Science in Christian Perspective



Irving W. Knobloch

From: JASA 5 (December 1953): 15.

One of the functions of this department is to review such books as come to the attention of the writer and which might seem to be of interest to the membership. One such book is entitled "Is Evolution Proved" and was written by Douglas Dewar and H. S. Shelton. It was published in 1947 in London by Hollis and Carter. Dewar is listed as a biologist and Shelton as a philosopher, a very peculiar situation to say the least. The latter author, although outside of his field, conducts himself with considerable merit. The book is a debate edited in the form of letters.

The book covers such standard topics as the causes of evolution, evidences from geology, morphology, classification, embryology, vestigial organs and the evolution of man. The book is marked and marred by an excessive amount of sarcasm on both sides and only the authors and the editor know how much of this was added for the benefit (?) of the reader.

The book is not on special creation. Dewar's job is to disprove evolution and Shelton's is to prove it. The first chapter on Causes brings special creation in quite a bit however but, as far as I can determine, no mention is made of the process of mutation. It is mentioned later. The chapter on the Geologic Record has some interesting figures in it. Dewar insists that the fossil record is not as incomplete as generally made out. He finds that fossils of more than fifty percent of the living genera of land mammals have been found, seventy-five percent of those of the marine mammals and twenty percent of the bats. Also he finds that 74.58% of the living genera of British molluscs have been unearthed as fossils. It is only fair to point out that these figures refer to genera and not to species. Dewar is amused to learn that Are-haeopteryx is called by Shelton a feathered reptile. Dewar says that it is as good a bird as the duck-billed platypus is a good mammal. Shelton is challenged to produce an example of a series of fossils linking by small steps an order with another order or a family with another family. To meet this, Shelton goes into great detail on the horse series and he traces the family Equinae to the family Anchitherfinae in the Oligocene and thence to the family Hyracotheriinae in the early Eocene. Dewar is not willing to dervice Equus from Eohippus because of the great differences in the teeth but even if true, it is evolution within the family (since Dewar does not recognize the various families of horses). After a great deal of further controversy about the horse series, Dewar lists five main objections against evolution from the geologic record. These are (1) abrupt appearance of the Cambrian fauna (2) every new type appears suddenly with all its attributes by which it is characterized (3) no series of fossils has been found by which it can be shown that one family was converted into another family (4) a large number of genera have persisted during long periods (5) some species have also persisted for long periods of time. A series of letters on these points follows and during the debate Dewar intimates that some species may change in one way or another. He said on page 148-"The Sandwich Islands flowerpeckers may be descended from mainland members of the family that found their way to the islands-" Evidently Dewar does not consider this evolution. It might be mentioned here that a part of the controversy about evolution might be avoided if a clarification of terminology were employed. There is a vast difference in my mind between inter-phyletic evolution and intra-phyletic evolution. Dewar, in the cited passage admits the possibility of the latter but not of the former.

In other chapters some of the other difficulties about evolution are brought forward. Space does not permit a discussion of these but a brief listing will acquaint the reader with the scope of the book. Some of these difficulties are-the transformation of a reptile into a bird and of a reptile into a mammal and of a land mammal into an aquatic mammal, the spinnerets of the spiders, jumping apparatus of the click beetles, the opposable great toe, the hairy coat and the quadrupedal gait of apes, the instincts and habits of animals, vestigial organs, embryological development and so forth. There are 340 pages in the book and the last 49 pages contain a summary and conclusion. The authors endeavor to lay the facts before the reader and, as might be expected, neither author concedes defeat. Shelton derives a very good case for evolution and one is impressed by his breadth of knowledge. Dewar displays a fine grasp of the biological principles involved in the discussion but, in the writer's opinion, weakens his arguments with his frequent and unnecessary sarcasm. Be that as it may, many readers will find the book quite entertaining and informative.

Dept. Natural Science
Michigan State College