BLOG: Darwin and Evolution a Century Later (1959)

On February 8, 1959, FUS minister Rev. Carl Storm delivered the talk “Darwin and Evolution: A Century Later.” This is an excerpt.

… If life derives from life, how could the process have started unless there were some life-giving power behind it? To postulate some divine and supernatural life-giving force in now way provides an answer to what was the nature and form of the first living substance.

Studies of the properties of living substances have already reached the point where it is difficult to draw boundaries between living and non-living. This is the case with some of the viruses and all the more so in the study of the chemical composition of the gene. Although the nature of the first living substance remains conjectural, there is every reason to believe that it must have been at a very elemental level, and not inconceivable is the speculation that it was in the form of some chemical combination. In the chemical soup of the primeval world there were undoubtedly any number of potential combinations, and over a vast period of time the particular combination might have occurred not just once, but several times, and not just in one place but in several places. Whatever the original living substance, it had the very considerable advantage, in all likelihood, of no bacteria behind around to break it down.

Be that as it may, it is with the other end of the scale that we should be more concerned. There have been some who have interpreted evolution to mean that there are no values except survival values, no escape from a ruthless struggle for existence, and justification for the destruction of the weak and the unfit in human society.

Such interpretation has undoubtedly been a convenient rationalization for the exercise of ruthless power and the exploitation of human beings and the plundering of nature and the rest of the animal kingdom. But this is far from what Darwin himself thought and what modern evolutionists have to say about evolution.

Darwin, particularly in his volume “Descent of Man,” emphasized that man is not only a biological animal, but also an intellectual and social being, and the standards of fitness differ in these three aspects.

Biologically the fittest are the most capable of living and leaving offspring; intellectually the fittest are the most rational; socially the fittest are the most ethical. The attempt to measure mental and social fitness by standards of biological fitness is to confuse hopelessly the whole matter and to fail utterly to recognize that human evolution has progressed in these three directions.

Man is an animal, but he has characteristics not shared with any other animals, and these are the measure of this unique nature. The accumulation and transmission of knowledge, the rise of values, conscious choice and ability to plan in terms of social need and ethical well-being, have all been elements in the evolution of man.

Evolution is not something that just happens to him. With him it is a process in which he not only can but also is forced to play some role in determining his history. Whereas, says Julian Huxley, biological evolution is directed by the blind and automatic force of natural selection, psychosocial evolution can be directed by the anticipatory force of conscious purpose.

Thus man’s destiny is to act as the agent of the evolutionary process on this planet, by enabling it to realize new and higher possibilities.

The theory of evolution stands as one of the greatest achievements of the human mind. It is still being modified and refashioned and refined, by new and developing knowledge, but it remains only the more firmly established.

Has it robbed us of anything? On the contrary, it has opened thought, as scarcely any other theory has, to the dynamic, developing process operating in all nature.

… Is man’s place in nature that of a mere accident without significance? Writes George Simpson, “Man was certainly not the goal of evolution, which evidently had no goal. He was not planned, in an operation wholly planless… But man did originate after a tremendously long sequence of events in which both chance and orientation played a part… The results is the most highly endowed organization of matter that has yet appeared on earth…”

It is up to man himself what he does with his highly endowed organization of matter. It depends upon him what amount of value and worth can be given to evolution.

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