Dr. Julian Huxley’s “Glorious Paradox’’
The views of Dr. Julian Huxley expressed in his article “Chance and Anti-Chance in Evolution,’’ (The Fortnightly, April, 1946) seem to be the outcome of what Arnold Dunn calls “the flight from reason,” in which a number of present-day biologists are participating. Some of these, including Dr. Huxley, reject the idea of God and replace it by the idea of Natural Selection. These zoologists attribute to Natural Selection, if not the omnipotence of the Almighty worshipped by Christians, something not far short of this. On October 12th, 1927, Dr. Huxley assured the readers of The Evening Standard that : “In the past of geology the slow, wasteful and blind forces of Natural Selection have created the marvellous living mechanisms of ant, bee, bird, horse and man out of living slime.”
This is nonsense. With as much truth might a man, who has just drowned three of a litter of kittens, hold up the fourth and cry, “See! I have created this.” Natural selection cannot create anything. It cannot even cause the variations in animals and plants.
Far from modifying the views he expressed nearly twenty years ago, Dr. Huxley to-day pays even greater homage to Natural Selection. This, he writes (The Rationalist Annual, 1946, p. 87) “is a mechanism for introducing apparent purpose in nature. After Darwin it was no longer necessary to deduce the existence of divine purpose from the facts of biological adaptation. Instead of conscious purpose we can now say adaptive function, and the old theological teleology can be replaced by a scientific pseudo-teleology.
“Perhaps most remarkable of all, Natural Selection is able to accomplish simultaneously two apparently contradictory results—it can both discourage and encourage change .... In conclusion, we have the glorious paradox that this purposeless mechanism, after a thousand million years of its blind and automatic operations, has finally generated purpose—as one of the attributes of our own species.”
So Dr. Huxley substitutes Natural Selection for God, adaptive function for conscious purpose and pseudo-teleology for theological teleology, and apparently believes that by so doing he has solved the riddle of the organic world!
Needless to say, Dr. Huxley strongly disapproves of those of us who deem his views the acme of nonsense, deprecate the flight from reason and anticipate the speedy fulfilment of Oswald Spengler’s prediction that “the theory of evolution will be regarded by future generations as one, of the most pitiable delusions which ever gained sway over the human mind.”
Dr. Huxley calls us (Fortnightly, p. 233) “finalists,” who “say that the blind and automatic sifting action of Natural Selection, exerted as between random (chance) mutations, cannot possibly produce organs or structures with an obvious function, such as bird’s wing for flying.”
He asserts that we “cannot (or do not want to) understand how such results could be produced.” He charges us with overlooking a number of very relevant points. He says we entirely neglect the results of artificial selection, as exerted by man on domestic plants or animals. He states that Cuénot in his book Invention et Finalité et Biologie, does not mention them. Yet Darwin (whose famous book on the subject is not even cited by Cuénot) rightly saw that they are crucial for the theory of natural selection.
The truth is that the work of animal breeders, whether deemed crucial or not, is about as unfavourable as it could be to theory of evolution. Not only have breeders been unable to turn a mouse into a flying rodent but they have not succeeded in breeding any new organ, or changing one kind of animal into another kind; dogs remain dogs, pigeons pigeons, horses horses, etc., and, what is more, no kind of animal that has been bred for many centuries shows the least signs of changing into a different kind of animal. Far from failing to notice artificial selection we cite the meagre results of animal breeders as strong evidence against evolution. Dr. Julian Huxley’s reply to this is: “It is naturally impossible to reproduce in the laboratory or the experimental station a process which in nature has taken anything from ten to a hundred million years.” Here he makes two very important admissions, first that breeders have not produced a new animal species, and secondly that nature has taken from ten to a hundred million years to produce a new kind of animal. Yet he has told us that after a thousand million years Natural Selection has converted mere slime into men, horses, bees, etc.
The truth is that recent research has shown that the earth has not been inhabitable nearly long enough to permit of the evolution postulated by Dr. Huxley. According to the radio-activity method of estimating the age of rocks, at the outside the earth has been inhabitable for 1500 million years.
Dr. F. E. Zeuner, as a result of researches on the distribution of butterflies, asserts (Trans. Zool. Soc., 1943) it needs from half to one million years to produce a new species. Of mammals he writes (The Pleistocene Period (1945) p. 278) “half a million years is a fast rate for the gradual evolution of a new species as suggested by palaeontological evidence.”
Dr. G. G. Simpson, on the assumption that the horse of today evolved from the Eocene horse Eohippus, estimates that it takes more than 5 million years for a new genus of horse to evolve, and as Eohippus lived some 60 million years ago and is of the same family, 60 million years has not been long enough to evolve a new family of mammal. It is admitted by all evolutionists that marine animals evolve far more slowly than do land animals. Simpson estimates that 78 million years are necessary for the evolution of a new genus of bivalve mollusc (Tempo and Mode in Evolution (1944) p. 24). As regards the evolution of mammals from reptiles, he writes (p. 119) : “The morphological difference between modern opossums and some Cretaceous opossums is slight, but some 60 million years of evolution occurred between them. If the missing pre-Cretaceous sequence changed at a comparable rate, the transition from a reptile to a mammal can hardly have taken less than 600 million years : it probably took several times that long—in short it must have occurred in the Pre-Cambrian, which is certainly absurd. Or, if a structural unit, such as a bat’s wing, be studied, it may be found that its recorded rate of evolution is effectively zero. The bat’s wing has not essentially progressed since the Middle Eocene, although a few of its lion-functional elements have degenerated, and it has become more diversified. Extrapolation of this rate in an endeavour to estimate the time of origin from a normal mammalian manus might set that date before the origin of the earth.”
In view of considerations such as the above, it might reasonably be thought that Simpson would have discarded the theory of evolution. Far from it, he apparently assumes very rapid evolution in the past! This is typical of those with whom the belief in evolution is an obsession.
Dr. Huxley, for example, writes (p. 236) : “It is improbable in the highest degree that the human eye should have arisen ‘by chance,’ but with the aid of the machinery for producing improbabilities provided to life by Natural Selection, the improbability can be and has been actualized.” Why does he make this strange assertion ? Here is his answer : “Modern evolutionary-genetic theory . . . enables us to say, in the epigrammatic paradox of R. A. Fisher, that Natural Selection is a mechanism for generating improbability of a very high order. Let us assume that the improbability of a favourable mutation extending without selection, to all the individuals of a species is a million to one (a very low estimate, by the way). The improbability of two such favourable mutations extending throughout the species is a billion to one. With ten separate mutations, the improbability becomes astronomical : yet we know that by artificial selection, man has been able to combine many times ten favourable mutations to produce the fowls or horses or wheats he wants.” In other words, because man has been able to modify fowls, horses and wheat to produce the qualities he desires, it follows that the blind forces of Natural Selection can modify or change a patch of ordinary skin into a human eye!
Well does A. N. Field write (Why Colleges Breed Communists, p. 46) : “The evidential standards of modern evolutionist science represent probably the lowest point in intellectual degeneration reached by civilised man in the past two thousand years. All is wildest assumption and limitless credulity, and with no other end in view than to arrive, by hook or by crook, at the most debased view of human origins which the mind of man is capable of conceiving.”
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