Creation by Evolution: A Consensus of Present-Day Knowledge as Set Forth by Leading Authorities
edited by The Macmillan Co. 1928. 8vo. xx+400 pp. Illus. $5.00.New York:
To this title one might truthfully add ‘Inspired by William Jennings Bryan and his Fundamentalist following. There is no greater handicap than lack of all criticism and competition, and the doctrine of Evolution, secure upon its foundation of fact and truth, has had, for many years, no wholesome jolt to compel a careful reviewing of it s factors and to demand a thorough popular exposition.
The present curious wave of reaction, sweeping in its path many thoughtless, emotionful minds, has justified itself by inspiring this most excellent résumé of Evolution by the master minds of science in the United States and Great Britain. In probably no other volume ever to be published will be found, as co-authors, ten members of the Royal Society and eight of the National Academy.
The strength of the presentation lies in the total absence of argument, the complete unconsciousness of the raison d’être of the Consensus. It is solely a book of Hows and Whys. There are twenty-six essays, and a few of the names will suffice to show the amazing standard of excellence: Parker on vestigial organs, Scott on geographical distribution. Smith Woodward on progression of life, Gager on plants, Bather on the record of the rocks, Wheeler on ants, William Gregory on the lineage of man, and Lloyd Morgan on mind in evolution.
I open the book at random and find Professor Poulton’s chapter on ’Butterflies and Moths as Evidence of Evolution.’ As a prelude to his main thesis are paragraphs on the evolution of our teeth — a direct inheritance from the body scales of sharks, the scales having extended over the bones of the jaws and, in the course of time, transformed into proper teeth. Throughout the ages the fish scales evolved into reptilian scales, as well as feathers and hair, but teeth have always remained teeth. This serves as an introduction to the wholly different scales on the wings of butterflies.
As explanation of the reason why we do not see species changing from one day to another, Poulton says: ‘Just such an objection might be raised by one who paid a short visit to this planet and was assured that children became men and women. “I have been here for a whole week,”the visitor might well say, ‘and I have looked everywhere for this transformation, but I have never seen a child turn into a man or a woman.” But a week is a far greater part of the period of human growth than is the time of human observation in the life of a species.'
Interesting examples follow of alteration in moths, such as those which have darkened since the smoke from the soft coal of Lancashire factories have coated all the trees. Then comes the testimony of the rudimentary wings of flightless female moths, and the astonishing phenomenon of mimicry among butterflies, where the females not only differ radically from the general type of their group and of the male, but mimic several widely different and unrelated forms of nauseous Lepidoptera.
There are a scattering of helpful illustrations throughout the volume, brief bibliographies, and a working index. Miss Mason has achieved a worthy success in assembling such an authoritative body of contributors.