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C. But it is utterly subversive of Christianity; for if this theory is true the fall of man is entirely fabulous; and if the fall, then the redemption, these two being inseparably bound together.
F. My dear friend, there I am not bound to follow you. I believe in Christianity, and I believe in Darwin. The two appear irreconcilable. My answer to those who accuse me of inconsistency is, that both being undoubtedly true, the one must be reconcilable with the other, and that the impossibility of reconciling them must be only apparent and temporary, not real. The reconciliation will never be effected by planing a little off the one and a little off the other and then gluing them together with glue. People will not stand this sort of dealing, and the rejection of the one truth or of the other is sure to follow upon any such attempt being persisted in. The true course is to use the freest candour in the acknowledgment of the difficulty; to estimate precisely its real value, and obtain a correct knowledge of its precise form. Then and then only is there a chance of any satisfactory result being obtained. For unless the exact nature of the difficulty be known first, who can attempt to remove it? Let me re-state the matter once again. All animals and plants in a state of Nature are undergoing constant competition for the necessaries of life. Those that can hold their ground hold it; those that cannot hold it are destroyed. But as it also happens that slight changes of food, of habit, of climate, of circumjacent accident, and so forth, produce a slight tendency to vary in the offspring of any plant or animal, it follows that among these slight variations some may be favourable to the individual in whom they appear, and may place him in a better position than his fellows as regards the enemies with whom his interests come into collision. In this case he will have a better chance of surviving than his fellows; he will thus stand also a better chance of continuing the species, and in his offspring his own slight divergence from the parent type will be apt to appear. However slight the divergence, if it be beneficial to the individual it is likely to preserve the individual and to reappear in his offspring, and this process may be repeated ad infinitum. Once grant these two things, and the rest is a mere matter of time and degree. That the immense differences between the camel and the pig should have come about in six thousand years is not believable; but in six hundred million years it is not incredible, more especially when we consider that by the assistance of geology a very perfect chain has been formed between the two. Let this instance suffice. Once grant the principles, once grant that competition is a great power in Nature, and that changes of circumstances and habits produce a tendency to variation in the offspring (no matter how slight such variation may be), and unless you can define the possible limit of such variation during an infinite series of generations, unless you can show that there is a limit, and that Darwin's theory over-steps it, you have no right to reject his conclusions. As for the objections to the theory, Darwin has treated them with admirable candour, and our time is too brief to enter into them here. My recommendation to you is that you should read the book again.
C. Thank you, but for my own part I confess to caring very little whether my millionth ancestor was a gorilla or no; and as Darwin's book does not please me, I shall not trouble myself further about the matter.
BARREL-ORGANS: [From the Press, 17 January, 1863.]
Dugald Stewart in his Dissertation on the Progress of Metaphysics says: "On reflecting on the repeated reproduction of ancient paradoxes by modern authors one is almost tempted to suppose that human invention is limited, like a barrel-organ, to a specific number of tunes."
It would be a very amusing and instructive task for a man of reading and reflection to note down the instances he meets with of these old tunes coming up again and again in regular succession with hardly any change of note, and with all the old hitches and involuntary squeaks that the barrel-organ had played in days gone by. It is most amusing to see the old quotations repeated year after year and volume after volume, till at last some more careful enquirer turns to the passage referred to and finds that they have all been taken in and have followed the lead of the first daring inventor of the mis-statement. Hallam has had the courage, in the supplement to his History of the Middle Ages, p. 398, to acknowledge an error of this sort that he has been led into.
But the particular instance of barrel-organism that is present to our minds just now is the Darwinian theory of the development of species by natural selection, of which we hear so much. This is nothing new, but a rechauffee of the old story that his namesake, Dr. Darwin, served up in the end of the last century to Priestley and his admirers, and Lord Monboddo had cooked in the beginning of the same century. We have all heard of his theory that man was developed directly from the monkey, and that we all lost our tails by sitting too much upon that appendage.
We learn from that same great and cautious writer Hallam in his History of Literature that there are traces of this theory and of other popular theories of the present day in the works of Giordano Bruno, the Neapolitan who was burnt at Rome by the Inquisition in 1600. It is curious to read the titles of his works and to think of Dugald Stewart's remark about barrel-organs. For instance he wrote on "The Plurality of Worlds," and on the universal "Monad," a name familiar enough to the readers of Vestiges of Creation. He was a Pantheist, and, as Hallam says, borrowed all his theories from the eclectic philosophers, from Plotinus and the Neo-Platonists, and ultimately they were no doubt of Oriental origin. This is just what has been shown again and again to be the history of German Pantheism; it is a mere barrel-organ repetition of the Brahman metaphysics found in Hindu cosmogonies. Bruno's theory regarding development of species was in Hallam's words: "There is nothing so small or so unimportant but that a portion of spirit dwells in it; and this spiritual substance requires a proper subject to become a plant or an animal"; and Hallam in a note on this passage observes how the modern theories of equivocal generation correspond with Bruno's.
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