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Naturalistic theory according to which the universe in gen., the solar system specifically, and the earth in particular, with all animate and inanimate objects existing thereon, have been evolved or developed, over millions or billions of yrs., in accord with existing natural laws, from some form of primitive mass that contained all materials needed to form the chemical elements now found in the universe. The atheistic branch of evolution states that everything now existing came into being only through existing natural laws. Theistic evolution accepts existence of a supernatural being who called into being the primitive mass and drew up fundamental laws of nature and who may, from time to time, step in to give evolution a helping hand. In gen., evolutionists are not concerned with origins but with development from a simple to a more complex state. Evolutionary theories have been applied to such areas of knowledge as anthropology, ethnology, sociology, history, comparative religion, and metaphysics.

I. Inorganic Evolution. Most theories proposed to explain development of the inorganic universe form 2 classes: monistic and dualistic.

Monistic or uniformitarian theories assume that the solar system developed as a closed system, isolated from other similar groups in the universe. I. Kant,* influenced by speculations of Thomas Wright (1711–86) of Durham, Eng., advanced a nebular hypothesis for the origin of the universe. Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749–1827; Fr. astronomer and mathematician) set forth a nebular hypothesis that became popular. Revisions of it include, e.g., those of Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén (b. 1908; Swed. prof. of plasma physics), Karl Friedrich von Weizsäcker (b. 1912; Ger. physicist and philos.), Fred Lawrence Whipple (b. 1906; Am. astronomer), and Gerard Peter Kuiper (b. 1905 in the Neth.; Am. astronomer).

Dualistic or catastrophic theories assume interaction of the sun with other stars or celestial bodies. An early theory in this class was proposed by George Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–88; Fr. naturalist; encyclopedist*). Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin (1843–1928; Am. geologist) and Forest Ray Moulton (1872–1952; Am. astronomer) formulated the planetesimal or spiralnebula hypothesis that involved a close approach of our sun and another star. Theories of James Hopwood Jeans (1877–1946; Eng. astronomer, mathematician, physicist), Harold A. Jeffreys (b. 1891; Eng. astronomer, geophysicist), George Howard Darwin (1845–1912; son of C. R. Darwin*; Eng. astronomer, mathematician), Henry Norris Russell (1877–1957; Am. astronomer), and Raymond Arthur Lyttleton (b. 1911; Eng. astronomer) are also included in this class. The Big* Bang theory was challenged by the Steady* State Theory.

II. Organic Evolution. Development of life from inorganic materials and continued evolvement of life to present-day forms. The concept of organic evolution can be traced back to Gks. and Romans. Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, chevalier de Lamarck,* was the forerunner of C. R. Darwin* in modern evolutionary theory. Lamarck's theory (1809) included inheritance of acquired characteristics and the Use and Disuse theory. Darwin advanced the theory of natural selection 1859 in On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Hugo de Vries (1848–1935; Dutch botanist) formulated a theory of mutation that supplied the mechanism for Darwin's theory.

Evolutionists cite as evidence in support of the theory:

1. Similarity in embryological development. This is considered evidence of common descent. Divergence bet. invertebrates and vertebrates has also led to theories of parallel evolution.

2. Animal groups can be arranged in an order of increasing complexity. This is regarded as proof that they have evolved from the simple to the complex.

3. Similarity in physiology and biochemistry. This is taken to indicate that organisms are related by common descent.

4. Comparative anatomy. Here the argument is based on resemblances bet. organisms and certain parts of their bodies.

5. Plants and animals geog. isolated differ from those of other regions. This is held to indicate that they have evolved along different lines.

6. Rocks and fossils can be arranged in a time table. This is taken to indicate that organisms have evolved from simple to complex.

7. Results of studies of uranium disintegration. These are held to indicate that the earth is ca. 2 billion yrs. old. This is said to allow enough time for development of forms of life known today.

8. Color patterns of animals. It is believed by evolutionists that present organisms evolved in course of time from relatively simple patterns and neutral colors. Today there are those with (a) protective resemblance, (b) warning coloration, (c) mimicry coloration, and (d) colors that serve sexual selection.

9. The science of genetics. Mutations can create varieties; hence it is postulated that they can create species. Chromosome aberration (chromosomes added or subtracted, number doubled or halved, fragments added or subtracted) experiments have been classified by some as new species. But here no new contribution has been made, only a rearrangement of material already present. Also: addition or subtraction of whole chromosomes is usually harmful and deletions are usually fatal.

III. Evolution in Other Fields. Basic ideas of evolution have been applied to many fields. In metaphysics the theory of emergent evolutionism (C. Lloyd Morgan [1852–1936; Eng. biologist and philos.] and Samuel Alexander [1859–1938; Brit. realist metaphysician]) holds that in the sequence of events new levels appear which go beyond regrouping of previous events. Thus the whole is more than the sum of its separate parts. In comparative religion evolutionary scholars try to show that higher forms of religion evolved from lower forms (animism, etc.). In anthropology evolutionists held that the psychic unity of mankind leads to indep. progress and that all elements of culture must pass through the same stages of development. The dialectical* materialism of K. H. Marx* and F. Engels,* maintaining that everything is made of opposing factors whose internal movement leads to progress, has influenced ethics, sociology, and evolutionary views of history. The ethics of evolutionists is in a continual state of flux: that which is considered ethical today is the result of acts with favorable results in past evolutionary stages. JK, EF

See also Humanist Manifesto, A; Time.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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