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Science, spirit, superstition / Constantin Brunner: p. 505-10.

Not the Christian doctrine, as Tertullian believes, is born with man, but rather this doctrine of being evolved, in which the theory of evolution, of metaphysical 'scientific' pseudo-understanding, reposes as in its matrix.

Of the theory that all is motion by infinite gradations, of this truth of scientific thinking of relative reality in our Practical Understanding has become, in their warped thinking, the absolute theory of evolution which is even completely at variance with every truth of relative reality, with all laws of thought and with every experience. What we have here is a corruption, a grossly abused interpretation of the theory of motion—the fiction of a transformation which rightly belongs in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

A theory of Descent-from-the-Ape based on nothing but -similarity between ape and man.1 Similarity is still no genealogy and a mere classification of the fauna according to degrees of shape and builds is no proof of genetic parentage or lineage. Incidentally, we can see with our own eyes that we are descended from animals very dissimilar from ourselves. The descent of man from the spermatozoon, an autonomous form of animal life, would be no empty hypothesis of the descent of humankind, but direct experience. Since the process of our embryonic development in the womb tends so little towards the human form, but has to run through so many animal stages—why should not the spermatozoon precede our larval ontogenesis? If it were so, this would lead only the more profoundly into metamorphosis, toward the right knowledge of it. One cannot warn sufficiently against the wrong 'understanding', including the 'understanding' of our embryonic sequence of metamorphoses in the evolutionary sense, as in keeping with the basic biogenetic law which presupposes the descent of the species from each other according to their similarities.

Are the variations of any species indeed descendent from each other (e.g. our St Bernards monophyletically from our Maltese midget dogs?) Well, the species too need not have descended from each other and may also be considered as varieties of the One Life; and it might be this elementary unit of all animal species of life which appears in the various configurations of ontogenesis. I hold life, plasma, to be one of the elements of nature which, according to the conditions permitted to it by the other elements, concretizes its potentialities in an infinite variety of forms, and I see no reason to assume for this multifariousness of realizations any career of gradual development and self-perfection. Rather do I believe that the element, as other elements, has been from the very beginning what and as it is now and that it will remain so until it no longer exists. If in the past new forms of life are supposed to have emerged, or if they should do so in the future, then they are concretizations of the dormant elementary potentiality, but would be no evidence of any evolution of one species from another. Flatly nothing but the similarity of appearance of the species provides the basis for the whole formidable volume of talk beginning with Lamarck up to modern times. It would be much easier still to line up the individuals of one species according to the close gradation of similarity between them, but must they therefore be descended from each other?

There is nothing to compel us to the assumption of an origin of the species out of each other, much less to the monstrous hypothesis of the origin of all species perfecting themselves in phylogenetic concatenation in which case there would be in reality no species at all but only a flux of one into the other which for us takes on the appearance of separate species due only to the gaps, the missing links. All this presumably so that we may now 'understand' that all life forms a rising curve of development starting 'in the beginning' from the lump of protoplasm, from the 'lump of simple protoplasm in the beginning!' Protoplasm is no more 'simple' than the fully developed organism (or are perhaps the eyes creditable witnesses to the contrary?),2 and there is no 'beginning' in the One Motion. Man, the contemporary 'Summit of evolution', wants once more as in religion, but this time 'with scientific exactness', to escape from nature into some gingerbread heaven. Things issue out of things in the one moved thingliness. The fact that the inorganic becomes vegetable, which, in turn, makes animal life possible, is a sign of motion but not of evolution.

Paleontology, too, has no proofs of origination and evolutionary self-perfection of species. Pre-cambric animal remains already show highly complex types of organisms. But is even 'already' justified? May we assume our present geological method of fixing time to be correct? There is no scientifically sound objection to the assumption that all contemporary species of plants and animals (together with some no longer extant today) have emerged simultaneously or almost simultaneously as the one Element of Life.

Not a grain of truth is contained in the assertions regarding mutation and heredity, i.e. the heredity of acquired characteristics, as advanced by the theory of evolution. Essentially we know of only two instances of hereditary transmission of acquired characteristics: those acquired by alcoholism and syphilis. But here we actually can speak only of a passing on of a corruption of the organism and not of the emergence of a new hallmark of the species in the sense of the theory of evolution. Mendel, who is beginning to live only now after his death, has given us the real scientific theory of heredity without mutation. Not, of course, the explanation, but the knowledge of heredity. With this knowledge we now possess the final empirical refutation of the entire evolutionary-metaphysical incubus; and more soundly based than ever now appears the truth of the constancy of species. There is no natural mutation, and we are not capable of producing it artificially except within those limits which the potentialities of the species permit. The species, therefore, remains immutable within the sphere particular to itself inclusive of all possible variations under all possible conditions, and can never put forth a new species from within itself-such, in brief, is the impregnable result of Mendelism. Whatever difficulties still remain are inherent in the uncertainty which, understandably, still attaches to our systematic classification of species. Mendel's feat for biology has been evolution's executioner.3

The question as to the modifying influence of the environment upon the organism is truly justified and useful; but the answer, as given by the theory of evolution, infringes upon the fundaments of thought, and thereby upon the fundaments of science, upon the generic concepts or the concepts of species. The external and internal significance of the species, determined in the system of philosophy, constitutes the true systematic method for the science here concerned. The latter, however, by its own speculations leaves the firm ground of thought and ends up in the materialist superstition of a blind nature operating in a purely mechanical way. It disanimates nature by depriving it of its manifold soul, its world, i.e. its species, and by destroying for the grasp of thought the true relationship of the species to its individuals. An individual will indeed leave the species, but not for a new species, rather for the universal state which directly shoots out into all species of things or all degrees of motion.

Nature is only interested in repetition and continuance. It merely sustains the species and has no intention of rendering their individuals ever more perfect. Reflection about the concept of the species is entirely degenerated in the metaphysics of evolution which knows nothing of the depth in the process of procreation. It believes that it is the individual which begets and reproduces itself—it is not, however, the individuals, but the sperms and egg cell issuing from the individuals which reproduce themselves; it is the species in the individuals which begets inside its own domain. And, for full measure, this metaphysics transfers upon the species the dictum of the individual's 'self perfection' as though the species were not perfect enough, as though it perfected itself and, by procreation, elevated itself towards something different from what it is, towards something ever higher and ever more perfect and finally, an in the end, towards becoming even a too perfect species. To say this is like saying of a circle that it is not round enough or that it is too round. The talk of the gradual transition of one species into another is like speaking of the gradual transition of the circle into the square. Matters are no better as regards the reference to 'low' and 'high' concerning species. This sort of anthropomorphism reduces evolutionary metaphysics to the level of insignificance of religious superstition—only it so happens that our time has more confidence in the word 'evolution'.

Monism and theory of evolution and progress—these sound just as plausible to contemporary man as did formerly creation, last judgment and bliss in the hereafter. His latest faith in perfection and becoming-better-and-better is nothing but a sheer reversal of the former dogma of original sin and of the depravation of mankind. And of God, the 'Eternal', by whom the world was said to be 'created', they have made the 'eternal creating world' which, creating ever more sublime things, will finally create the God. Pitiful reason that sees God or the world as eternal and which better 'understands' a creating world than a created one! Perhaps only because it replaces the word 'to create' by the word 'to evolve' and imagines the evolution to be extremely slow. Evolution from chaos perhaps, but a chaos so diluted as to resemble the perfect nothing and yet it is that something from which everything evolves! The old God of religion was a master who succeeded to perfection in everything on the spot anno mundi I; the new one, with his evolution, makes nothing really right, and although he makes it ever better and better, he never makes anything perfect.

Basest superstition can fit in quite well with the most highly developed scientific intellect. Already in pre-socratic Greece this crude anthropomorphic thinking had reared its head, but the healthy good sense of the Greeks permitted nothing barbaric to break through. Among us cultured barbarians, however, it now is rising powerfully (for things cannot rest with mere criticism of the former superstition). Among us the this most vile form of a nakedly barbaric way of thinking is rising; its victory, in fact, is already manifest. Let us realize for once what kind of new era it is that is approaching—we now see only the very beginning, but it is nothing other than mankind's new superstition as is evident from the fact that already it meddles in and pervades everything. What an enormously long road will mankind again have to travel before this new miscarriage of its thoughts about its eternal World and its becoming-better-and-better through evolution will be filled with and veiled by just as much subtlety as has happened with its eternal god and its becoming-worse-and-worse through emanation! They philosophize with the purely practical concepts of their understanding about nature, which they represent as something imperfect that must yet develop towards ever greater perfection. So little do they know the nature of their understanding. And they are only at the outset of the process of transferring their anthropomorphism from God onto the world. This doctrine of evolution with its theory of selection, this monism based on evolutionism will yet become something quite different from what it merely is now. The new germ will sprout and everything will mount up in endless crescendo towards the very paroxysm of superstition, as soon as this new metaphysics—as is indeed inevitable with any metaphysics and any religion—will have joined forces with the practical superstition of moralism.4 Unheard of things are yet in store for man from evolutionism... if only those, so large in number, who today are still playing an innocent intellectual game with it, could sense and believe this, not one would be found to touch a single book containing the teachings of the theory of evolution; not one, were it even the ninefold murderer from book-mania.

1Naturally there is also no lack of reversals of the theory; Ameghino sought to show, in contrast to Darwin, that man was not an accomplished ape, but the apes were bestialized men.

2Is it really intended to look upon the living protoplasm and even the cell as the ultimate, simple unit of life, i.e. as something new? According to the theory of motion all inorganic matter must become organic and vice versa, The cell represents that degree of motion which we call life.

3 Hugo de Vries' Theory of mutation (solely based upon the observation of the evening primrose) according to which the mutation of one species into another species is supposed to have taken place at certain times by sudden jumps—is likewise only an empty speculation. The sudden mutation of de Vries has the same relationship to the gradual one of Darwin as has in geology the theory of cataclysms to the Neptunist evolutionist theory.

4The muddled and socially harmful concepts and theories of racism, 'racial hygiene' and racial superiority can be considered as indirect offshoots of the theory of evolution. (W.B.)

Brunner's main attack on the theory of evolution.