Accepting the Evolution Challenge

The theory of evolution presents a chal­lenge to every Seventh-day Adventist. How do we respond?

By HAROLD W. CLARK, Professor of Biology, Pacific Union College

The theory of evolution presents a chal­lenge to every Seventh-day Adventist. This challenge is especially forceful to anyone teaching in the biological field, inas­much as evolution is continually presented in text and reference material. To workers in this line there is a real need of meeting the problem on scientific grounds, since most peo­ple trained in science will pay little or no attention to a purely religious argument. There is, as well, a crying need for all public workers to understand the problem, for nowa­days the well-informed individual, even though engaged in nonprofessional lines, is taught to accept evolution. In the press, over the radio, and even from many pulpits, evolution is taught, or at least tacitly assumed to be true.

I became interested in the problem when I began teaching science in Battleford Academy in 1916. Since that time, as my experience has broadened, I have been brought more and more into contact with the question, and have been constrained to give it a considerable por­tion of my spare time for several years. As my field studies in biology and ecology have developed in recent years, I have come to real­ize that the arguments we used twenty years ago were largely futile, for they did not meet the real issue. At that time we argued that there was no such thing as new species, no natural selection, and no hybridization (or crossbreeding) between different species. The newer knowledge of genetics which has been corning to light in the recent years has made many of our former ideas untenable; and the larger understanding of ecological questions completed our confusion. We were left with our older notions shattered, and with no satis­factory solution to replace them.

The past decade has seen the dawn of a new day in this problem. Suggestions had already been made as early as 1925 that all former ideas regarding change of species would have to abandoned, and a new viewpoint adopted. In 1930, Austin H. Clark, of the Smithsonian Institution, declared in his book, "The New Evolution," that while there was abundant evidence for change within the var­ious groups of animals, there was not one scrap of evidence for the origin of one major group from another, or from common an­cestry.

The significance of this statement was for­cibly impressed on my mind by an incident that occurred during the winter of 1932-33. I was doing advanced study at one of the large uni­versities, when a lecture was given by Dr. Richard Goldschmidt, at that time director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut fur Biologie, in Berlin. Doctor Goldschmidt is one of the world's greatest geneticists, and is at present teaching at the University of California. He told of his research on variation in gypsy moths. For twenty-five years he had tried, by selecting variations in the moths, to obtain such widely varying types that entirely new kinds of moths could be recognized. But although he had produced many new kinds that might be classed as new species if found wild in nature, he could never make them into anything else except gypsy moths. His conclusion was, that as far as producing en­tirely new types was concerned, it simply could not be done. The Darwinian theory stood as a failure as far as gypsy moths were con­cerned.

At the close of the lecture, students from the natural-history museum invited him to come over and examine their collections. This he did the next morning. Laid out on the tables were series after series of rabbits, rats, mice, squirrels, weasels, foxes, and others, showing all degrees of variation. He looked them all over, and then remarked: "Well, I observe that in spite of all the variation within the groups, the rabbits are still rabbits, the foxes are still foxes, and the weasels are still weasels. Not one of them shows any evidence of changing into another one."

"But, Doctor," someone protested, "how do you account for the origin of these groups in the first place, if not by the slow accumula­tion of changes?"

"Gentlemen," he replied, "that involves a religious viewpoint. I am not going to dis­cuss that question."

During the afternoon I dropped into the office of the director of the museum, who was my major professor. "Well, Clark," were his first words, "Goldschmidt gave us a hard blow this morning, didn't he?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Why, he upset all our notions of evolu­tion." Then he gazed thoughtfully at the opposite wall for a moment or two, and turned to me with these words: "I wish someone  would tell me how evolution does take place, anyway."

"I didn't see anything about Goldschmidt's words to make any problem," I replied, "You see, I am a creationist." I then took a pen­cil and paper, drew several parallel lines, each of which branched more or less widely. "It's this way, Doctor," I explained. "You try to get all the present life from one source, by a widely branching treelike arrangement. I start with many lines, a multiple creation, and allow each one to vary within itself. In that way I avoid the difficulties in the current evolution theory, but make room for all the variation within the groups which our studies indicate must take place."

"Well," he answered, "if you have any evi­dence along that line, go to it, and show us what it is."

Since that incident eight years ago I have been searching everywhere for a satisfactory solution of the problem of the origin of species. As late as 1937 there seemed to be insurmountable obstacles. But suddenly the air cleared. Clouds of difficulty disappeared. As the results of Russian, German, English, and American research workers in genetics have been published, it has been possible to arrive at a conclusion that is remarkably gratifying to one who believes in the literal account of creation as given in the Bible.

The appearance of Goldschmidt's "Physio­logical Genetics" brought new details regard­ing the effect of genes in development, and showed new possibilities with respect to muta­tions. "Genetics and the Origin of Species," by Theodosius Dobzhansky, also threw new light on many obscure points. Several articles in scientific journals added valuable material. To the evolutionist the situation became more puzzling than ever, but to one who views the newer knowledge in the light of a literal crea­tion, this new scientific evidence powerfully supports the creationist interpretation.

Since the publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" eighty years ago, the creationist has been waging a battle that fluctuated be­tween advance and retreat, but was never able to arrive at a decisive victory. Now, how­ever, thanks to recent discoveries, we are able to face the enemy with confidence, and to realize that the scientific evidence is on our side.

The earlier drafts of the manuscript for "Genes and Genesis" (Pacific Press, 1940) consisted largely of factual material which I have been gathering from various sources in regard to genetic changes, the degree to which natural selection, variation, and hybrid­ization may occur, and similar routine discus­sions of the problem. At the crucial moment, as the last draft was being prepared, new discoveries came to light, and I was able to coordinate them in such a war as to bring out the true significance .of the scientific data.

To one who realizes the importance of the problem, the conclusion thus reached is pecul­iarly satisfying. Whether the reader of my book will arrive at the same satisfactory con­clusion—whether I have succeeded in making that conclusion as obvious to the reader as it is to me—remains to be seen. To me, as I have worked on the question for twenty years, it seems that the data now available make it possible to arrive at a clear answer to the question that has troubled the scientific world since the time of Darwin.

To some readers the question may arise as to whether the conclusion presented in the book will soon be modified. I am not worried about that eventuality. The basis for those conclusions has been experimental work of thousands of researchers for the past quarter century. It will take an enormous amount of research to materially modify the picture. Even if new discoveries are made, they will be likely to alter only minor details. The facts that science has brought to light can effectively be applied to creationism, and from such a viewpoint we may go forth confidently, know­ing that the truth is on our side. We need not be afraid to accept the challenge that the theory of evolution presents to us.

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By HAROLD W. CLARK, Professor of Biology, Pacific Union College

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