Evolution And Freedom -- By: Chauncey J. Hawkins
BSac 62:247 (July 1905) p. 565
Evolution And Freedom
Jamaica Plains, Mass.
A great difficulty in the minds of many people who would like to accept the evolutionary interpretation of life is that it seems to deny the freedom of the will. That many interpreters of involution reduce the moral life to a mere mechanical process cannot be doubted. Herbert Spencer said: “Man has been, is, and will long continue to be, in process of adaptation, and the belief in human perfectibility merely amounts to the belief, that, in virtue of these processes, man will eventually become completely suited to his mode of life. Progress, therefore, is not an accident, but a necessity.” According to this
BSac 62:247 (July 1905) p. 566
interpretation, the moral development of man is not due to any free choice between ideals, but is caused by the necessity which man is under to adapt himself to his environment. It is a purely mechanical process. The same laws operate in the human race that operate in the animal kingdom. As lower forms of life are developed by their struggle for existence, so mankind must progress under the same laws. All of Spencer’s sociology and ethics are treated under the laws of his biology. There is no recognition of the higher laws of human freedom. Man never becomes greater than a supreme animal struggling with nature to adapt himself to his mode of life. The causal force in all his progress is this blind struggle.
Are we compelled to accept this conclusion if we adopt the evolutionary theory? To accept such a conclusion would mean the rejection of Christianity, for there is no place for sin and redemption under such a philosophy. Do the facts compel us to follow Spencer?
A complete view of the evolutionary process must not only take account of the development of man and the forces which have produced him, but also of what man is as we see him at the present time. Our study of the origin of man must be supplemented by a study of what man is. It is a defective philosophy which finds all of its conclusions in the cell and the history of the animal world and does not take into account the testimony of the human consciousness. Truly the total mind of Lincoln is as important as the individual cells which compose his brain, and the testimony of his consciousness is as important as the history of his animal ancestors, for the study of the philosopher. We may not doubt that man’s moral and intellectual nature is the result of evolution, but for a study of ethics it is far more important to know what that moral nature is than to know the processes by which it came to be what it is. Professor Rice truly says: “We must find the foundation of ethics and consequently of religion, not ...
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