Sut,—I am grateful to Mr. Fothergill for his clear and informed letter. If by Darwinism is merely meant the truism that the fittest to survive usually outlive the less fit, and that this fact exercises a selective influence in the elimination of variations, then I agree that Darwinism is not dead. Darwin, on the other hand, believed that "natural selection may be said to create a new species out of accidental variations as truly as a man may be said to create a building out of the material provided by stones of various shapes." Darwin in his more lucid moments was a muddled theist, but the warm welcome which his work received was due not to its merits but to the fact that atheists believed that Darwinism had rendered superfluous the hypothesis of a creator. It provided, said Huxley, an alternative to " the untenable separate creation theory." Darwinism was accepted, as an alternative to Paley's argument from design. It was inconceivable, said Weissman, that there could he arty theory but Darwinism which did not involve "assuming the help of a principle of design."
The weakness of Darwinism is its complete failure to meet the argument that a negative force cannot be creative. Darwinism, as somebody said, may explain the gervival of the fittest hut it does not explain the arrival of the fittest. As Driesch puts it: " To say that a man has explained some organic character' by natural selection is the same as if someone who is asked the question, " Why is this tree covered with leaves?" were to answer " Because the gardener did not cut them away." Of course, that would explain why there are no more leaves than those actually there, but it would never account for the existence and nature of the existing leaves as such. Or do we understand in the least why there are white bears in the .Polar regions if we are told that vbievaer; of other colours could not sur The claim that natural selection is creative has been tacitly abandoned, bet as the amour propre of oldfashioned scientists is bound up with the refusal to concede victory to the 'anti-Darwinians, the term " Darwinism " is retained to describe the negative effects of selection.
J. B. S. Haldane, in our correspondence, assured me that it was a distinguishing characteristic Of ft SCielltiM to admit his mistakes. I therefore invite Professor Rehouf, whose review initiated this correspondence. to express due contrition for describing Mivart as a Darwinian, and for appearing to endorse Canon Baker's suggestion that Einstein could be sulipotned to justify Galileo's opponents.
The Athena esti m Science and Philosophy Ste,-It was with some relief that I read Mr, Fothergill's letter to ThE CATHOLIC I1ERALD on Darwinism, setting forth so clearly the modern view of the place of natural selection in evolutionary theory. which had apparently not been clear to your previous Catholics so often lay themselves open to charges of obscurantism by not showing adequate knowledge of modern developments that Mr. Fothergili did a considerable service in writing his which is There is, not'is. however, another point always clearlyappreciated, and that is the distinction between a scientific theory formulated in the light
of experiment and observation; and a philosophical theory which may start from the premises provided by the scientific theory and at the same time attempt to bad it into a structure embracing matters not susceptible of experimental proof.
Thus it is most widely held in the scientific world that natural selection plus the modern experimental knowledge of genetics provide the most likely explanatioe of the observed facts of geographical distribution, comparative anatomy, embryology and palaeontology which go to make up the basis for a belief that evolution has happened and is going on to-day. That is a scientific theory based on observation and experiment.
Special creation, for instance, on the other hand, is not, and cannot be, a scientific theory, for it is not susceptible to experiment. It is, therefore, a philosophical theory whose validity is based oh an entirely different method of discovering truth. It may or may not he true, but it is neither more nor less true because of the method used to attain to it.
Ideally the two methods of approach should be harmonised, for there can he no contradiction between truth and truth. But it should be recognised that science does not attempt to purvey absolute truth. it merely tries to explain fact and experiment in the best possible way with the knowledge at its disposal. It may scrap everything and start again. That is its method.
Philosophy, on the other hand, attempts to go further and furnish absolute truth, and it is founding its arguments on shifting sand if it bases them on scientific theory and nothing else.
They are two quite separate approaches. and most of the confusion comes when philosophers attempt to talk about science without having adequate technical knowledge, and vice versa.
An illustration may help. I once took part in a discussion with a scientist on the subject of evolution, and he expected me to be difficult to convince owing to my religious and philosophical opinions. I told him that I could see no conflict its sight if we kept to our proper fields of activity.
I held that creation took place and he admitted that it was impossible for a scientist to prove or disprove it, for I admitted the possibility of the Almighty allowing what He created out of nothing to evolve according to the potency He placed in it. Secondly. I held that man was more than an animal -he was an animal whose body might have beers evolved from lower forms but plus a soul, a spiritual thing whose presence was not demonstrable by experiment, for the simple reason that an immaterial thing having neither weight nor quantity could not be weighed or measured, which processes are the tools of the scientist.
Dom BESET Lewes, O.S.B. Downside School,
Stiatton-on-the-Fosse, near Bath.