Genesis and in Geology
SCRIPTURE commits itself definitely to the doctrine of
species. There is here, as I believe, no uncertainty or ambiguity at all. The
seed is "after the kind" of the herb which yields it; the fruit also "after its
kind." God created also the living creatures "after their kind," "every winged
fowl after its kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth
upon the earth after its kind." There is no room to doubt the doctrine in all
this. The question of the origin of species is vital to the truth of Scripture.
Let us see briefly what are the points which are in contention as to
According to the most pronounced system of evolution in the present day, there are three things which we must especially consider in connection with the question of origin. There is first of all the principle of heredity. This, by itself, is what Scripture-doctrine plainly asserts. It is the principle by which the kind preserves itself upon the earth it is that by which the offspring resembles its parent in all essential features. It has been strangely misused, as we shall see directly, by evolutionists. It is a principle which, as far as Scripture is concerned, we have no difficulty with at all.
Next, we have to consider the principle of variation. It is as undoubted a truth that the offspring seldom or never exactly resembles the parent. Throughout the world, scarcely two individuals can be compared without bringing out satisfactory points of difference. The usefulness of this is easily to be understood. Were there absolute resemblance, the very fact would breed confusion. Individuality is as marked on the one hand as kinds on the other. Along with these two principles we are to place, according to Mr. Darwin and his followers, a third, which he calls "natural selection." Mr. Spencers synonym for it is, "Survival of the fittest." This natural selection is the fruit of a "struggle for life" which is going on every where through nature. Were but one kind left to multiply itself upon the earth, in the end the earth could not hold it.
Mr. Huxley has shown us how if a plant produced fifty others in a year, in nine years, the whole surface of the earth would be overspread with it and something more. But in this way, at least, as all could not live, a struggle for life must ensue - a struggle in which the hardiest and best fitted to survive would naturally do so. The result would be, the selection of the varieties which thus proved themselves the fittest ; and, supposing variation to be indefinite, the development, by degrees, of indefinitely higher kinds.
It is mainly in virtue of these three principles that it is supposed the different species, whether of animals or plants, have had their origin granting, of course, the first species. Sexual selection has been added latterly in order to reinforce them when their weakness became rather awkwardly apparent. But it is evident as to the lowest forms this could have no place whatever ; at least it is hard to imagine it in an oyster, or in the various forms of hermaphrodites. if natural selection cannot thus far, at least, advance alone, it will be out of its power to call in the help of the other principle. In point of fact, the question is not so much of the existence of such a thing as natural selection, which may be allowed without much trouble, and which might have its use to maintan the vigor of a species, if not to improve, at least to adapt it to varying conditions ; but whether there are no limits to variation, which it may he impracticable for it to override, is another point, and is the main one.
The principle of heredity, which evolutionists strangely appeal to in their own behalf, is really that which is powerfully against them. No doubt there are variations, and plenty of them ; no doubt that these are most useful in adapting a species to fresh conditions ; no doubt that man can, to a large extent, both multiply and preserve these variations. We know, however, that skill is required on the part of breeders to preserve them and we know too that they are to be found in mainly in domesticated races. Let these but run wild, and they will most surely return, if not to the primitive condition, yet at least to be sufficiently homogeneous, and with as little tendency to variation, as the primitive one itself. The facts as to hybrids also are allowed by Mr. Huxley himself to have great importance. "The formation of hybrids naturally," says M. Quatrefages, "is so rare that eminent naturalists have doubted its reality. There are, however, according to M. Decaisue, a Score of well-proved examples among plants. What is this number compared with the thousands of mongrels produced every day under our eyes? and yet the material conditions of fertility are identically the same with races as with species, and our botanical gardens, which group numbers of species side by side, facilitate crossing still more. "Among wild animals living in liberty, hybrids are still more rare. It is unknown, for example, among mammalia, according lo Isidore Geoffrey, whose experience has here a double value. The order of birds alone presents some facts of this kind, nearly all of which are in the order of Gallinae. According to Valeitcienries, they are unknown among fishes. In domestication and captivity, spontaneous crossing between different species is a little less rare.
The intelligent intervention of man has multiplied unions of this kind in a remarkable manner, especially among plants, but without being able to extend their limits.
Linnaus thought crossing was possible between species of different families; but in 1761, Koebreuter showed that he was mistaken. From these investigations, which were carried on for twenty-seven years, and from those of M. Naudin, his worthy rival, it appears that artificial crossing between species of different families never succeeds, and very rarely between species of different genera; that it is always very difficult, and demands the most minute precautions to insnre success ; that it even fails between species of the same genus closely allied in appearance and finally, there are whale families amongst winch hybrids are impossible. Amongst the latter. figures the family of the cucnrbitaeete, so thoroughly studied by M. Naudin, where the most perfect mongrels were produced spontaneously, we could not imagine evidently a more complete contrast All experimenters agree, further, in declaring that even in unions between species which have been most successful the fertility is constantly diminished, and often in immense proportions. The head of the Papaver somnifera generally contains two thousand seeds or more. In a hybrid of this species, Goertner only found six which had been matured; all the rest were more or less abortive.
"Hybridism in animals present exactly the same phenomena as in plants. Man has been able, by diverting and deceiving animal instincts, to multiply crosses between species; but he has not been able to extend the very narrow limits at which these phenomena cease. Not one fertile union has taken place between different families. They are very rare between genera, and even between species they are far from being numerous; a fact the more remarkable, as animal hybridation is an ancient institution We may draw this conclusion from known facts, that there are only two species of mammals - the ass and the horse, the crossing of which is almost universally and invariably fertile."
With regard to hybrids, M. Quatrefages further remarks that "in the vegetable hybrids the physiological equilibrium is destroyed in favour of the organs conducive to the life of the individual, and at the expense of those conducive to the life of the species. The stalk and leaves are always developed in an exaggerated manner relatively to the flowers. The most common animal hybrid, the mule, is an entirely similar case, being invariably stronger, more robust, and more hardy than its parents, but sterile. This sterility is not absolute, however, among all hybrids of the first generation In a small number, the elements which characterize the two sexes remain capable of reproduction. Nevertheless the fertility is always immensely reduced. From his hybrids of the datura, M. Naudin only obtained five or six fertile seeds from each plant; all the others had completely failed, or were without an embryo. The capsules themselves were only half the normal size.
"If two of these first hybrids are united, they produce hybrids of the second generation. In most cases, however, the latter are either sterile, or present the phenomenon of a spontaneous return to one or other of the parent types, or to both. M. Naudin crossed the large-leaved primrose with the primula officinais and obtained an intermediate hybrid between the two species, having seven fertile seeds. When these were sown, they produced three primroses of the male species, three of the female, and a single hybrid plant, which was perfectly barren
"In order to establish a series of generations presenting a certain amount ot uniformity, the hybrid must lose some of its mixed characters and resume the normal livery of the species, as M. Natidin says in other words, it must return to one of the parent types. "The same facts which we have just noticed amongst plants occur also among animals There are, however, some examples among birds and among mammalia of hybrids which have propagated inter se for several generations, four or five at the most But can these hybrids, of which so much has been said, maintain themselves without reverting to the parental types? M. Roux evidently believed it, and it is still asserted by M. Gayot. But the testimony of those who have established and impugned their assertions, leaves scarcely any room for doubt. Isidore Geoffrov, who had at first believed in their fixity, and had spoken of it as a conquest, did not hesitate afterward to admit the reversion. The fact has been established in Jartha dAtclimatation, and M. Roux himself, upon the assertion of M. Faivre, appears to have abandoned his previous assertions. The observations and experiments made by the Agricultural Society of Paris clearly show that the leporides sent or presented by the breeders themselves, had entirely reverted to the rabbit type. Lastly, M. Sauson, discussing the anatomical side of the question, has arrived at the same conclusion."
M. Dc Quatrefages sums up the characteristics of hybrids as follows: Infertility as a general rule, and, in the exceptions, a very limited fertility; series suddenly cut short, either by infertility, by disordered variation, or by reversion without atavism."
The reality of species from the scientific side can scarcely, therefore, be doubted, except by those whose theories blind them to facts such as have been stated. Heredity appears in these, whatever its nature, not as a principle which would preserve variations, but as a principle rather which tends to prevent their indefinite extension. It is a truly conservative principle. It controls and limits variations within certain degrees, witlun which it may be, and is, no doubt, of the greatest utility, but beyond which it would breed but utter confusion.
4. THE DAY-PERIOD INTERPRETATION.
RETURNING, now, to take up the six days history more in order, we are confronted at once with the fact that there are two modes of interpretation of these, which have been ordinarily represented as contradietorv of each. Carried out as they have been by various writers, whether from the side of Scripture or of science, no doubt they are so yet in spite of this conflict, those who have looked carefully at what is said on either side, instead of finding no force in either, will find force in both. The resemblance of the six days work to the geological periods is not merely an ingenious fancy, but has a foundation of fact.
It does not follow from this that the days are periods as given in Scripture. To me, it is evident indeed that they are not so but there is a real analogy, which, pushed beyond limits, as it has been by many, is nevertheless a true witness to the inspiration of the narrative, it surely should be no wonder if whether working upon the larger scale of periods or upon the smaller one of days God should preserve the one plan of working. Those who realize the unity of the plan in the things created will have no difficulty in realizing it in the order of creation. The fact, however should speak for itself, that an analogy there is, and which needs but little dwelling upon for any one acquainted with the facts of geological science accepted every where now. Let us look at this first, reserving the question as to whether it be the whole truth for examination afterword.
Scripture, then, presents to us evidently, at the outset, before life existed upon the earth, a reign of water -"Darkness was upon the face of the deep" and buried in the deep to emerge from it only on the third day, is that which is dry ground afterward.
A view of this kind is by no means, at first sight, natural or reasonable. We are most of us familiar with the wonder that was produced when men found the shells of the ocean upon the mountain-tops. We may perhaps remember that Voltaire, not so very long ago, suggested that those that were found upon the Alps had been dropped by pilgrims on their journey over them. Moses, nevertheless, (if it were no higher than Moses,) declared long ago a primitive reign of water, which science has so abundantly confirmed. The mountain-chains are mostly of comparatively late geological formation. As we go hack through the history as presented by the strata, we find the land becoming less and less elevated, more and more, in fact, subsiding under the waters. The carboniferous epoch presents us with a time when immense tracts of land were so near the water-level that oscillations of no excessive character alternately plunged them underneath or raised them to the surface. The Silurian seems to speak of little dry land any where, and that, probably, mere archipelagoes of no great extent. Every geological formation has been formed under water. No one acquainted with the facts doubts, I suppose, that it was at first universal.
The second point, that may seem more doubtful, is the the existence of dry land before there was life. It is certain that the first forms of life that we find are exclusively marine, and the distinct evidences of land-vegetation are still scanty in the Silurian, perhaps not to be found in the preceding "Cambrian." If the contested Eozoon be accepted as a reality, the first primitive being that we have knowledge of, long before the Cambrian, was still marine. Yet at that the there are evidences, at least, though not unambiguous, of vegetable life existing in such a form as ordinarily argues the existence of dry land. The graphite of the Laurentian is apparently near akin to coal, and the inference is that it was formed in a similar manner. This exists in large quantities, so altered, however, by the action of heat as to have lost all trace of vegetable structure which it may have once contained. Further, the graphite, we are told, occurs "in the way in which we should have expected it to occur, if of organic origin. It is found disseminated in the limestone just as bituminous matter is found in unaltered rocks of this kind." We have also, according to Dana, the occurrence of anthracite in small pieces in the ironbearing rocks of Arendal, Norway, which are probably rocks of the same age. Geologists do not consider this evidence to be absolutely decisive, but it is all the evidence we have on the subject.
Nearly connected with this last point is the precedence of animal life by vegetable. In the Laureutian, if the presence of graphite is conclusive at all as to the existence of the latter, it would be evidence of the existence of it already in a comparatively high grade, while such an organism as Eozoon shows only the very lowest form of animal life. To this is added, in argument, by Prof. Dana, " Secondly, the fact that a cooling earth would have been fit for vegetable life for a long age before animals could have existed ; the principle being exemplified every where, that the earth was occupied at each period with the highest kind of life the condition allowed. Thirdly, the fact that vegetation subserved important purposes in the coal period, in ridding the atmosphere of carbonic acid, for the subsequent introduction of land animals. Such is a valid, reason for believing that the same great purpose - the true purpose of vegetation, was effected through the oceans before the waters were fit for animal life. Fourthly, vegetation being directly or mediately the food of animals, it must have had a previous existence." Here again all the evidence that the case seems to admit of is in perfect agreement with the scriptural statement.
We are upon more certain ground, however, when we come to the next point of agreement. According to Scripture, upon the fifth day the waters produced the living creature, and not until the sixth day, the dry land. Geology is in complete accordance with the order of production announced here. The Laurentian, Cambrian, and lower Devonian, so far as the records of the rocks have been deciphered hitherto, speak only of marine life. The middle Devonian presents for the first the an insect said to he allied to the modern May-flies. There is also a shell which we are told may possibly be that of a land-snail. The course of discovery is continually carrying back indeed the supposed dates of origin of all classes in existence. It is not however in the least probable that the conclusion here stated will ever be overthrown. Land vegetables began only in the carboniferous or coal period.
There, comparatively speaking, in their lowest forms. A progress in the development of life necessarily follows from all this - a progress which Scripture indicates, while it does not dwell upon it. It is plain, from the Word of God and nature together, that there has been an "evolution," but an evolution of a plan in the Creators mind alone - an evolution of what was first involved, as all real "evolution" must he.
The final and last point of similarity that needs to be insisted upon is that in both records the whole animal creation is in existence before man. That is not questioned any where. For man, as indeed the head of it, "all creation waited." When it had advanced near this its culminating point, its special adaptations to his need began to assume the multitudinous shapes he finds now around him. For him indeed, long ages before, the immense masses of coal were packed away with a manifest design which causes even Mr. Huxley himself to break out into admiration of natures thrift; he will allow nature to prophesy, however little he will allow God. But the intelligence which looked so far forward we may surely attribute to a higher source. If man, however, had existed in that carboniferous period, he would have found little, if any thing, of the "fruit-tree yielding fruit," so necessary to his existence ; he would have found little trace, apparently, of that which now furnishes him with bread; he would have found none of the flowers which now adorn for him the face of nature. We must wait long in the geologic ages before we come to these. To quote the words of another, "we miss in the species of plants of the primeval epochs those distinguished for their utility at the present day. Doubtless the earth formerly yielded ferns, firs, cycases, and palms ; and plants of the same families supply useful products. The New Zealander and Tasmanian derive some substance from the subterranean stems of a fern. We ourselves owe much to the firs of our own forests ; and the natives of northern Europe sometimes use the green bark of a pine, as well as of oilier trees, to eke out their scanty meal. Some of the human family can, by a troublesome process, extract nourishing matter from the stems or seeds of a cycas and certain palms do furnish valuable products constituting, in fact, a vegetable bazar, yielding food and clothing, and luxuries besides: but how small a part, after all, of the families of man in our world do the aforesaid plants support, and that part is the least civilized and intellectual. We find few traces in the Tertiary epoch, which immediately preceded mans, of plants belonging to families from which he derives his necessary food. In that Tertiary age there were, so far as geology reveals to us, few or no species yielding cinnamon and odors and frankincense and wine and oil and fine flour and wheat. There are few evident indications of any vegetables from which man derives food and valuable fibre, and, in a word, of species which support aud clothe, by far, the larger proportion of the human race. Scarcely any Graminem (grasses) appear in the list of extinct forms. May we not conclude that the principal cereal plants are characteristic ot mans epoch - that barley, oats, rye, wheat, millet, Indian corn, and rice were special provisions in order to mans appearance? From the lists of Pliocene vegetation we miss the labiate plants, which so charm us by the beauty of their flowers, and which yield essential oils to regale us by their perfumes. Of Rosacene there are few traces and in the list of finally-added species we must include the roses, which yield us their precious Attar, and the delicious fruits which characterize our more temperate climes."
Thus does geology itself show that divine "delight in the sons of men" to which Scripture alone gives adequate expression.
Brief as this account is, it will suffice to show us that the Day-Period interpretation is not without much apparent justification. There is at least in the analogy between the geologic ages and the six days work sufficient to show that they have one author. Instead, therefore, of seeing in this view of things an insuperable difficulty, we see a real harmony which it reveals, to lose which would be a loss indeed. When we ask ourselves, however, does the day-period interpretation as a whole really agree with Scripture? we shall find plenty of reason for not accepting it as the full thought there.
The first and most evident argument is that which is derived from the thought of "days" themselves. It is quite true that the word may be used in other senses ; but when "evening and morning" are defined to be the day, this sort of use is much more questionable. That even these terms may he used poetically may be conceded but the first of Genesis, as already said, is certainly not poetry. The seventh day, moreover, can hardly cover the whole period from mans creation until now; and to speak of the work of redemption as the work of it, the day being a day of rest, seems still worse confusion. In the ten commandments, that one which ordains the keeping of the Sabbath has been rightly brought forward as against the period theory. In six days God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day, and hallowed it." Is this seventh day not the day which He commands in this connection to be kept? If so, it is not an age, clearly ; but just what we ordinarily mean by day. The attempt of some to make the first evening include the period of darkness preceding it breaks down manifestly when we consider that for "evening" itself light is necessary ; and light dates only from a certain point when the earth, waste and desolate, and under water, was nevertheless there.
If people contend for the analogy, I have no objection. But analogy is one thing, literal application quite another; and it would seem very hard to prove the literal application to the geological ages. Nay, it would be hard to prove that these six days as defined periods have any proper representative in these.
But this is not the whole matter. Indeed, there are arguments much more decisive. The evident reference to man which runs through the inspired account is a stronger one. Take, for instance, the fruits of the third day. They are surely those which are given to man for his use upon the sixth ; and it is quite impossible to find such fruit, or to think of such a use of them, in the carboniferous period for instance. How can we suppose that this vegetable creation which God speaks of here is only that belonging to a by-gone time, and of which no trace remains at present? Does Scripture give any hint of such destruction or renewal as this would involve? I do not say that destruction and renewal have not taken place, but it is merely impossible to read them into the simple narrative of the first of Genesis.
So too with the living creatures of the fifth day. How is it possible to imagine that they were nearly, if not totally, blotted out of being before the sixth day came and that a new generation of creatures should, in fact, coexist with the beasts of the sixth day? Still more, how is it possible to suppose that all these very creatures of the land, or at least the major part, had passed out of being before man, created upon the same day with them, came into existence?
Turning back again to the fourth day, where we find sun and moon appointed for "signs" as well as "seasons" - for signs, which could have no significance except with regard to man himself as the beholder of them. How can one with any reason imagine that they could he given as signs for ages before there was any one to behold them? To import such things as these into the simplicity of the Scripture-narrative is to destroy it. An analogy is all that I believe can rightly be urged - an analogy the importance of which I have already admitted, nay, insisted upon ; but for the traces of the real fulfillment of the six-days work - the geological traces - we must look elsewhere.
5. THE LITERAL DAY INTERPRETATION.
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