THE present controversy between Mr. Wells and Mr. Belloc, which is embodied in two small recently published books, arose out of a series of critical articles written by Mr. Belloc on the defects, or alleged defects, of Mr. Wells's Outline of History. The Outline was a great piece of work, a positively enormous tour de force, which fully deserved, not only the huge popular success which it has achieved, but almost all the flattering things that have been said about it by eminent persons of all faculties. But a history of man from 500,000 в.c. to 1914 A.D., conceived and written within the space of a year or two, could not of course fail to be full of all sorts of errors of knowledge and judgment. It displayed, moreover, a degree of purely personal bias which was quite incompatible with ordinary scientific notions of the way in which history ought to be written. But its merits eclipsed its defects. It represented a magnificent conception, carried out with industry and practical efficiency of an extraordinarily high order. It gives a view of the history of mankind which may often seem idiosyncratic and wrong-headed, but which is none the less a view with a splendid sweep, worth considering, worth disagreeing with, but, above all, worth reading; and it is not impossible that it may survive everything else that Mr. Wells has written.

1 From the New Statesman (London Independent weekly), November 27 and December 11

Mr. Belloc, however, as a good Catholic, did not like it, - for in such a work Mr. Wells's curious hatred of the Catholic Church naturally found full expression, and so he set about the easy but surely otiose task of picking holes in it, finding fault with its facts and with its reasoning, and so on. And Mr. Wells took up the challenge! That is the astonishing thing. Mr. Wells ought, of course, to have said: 'Well, if you don't like my Outline, just you sit down and try to write a better one and good luck to you!' And then it would not have been very easy for Mr. Belloc to find very much more to say. He would, of course, have sat down and done it, and for twenty years or so would have had little time for criticism or anything else.

But instead of taking that simple course, Mr. Wells has chosen to attempt to defend, if not the verbal inspiration, at least the literal accuracy of every line of his book - an absurdly impossible task. That, of course, makes the controversy all the more amusing, but it also ensures the ultimate defeat of Mr. Wells, partly because such a book as his Outline is bound to be infinitely vulnerable in detail and can be defended only as a whole, and partly because Mr. Belloc is a very able controversialist while Mr. Wells is temperamentally incapable of effective argumentation. Both are rather unscrupulous in debate, and both employ personal abuse without compunction. But in other respects they are ill-matched. At this particular

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But the curious thing about this particular controversy is that it turns largely upon a point about which Mr. Wells might be supposed to know much more than Mr. Belloc, and yet about which Mr. Belloc is substantially in the right—namely, the adequacy of the theory of natural selection as an account or explanation of the evolution of man. The general controversy about Catholic theology is of no special value or interest - as might be supposed of any debate between an orthodox Papist and a man who seems never to have understood that 'religion' can mean anything at all to anyone who is not bemused by silly superstition. But the discussion of Darwinism is of real interest. In his Outline Mr. Wells gave a summary of the theory of natural selection in a form which was commonly enough accepted thirty or forty years ago, but which few modern biologists, we imagine, would care to have to defend. All that he wrote then and all that he writes in Mr. Belloc Objects, implies that he regards the theory of natural selection as the causa causans of the evolutionary process by which man has arisen out of the amœba.

Mr. Belloc was characteristically quick to observe this weakness and to point out that, while such a view of evolution may have been practically tenable in the days when Mr. Wells attended science lectures in South Kensington, it is nowadays defended

only by a dwindling, and not very distinguished, minority of biologists. Mr. Wells quite rightly argues that the occurrence of what Darwin called 'natural selection' is beyond doubt, is indeed almost a necessity of thought. The 'fittest' must have tended to survive and the 'unfit' tended to drop out; and through this process evolutionary changes must have occurred and be still occurring. But that argument, logically irresistible in itself, really begs the whole point. Natural selection undoubtedly operates; but what single scrap of evidence has postDarwinian biology to offer to prove that natural selection leads to positive advance, that it acts, in short, as anything more than a drag on the wheel of natural degeneration? No such evidence exists. We know that higher forms of life have developed out of the lower, and we know that natural selection is an operative factor in biology. But we do not know that it is a prime factor, or in any way an important factor, adequate to explain what has happened. On the contrary, its inadequacy has become more and more glaringly apparent; and it has become apparent largely for the reasons which Mr. Belloc mentions-especially the difficulty of explaining how the development of a totally new organ or faculty, say eyesight, can have been of definite 'survival value' at every stage in the enormously slow and gradual process which is postulated by the Darwinian theory.

This difficulty has in fact been sufficiently realized since the days when Mr. Wells was at South Kensington, and it is quite usual now for biologists to profess complete agnosticism as to the means by which 'evolution' has come about. Mr. Belloc quotes several European authorities who have ceased to believe in natural selection as the primary cause of 'evolution'; and it

would be easy to add to his list. More and more, biologists are finding themselves driven to postulate a series of totally inexplicable 'mutations.' Professor J. Arthur Thomson, for example,

who has so often written in these columns, - finds it necessary to suggest in his last work on the origin of man that at certain moments in the world's history inexplicable 'leaps' occurred. There was a moment when the brains of all mammals - including apes and elephants- seem quite sudseem quite suddenly to have expanded. "The modern geneticist,' writes Professor Bateson, in the new volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica, 'assigns to natural selection a subordinate and inconsiderable rôle.' In the same way the president of the Geological Section of the British Association last year, Professor Parks, found it necessary to postulate 'some marvelous event due to certain conditions which have never since been duplicated.'

Mr. Wells jeers at Mr. Belloc for believing in 'design':

Catholic evolution is a queer process into which 'design' makes occasional convulsive raids; between which raids species remain 'fixed'; but still it is a sort of evolution.

Very likely Papist views of evolution are mostly nonsense, but here at any rate, if Mr. Wells properly describes them, they seem to coincide with the consensus of modern scientific opinion. These 'leaps,' these 'convulsive raids,' these 'marvelous events,' seem to have occurred. In his very latest book Professor Thomson speaks of them as 'abrupt or brusque new departures.' But it does not matter what they are called; the point is that without some such postulate evolution seems now to be almost as inexplicable as it was before Darwin was born. 'We venture to doubt,' writes Professor Thomson,

'whether there was ever a "brutal stage" in the evolution of man.' And again: 'Primitive man expressed a mutation, a sudden uplift, separating him by a leap from the animal.' Mr. Belloc suggested that there have been enormously long periods of stable type' and certain 'rapid periods of transition.' His suggestion may be wrong, but it is fully in accord with the most recent conclusions of biological science. And it is surely obvious that the causation of such 'leaps,' such ‘rapid periods of transition,' is of enormously greater importance than any true or untrue theory of 'natural selection.'

There exists in fact no evidence whatever to show that natural selection is actually at work anywhere as a progressive force. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to suggest, if not to prove, that the Cro-Magnon race, which is supposed to have existed twenty-five thousand years ago, was in every biological respect superior to any race of men that exists to-day. They had, of course, no railways or loudspeakers, no means of concentrating or expressing that mob spirit which Mr. Wells seems to regard as the God of the golden future. But their stature and physique, according to the latest research, were immensely superior to ours, and the brainpans even of their women were larger than those of the modern 'Nordic' male, 'especially' as Professor Thomson points out'in the cerebral regions concerned with thinking and speaking.' Their extraordinary artistic achievements are well known, and are in fact admirably illustrated in Mr. Wells's Outline, and even though they had no airplanes or gramophones, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that in comparison with them we of the twentieth century are mere biological degenerates.

And these Cro-Magnons seem, moreover, to have arrived suddenly from

nowhere. They were not descended from the Neanderthals. They just arrived, trekking westward, and exterminated the Neanderthals. Where did they arrive from? Why were they so immensely superior? Why does the whole history of species, animal or human, present a series of just such sudden and unexplainable arrivals? "The great weight of geological evidence,' said the geological Professor Parks to the British Association, 'points to the supplanting of one species by another, not to the transformation of species into their successors . . the advent of a new species is generally unheralded by even a few individuals showing their connection with an earlier species.' These are the questions to which faithful Darwinians have no plausible answers to offer. The 'record of the rocks' shows that evolution has been progressive and that man is biologically descended from some sort of ape, but it seems to show also that there have been 'leaps' or 'marvelous events' of which orthodox creationism offers as plausible an explanation as any other theory. The point is not that Catholic creationism should therefore be accepted, but merely that the scientists have at present no other acceptable explanation to offer us. That natural selection operates is obvious, but that it leads to any progressive improvement of men or dogs or oysters is not obvious at all. That is why Mr. Belloc scores in this controversy, and why Mr. Wells was surely unwise to provoke it. Science can in general afford to challenge the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church with an assurance of ultimate victory; but it must be certain of its ground, and not seek to oppose the outworn dogmas of nineteenth-century science to the perhaps equally indefensible dogmas of a controversialist like Mr. Belloc. To do that is merely to give the game away.

And that is what Mr. Wells, with his rather rusty biological knowledge, seems to have done. For in this particular matter Mr. Belloc has on his side, not only the Pope, but a very substantial proportion of the pundits of modern science, and Mr. Wells has allowed him to steal their thunder.

R. B.

II. MR. WELLS REPLIES To the Editor of the New Statesman

SIR,In your issue of November 27 a contributor, 'R. B.,' writes a testimonial against my scientific attainments that would be much more or much less- effective if his own standing in the world of science were known. He adjudicates magisterially upon this brawling controversy that has been forced upon me by Mr. Belloc. May I point out to your readers who may not have read the books and pamphlets in question that he completely misunderstands and misstates the main points at issue. Mr. Belloc declares, and your contributor repeats with the utmost docility, that I have a 'curious hatred' of the Catholic Church. Nothing could be further from the truth. The rôle of the Catholic Church in preserving and shaping European civilization and sustaining a multitude of sweet and holy lives is insisted upon in the Outline in passage after passage. He also sustained Mr. Belloc's assertions about my attitude to 'natural selection.' Mr. Belloc blankly misconceives Darwinism and has imagined some preposterous beliefs for me that bear only the faintest resemblance to what I have said and maintained. On these misrepresentations he has based a plethora of articles-to be published presently in book form — and a pamphlet of abusive tirades, purporting to be Catholic apologetics, to which my little pamphlet, intelligently read, is a quite sufficient reply. To judge from

Mr. Belloc's previous quarrels, these preposterous noises will go on for years. But when ‘R. B.,' whoever he is, avails himself of the prestige of your columns to father upon me anew the opinions that suit Mr. Belloc's game, I think I must supplement my small but sufficient pamphlet with a few additional words.

shape itself whenever the mould is not tight. Biologists concentrating upon such proliferation, and forgetting the more general aspects of nature, may appear to minimize the rôle of natural selection quite absurdly. This is a pretty subject, but I do not see that it can be handled with any dignity or interest in connection with these controversies.

December 6



To the Editor of the New Statesman

I do not 'regard the theory of natural selection as the causa causans of the evolutionary process.' Correcting 120 Whitehall Court, S. W. 'R. B.'s' eccentric English, I do not regard natural selection as the prime cause of the evolutionary process. I have explained as clearly and carefully as I can that natural selection is selection, not initiation, that it is the inevitable sieve which determines the average of any species, and that it has nothing to do with the causation of variations. The thing is put quite plainly in the Outline of History, and 'R. B.' can no more quote a passage of mine to justify his assertions than he can jump over the moon. What good he supposes he is doing by repeating and circulating afresh this controversial lie I cannot imagine.

In an atmosphere not defiled by the introduction of such matters as the 'rustiness' or otherwise of my biology and the scientific standing or other wise—of 'R. B.,' in an atmosphere free of quotations from eminent biologists, carefully clipped to fit them to a discussion to which they do not properly belong, it would be interesting to discuss the issue raised by 'R. B.' of the relative importance of selection and innovation in determining the forms and balances of life. I think that there is at present a disposition to minimize the importance of the controlling process in the biological drama and to exaggerate that of the initiating drives. I see natural selection as the final mould of life. Within that mould the flux of life may have great freedom to

SIR, Your contributor, 'R. B.,' who protests that the Pope and Mr. Belloc are better biologists than Darwin and Mr. Wells, may be frightfully up to date and all that, but he has forgotten that his chief example the occurrence of apparent 'leaps' in the evolutionary series was demonstrated by Darwin himself in the Origin of Species.

As for 'R. B.'s' declaration that 'there exists no evidence whatever to show that natural selection is actually at work anywhere as a progressive force,' which he seems to think a knock-out for the 'Darwinians,' of course Darwin proved only that natural selection leads to the extinction of many species and the divergence of others, and said nothing about 'progress' or 'positive advance,' unless progress be better adaptation to environment and greater capacity to 'survive'; while Huxley, if I remember right, devoted a whole Romanes lecture to showing that evolution is not necessarily 'progressive' in any human or moral sense. As a matter of fact, I don't understand why 'R. B.' - not to mention the Pope and Mr. Belloc keeps challenging Darwin and Wells to account for positive advance,' and

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