Primary Sources for the Presbyterian Masses

Can A Christian Student Rationally Reject Evolution? (1935)

In Evolution, Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, Modernism, Rationalism on 06/06/2012 at 11:26

The following address by Floyd Hamilton, delivered at a convention of evangelical students meeting in 1934, provides good evidence that the questions before us today are not new, nor are we without answers in our defense of the Christian faith. Rev. Hamilton graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1919 (Th.B.) and 1926 (Th.M.), was ordained by the Presbytery of Wooster (PCUSA) and served as a missionary to Korea, first under the auspices of the PCUSA’s Board of Foreign Missions, and then as a missionary with the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Hamilton was a founding member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, but transferred his credentials into the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern) in 1955 and served his last pastorate, 1964-1969, in a Reformed Presbyterian, General Synod church in Indianapolis. Rev. Hamilton’s son, David, is an honorably retired PCA pastor and foreign missionary, having served in Mexico and Ecuador.
Though perhaps dated in part, Rev. Hamilton’s address would at the very least stand in evidence of a thoughtful response for that era, still useful in many respects. Much, at least in principle, remains pertinent, particularly the opening two paragraphs.

[Photo source, The Independent Board Bulletin, III.4 (April 1937): 5.]

CAN A CHRISTIAN STUDENT RATIONALLY REJECT
EVOLUTION IN THE LIGHT OP MODERN SCIENCE?

Floyd E. Hamilton, B.D., Th.M.
[1890-1969]

[An address (slightly abridged) delivered at the Ninth Annual Convention of the League of Evangelical Students in Boston, Massachusetts late in 1934, and subsequently published in The Evangelical Student, January 1935.]

The Christian student usually never makes any personal investigation of the evidence for evolution, but is simply over-awed by the sheer weight of scholarship on the side of evolution, and is paralyzed by the impressive array of materials in the museums of natural history, with their graphic groupings of the evolutionary sequence of different animals and men. The student reasons that since everybody believes in the fact of evolution, only an ignoramus can question it, and he doesn’t want to be classed among the ignoramuses.

A little thought about this matter however, would show him that questions of fact are not decided by majority vote, and that if a thing is false, all the professors in the world can’t make it true. Then, too, if he should study the history of science he would come across numberless theories formerly universally believed which are now universally discarded by scientists. When I studied physics and chemistry as recently as 1906 and 1907, all scientists believed that the atoms were indivisible and indestructible, but to-day that theory is as out-of-date as the idea that the earth is flat!

I am more and more convinced that if it can be shown that there is no factual basis for the theory of evolution, the principal ground for opposition to the Christian religion and the Bible will be swept away, and a Christian student will be enabled to feel that he is not an intellectual pariah because he believes in the Bible as the Word of God. I am not going to discuss the question as to whether it is possible for a view of Christian evolution to be reconciled with the Bible. Personally I believe in the hypothetical possibility of such reconciliation if you admit a supernatural intervention in the creation of matter, of life and of the soul of man, but the fact remains that very few scientists would accept such a view of evolution today, and if the facts are, as I believe they are, against any evolution, there is no use wasting time with a hypothetical Christian evolution which might be reconciled with the Bible. If the whole theory can be shown to be false, then the wind will be taken out of the sails of the atheists and unbelievers.

Unquestionably most of the plausibility of the doctrine of evolution is in fact that we see change everywhere in nature. No man in his senses would for a moment deny that new varieties of fruits, vegetables, plants and domestic animals are constantly being originated today, and so when the evolutionist points to all this change and blandly tells us that this proves evolution to be a fact, we can hardly help nodding and agreeing with him. Of course a little thought would show us that to say that there has been evolution from unicellular organisms to all the myriad forms of life which we see around us today because new varieties are being originated today, is a jump that is pure assumption, and a case of theological fallacy of non sequiter. I will show later on that these new varieties today cannot possibly be evolution, but their very reality lends plausibility to the evolutionist’s claim that evolution is a fact.

Then the arguments from embryology, classification, comparative anatomy and the Nuttall blood tests all seem conclusive and plausible proof that there has been evolution, until we reflect that there is always an alternative explanation of the facts alleged, namely that God produced the similar forms of life after the same general plan, with variations suitable to each form created. If direct proof of evolution were elsewhere available, of course genetic relationship would explain the fact that the forelegs of various animals and man show similar structure, but the alternative explanation of a God who created the animals according to similar celestial blueprints would account equally well for the observed facts, and the absence of direct evolutionary proof would raise a question about this whole line of evidence based on analogy between different forms.

The alleged evidence from vestigial organs in reality instead of being evidence for evolution is just the contrary, for it there are real vestigial organs formerly used by the individual, this would merely be a loss of characteristics previously possessed and therefore not true evolution. True evolution would always have to be produced by the acquisition of characteristics not previously possessed. As a matter of fact the science of modern cytology and the science of genetics have rendered the old arguments antiquated from vestigial organs and embryology.

The argument from geographical distribution likewise need not detain us long. The hypothesis of creation in a particular locality and spread from thence to other regions accounts for the facts of geographical distribution as well as the hypothesis of evolution. It was not necessary for God to create all the species in one place or on one continent. If species can evolve and then spread to other regions, they could just as easily spread after their creation.

The only really serious evidence for evolution, is after all found in the fossils in the rocks. It is claimed by evolutionists that there have been successive geological ages which can be identified by the fossils in the successive strata, and that in the earliest ages the simplest forms of life only are found, while in the successive ages higher and higher forms of life are found fossil up to the latest strata which contain the higher mammals and man. Thus the evolutionists claim that the fossils in the rocks present visible proof that evolution is a fact.

At first glance one must admit that if the evidence is what they claim, one is almost hypnotized into the belief that evolution must have occurred. Of course, even here, strict candor will compel us to admit that there is at least a possibility that God created the forms of life during the successive ages, and that the days of Genesis Chapter I represented geological ages, during which the forms of life were created. Even the most convinced evolutionist would have to admit that he cannot prove genetic relationship between the fossils of the successive ages.

There might have been no connection between the various forms of life at all for all that he can prove. The evidence is merely circumstantial at the best, and there is always the possibility that creation in progressive stages by God may have produced the forms now found fossil.

However, personally, I am becoming increasingly skeptical about the whole successive age theory, based on the idea of sinking and rising continents, causing the ocean to slowly sweep over the land, and produce the fossils, then recede so that another crop of evolved life could follow in that place, which in turn would be slowly overwhelmed by the ocean, and so on through the long ages assumed by geological speculation. There are too many facts which have been discovered contrary to the whole theory of successive ages for me to accept the theory any longer on the mere ipse dixit of the evolutionist. How explain the successive strata of the coal regions, for example, where the coal seams alternate with other strata for great heights or rather depths superimposed on each other? Are we to say that the same geological age occurred over and over again in one place? If this theory of successive ages is true, how are we to explain the fact that strata alleged by evolutionists to have been deposited millions of years apart are found to rest upon the so-called earlier strata in perfect conformability, that is, with nothing in the way of erosion or deposition of other matter between them to indicate the passage of millions of years? To all appearances the two strata might have been deposited one after the other on the same day!

The really difficult puzzle for the evolutionist to solve, however, is found in those vast regions where the strata are apparently, from the evolutionists standpoint, found in an upside-down order. In Montana and Alberta, Canada, is the famous Lewis Thrust Fault where Cambrian and Algonquian strata are found on top of Cretaceous strata, in a territory 15 miles wide and GOO miles long. In the Alps the so-called older strata are said to have moved over the younger strata for a distance of sixty miles. The evolutionist accounts for this by the thrust fault theory. The lower strata are supposed to have been pushed up and over the younger strata by some mysterious force. Of course the only real evidence of such a thing is the fact that the upper strata contain index fossils of the older age.

The thrust fault theory seems plausible until you begin to investigate the forces which might have caused such a result. I must confess my skepticism increases the more I try to picture the- process alleged to have happened. About the only forces imaginable are some kind of explosive forces acting from within the earth to push the strata up in the air where gravitation could act on them and pull them down over the neighboring strata. Now normally all that would happen would be for the rocks just to be pushed up into the air. There might be breakage around the edges of the rocks pushed into the air, but it is difficult to see how they could be moved over surrounding strata by the force of gravitation. To imagine that such a thing could occur over a territory of GO miles, is inconceivable. Even if the strata were to slide down hill, to imagine that they could slide for 60 miles, is reasoning that might do in Alice in Wonderland but not in scientific circles. Remember that you are not dealing with liquid lava, but with rocks that must have solidified long before the lower strata were laid down.

But if the thrust fault theory will not account for the facts and the strata were actually deposited in their present order, then the whole successive age theory collapses, and with it goes the last remnant of factual evidence for evolution.

Let us now investigate the biological evidence against evolution. If there is any permanent evolutionary force inherent in plants and animals, it should be discoverable today in the laboratory and should be amenable to experiment. The very essence of the evolutionary theory in its ordinary form is that evolutionary forces are eternal, and should therefore be just as potent today as in the alleged geological ages of the past. It is equally evident that there must be variation in nature if there is to be evolution, and that these variations must be capable of producing real evolution if given time enough. It also goes without saying that such variations must be heritable. As we have already said, most of the plausibility of the theory rests on the known fact that change goes on around us in nature, and it is therefore assumed that this change will produce evolution of one form of life into a higher form. To call all change evolution as does Vernon Kellogg, or to speak of downward change as evolution, is to try to make the real theory plausible by clothing it with the mantle of known facts in order to conceal the nakedness of the real theory.   If all there were to evolution were change, everyone would be an evolutionist, but the mere fact of change does not mean evolution. As has been said before, there must be progressive upward change, the acquisition of new qualities not previously possessed in order to have real evolution. Are there any changes of such a character known to biologists? Let us examine the different kinds of change in life forms.

First of all we have deformities and abnormalities, such as six-toed cats, Siamese twins and two-headed calves. Most of such things are not inherited unless they are mutations which will be taken up later in the discussion. If not inherited of course they cannot be the cause of evolution.

Then we have the minute variations which Darwin thought were the raw material for evolution, when he said that all forms of life tend to vary in an infinite number of ways, and that the force of natural selection perpetuated the favorable variations until they became the ancestors of new species. All such variations unless Mendelian or mutations are merely fluctuations around a given mean and are never inherited.

The next kind of variations to be considered are the variations produced by environment. Evolutionists are constantly assuming in popular books that a new environment can call forth changes in an organism which will be inherited. How often we see statements similar to this: “Fish which became stranded on mud flats by receding tides were forced to develop lungs, and so gradually they evolved into amphibians.” Now any scientist who knows the facts of biology knows that such a statement is simply “hooey”! No amount of exposure on a mud flat would do anything else but kill a fish which did not already have the ability to breathe in the air, and no environment in the world could produce a heritable change in any animal or plant unless the gene for producing the change were already present in the chromosome of the germ cell. To speak of giraffes evolving their long necks by stretching them up to the leaves of trees during dry spells when the lower branches were denuded of foliage is on a par with the tales of Kipling such as “How the Elephant Got His Trunk”! in the Jungle Book. Not only would it have been impossible for a giraffe to acquire a longer neck simply because he needed it to reach the leaves, but if by some stretch of the imagination similar to the stretching of his neck, he once acquired a longer neck in such a manner, he could never have been able to transmit it to his baby giraffes, for acquired characteristics are simply not inherited, unless they are changes produced directly in the germ plasm by some narcotic or chemical, such as alcohol or nicotine. Incidentally, speaking of giraffes, lest there be any lingering belief that giraffes could get long necks that way, it is an interesting fact that all female giraffes have shorter necks than the males, and so must all have perished in the alleged drought, in which the longer necked males were able to reach the higher leaves and survive!

We come now to the consideration of changes which are inherited. Changes which occur according to Mendel’s Law are unquestionably inherited. According to Mendel’s Law when two individuals having differing characteristics are crossed, the second generation following will have a regrouping of the characteristics present in the grandparents, and some individuals will be born which will be different from any grandparent, though all the unit characters will have been present in the grandparents. This is most easily seen in plants which reproduce by self-fertilization, and which may be artificially crossed. If we cross tall green peas with short yellow peas, some of the descendants will be tall yellow and short green, thus producing individuals unlike either grandparent but having characteristics present in the grandparents.   Wherever it is possible to produce crosses between individuals cither by ordinary sexual reproduction or by artificial crossing in the case of self-fertilizing plants, it is possible to produce new varieties of plants and animals, many of which differ markedly from the ancestors, but all of which have only the individual characteristics present in the ancestors.

Now at first thought, it seems plausible to consider such new varieties as the raw material for natural selection, and as the beginning of future species. There are however two insuperable reasons why Mendelian variations cannot be the cause of evolution. In the first place according to the evolutionist all evolution started with the primordial unicellular organisms which reproduced by cell division only. Mendel’s Law does not apply to such cell division, and no Mendelian variation could ever arise as long as there was nothing but cell division reproduction. Thus if it depended on Mendelism, evolution could never even have gotten started! But still more important is the fact that in the second place, even where endless Mendelian changes do occur, there can never be real evolution, for you never get out of the circle of unit characters, called genes, with which you start! You can shuffle the genes and produce almost endless varieties, but you can never produce a single new characteristic according to Mendel’s Law, and without new characteristics there can never be evolution. Thus Mendelian variations while heritable can never be the cause of evolution.

There is only one other kind of change known to biologists, mutations. Biologists today are fond of referring to mutations as the cause of evolution, and much loose language is used with reference to the way in which evolution has proceeded in “jumps,” and the assumption is constantly made that these “jumps” may be in any direction and like the minute variations of Darwin, may become the raw material with which natural selection may work, thus after indefinite time producing new species, up the evolutionary ladder from primordial cell to man. From the evolutionary point of view this is very suggestive and as long as one deals in glittering generalities seems quite plausible. Two weeks ago I read a book dealing with the recent developments in cytology, by a reputable scientist, which in one of the concluding chapters calmly assumed that all the early stages of evolutionary history could be amply explained by mutations. The fact seemed entirely to have escaped his attention that in the preceding chapters where he was dealing with ascertained facts in cytology and genetics, he had really shown that any mutations such as he was assuming must have occurred in the past were absolutely impossible by any known mechanism of cytology!

Up to a few years ago not very much was known about mutations, and though at that time only regressive mutations had come to light, that is, mutations which represented the loss of characteristics previously possessed by the race, there was always the possibility that there might have been a true progressive mutation which would have taken the individual up the evolutionary scale. The mechanism of mutations, however, has recently been investigated by Morgan and others, so that today we can say with confidence that the only known mutations are of three particular kinds, and that none of these can really be examples of true evolution. Of course if one wants to ascend into the realm of pure speculation and say that there must have been other kinds of mutations in the past which are unknown to scientists of today, one can build all kinds of airy theories entirely unrelated to discovered facts, but such a proceeding can hardly be called scientific. As far as facts are concerned, there are only three kinds of mutations observed in nature, and all three kinds can now be analyzed and produced again and again in nature, None of these three kinds can produce evolution as will be evident a little later.

In order to explain them it will be necessary to become a little technical, but even if you have not studied biology, the argument ought to be clear. In the process which precedes the cell division of the fertilized germ cell, the chromosomes of the germ cells in the nuclei of the cells, arrange themselves in parallel ranks, even apparently becoming twisted around each other, at times. Now on each chromosome are located all the genes or unit characters, which are responsible for the production of every single characteristic of the adult plant or animal. These genes are located in serial order up and down the chromosome, and are so linked to the chromosome that ordinarily they are inherited as a group. The first kind of mutations is produced when, instead of separating and each one of each pair of chromosomes going into a different cell, as happens according to Mendel’s Law, something happens to the cell which prevents the separation of the paired chromosomes, thus resulting in the adult individual having an extra set of chromosomes, and if it should happen again, producing what are called triploids, terraploids, octoploids, etc. These extra chromosomes, however do not give the individual any new characteristics except increased size and similar features, and of course will not produce changes which could if given time, produce evolution.

The second kind of mutations is produced when what is called “crossing over” occurs. Sometimes the paired chromosomes become so wound around each other that, when they separate, a break occurs at the point of contact, causing the upper part of the first chromosome to become attached to the lower part of the other, and the lower part of the first chromosome to become attached to the upper part of the second, thus causing each of the new chromosomes to have part of the other. Naturally all the genes which are linked to the exchanged portions are likewise exchanged, so that the new individual has a set of characteristics which seem to have been inherited contrary to Mendel’s Law. This crossing over will occur in a certain percentage of cases and will result in this particular kind of mutation. Of course this can never result in evolution because all the genes were present in the ancestors and the change is merely a new grouping of the unit characters.

The third kind of mutation is likewise produced by the process of crossing over. Sometimes there is a gene on one part of a chromosome which is inhibited from showing its effects in the adult organism by another inhibiting gene in another part of the chromosome. As long as the two genes are on the same chromosome the first one cannot manifest its effects in the adult organism. When a crossing over occurs however which separates the two genes, the inhibited gene is now free to produce its effects, and a true mutation results, producing a characteristic not visible in the ancestors. This characteristic, however, is not really new because the gene for producing it was present all the time in the chromosomes and was merely prevented from showing itself by the inhibiting gene. This is proved by the fact that a crossing over may later occur which will carry the inhibited gene back to the chromosome which contained the inhibitor, and the new characteristic disappears, only to reappear at a later time in another crossing over.

Now of course such a mutation can never produce real evolution, no matter how common they may be in nature, for it will never add a single gene to the racial inheritance stream, and all the inhibited genes will appear over and over in the course of the history of the race. These three kinds of mutations, however, include all that are known to biologists, and as I have shown can never be the cause of evolution.

There is one more fact to which we must call attention in this connection. About two weeks ago, when I was working on this subject the thought suddenly struck me that since all crossing-overs occurred in sexual reproduction only, there was no known mechanism by which mutations could occur in primordial cells which reproduced only by cell division. Thus again the evolutionary process could never have gotten started by the observed mutations. To assume that there have been other kinds of mutations which have added new genes, by any change in the molecules etc., is pure speculation without foundation in facts observed in nature. We have thus examined all changes known to nature, and see that none of them can have produced evolution. Change we see in nature in abundance. New combinations of characteristics can be produced wherever we can breed animals or plants together, but none of them can originate a new characteristic, and without the origination of new characteristics or the explanation of how the existing characteristics came into existence, there is no proof whatever that evolution has occurred, in biology itself.

There is one striking line of evidence remaining, which points directly against any evolution having occurred. Every species has a definite number of chromosomes in the germ cells. This number never changes except in cases where the number is increased by the doubling process above mentioned. This number is fixed for the species, and corresponds in no way to the evolutionary tree of the classificationists. If evolution has occurred we ought to find the number of chromosomes in man either at the top or the bottom of the scale, with the other animals ranging in between from monkeys to unicellular organisms. You might say that evolution has occurred by the loss of chromosomes or by the adding of chromosomes, but in any case the number ought to correspond to the evolutionary tree. As a matter of fact there is no rhyme or reason to these chromosome numbers. Man has 48, monkeys 54, dogs 22, horses 38, the cat 36, the mouse 40, the diestrammena marmorata of the insect group 58, the aphis saliceti 6 and the drosophila melanogaster 8. Some species have over a hundred and certain radiolaria have over 1,600. Now suppose it were possible to arrange the chromosome numbers of the different species according to the evolutionary tree. We all know that it would be used by evolutionists as proof that evolution has occurred. When we find that there is no such correspondence, have we not direct proof that evolution has not occurred?

The other day a student asked me what difference it made whether we believe in evolution or not. As I have said, I believe it would be possible to believe in a Christian evolution which might be harmonized with the Bible. The fact remains, however, that all atheists hide behind evolution whenever we try to convince them that there is a God. If we can show that there has been no evolution, then the fact of creation cannot be denied, and we will find the principal prop of unbelief taken away.

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