Evolution Protest Movement
The Origin and Start of the Movement
It has been suggested by our Hon. Secretary, Mr. Tilney, that members of the Evolution Protest Movement, especially the younger ones now taking an increasingly active part in the extension of its influence, would be interested to know something of the circumstances that led to its inception, and subsequently to its foundation.
Nearly a quarter of a century has now passed, and most of those who launched the campaign, and prosecuted it in its earliest stages, are no longer here, one of the greatest of them all being Douglas Dewar to whom an inadequate tribute appears in this News-Letter.
I think I am right in saying that Dr. Basil Atkinson, the Under Librarian at Cambridge University, and I myself, are the only two living who were members of the original Council, and I have therefore undertaken to give some account of the inception, and launching, of the Society.
But here I must emphasise that I am writing of events long past, and of which I have few records ; furthermore round about the time of the founding of the Movement I was actively engaged in other spheres of service, and very particularly on Naval matters then exercising the public mind. I mention this in case I may, through faulty memory, have overlooked, or mis-stated, any relevant facts and, above all, left unrecorded the name of anyone who contributed to the successful launching of this organised campaign against the devastating fallacy of Darwinism.
In so far as I was responsible for the initiation of the E.P.M., the genesis of the idea occurred while crossing the Little Minch from Oban to fish for trout in South Uist, then a fisherman’s peaceful paradise, but now shortly to become a paradise for rocketeers. While watching the wonderful convolutions of the gulls round and about the storm-tossed little ship, I suddenly realised, what naturalists from time immemorial had overlooked, namely, that birds and insects flying in winds, even of gale force, so far from feeling any wind pressure, were in reality flying in a dead calm, though in a moving one : that they were, in fact, aerial parasites when on the wing. On reflection, it became evident that herein lay the key to bird and insect migration, and other phenomena, and from that moment decided to make a careful study of books and writings of those who were, and still are, regarded universally as authorities in these subjects.
It was this study which first introduced me to the extraordinary fallacies into which the Theory of Evolution had led post-Darwinian naturalists and biologists through their surprising ignorance of the fundamental laws of dynamics which govern flight within a moving medium. The outcome of these studies was a series of articles in the Spectator, the National Review, and Discovery, which the scientific correspondent of the Times, in his weekly article, “The Progress of Science,” reviewed at considerable length, and very favourably. These articles, in a modified form, were subsequently embodied in my first book, This Bondage, which was published by John Murray in 1929.
In the Introduction of this book I emphasised the devastating effect on the Christian Faith, and on all forms of human activities and relationships, that Darwinism had wrought, and I concluded with the following paragraph :-
“The author is second to none in his reverence for true science—physical truth—and for that small band of great discoverers of truths as old as eternity itself, though new to man’s understanding and knowledge. In this country to-day there are a few, though from the nature of things very few, who have in very deed discovered something capable of proof and demonstration; but as these distinguished few will readily admit, there are to be seen peeping out from under the skirts of the giant robe of science a great army of speculators entitled to no nobler garments than small-clothes.”
If that somewhat exuberant assertion was true in 1929, as it certainly was, it is doubly so to-day when those who claim the title of “scientist” are to be counted, not in tens, or even hundreds, but in tens of thousands.
The book was very widely, and favourably, reviewed in the lay press, though ignored by professional journals, with the exception of Discovery and The Irish Naturalists’ Journal, both of which urged its importance upon all naturalists. The Daily News welcomed it “in an age when much so-called ‘science’ is simply muddy mumbo-jumbo.”
My only reason for referring at some length to this book, long since out of print, is because it brought me into my first contact with Douglas Dewar who, as a recognised ornithological authority, and, at one time, an evolutionist, was sufficiently impressed by the argument to invite me to lecture on it before the Victoria Institute. It was through this lecture that I became acquainted with Sir Ambrose Fleming, F.R.S., Dr. Basil Atkinson, Colonel Skinner, and other leading members of the Institute who disputed the validity of the Theory of Evolution.
In the discussion that followed the lecture I remember that Sir Ambrose advanced the argument that if mankind had existed in the vast periods of time invented by evolutionary speculators, the world, humanly speaking, could not possibly have accommodated the human race—an argument to which vital statistics give increasing point.
A direct outcome of this lecture and discussion at the Victoria Institute was a public meeting at the Essex Hall, in the Strand, which was demolished by German bombs in 1941. Sir Ambrose Fleming, F.R.S., was in the Chair, and the audience, which filled the large hall, and consisted largely of young men and women from hospitals and colleges, was a very lively and, on the whole, a friendly one.
It was shortly after this meeting that I started my book This Progress—the Tragedy of Evolution, which was published by Rich and Cowan in 1932.
Not long after its publication, I proposed, with the active approval of Douglas Dewar, that a Society should be formed to challenge the validity of Evolution, the challenge being confined, so far as that might be possible, to the scientific rather than to the philosophical and religious plane—an attitude which I have never fully shared.
Our first meeting was held in my office at 24, Essex Street, which, like the Essex Hall, was demolished by bombs in 1941. Those attending this meeting included Douglas Dewar, Dr. Basil Atkinson, Colonel Skinner and Miss Prentice who, like Lt.-Col. MacDonald, bequeathed a legacy (of £100 and £215, respectively) to the Society. It was at this meeting that the E.P.M. was founded, with Sir Ambrose Fleming, F.R.S. as President, Douglas Dewar as Hon. Secretary and Treasurer, and myself as Chairman—a post I held until relieved in 1953 by C. E. Allan Turner, M.Sc., Ph. D.
From the very outset Dewar was the mainspring of the campaign, and to the day of his death he worked tirelessly on its behalf, being responsible for a great part of the Society’s literature.
Apart from presiding, as Chairman, at Council Meetings, I have played a very minor role in its affairs, my own activities having been concentrated mainly on naval and political matters, and on journalism and the writing of books.
On the death of Sir Charles Marston—who succeeded Sir Ambrose Fleming— Dewar became our President, and Mr. Filmer, to whom the E.P.M. owes a great debt of gratitude for his devoted labours, our Hon. Secretary and Treasurer.
That, very briefly, and as accurately as memory allows, is the history of the inception, foundation and early days of the E.P.M. now extending its activities and influence under the competent Chairmanship of Dr. Turner, and the able and dynamic Hon. Secretaryship of Mr. Tilney.
Appreciation of Douglas Dewar
In the last News Letter members of the E.P.M. will have learnt with deep regret of the death of Douglas Dewar who, from the start of the Movement in 1932, was its Hon. Secretary until, in 1945, he succeeded Sir Charles Marston as President. Sir Charles Marston, it will be remembered, followed Sir Ambrose Fleming, F.R.S., our first President.
Douglas Dewar entered Jesus College, Cambridge, with a scholarship in 1892 and, after obtaining his degree in Natural Science, he studied Hindustani and Law, passing first of his year into the Indian Civil Service in 1898. His career in India was varied, including the inspection of schools and legal work. Later he entered the Finance Dept., in which he became Acting Controller and Auditor-General in 1920.
Throughout his career in India he was a keen student of birds, a subject upon which he became an acknowledged authority, and on which he wrote many books including Birds of the Plains, Indian Birds, Himalayan and Kasmiri Birds. In all he was the author of no less than 22 books on Indian birds and Indian History ; he also wrote a book on Pre-Mutiny Records and one on English Estate Duty.
After retirement he became a distinguished member and a Vice-President of the Victoria Institute—the Philosophical Society of Great Britain—before which he read many papers criticising the Theory of Evolution.
For some years after leaving Cambridge where, like all other Natural Science students, he was indoctrinated with Darwinism, he did not question the truth of the Theory. Happily, when quit of this youthful “conditioning,” and free to study and judge for himself, he came to think otherwise, and for 25 years devoted his scientific and legal talents to exposing its fallacies. Though continually attacked for his conclusions, never once was he challenged on his facts. Although a man of strong Christian conviction he strove to confine the argument for Creation to the scientific plane, an attitude which sometimes brought him into friendly controversy with those who regard the Scriptural, as well as the philosophical, case against Evolution as being of more weight even than the physical and biological, strong as Dewar showed that to be.
In spite of increasing physical frailty his mind, at almost 82, was still clear and logical up to the end, and his perseverance and courage in a great cause an example to us all still engaged in the fight.
The sympathy of all who have known and admired him will go out to Mrs. Dewar, to whose devoted care of our lion-hearted President we owe more than we shall ever know. He passed away peacefully after years of honourable strife, and is now at rest.
My own acquaintance with Douglas Dewar dates from the early years of the late War. I had read with much interest and satisfaction his papers delivered before the Victoria Institute, and his Difficulties of the Evolution Theory, against which he afterwards said he should have made a stronger case. Having written for my Grammar School lads, during evacuation in the New Forest, the MS for a book entitled Sixth Formers and the Bible, I ventured to submit for Mr. Dewar’s approval—or otherwise— the section on “Science in the Bible.” The encouragement received emboldened me to continue in correspondence, and I found it most gratifying to discover that we had so much in common. Indeed, the more we compared notes—so to speak— the more we grew together, and have grown together ever since.
He invited my views on the Cosmic Catabolee, misrendered “Foundation of the world,” and at my suggestion proposed that the late Mr. Percy W. Heward—known as a remarkable Bible student to us both and to me since boyhood, should in 1946 give a paper at the Victoria Institute on the assumed Interval of Genesis i, verse 2. This eventually took the form of a Debate with Professor (then Mr.) F. F. Bruce. The idea was opposed at first, but Mr. Dewar stood firm, declaring he would resign his Vice-Presidency of the Institute, if the nominated speaker were not allowed to give his Paper.
I have had occasion this last year to visit several times the home of our late President, and two glimpses—one of Cambridge, one of India—will doubtless interest our members. In the hall of the Dewar home at Camberley there hangs, on the left, inscribed with the autographs of the crew, the rudder of the “Jesus” boat that Douglas coxed in the early 90’s. On the wall facing is the skin of a magnificent leopard with, as you go up the stairs, an equally magnificent skin of a tiger.
On behalf of the E.P.M., and through the kind offer of Mrs. Dewar, I have been able to acquire a goodly number of her late husband’s books dealing with the vexed subject of Evolution ; these books can become the nucleus of the Douglas Dewar Memorial Postal Library. With others, these titles can be sent to members, who would pay postage one way, on any book they borrowed.
The floral tribute taken to Camberley as from the E.P.M. Council and Members bore the legend : A VALIANT VETERAN IN THE CAUSE OF TRUTH ; Ps. 111, 2. In proud and affectionate memory of Douglas Dewar, our dear devoted President, from Members of the Evolution Protest Movement in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Overseas.
As was to be expected—apart from the hundred odd letters received by Mrs. Dewar in appreciation of her late husband and in sympathy at her loss—not a few tributes from home and abroad were received by the Hon. Secretary, praising the valuable and seemingly irreplaceable work of this versatile and modest man, one of whose pieces of advice was not to overstate your case or “overplay your hand.”
Prayer will be offered that a worthy successor to the Presidency will be provided, the Council being wisely guided in their important choice.
Mr. Dewar was wholly identified with the work of the E.P.M.—which was, latterly, his life ; indeed, at the very end he was engaged in a written debate with the late Mr. H. S. Shelton on The Origin of Man. Mr. Shelton unfortunately died before completing the final section of the Debate, but his son has promised to complete the work, and also to try to find a publisher for this, so to speak, their swan-duet.
The smaller Debate—between Dewar-Davies and Professor Haldane—is now in the printer’s hands, and, when it is ready, it will be sold (we trust at or near the old price) with a free copy of the pamphlet Comments on the Debate.
We no longer have our doughty debaters with us, but if members are able to arrange for a Lecture or Talk on the subject of Evolution in the coming autumn or winter months, particularly in the London area, one or more Council members will be prepared to give their help in this way. Expenses, though not insisted upon, will naturally be welcome.
Readers will be interested to learn that the number of new members has doubled since the issue of the last News Letter ; hence there is much cause for thankfulness and for encouragement as well, at home and in the Commonwealth Branches.
A. G. Tilney.
- May 1957. Interim News Letter of Remembrance : Captain Bernard Acworth, Douglas Dewar, and the E.P.M. Santhia, Stoke, Hayling Island : Evolution Protest Movement.