from Chauncey Giles, The True and False Theory of Evolution (Philadelphia:  William H. Alden 1887)

Table of Contents


Lecture I

The True And The False Theory Of Evolution.

Evolution has become a subject of wide and profound interest to intelligent minds in the scientific and religious world. It has already exerted a powerful influence in modifying long-established opinions and theories concerning the origin of nature and man, and he methods of creating them; and this influence is destined to increase in extent and power. It is one of those questions that have come to stay. It is a new step in man's knowledge of the order and processes of creation; it is the discovery of a universal law like that of gravitation by Newton, or that which regulates the motions of the heavenly bodies by Copernicus, and it is destined to work much greater changes in common opinions about creation than those who advocate or oppose the doctrine now imagine.

Like all questions which relate to causes and universal methods of operation, it can be regarded from various points of view, which will lead to various and even opposite conclusions. A partial view will lead to false and fatal results. It will be ignorantly and honestly opposed, and ignorantly and honestly advocated. It has been, and it will continue to be, employed to destroy and to defend religion; to prove a cold and dead materialism, and to illustrate and enforce the idea of an ever-present, intelligent, and personal Creator.

The universal and fundamental idea of evolution is that one thing or one creature is evolved from another and becomes what it is by the sum of all the influences which have co-operated in its creation. This doctrine is true beyond a doubt, and must be accepted by every intelligent mind. But when we come to determine what those causes are, there is room for the widest differences of opinion - differences that lead to the most opposite conclusions. From a natural point of view only natural causes are allowed to testify; all others are ruled out as merely fanciful and unworthy of our credence. According to this doctrine, creation is effected by the contact of one form of matter with another in the blind surgings of material forces. Circumstance, under the new name of environment, is elevated to the throne of the creation, and all things and all creatures become what they are by natural selection. In this rage and war of the elements, all progress is effected by the survival of the fittest, and by the law of heredity, according to which every thing and every creature tends to reproduce itself and perpetuate its own form and nature. This doctrine excludes a personal Divine Being and all intelligent Divine .agency from the creation, Matter is sufficient unto itself. Professor Tyndall has stated this view of the subject in these memorable words. "I discern," he says, "in that matter, which we in our ignorance, and notwithstanding our profound reverence for its creation, have hitherto covered with opprobrium, the promise and the potency of every form and quality of life."

This is the specific and central theory of evolution from a material point of view. According to' it organic forms are evolved from inorganic. Power is 'evolved from inertia, mind from matter, life from death, by some underived and inherent quality in the earth. All progress in knowledge and improvement in the excellence of material things are cited as instances of evolution. Facts with which every one is familiar are summoned to testify to a theory to which they have no relation. The development of the steam-engine, the improvements in the forms and qualities of plants and animals, the advancement of society in its various forms, are claimed as examples of this theory of evolution. Every one acknowledges the facts, but does not discover the fallacy of attributing them to evolution. They are not examples of the theory. In all cases the improvement is effected by forces which do not belong to matter. They are due to, mental or spiritual forces acting upon matter, an 'placing it in conditions more favorable for improvement by natural forces, or molding it into the forms of ideas. Every mechanical invention, every improvement in social and civil conditions, was first an idea; was evolved from mind, and embodied in matter by an intelligent power.

The absurdity of the theory that the higher is evolved from the lower is recognized by many scientists, and they acknowledge that there may be same power behind and separate from matter which operates upon it. But what that power is and how it is related to matter they do not know. We may give it what name we please. We may call it God, or a force stored up in matter or constantly acting upon it. They are Agnostics, and they will neither deny or affirm. They hold the question of the existence of an intelligent personal Creator immanent in the creation in abeyance, and wait for further light. This is a step from blank materialism, compelled by the absurdity that creation creates itself. It is a hopeful sign. But it is still a practical denial of the immediate and constant agency of an intelligent personal Creator as the constant and the most important factor in the creation. Material forces, environment, natural selection, heredity, are regarded as forces in themselves in some way independent of a personal Creator if there is one. It is as though we should acknowledge that a watch could not make itself; that there must be some power outside of it which had a hand in the work, that might have given some assistance in its creation; but still should attribute some independent agency to the metal and the tools which were used in performing the work.

Natural causes are regarded in some way as independent causes, and not merely as instrumental in the same sense that the hammer and saw and pen are instruments, having no power in themselves of accomplishing human purposes.

The third class of those who accept the doctrine of evolution regard it from the spiritual as well as the natural side. They accept the material factors as fully as the materialist. They acknowledge the instrumentality of material substances and natural forces; they recognize the influence of environment, natural selection, heredity, and all the natural influences which have been combined in the production of plant, animal, or man; but they regard them as provisions and methods of the Lord in effecting His purposes. He creates all the substances, forces, and methods which the scientist discovers in the creation, and uses them in the same way that the mechanic puts material substances through many processes and employs others fashioned in various forms, to build a house, make a garment, or construct an engine.

This is the general opinion of the Christian world. But theologians have stopped with the bare assertion of the fact of creation. It has been generally taught and accepted as true, that the universe was created but of nothing by a spoken word, by an Almighty fiat. "He spake and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast." The common idea has been, and is still maintained with great persistence that creation was instantaneous, without methods, order, processes, and the chain of causes and effects; that power was in some way stored up in matter, in plants, animals, and men, and a kind of independent existence given to them. It is regarded as in some way derogatory to the Divine wisdom that creation should be a gradual work, and advance by distinct and orderly steps. Evolution seems to many Christians as well as scientists to take the work out of the Lord's hands and commit it to general laws, which have some power in themselves to create and sustain. Men talk about the laws of gravitation, of chemical affinity, of natural selection, and of heredity as though they were independent forces. This may be the appearance, but it is not the genuine truth. A law of nature is simply a universal method of the Lord's operation in nature; it is the way in which the forces constantly emanating from Him operate to produce their effects. Whether these forces originate in nature and are of and from her, or have their constant source in a Divine Being by whom they are exerted, does not touch the fact that they are simply the ways in which causes produce their effects. Theologians and scientists both fall into the same error when they regard law as an efficient cause.
The idea that creation is an instantaneous work; that the material universe was created out of nothing by the exercise of omnipotent power, has been a fruitful source of errors and absurdities, and has had a powerful influence in driving observing and intelligent men to the opposite absurdity that matter is eternal, and "contains within itself the promise and the potency of every form and quality of life." The phrase "out of nothing" is equally absurd, and opposed to all experience and to the essential nature of things. The opposite maxim, "out of nothing, nothing comes," is one of those self-evident propositions which command universal assent.
The New Church gives us a doctrine of the creation which is not open to any of the objections which have been urged against the opinions and theories of the materialist or theologian, which accepts all the facts discovered by scientists, and still declares in the most positive manner that all creation is a gradual work, due to a personal, intelligent, and constantly acting Divine Being, who is the source of all power, life, and existence. This doctrine is in accordance with all observation and experience as far as they go; it is in accordance with enlightened reason, and with the spirit and teachings of the two revelations the Lord has made to men, the revelation of His Word and of His works. To a brief statement of this doctrine I invite your attention.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is the first and the sublime declaration of the Sacred Scriptures. Everything has its beginning in Him. He is the Firs - the first of life, the first of substance, the first of power, the first of form, the first of all being. Creation utters the same truth, as far as we can hear her voice. Begin where you will in the material world and ask any object or being, "What art thou?" and the answer will always be, "An effect from some cause that is not myself." "Whence comest thou?" The reply from every form and fiber and atom is, "From something above, beyond, and prior to myself." Ask the rock and it will take you back through fluid and gas and the finer forms of substance as far as its voice can be heard. Ask the metal and it will lead you by the same steps to the sun. Ask the plant and it will trace its lineage to seed, and from seed to plant, and from plant to seed, through many generations, and will end with the declaration, "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind whose seed is in itself, upon the. earth; and it was so." Ask animal and man, and the answer is the same. His "let" is His creative power in action. It is of no consequence how long and complicated the chain of cause and effect may be, it must begin in a First Cause, who can be no other than the Creator, and every link in the chain must be forged by Him. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is the uniform declaration of all things so far as their -voice can be heard, and when their voice is silent we must listen to the voice of God. In the beginning every step is taken by Him. The substance of which all worlds, all things and beings, are created, originated in God, and was an emanation from Him; or, in modern phrase, was evolved from Him as light and heat are evolved from the sun.

This primary substance created from the Lord contains within itself all forms the universal of which is the human, and is itself a plastic force which tends to reproduce them. It is the germ of all forms. It is to all forms as the something in the seeds and germs of plants and animals which constantly operates upon the substances which come within the sphere of its power to reproduce itself. Here are the living forces of which all the forces in the material and spiritual universe are manifestations, and from which they are derived.

This essential substance descends by distinct steps which become atmospheres around it, one evolved from another, and becoming more concrete and gross and less active by combination. This effect takes place according to a universal law of the creation that we see everywhere in operation around us. Substances become less active and force diminishes as it recedes from its cause. We see an example of this universal law in every gas-jet and fire we kindle. The light and heat diminish as they recede from the centers from which they originate. Every boy sees the principle when he casts a stone into a pond. The waves diminish in height as they recede until they disappear.

These substances are Divine in their nature and origin. They become spiritual as they recede from their source and form the atmospheres and earths of the spiritual world. They become a world distinct by itself, composed of spiritual substances and possessing all the excellences that belong to spirit. It is a mental world where the objects are thoughts, the forces are love in an infinite variety of forms. It is a world in which their environment is determined by the inhabitants, and consequently is perfectly adjusted to them.

But these substances have not yet reached the most remote point of departure from their origin. They continue to recede until they lose their life and power, become material and inert. The sun is the beginning and centre of dead matter. But its forms are still active from the spiritual forces which flow into them. From this new centre they continue to recede, become more gross and solid, until they finally rest in the mineral kingdom and become the Lord's footstool, the basis on which the creation of living beings rests, and the plane on which all the Divine forces react, and, through the kingdoms of nature and man, return to Him who created them. They are the most remote from the Lord, not in space, but in quality of substance and life. He is, life; they are dead. He is the first; they are the last. He is the highest; they are the lowest. They are passive, and consequently fit substances to be the subjects of life and to be molded into its forms.
The process of creating earths from suns which comes within the sphere of human knowledge, is precisely analogous to that by which the spiritual sun and the spiritual heavens were- created,, and we can gain from this lowest plane, of the creation some true knowledge and idea of how the whole work was accomplished, because the Lord always works like Himself in the smallest as well as in the largest things. It is the general opinion of scientists that the earths were evolved from the suns. The matter which composes the earth was once heat. As matter recedes from the flaming bosom of its parent, it cools and becomes less active; it changes from ether to air, from gas to fluid, from fluid to solid, and there rests and becomes the basis for the creation of the vegetable and animal kingdoms. They could not have been created in the sun or hi the atmosphere. Substance must become inert and fixed before it can be the basis of life. Such was the nature and the order of all the preceding steps in creation in its evolution from God, the First Cause.

We can see another process of the Divine order going on constantly before our eyes, which will help us to understand the more hidden and powerful spiritual causes which are constantly operating in the creation. The sun does not lose its power and influence over the earths created from it. It still sustains its children, and cherishes them in its bosom. It gives, them light and heat, and helps them to bring forth from their own cold and inert substance the organized forms of life. The finer and more subtle substances of the sun still penetrate the gross bodies of earth and mineral, draw particle to particle, and-tend to keep them in a state to be acted upon and to respond to the action of spiritual forces.

In the same way the Divine substance which is embodied life, and the plastic power which constantly tends to mold all things into the human form, still dwells within in every particle of matter, and from its very nature is in the constant endeavor to organize it into forms capable of being conscious of life. In this way God is omnipresent in His universe, the same in the least and largest things, creating it anew, and using the dead matter as the basis of life, and the substances from which to form vessels capable of receiving it. The material universe is evolved from Himself, by distinct steps gradually descending until the ultimate basis of life is reached. Every degree in this descent contains within itself all the higher and prior degrees, and they exist together in simultaneous order in every earth and mineral. Now let us begin the ascent and see by what steps it is taken and what means and forces are employed in taking it.

You will see that we take into account some very different and much mightier forces than the materialist. Here dwelling together in mutual embrace is inert matter, and within it the plastic Divine sub- stance with constant endeavor to give life to death, the human form which is the form of life, to inorganic matter which is the form of death; and between them all the substances and forms intermediate between the highest and the lowest, between God and the rock. Here is power in its origin; here is the force which keeps all things in motion and holds all things in its embrace. Here is the potter and the clay, and a basis on which to rest and operate, and the means and implements with which to work. Let us see how organized, living and spiritual forms can be evolved from these conditions.

Let us understand in the outset that the creation of living beings is not the evolution of matter by any force or quality inherent in it and composing an essential element in its substance. Scientists have sought with much patience and ingenuity for a first substance which is the origin of life, They call it protoplasm, a force which has the power to organize the vegetable kingdom, and, by processes of evolution, animals and men. This substance they think they have found in that humble and unattractive plant the common nettle. But according to the doctrines of the New Church protoplasm can only be found in the Lord Himself. It is His Divine love united with, His Divine wisdom which is the first form; the former of all forms, the plastic substance which contains within itself the power, and which is of its nature, to give power to produce forms of life in all degrees of the creation. Creation is not the evolution of matter. It is the evolution of the purposes or ends of the Divine love by means of material substances. The Lord created them for that purpose. Love is the only protoplasm. Matter is to the Creator as clay to the potter. He creates it, shapes it to His idea; He organizes it into forms adapted to the performance of His use. The essential and most potent factor in the creation of living forms is life itself. Life only can give life. Death cannot create life; inertia cannot give birth to power. The formless cannot create forms. No being or thing can communicate what it does not possess. If matter is dead it cannot give birth to life. It is of no consequence how much time is given to it, through how many changes it may pass, it acquires no power by them. It still retains one of its essential qualities, and that is inertia. It cannot put itself in motion; it cannot stop when in motion; it cannot change its form; it cannot attract or repel; it is incapable of any action, and possesses no force. All the attractions and repulsions, all the combinations and decompositions; all the motions and changes of place and form are the effects of spiritual and Divine forces. When we -talk of the forces and work of nature we speak according to the appearance. Nature has no force, and consequently can do no work.

I state this truth as clearly and emphatically as possible, because the whole doctrine of evolution, as it is set forth by those who regard it only from the material side, is based on the assumption that matter has some power of its own, even if it does not possess all power. We are led into the remote past where night and chaos reigned and asked to believe that by the conflict of the elements and "the fortuitous concourse of atoms," through ages of ages, the process of evolution began. We are led through an infinite labyrinth of attractions and repulsions, of conflicts and changes, of survivals and' destructions, of hereditary tendencies, and we 'are asked to accept these as the origin and cause of life, when not one of these powers belong to matter. It is not capable of any concourse, fortuitous or otherwise; it has no power of conflict or change; it cannot be said to have any appetency or tendency, it is simply the utter absence and destitution of power and life. It has but one quality, and that is death. All the forces attributed to it are the forces of life. There are no others. All its motions and changes are the effects of life. It was necessary to creation that it should be passive and totally devoid of life and perfectly at rest in and of itself. The Lord could not have evolved the universe of intelligent beings from Himself without such a lifeless basis on which His creative forces could rest, and from which they could react and return to Himself, and in this way complete the circuit of life.

That this was the necessary order of creation we have the most convincing reasons for believing. It is the order of infinite wisdom, and, therefore, must be necessary and perfect. We have also the testimony of our own observation and experience. The mineral kingdom is the basis . of the vegetable kingdom. It provides it a basis on which it can rest, and supplies it with substances out of which the Lord can organize its forms. The animal kingdom rests on the vegetable kingdom, which contains the substances that the Lord has used to create animals. Man rests upon all these kingdoms. His material body is organized from the elements of the three kingdoms, and his spiritual organism dwells in and is based upon his material body. As a spiritual being, he employs his natural senses to gain ideas and sensations from the material world, and by relations with material objects and human beings to develop his mental or, what is the same thing, his spiritual faculties.

The creation culminates in man. He is the final end or purpose of the Creator, and everything tends to the realization of this purpose. Man is created in the image and likeness of God that he may be able to consciously receive and enjoy the Divine love, that there may be a reciprocal union between the creature and the Creator. This purpose is clearly expressed in many passages of Revelation. Man, as to the highest degrees of his nature, is born of God. The material body and the natural mind which man possesses in common with animals, form the basis, the matrix for the creation of the spiritual man, who can receive the impress of the Divine nature in its highest finite forms, and become a plane on which the Lord, in His love and wisdom, can come to man and dwell in him, and man can be at one with Him, become His child, and the inheritor in ever-increasing fullness of His heavenly Father's infinite power, glory, and life. Man is the evolution of the Divine idea.
All the steps in the wide circuit of creation from God to man are taken with direct reference to this ultimate end. The descent from the first substance, which is life and form in themselves, by distinct and successive steps from the Divine to the spiritual, from the spiritual to the material, until the outmost limit was reached and a basis secured for the superstructure of the kingdoms of nature and living beings, looked directly to man. The ascent from death to life through the vegetable and animal kingdoms were all movements in the direction of the final purpose, and were necessary to its accomplishment. Matter has been changed into an infinite variety of forms by the spiritual forces playing upon it, to serve this purpose according to the special things to be done. The first and only force has received many names, and assumed many disguises in its adaptation to the work in hand. We may call it attraction, repulsion, cohesion, molecular affinity, gravitation, magnetism, natural selection, mental or spiritual. But in origin and essence they are the same, and are all working for the same end.

When, therefore, the scientist takes us back into primeval ages, and shows us the elemental forms of matter, as ether, or gas, or fluid, commingling or rushing asunder in wild chaotic fury, gradually subsiding into rock and metal, we admit the facts so plainly recorded in the structure and substance of the earth. But we say that all these movements, combinations, and formations were the effects of the spirit of God brooding over these inorganic dead elements, selecting, arranging, combining, and fixing them in forms suitable for the foundation of the kingdoms of nature and human beings. If we are told how the rocky and barren strata of the earth's crust are broken by contraction, subsidence, and upheavals, disintegrated by cold and heat, and ground to fine powder by wind and wave, we gladly accept the information; we know it is true, for we see the process going on before our eyes every day. The ocean and the glacier are God's great mills, in which He grinds rock into clay and prepares it to be organized into grass and trees. Heat and cold, wind and rain, rock and stream and ocean are the implements He uses. He created them for this purpose, and the power which wields them is His. Are we pointed to the crystal and shown how its forms prophesy of organization, of plant, and animal, we delight to recognize the fact, and rejoice to see the evidence of the Divine purpose even in the lowest forms of matter. The Lord does not leave Himself without a witness of His final purpose in the creation, and of His presence and power in the dead elements of matter. The rock did not purify itself, select its finest substances, and combine them into the diamond, ruby, and emerald. The Lord, who at all times and in the least things is, mindful of His children, made these precious stones according to His own laws, and when the substances which compose them were in a suitable state for His purpose, to be ornaments for their persons and to rejoice their hearts with their beauty.

When we rise to a higher plane of the creation, and under the guidance of the observant, keen-eyed, faithful scientist, we discover the universal presence of the law of heredity, the power of natural selection, and the influence of environment in securing endless diversity in constant unity, we see a higher and more beautiful manifestation of the Divine purpose, and a more wonderful exhibition of Divine love and wisdom. We see clearer indications of the Divine plan faintly hinted in the crystal. We see accumulating evidences of the primary and constant truth, that God creates everything from Himself, and that, therefore, every created thing must bear some marks of its origin. The law of heredity, according to which like begets like through many links in the, chain of cause and effect, until finally it culminates in man, who is created in the likeness and image of God, is the law of the Divine nature, and by derivation must be the law of every created being. The power of selection in its primary and perfect form is an attribute of the Divine nature, and by derivation must exist in everything created from God. We see it in the affinities and repulsions of matter, in the power of plants and animals, and in the highest created form in man. Every substance and organic form is subject to this law. We accept all the facts which the scientists have discovered, and thank them for them. They give us a clearer and more rational idea of the Lord's methods of creating. They correct the old error of instantaneous creation out of nothing by omnipotent fiat. They show us the order and methods of His infinite skill by which He accomplishes His purposes, and in that way they are rendering a great service to religion.

But while we acknowledge the truth of their observations, and are grateful for their service, we cannot accept their conclusions. They regard everything from a material point of view. They depend upon the testimony of the senses. They mistake effects for causes. They see every organized form beginning in the earth and evolved from it. They see one creature evolved from another, developed by natural means; they see the conflicts between living creatures, the destruction of the weakest and the survival of the strongest, and the manifold causes which operate to modify life, and they conclude that man is the product of these causes; that in some way power is gained by inertia; that organization is caused by substances devoid of form; that life is generated by death, and that intelligence springs from the unconscious, insensate earth. In a word, that the highest is evolved from the lowest.

This is a conclusion to which we cannot assent. It seems to us to be contrary to observation, experience, reason, revelation, and the nature of things. They leave out the most important factor in the creation, the Creator. They attribute to matter qualities and forces which it does not possess. The cause of evolution is not adequate to the effect. They violate the axiom that the less cannot be equal to the greater and contain it. The simple truth is that the higher cannot be evolved from the lower, the greater from the less, the Creator from the creature. The higher cannot be created from the lower, but the lower can be used by the Highest to create something higher than itself.

This is a most important distinction, and must be clearly seen before its force can be appreciated.. Examples of the distinction are familiar and abundant. The clay does not form the vessel, much less the potter. The vessel is not evolved from the clay by any power inherent in the clay. The potter is not evolved from the vessel by any power inherent in the vessel. The potter forms the vessel by means of the clay. The vessel is his idea embodied in a fixed and definite form. A house does not construct the builder. He is not evolved from it, and the house is not evolved from wood and stone by any power inherent in them. The idea of the house is evolved from the architect, who uses the materials as instrumental means of constructing it for human use. The steam-engine did not invent itself or the maker of it. It was not evolved from iron and steel by any power residing in them. It is not the evolution of the tea-kettle which first suggested it, by the fortuitous concourse of atoms, or by any power of natural selection and hereditary tendencies inherent in the kettle boiling on the hob. The engine originated in an intelligent mind, and was evolved from it by using substances reduced to forms and placed in mutual relations necessary to effect the purpose.

To accomplish his ends man deals with substances already provided. But the Lord had to create the substances themselves. Man acts upon them from without; the Lord creates and molds them from within. We can see man at his work; the Lord is invisible. Suppose no human instrumentality in the construction of an engine could be discovered, but every process could be seen from first to last by which the structure was completed, might we not conclude that it was evolved from metal and wood by some power inherent in them? But we can see man in his work, and we know the means by which he accomplishes his purposes. In every case we know that the purpose or end originates in the mind; that it takes form there, and that it is a plastic mental power, which selects, fashions, arranges, and combines material substances into a whole suited to its purpose. The assertion that the materials assumed such a form by chance or by any power inherent in themselves would be universally regarded as too absurd for a moment's credence. Why, then, should we admit the greater absurdity that there is any inherent self-derived power in rock or sand, or clay or mold, to form their substance into the infinitely more complex and delicate organisms of plant and animal, endow them with sensation and consciousness, give them the power to love, to know, to understand, and perform the various functions of a human being?

But when we take our point of view from the universal truth of Revelation, that God is a Being of infinite love, wisdom, and power, and that "In the beginning He created the heavens and the earth," and carried on His work to its completion in man who could receive and reciprocate His love, who could see the relations between cause and effect, and according to the measure of his intelligence could discern the order and harmony of His works, appreciate their beauty, be filled with reverence and awe at their glory and power, with gratitude and love for their benign and merciful purpose, every demand of reason and affection is satisfied. We see all substance, all form, all power in their origin, going forth into orderly and definite act; we can discover in all things that come within our knowledge the unfolding of the Lord's purpose; we know that behind the veil of matter there is a personal love and wisdom working with intelligent methods, using the materials He has created for a specific purpose; we see in every substance, form, and motion some token of His presence, some advance towards the end He seeks. The fact that He employs means, that creation is an infinite web of causes and effects, constantly weaving, excites our curiosity, awakens our interest, makes us familiar with His thought and methods, and we feel at home in His universe. We are not idle spectators; we are a part of the work; we are permitted to co-operate with Him, and to share in the blessedness of the reward. He is working in us and giving us the power to see how He works for us. Every motion is the effect of His power; every form is cast into the mold of His idea, every object is the embodiment of His love. Mineral, plant, animal, and man himself are evolutions from Him, and instruments for the accomplishment of His purpose. He is the First and the Last. He is in all and through all, and the creation in its least and greatest forms is the constant effect of the constant exercise of His power.

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