin, we may all well do penance if we have
failed "in the respect due to their great powers of thought, or in the
admiration due to the far scope of their discovery." ("Queen of the Air",
Preface, page vii. London, 1906.) With what miraculous mental energy and
divine good fortune--as Romans said of their soldiers--did our men of
curiosity face the apparently impenetrable mysteries of nature! And how
natural it was that immense accessions of knowledge, unrelated to the
spiritual facts of life, should discredit Christian faith, by the apparent
superiority of the new work to the feeble and unprogressive knowledge of
Christian believers! The day is coming when men of this mental character
and rank, of this curiosity, this energy and this good fortune in
investigation, will be employed in opening mysteries of a spiritual nature.
They will silence with masterful witness the over-confident denials of
naturalism. They will be in danger of the widespread recognition which
thirty years ago accompanied every utterance of Huxley, Tyndall, Spencer.
They will contribute, in spite of adulation, to the advance of sober
religious and moral science.

And this result will be due to Darwin, first because by raising the dignity
of natural science, he encouraged the development of the scientific mind;
secondly because he gave to religious students the example of patient and
ardent investigation; and thirdly because by the pressure of naturalistic
criticism the religious have been driven to ascertain the causes of their
own convictions, a work in which they were not without the sympathy of men
of science. (The scientific rank of its writer justifies the insertion of
the following letter from the late Sir John Burdon-Sanderson to me. In the
lecture referred to I had described the methods of Professor Moseley in
teaching Biology as affording a suggestion of the scientific treatment of

Oxford, April 30, 1902.

Dear Sir,

I feel that I must express to you my thanks for the discourse which I had
the pleasure of listening to yesterday afternoon.

I do not mean to say that I was able to follow all that you said as to the
identity of Method in the two fields of Science and Religion, but I
recognise that the "mysticism" of which you spoke gives us the only way by
which the two fields can be brought into relation.

Among much that was memorable, nothing interested me more than what you
said of Moseley.

No one, I am sure, knew better than you the value of his teaching and in
what that value consisted.

Yours faithfully

J. Burdon-Sanderson.

In leaving the subject of scientific religious inquiry, I will only add
that I do not believe it receives any important help--and certainly it
suffers incidentally much damaging interruption--from the study of abnormal
manifestations or abnormal conditions of personality.

(3) Both of the above effects seem to me of high, perhaps the very
highest, importance to faith and to thought. But, under the third head, I
name two which are more directly traceable to the personal work of Darwin,
and more definitely characteristic of the age in which his influence was
paramount: viz. the influence of the two conceptions of evolution and
natural selection upon the doctrine of creation and of design respectively.

It is impossible here, though it is necessary for a complete sketch of the
matter, to distinguish the different elements and channels of this
Darwinian influence; in Darwin's own writings, in the vigorous polemic of
Huxley, and strangely enough, but very actually for popular thought, in the
teaching of the definitely anti-Darwinian evolutionist Spencer.

Under the head of the directly and purely Darwinian elements I should class
as preeminent the work of Wallace and of Bates; for no two sets of facts
have done more to fix in ordinary intelligent minds a belief in organic
evolution and in natural selection as its guiding factor than the facts of
geographical distribution and of protective colour and mimicry. The facts
of geology were difficult to grasp and the public and theologians heard
more often of the imperfection than of the extent of the geological record.
The witness of embryology, depending to a great extent upon microscopic
work, was and is beyond the appreciation of persons occupied in fields of
work other than biology.


From the influence in religion of scientific modes of thought we pass to
the influence of particular biological conceptions. The former effect
comes by way of analogy, example, encouragement and challenge; inspiring or
provoking kindred or similar modes of thought in the field of theology; the
latter by a collision of opinions upon matters of fact or conjecture which
seem to concern both science and religion.

In the case of Darwinism the story of this collision is familiar, and falls
under the heads of evolution and natural selection, the doctrine of descent
with modification, and the doctrine of its guidance or determination by the
struggle for existence between related varieties. These doctrines, though
associated and interdependent, and in popular thought not only combined but
confused, must be considered separately. It is true that the ancient
doctrine of Evolution, in spite of the ingenuity and ardour of Lamarck,
remained a dream tantalising the intellectual ambition of naturalists,
until the day when Darwin made it conceivable by suggesting the machinery
of its guidance. And, further, the idea of natural selection has so
effectively opened the door of research and stimulated observation in a
score of principal directions that, even if the Darwinian explanation
became one day much less convincing than, in spite of recent criticism, it
now is, yet its passing, supposing it to pass, would leave the doctrine of
Evolution immeasurably and permanently strengthened. For in the interests
of the theory of selection, "Fur Darwin," as Muller wrote, facts have been
collected which remain in any case evidence of the reality of descent with

But still, though thus united in the modern history of convictions, though
united and confused in the collision of biological and traditional opinion,
yet evolution and natural selection must be separated in theological no
less than in biological estimation. Evolution seemed inconsistent with
Creation; natural selection with Providence and Divine design.

Discussion was maintained about these points for many years and with much
dark heat. It ranged over many particular topics and engaged minds
different in tone, in quality, and in accomplishment. There was at most
times a degree of misconception. Some naturalists attributed to
theologians in general a poverty of thought which belonged really to men of
a particular temper or training. The "timid theism" discerned in Darwin by
so cautious a theologian as Liddon (H.P. Liddon, "The Recovery of S.
Thomas"; a sermon preached in St Paul's, London, on April 23rd, 1882 (the
Sunday after Darwin's death).) was supposed by many biologists to be the
necessary foundation of an honest Christianity. It was really more
characteristic of devout NATURALISTS like Philip Henry Gosse, than of
religious believers as such. (Dr Pusey ("Unscience not Science adverse to
Faith" 1878) writes: "The questions as to 'species,' of what variations
the animal world is capable, whether the species be more or fewer, whether
accidental variations may become hereditary...and the like, naturally fall
under the province of science. In all these questions Mr Darwin's careful
observations gained for him a deserved approbation and confidence.") The
study of theologians more considerable and even more typically conservative
than Liddon does not confirm the description of religious intolerance given
in good faith, but in serious ignorance, by a disputant so acute, so
observant and so candid as Huxley. Something hid from each other's
knowledge the devoted pilgrims in two great ways of thought. The truth may
be, that naturalists took their view of what creation was from Christian
men of science who naturally looked in their own special studies for the
supports and illustrations of their religious belief. Of almost every
laborious student it may be said "Hic ab arte sua non recessit." And both
the believing and the denying naturalists, confining habitual attention to
a part of experience, are apt to affirm and deny with trenchant vigour and
something of a narrow clearness "Qui respiciunt ad pauca, de facili
pronunciant." (Aristotle, in Bacon, quoted by Newman in his "Idea of a
University", page 78. London, 1873.)

Newman says of some secular teachers that "they persuade the world of what
is false by urging upon it what is true." Of some early opponents of
Darwin it might be said by a candid friend that, in all sincerity of
devotion to truth, they tried to persuade the world of what is true by
urging upon it what is false. If naturalists took their version of
orthodoxy from amateurs in theology, some conservative Christians, instead
of learning what evolution meant to its regular exponents, took their view
of it from celebrated persons, not of the front rank in theology or in
thought, but eager to take account of public movements and able to arrest
public attention.

Cleverness and eloquence on both sides certainly had their share in
producing the very great and general disturbance of men's minds in the
early days of Darwinian teaching. But by far the greater part of that
disturbance was due to the practical novelty and the profound importance of
the teaching itself, and to the fact that the controversy about evolution
quickly became much more public than any controversy of equal seriousness
had been for many generations.

We must not think lightly of that great disturbance because it has, in some
real sense, done its work, and because it is impossible in days of more
coolness and light, to recover a full sense of its very real difficulties.

Those who would know them better should add to the calm records of Darwin
("Life and Letters" and "More Letters of Charles Darwin".) and to the story
of Huxley's impassioned championship, all that they can learn of George
Romanes. ("Life and Letters", London, 1896. "Thoughts on Religion",
London, 1895. "Candid Examination of Theism", London, 1878.) For his life
was absorbed in this very struggle and reproduced its stages. It began in
a certain assured simplicity of biblical interpretation; it went on,
through the glories and adventures of a paladin in Darwin's train, to the
darkness and dismay of a man who saw all his most cherished beliefs
rendered, as he thought, incredible. ("Never in the history of man has so
terrific a calamity befallen the race as that which all who look may now
(viz. in consequence of the scientific victory of Darwin) behold advancing
as a deluge, black with destruction, resistless in might, uprooting our
most cherished hopes, engulphing our most precious creed, and burying our
highest life in mindless destruction."--"A Candid Examination of Theism",
page 51.) He lived to find the freer faith for which process and purpose
are not irreconcilable, but necessary to one another. His development,
scientific, intellectual and moral, was itself of high significance; and
its record is of unique value to our own generation, so near the age of
that doubt and yet so far from it; certainly still much in need of the
caution and courage by which past endurance prepares men for new
emergencies. We have little enough reason to be sure that in the
discussions awaiting us we shall do as well as our predecessors in theirs.
Remembering their endurance of mental pain, their ardour in mental labour,
the heroic temper and the high sincerity of controversialists on either
side, we may well speak of our fathers in such words of modesty and self-
judgment as Drayton used when he sang the victors of Agincourt. The
progress of biblical study, in the departments of Introduction and
Exegesis, resulting in the recovery of a point of view anciently tolerated
if not prevalent, has altered some of the conditions of that discussion.
In the years near 1858, the witness of Scripture was adduced both by
Christian advocates and their critics as if unmistakeably irreconcilable
with Evolution.

Huxley ("Science and Christian Tradition". London, 1904.) found the path
of the blameless naturalist everywhere blocked by "Moses": the believer in
revelation was generally held to be forced to a choice between revealed
cosmogony and the scientific account of origins. It is not clear how far
the change in Biblical interpretation is due to natural science, and how
far to the vital movements of theological study which have been quite
independent of the controversy about species. It belongs to a general
renewal of Christian movement, the recovery of a heritage. "Special
Creation"--really a biological rather than a theological conception,--seems
in its rigid form to have been a recent element even in English biblical

The Middle Ages had no suspicion that religious faith forbad inquiry into
the natural origination of the different forms of life. Bartholomaeus
Anglicus, an English Franciscan of the thirteenth century, was a
mutationist in his way, as Aristotle, "the Philosopher" of the Christian
Schoolmen, had been in his. So late as the seventeenth century, as we
learn not only from early proceedings of the Royal Society, but from a
writer so homely and so regularly pious as Walton, the variation of species
and "spontaneous" generations had no theological bearing, except as
instances of that various wonder of the world which in devout minds is food
for devotion.

It was in the eighteenth century that the harder statement took shape.
Something in the preciseness of that age, its exaltation of law, its cold
passion for a stable and measured universe, its cold denial, its cold
affirmation of the power of God, a God of ice, is the occasion of that
rigidity of religious thought about the living world which Darwin by
accident challenged, or rather by one of those movements of genius which,
Goethe ("No productiveness of the highest kind...is in the power of
anyone."--"Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret". London,
1850.) declares, are "elevated above all earthly control."

If religious thought in the eighteenth century was aimed at a fixed and
nearly finite world of spirit, it followed in all these respects the
secular and critical lead. ("La philosophie reformatrice du XVIIIe siecle
(Berthelot, "Evolutionisme et Platonisme", Paris, 1908, page 45.) ramenait
la nature et la societe a des mecanismes que la pensee reflechie peut
concevoir et recomposer." In fact, religion in a mechanical age is
condemned if it takes any but a mechanical tone. Butler's thought was too
moving, too vital, too evolutionary, for the sceptics of his time. In a
rationalist, encyclopaedic period, religion also must give hard outline to
its facts, it must be able to display its secret to any sensible man in the
language used by all sensible men. Milton's prophetic genius furnished the
eighteenth century, out of the depth of the passionate age before it, with
the theological tone it was to need. In spite of the austere magnificence
of his devotion, he gives to smaller souls a dangerous lead. The rigidity
of Scripture exegesis belonged to this stately but imperfectly sensitive
mode of thought. It passed away with the influence of the older
rationalists whose precise denials matched the precise and limited
affirmations of the static orthodoxy.

I shall, then, leave the specially biblical aspect of the debate--
interesting as it is and even useful, as in Huxley's correspondence with
the Duke of Argyll and others in 1892 ("Times", 1892, passim.)--in order to
consider without complication the permanent elements of Christian thought
brought into question by the teaching of evolution.

Such permanent elements are the doctrine of God as Creator of the universe,
and the doctrine of man as spiritual and unique. Upon both the doctrine of
evolution seemed to fall with crushing force.

With regard to Man I leave out, acknowledging a grave omission, the
doctrine of the Fall and of Sin. And I do so because these have not yet,
as I believe, been adequately treated: here the fruitful reaction to the
stimulus of evolution is yet to come. The doctrine of sin, indeed, falls
principally within the scope of that discussion which has followed or
displaced the Darwinian; and without it the Fall cannot be usefully
considered. For the question about the Fall is a question not merely of
origins, but of the interpretation of moral facts whose moral reality must
first be established.

I confine myself therefore to Creation and the dignity of man.

The meaning of evolution, in the most general terms, is that the
differentiation of forms is not essentially separate from their behaviour
and use; that if these are within the scope of study, that is also; that
the world has taken the form we see by movements not unlike those we now
see in progress; that what may be called proximate origins are continuous
in the way of force and matter, continuous in the way of life, with actual
occurrences and actual characteristics. All this has no revolutionary
bearing upon the question of ultimate origins. The whole is a statement
about process. It says nothing to metaphysicians about cause. It simply
brings within the scope of observation or conjecture that series of changes
which has given their special characters to the different parts of the
world we see. In particular, evolutionary science aspires to the discovery
of the process or order of the appearance of life itself: if it were to
achieve its aim it could say nothing of the cause of this or indeed of the
most familiar occurrences. We should have become spectators or convinced
historians of an event which, in respect of its cause and ultimate meaning,
would be still impenetrable.

With regard to the origin of species, supposing life already established,
biological science has the well founded hopes and the measure of success
with which we are all familiar. All this has, it would seem, little chance
of collision with a consistent theism, a doctrine which has its own
difficulties unconnected with any particular view of order or process. But
when it was stated that species had arisen by processes through which new
species were still being made, evolutionism came into collision with a
statement, traditionally religious, that species were formed and fixed once
for all and long ago.

What is the theological import of such a statement when it is regarded as
essential to belief in God? Simply that God's activity, with respect to
the formation of living creatures, ceased at some point in past time.

"God rested" is made the touchstone of orthodoxy. And when, under the
pressure of the evidences, we found ourselves obliged to acknowledge and
assert the present and persistent power of God, in the maintenance and in
the continued formation of "types," what happened was the abolition of a
time-limit. We were forced only to a bolder claim, to a theistic language
less halting, more consistent, more thorough in its own line, as well as
better qualified to assimilate and modify such schemes as Von Hartmann's
philosophy of the unconscious--a philosophy, by the way, quite intolerant
of a merely mechanical evolution. (See Von Hartmann's "Wahrheit und
Irrthum in Darwinismus". Berlin, 1875.)

Here was not the retrenchment of an extravagant assertion, but the
expansion of one which was faltering and inadequate. The traditional
statement did not need paring down so as to pass the meshes of a new and
exacting criticism. It was itself a net meant to surround and enclose
experience; and we must increase its size and close its mesh to hold newly
disclosed facts of life. The world, which had seemed a fixed picture or
model, gained first perspective and then solidity and movement. We had a
glimpse of organic HISTORY; and Christian thought became more living and
more assured as it met the larger view of life.

However unsatisfactory the new attitude might be to our critics, to
Christians the reform was positive. What was discarded was a limitation, a
negation. The movement was essentially conservative, even actually
reconstructive. For the language disused was a language inconsistent with
the definitions of orthodoxy; it set bounds to the infinite, and by
implication withdrew from the creative rule all such processes as could be
brought within the descriptions of research. It ascribed fixity and
finality to that "creature" in which an apostle taught us to recognise the
birth-struggles of an unexhausted progress. It tended to banish mystery
from the world we see, and to confine it to a remote first age.

In the reformed, the restored, language of religion, Creation became again
not a link in a rational series to complete a circle of the sciences, but
the mysterious and permanent relation between the infinite and the finite,
between the moving changes we know in part, and the Power, after the
fashion of that observation, unknown, which is itself "unmoved all motion's
source." (Hymn of the Church--
Rerum Deus tenax vigor,
Immotus in te permanens.)

With regard to man it is hardly necessary, even were it possible, to
illustrate the application of this bolder faith. When the record of his
high extraction fell under dispute, we were driven to a contemplation of
the whole of his life, rather than of a part and that part out of sight.
We remembered again, out of Aristotle, that the result of a process
interprets its beginnings. We were obliged to read the title of such
dignity as we may claim, in results and still more in aspirations.

Some men still measure the value of great present facts in life--reason and
virtue and sacrifice--by what a self-disparaged reason can collect of the
meaner rudiments of these noble gifts. Mr Balfour has admirably displayed
the discrepancy, in this view, between the alleged origin and the alleged
authority of reason. Such an argument ought to be used not to discredit
the confident reason, but to illuminate and dignify its dark beginnings,
and to show that at every step in the long course of growth a Power was at
work which is not included in any term or in all the terms of the series.

I submit that the more men know of actual Christian teaching, its fidelity
to the past, and its sincerity in face of discovery, the more certainly
they will judge that the stimulus of the doctrine of evolution has produced
in the long run vigour as well as flexibility in the doctrine of Creation
and of man.

I pass from Evolution in general to Natural Selection.

The character in religious language which I have for short called
mechanical was not absent in the argument from design as stated before
Darwin. It seemed to have reference to a world conceived as fixed. It
pointed, not to the plastic capacity and energy of living matter, but to
the fixed adaptation of this and that organ to an unchanging place or

Mr Hobhouse has given us the valuable phrase "a niche of organic
opportunity." Such a phrase would have borne a different sense in non-
evolutionary thought. In that thought, the opportunity was an opportunity
for the Creative Power, and Design appeared in the preparation of the
organism to fit the niche. The idea of the niche and its occupant growing
together from simpler to more complex mutual adjustment was unwelcome to
this teleology. If the adaptation was traced to the influence, through
competition, of the environment, the old teleology lost an illustration and
a proof. For the cogency of the proof in every instance depended upon the
absence of explanation. Where the process of adaptation was discerned, the
evidence of Purpose or Design was weak. It was strong only when the
natural antecedents were not discovered, strongest when they could be
declared undiscoverable.

Paley's favourite word is "Contrivance"; and for him contrivance is most
certain where production is most obscure. He points out the physiological
advantage of the valvulae conniventes to man, and the advantage for
teleology of the fact that they cannot have been formed by "action and
pressure." What is not due to pressure may be attributed to design, and
when a "mechanical" process more subtle than pressure was suggested, the
case for design was so far weakened. The cumulative proof from the
multitude of instances began to disappear when, in selection, a natural
sequence was suggested in which all the adaptations might be reached by the
motive power of life, and especially when, as in Darwin's teaching, there
was full recognition of the reactions of life to the stimulus of
circumstance. "The organism fits the niche," said the teleologist,
"because the Creator formed it so as to fit." "The organism fits the
niche," said the naturalist, "because unless it fitted it could not exist."
"It was fitted to survive," said the theologian. "It survives because it
fits," said the selectionist. The two forms of statement are not
incompatible; but the new statement, by provision of an ideally universal
explanation of process, was hostile to a doctrine of purpose which relied
upon evidences always exceptional however numerous. Science persistently
presses on to find the universal machinery of adaptation in this planet;
and whether this be found in selection, or in direct-effect, or in vital
reactions resulting in large changes, or in a combination of these and
other factors, it must always be opposed to the conception of a Divine
Power here and there but not everywhere active.

For science, the Divine must be constant, operative everywhere and in every
quality and power, in environment and in organism, in stimulus and in
reaction, in variation and in struggle, in hereditary equilibrium, and in
"the unstable state of species"; equally present on both sides of every
strain, in all pressures and in all resistances, in short in the general
wonder of life and the world. And this is exactly what the Divine Power
must be for religious faith.

The point I wish once more to make is that the necessary readjustment of
teleology, so as to make it depend upon the contemplation of the whole
instead of a part, is advantageous quite as much to theology as to science.
For the older view failed in courage. Here again our theism was not
sufficiently theistic.

Where results seemed inevitable, it dared not claim them as God-given. In
the argument from Design it spoke not of God in the sense of theology, but
of a Contriver, immensely, not infinitely wise and good, working within a
world, the scene, rather than the ever dependent outcome, of His Wisdom;
working in such emergencies and opportunities as occurred, by forces not
altogether within His control, towards an end beyond Himself. It gave us,
instead of the awful reverence due to the Cause of all substance and form,
all love and wisdom, a dangerously detached appreciation of an ingenuity
and benevolence meritorious in aim and often surprisingly successful in

The old teleology was more useful to science than to religion, and the
design-naturalists ought to be gratefully remembered by Biologists. Their
search for evidences led them to an eager study of adaptations and of
minute forms, a study such as we have now an incentive to in the theory of
Natural Selection. One hardly meets with the same ardour in microscopical
research until we come to modern workers. But the argument from Design was
never of great importance to faith. Still, to rid it of this character was
worth all the stress and anxiety of the gallant old war. If Darwin had
done nothing else for us, we are to-day deeply in his debt for this. The
world is not less venerable to us now, not less eloquent of the causing
mind, rather much more eloquent and sacred. But our wonder is not that
"the underjaw of the swine works under the ground" or in any or all of
those particular adaptations which Paley collected with so much skill, but
that a purpose transcending, though resembling, our own purposes, is
everywhere manifest; that what we live in is a whole, mutually sustaining,
eventful and beautiful, where the "dead" forces feed the energies of life,
and life sustains a stranger existence, able in some real measure to
contemplate the whole, of which, mechanically considered, it is a minor
product and a rare ingredient. Here, again, the change was altogether
positive. It was not the escape of a vessel in a storm with loss of spars
and rigging, not a shortening of sail to save the masts and make a port of
refuge. It was rather the emergence from narrow channels to an open sea.
We had propelled the great ship, finding purchase here and there for slow
and uncertain movement. Now, in deep water, we spread large canvas to a
favouring breeze.

The scattered traces of design might be forgotten or obliterated. But the
broad impression of Order became plainer when seen at due distance and in
sufficient range of effect, and the evidence of love and wisdom in the
universe could be trusted more securely for the loss of the particular
calculation of their machinery.

Many other topics of faith are affected by modern biology. In some of
these we have learnt at present only a wise caution, a wise uncertainty.
We stand before the newly unfolded spectacle of suffering, silenced; with
faith not scientifically reassured but still holding fast certain other
clues of conviction. In many important topics we are at a loss. But in
others, and among them those I have mentioned, we have passed beyond this
negative state and find faith positively strengthened and more fully

We have gained also a language and a habit of thought more fit for the
great and dark problems that remain, less liable to damaging conflicts,
equipped for more rapid assimilation of knowledge. And by this change
biology itself is a gainer. For, relieved of fruitless encounters with
popular religion, it may advance with surer aim along the path of really
scientific life-study which was reopened for modern men by the publication
of "The Origin of Species".

Charles Darwin regretted that, in following science, he had not done "more
direct good" ("Life and Letters", Vol. III. page 359.) to his fellow-
creatures. He has, in fact, rendered substantial service to interests
bound up with the daily conduct and hopes of common men; for his work has
led to improvements in the preaching of the Christian faith.


Hon. D.Litt. (Durham), Hon. LL.D. (Aberdeen), Staff Lecturer and sometime
Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge. Corresponding member of the German
Archaeological Institute.

The title of my paper might well have been "the creation by Darwinism of
the scientific study of Religions," but that I feared to mar my tribute to
a great name by any shadow of exaggeration. Before the publication of "The
Origin of Species" and "The Descent of Man", even in the eighteenth
century, isolated thinkers, notably Hume and Herder, had conjectured that
the orthodox beliefs of their own day were developments from the cruder
superstitions of the past. These were however only particular speculations
of individual sceptics. Religion was not yet generally regarded as a
proper subject for scientific study, with facts to be collected and
theories to be deduced. A Congress of Religions such as that recently held
at Oxford would have savoured of impiety.

In the brief space allotted me I can attempt only two things; first, and
very briefly, I shall try to indicate the normal attitude towards religion
in the early part of the last century; second, and in more detail, I shall
try to make clear what is the outlook of advanced thinkers to-day. (To be
accurate I ought to add "in Europe." I advisedly omit from consideration
the whole immense field of Oriental mysticism, because it has remained
practically untouched by the influence of Darwinism.) From this second
inquiry it will, I hope, be abundantly manifest that it is the doctrine of
evolution that has made this outlook possible and even necessary.

The ultimate and unchallenged presupposition of the old view was that
religion was a DOCTRINE, a body of supposed truths. It was in fact what we
should now call Theology, and what the ancients called Mythology. Ritual
was scarcely considered at all, and, when considered, it was held to be a
form in which beliefs, already defined and fixed as dogma, found a natural
mode of expression. This, it will be later shown, is a profound error or
rather a most misleading half-truth. Creeds, doctrines, theology and the
like are only a part, and at first the least important part, of religion.

Further, and the fact is important, this DOGMA, thus supposed to be the
essential content of the "true" religion, was a teleological scheme
complete and unalterable, which had been revealed to man once and for all
by a highly anthropomorphic God, whose existence was assumed. The duty of
man towards this revelation was to accept its doctrines and obey its
precepts. The notion that this revelation had grown bit by bit out of
man's consciousness and that his business was to better it would have
seemed rank blasphemy. Religion, so conceived, left no place for
development. "The Truth" might be learnt, but never critically examined;
being thus avowedly complete and final, it was doomed to stagnation.

The details of this supposed revelation seem almost too naive for
enumeration. As Hume observed, "popular theology has a positive appetite
for absurdity." It is sufficient to recall that "revelation" included such
items as the Creation (It is interesting to note that the very word
"Creator" has nowadays almost passed into the region of mythology. Instead
we have "L'Evolution Creatrice".) of the world out of nothing in six days;
the making of Eve from one of Adam's ribs; the Temptation by a talking
snake; the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel; the doctrine of
Original Sin; a scheme of salvation which demanded the Virgin Birth,
Vicarious Atonement, and the Resurrection of the material body. The scheme
was unfolded in an infallible Book, or, for one section of Christians,
guarded by the tradition of an infallible Church, and on the acceptance or
refusal of this scheme depended an eternity of weal or woe. There is not
one of these doctrines that has not now been recast, softened down,
mysticised, allegorised into something more conformable with modern
thinking. It is hard for the present generation, unless their breeding has
been singularly archaic, to realise that these amazing doctrines were
literally held and believed to constitute the very essence of religion; to
doubt them was a moral delinquency.

It had not, however, escaped the notice of travellers and missionaries that
savages carried on some sort of practices that seemed to be religious, and
believed in some sort of spirits or demons. Hence, beyond the confines
illuminated by revealed truth, a vague region was assigned to NATURAL
Religion. The original revelation had been kept intact only by one chosen
people, the Jews, by them to be handed on to Christianity. Outside the
borders of this Goshen the world had sunk into the darkness of Egypt.
Where analogies between savage cults and the Christian religions were
observed, they were explained as degradations; the heathen had somehow
wilfully "lost the light." Our business was not to study but, exclusively,
to convert them, to root out superstition and carry the torch of revelation
to "Souls in heathen darkness lying." To us nowadays it is a commonplace
of anthropological research that we must seek for the beginnings of
religion in the religions of primitive peoples, but in the last century the
orthodox mind was convinced that it possessed a complete and luminous
ready-made revelation; the study of what was held to be a mere degradation
seemed idle and superfluous.

But, it may be asked, if, to the orthodox, revealed religion was sacrosanct
and savage religion a thing beneath consideration, why did not the sceptics
show a more liberal spirit, and pursue to their logical issue the
conjectures they had individually hazarded? The reason is simple and
significant. The sceptics too had not worked free from the presupposition
that the essence of religion is dogma. Their intellectualism, expressive
of the whole eighteenth century, was probably in England strengthened by
the Protestant doctrine of an infallible Book. Hume undoubtedly confused
religion with dogmatic theology. The attention of orthodox and sceptics
alike was focussed on the truth or falsity of certain propositions. Only a
few minds of rare quality were able dimly to conceive that religion might
be a necessary step in the evolution of human thought.

It is not a little interesting to note that Darwin, who was leader and
intellectual king of his generation, was also in this matter to some extent
its child. His attitude towards religion is stated clearly, in Chapter
VIII. of the "Life and Letters". (Vol. I. page 304. For Darwin's
religious views see also "Descent of Man", 1871, Vol. I. page 65; 2nd
edition. Vol. I. page 142.) On board the "Beagle" he was simply orthodox
and was laughed at by several of the officers for quoting the Bible as an
unanswerable authority on some point of morality. By 1839 he had come to
see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books
of the Hindoos. Next went the belief in miracles, and next Paley's
"argument from design" broke down before the law of natural selection; the
suffering so manifest in nature is seen to be compatible rather with
Natural Selection than with the goodness and omnipotence of God. Darwin
felt to the full all the ignorance that lay hidden under specious phrases
like "the plan of creation" and "Unity of design." Finally, he tells us
"the mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for
one must be content to remain an Agnostic."

The word Agnostic is significant not only of the humility of the man
himself but also of the attitude of his age. Religion, it is clear, is
still conceived as something to be KNOWN, a matter of true or false
OPINION. Orthodox religion was to Darwin a series of erroneous hypotheses
to be bit by bit discarded when shown to be untenable. The ACTS of
religion which may result from such convictions, i.e. devotion in all its
forms, prayer, praise, sacraments, are left unmentioned. It is clear that
they are not, as now to us, sociological survivals of great interest and
importance, but rather matters too private, too personal, for discussion.

Huxley, writing in the "Contemporary Review" (1871.), says, "In a dozen
years "The Origin of Species" has worked as complete a revolution in
biological science as the "Principia" did in astronomy." It has done so
because, in the words of Helmholtz, it contained "an essentially new
creative thought," that of the continuity of life, the absence of breaks.
In the two most conservative subjects, Religion and Classics, this creative
ferment was slow indeed to work. Darwin himself felt strongly "that a man
should not publish on a subject to which he has not given special and
continuous thought," and hence wrote little on religion and with manifest
reluctance, though, as already seen, in answer to pertinacious inquiry he
gave an outline of his own views. But none the less he foresaw that his
doctrine must have, for the history of man's mental evolution, issues wider
than those with which he was prepared personally to deal. He writes, in
"The Origin of Species" (6th edition, page 428.), "In the future I see open
fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be securely
based on the foundation already well laid by Mr Herbert Spencer, that of
the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation."

Nowhere, it is true, does Darwin definitely say that he regarded religion
as a set of phenomena, the development of which may be studied from the
psychological standpoint. Rather we infer from his PIETY--in the beautiful
Roman sense--towards tradition and association, that religion was to him in
some way sacrosanct. But it is delightful to see how his heart went out
towards the new method in religious study which he had himself, if half-
unconsciously, inaugurated. Writing in 1871 to Dr Tylor, on the
publication of his "Primitive Culture", he says ("Life and Letters", Vol.
III. page 151.), "It is wonderful how you trace animism from the lower
races up the religious belief of the highest races. It will make me for
the future look at religion--a belief in the soul, etc.--from a new point
of view."

Psychology was henceforth to be based on "the necessary acquirement of each
mental capacity by gradation." With these memorable words the door closes
on the old and opens on the new horizon. The mental focus henceforth is
not on the maintaining or refuting of an orthodoxy but on the genesis and
evolution of a capacity, not on perfection but on process. Continuous
evolution leaves no gap for revelation sudden and complete. We have
henceforth to ask, not when was religion revealed or what was the
revelation, but how did religious phenomena arise and develop. For an
answer to this we turn with new and reverent eyes to study "the heathen in
his blindness" and the child "born in sin." We still indeed send out
missionaries to convert the heathen, but here at least in Cambridge before
they start they attend lectures on anthropology and comparative religion.
The "decadence" theory is dead and should be buried.

The study of primitive religions then has been made possible and even
inevitable by the theory of Evolution. We have now to ask what new facts
and theories have resulted from that study. This brings us to our second
point, the advanced outlook on religion to-day.

The view I am about to state is no mere personal opinion of my own. To my
present standpoint I have been led by the investigations of such masters as
Drs Wundt, Lehmann, Preuss, Bergson, Beck and in our own country Drs Tylor
and Frazer. (I can only name here the books that have specially influenced
my own views. They are W. Wundt, "Volkerpsychologie", Leipzig, 1900, P.
Beck, "Die Nachahmung", Leipzig, 1904, and "Erkenntnisstheorie des
primitiven Denkens" in "Zeitschrift f. Philos. und Philos. Kritik", 1903,
page 172, and 1904, page 9. Henri Bergson, "L'Evolution Creatrice" and
"Matiere et Memoire", 1908, K. Th. Preuss, various articles published in
the "Globus" (see page 507, note 1), and in the "Archiv. f.
Religionswissenschaft", and for the subject of magic, MM. Hubert et Mauss,
"Theorie generale de la Magie", in "L'Annee Sociologique", VII.)

Religion always contains two factors. First, a theoretical factor, what a
man THINKS about the unseen--his theology, or, if we prefer so to call it,
his mythology. Second, what he DOES in relation to this unseen--his
ritual. These factors rarely if ever occur in complete separation; they
are blended in very varying proportions. Religion we have seen was in the
last century regarded mainly in its theoretical aspect as a doctrine.
Greek religion for example meant to most educated persons Greek mythology.
Yet even a cursory examination shows that neither Greek nor Roman had any
creed or dogma, any hard and fast formulation of belief. In the Greek
Mysteries (See my "Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion", page 155,
Cambridge, 1903.) only we find what we should call a Confiteor; and this is
not a confession of faith, but an avowal of rites performed. When the
religion of primitive peoples came to be examined it was speedily seen that
though vague beliefs necessarily abound, definite creeds are practically
non-existent. Ritual is dominant and imperative.

This predominance and priority of ritual over definite creed was first
forced upon our notice by the study of savages, but it promptly and happily
joined hands with modern psychology. Popular belief says, I think,
therefore I act; modern scientific psychology says, I act (or rather, REact
to outside stimulus), and so I come to think. Thus there is set going a
recurrent series: act and thought become in their turn stimuli to fresh
acts and thoughts. In examining religion as envisaged to-day it would
therefore be more correct to begin with the practice of religion, i.e.
ritual, and then pass to its theory, theology or mythology. But it will be
more convenient to adopt the reverse method. The theoretical content of
religion is to those of us who are Protestants far more familiar and we
shall thus proceed from the known to the comparatively unknown.

I shall avoid all attempt at rigid definition. The problem before the
modern investigator is, not to determine the essence and definition of
religion but to inquire how religious phenomena, religious ideas and
practices arose. Now the theoretical content of religion, the domain of
theology or mythology, is broadly familiar to all. It is the world of the
unseen, the supersensuous; it is the world of what we call the soul and the
supposed objects of the soul's perception, sprites, demons, ghosts and
gods. How did this world grow up?

We turn to our savages. Intelligent missionaries of bygone days used to
ply savages with questions such as these: Had they any belief in God? Did
they believe in the immortality of the soul? Taking their own clear-cut
conceptions, discriminated by a developed terminology, these missionaries
tried to translate them into languages that had neither the words nor the
thoughts, only a vague, inchoate, tangled substratum, out of which these
thoughts and words later differentiated themselves. Let us examine this

Nowadays we popularly distinguish between objective and subjective; and
further, we regard the two worlds as in some sense opposed. To the
objective world we commonly attribute some reality independent of
consciousness, while we think of the subjective as dependent for its
existence on the mind. The objective world consists of perceptible things,
or of the ultimate constituents to which matter is reduced by physical
speculation. The subjective world is the world of beliefs, hallucinations,
dreams, abstract ideas, imaginations and the like. Psychology of course
knows that the objective and subjective worlds are interdependent,
inextricably intertwined, but for practical purposes the distinction is

But primitive man has not yet drawn the distinction between objective and
subjective. Nay, more, it is foreign to almost the whole of ancient
philosophy. Plato's Ideas (I owe this psychological analysis of the
elements of the primitive supersensuous world mainly to Dr Beck,
"Erkenntnisstheorie des primitiven Denkens", see page 498, note 1.), his
Goodness, Truth, Beauty, his class-names, horse, table, are it is true
dematerialised as far as possible, but they have outside existence, apart
from the mind of the thinker, they have in some shadowy way spatial
extension. Yet ancient philosophies and primitive man alike needed and
possessed for practical purposes a distinction which served as well as our
subjective and objective. To the primitive savage all his thoughts, every
object of which he was conscious, whether by perception or conception, had
reality, that is, it had existence outside himself, but it might have
reality of various kinds or different degrees.

It is not hard to see how this would happen. A man's senses may mislead
him. He sees the reflection of a bird in a pond. To his eyes it is a real
bird. He touches it, HE PUTS IT TO THE TOUCH, and to his touch it is not a
bird at all. It is real then, but surely not quite so real as a bird that
you can touch. Again, he sees smoke. It is real to his eyes. He tries to
grasp it, it vanishes. The wind touches him, but he cannot see it, which
makes him feel uncanny. The most real thing is that which affects most
senses and especially what affects the sense of touch. Apparently touch is
the deepest down, most primitive, of senses. The rest are specialisations
and complications. Primitive man has no formal rubric "optical delusion,"
but he learns practically to distinguish between things that affect only
one sense and things that affect two or more--if he did not he would not
survive. But both classes of things are real to him. Percipi est esse.

So far, primitive man has made a real observation; there are things that
appeal to one sense only. But very soon creeps in confusion fraught with
disaster. He passes naturally enough, being economical of any mental
effort, from what he really sees but cannot feel to what he thinks he sees,
and gives to it the same secondary reality. He has dreams, visions,
hallucinations, nightmares. He dreams that an enemy is beating him, and he
wakes rubbing his head. Then further he remembers things; that is, for
him, he sees them. A great chief died the other day and they buried him,
but he sees him still in his mind, sees him in his war-paint, splendid,
victorious. So the image of the past goes together with his dreams and
visions to the making of this other less real, but still real world, his
other-world of the supersensuous, the supernatural, a world, the outside
existence of which, independent of himself, he never questions.

And, naturally enough, the future joins the past in this supersensuous
world. He can hope, he can imagine, he can prophesy. And again the images
of his hope are real; he sees them with that mind's eye which as yet he has
not distinguished from his bodily eye. And so the supersensuous world
grows and grows big with the invisible present, and big also with the past
and the future, crowded with the ghosts of the dead and shadowed with
oracles and portents. It is this supersensuous, supernatural world which
is the eternity, the other-world, of primitive religion, not an endlessness
of time, but a state removed from full sensuous reality, a world in which
anything and everything may happen, a world peopled by demonic ancestors
and liable to a splendid vagueness, to a "once upon a time-ness" denied to
the present. It not unfrequently happens that people who know that the
world nowadays obeys fixed laws have no difficulty in believing that six
thousand years ago man was made direct from a lump of clay, and woman was
made from one of man's superfluous ribs.

The fashioning of the supersensuous world comes out very clearly in
primitive man's views about the soul and life after death. Herbert Spencer
noted long ago the influence of dreams in forming a belief in immortality,
but being very rational himself, he extended to primitive man a quite alien
quality of rationality. Herbert Spencer argued that when a savage has a
dream he seeks to account for it, and in so doing invents a spirit world.
The mistake here lies in the "seeks to account for it." (Primitive man, as
Dr Beck observes, is not impelled by an Erkenntnisstrieb. Dr Beck says he
has counted upwards of 30 of these mythological Triebe (tendencies) with
which primitive man has been endowed.) Man is at first too busy LIVING to
have any time for disinterested THINKING. He dreams a dream and it is real
for him. He does not seek to account for it any more than for his hands
and feet. He cannot distinguish between a CONception and a PERception,
that is all. He remembers his ancestors or they appear to him in a dream;
therefore they are alive still, but only as a rule to about the third

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