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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 31

[introduction]

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When honoured with a request to deliver a lecture in this series on the vexed question of Evolution, I expressed a strong reluctance to meddle with a subject upon which public sentiment in Dunedin was so divided, and upon which so much blood, or at least so much ink, had already been shed. I intimated my preference for some neutral tonic, literary or social. When, however, the request was pressed, I did not feel at liberty to decline. The choice of the general subject, then, has not been mine, but that of the Committee.

The particular aspect of the question which I purpose to discuss is the incidence of the Doctrine of Evolution upon Theology, and, through Theology, upon Ethics or Practical Morals. I have felt some hesitation in introducing, in connection with a purely literary institution, a topic of a theological, or semi-theological, character. But I have reflected that it must have been this department of the, question which the Committee wished me to treat. Had they desired a scientific exposition of Evolution, they would scarcely have applied to a member of my profession. Moreover, it is in the ethical bearings of Evolution that the Dunedin public has recently displayed so unmistakeable an interest. It is an honourable characteristic of the colonists of Otago that they are readily and warmly interested in topics metaphysical and theological. The controversy which has occupied the attention of this community for several weeks past would, in any other part of the Colony, have died a natural death within a week. We may flatter ourselves that intellectual life is more active here than in other colonial towns.