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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 31

To which an editorial reply appeared in the Times, August 26:—

To which an editorial reply appeared in the Times, August 26:—

A short controversy has lately been carried on in our columns upon the relationship of the doctrine of Evolution to Christianity. We must confess that we fail to see that hitherto very much light has been thrown upon the subject by either of the disputants, Mr. Richter and the Rev. A. H. Stobo. Indeed neither the traditional teaching of the church upon which Mr. Stobo relies, nor that strange mixture of' materialism and magic which apparently form the basis of Mr. Richter's creed, are capable of explaining what thoughtful persons want to have made clear, if that is possible. A. pelting of texts of Scripture to and fro, divorced from their context, and sometimes badly translated, is obviously little likely to settle one of the profoundest questions in philosophical theology. Mr. Richter, after concentrating his attention on a few isolated passages of the old Testament Scriptures, and after failing very considerably to concentrate his attention on the secular Greek writers prior to Plato, and on the literature of ancient Egypt and India, has arrived at a conclusion Which will startle most literary men, that the doctrine of immortality was unknown to the Hebrew writers of the Bible, and was a mere invention, a sort of poetical fiction of Plato's! that here fore it cannot be true, and consequently that a miracle was required to make it true, and that as evolution does not pretend to miracles, evolution must be a falsehood ! This is really one of the strangest jumbles of quasi-reasoning, one of the most curious instances of erroneous premises being followed up by bad logic that we can call to mind as having been ventilated recently. And yet we are not wilfully misstating what Mr. Richter says, though perhaps he means something which he has not clearly expressed. The argument which seems to him so decisive against the consistency of evolution with Christianity, namely, that man if we consider him as lineally descended from the lower animals "cannot attain his moral capacity or the immortality of his soul by evolu- page 15 tion," because that is a thing of a totally different kind to anything which the other animals possess, is one of very little weight. Has Mr. Richter never watched a pond of frogs from time to time, and seen the little tadpole, a genuine fish breathing from gills, becoming a batrachian reptile breathing from lungs? Or, as he has studied the classical writers a little, has he never noticed what appeared to them as a type of man's existence here-after in a higher form, a yet more beautiful development, and seen the unsightly chrysalis bursting from its husk, and flying through the air, a butterfly or moth, decorated with all the colors of the rainbow on its outstretched wings? Granting, as most people do, that there is a Creator of the universe, are his powers and wisdom less manifest when working by law than when working without it? To the vulgar mind, magic, or what is sometimes called miracle, possesses more attraction than those harmonious laws by which all the glories of the world we see around us sprang gradually into existence; but to the thinker the attraction is all the other way. And we should like to ask Mr. Richter how it is that he is so certain of the correctness of the popular prejudice as to animals having no moral sense here, and no capacity for life here after? The great Agassiz, an opponent of the Evolutionary theory, maintains strongly that there is a moral sense in animals. We know a dog in Invercargill who has never been beaten for stealing food, and yet he will be hungry almost to starving before he will touch a piece of meat on a table not a foot above his nose, merely because he has been told by his master that he is not to do it. And as to the alleged absurdity of dogs and cats, horses and elephants being obviously incapable of immortality, it is a mere idle prejudice. Neither we nor Mr. Richter can prove anything on the subject one way or the other. Bishop Butler, one of the most sober-minded prelates, and most powerful thinkers that ever adorned the bench, tells us in the first chapter of his celebrated work, the "Analogy," that there is nothing at all to show that animals are not immortal, and what is more, he demonstrates that the probabilities are in favor of such a supposition.

We fail therefore altogether to see the force of Mr. Richter's objections to the Evolutionist doctrine.