Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

On Evolution

On a visit to Ireland in 1955, Dr Sutherland stayed in a guest house at the Mount St. Joseph Abbey near Roscrea. He contemplated the hard life of the Trappist monks there, and this led him to contemplate the theory of evolution.

Theirs is a hard life but these Monks and Brothers are content. To the sybarite who hankers after the flesh-pots of Egypt, a skinful of drink or the gratification of a nerve, their life is lunacy. They are worshipping God, the Supreme Spirit who made everything out of nothing. Nothing is something beyond comprehension. We do not even know what is substance. They say all matter is made of electrons revolving round a proton as the planets revolve around the sun, but the electrons are revolving millions of times a second. We do not know what electrons are. Yet they make it easy to think of the universe as a thought in the mind of God. If He ceased to think of it, it would vanish into the nothing whence it came. We do not even know what electricity is, or magnetism. They say the universe is expanding like a balloon being inflated. Expanding into what? We cannot comprehend space without end, or eternity which has neither an end nor a beginning. We are very ignorant.

They say we have evolved from a primordial living cell spontaneously generated in the sea at the time when the world was young. How it happened no one knows, but it never happened again. The genes of this primordial cell had the potentiality of forming the vegetable and animal kingdoms. From this cell came everything that ever lived on sea or land, from a scrap of seaweed to the forest giant, from dinosaurs to viruses. A virus is a cell so small that it cannot be seen by the microscope. It causes disease in plants and animals. A virus cannot have been the primordial cell because it lives on the cells of higher organisms. Thus evolution had produced all living things, large and small. This is as marvellous as anything in the first chapter of Genesis. The B.B.C. are now plugging evolution into school-children. No doubt they think this knowledge will reduce juvenile delinquency.

Unfortunately evolution is an unproved theory. It is not supported by the fossil record from the rocks. In the earliest or igneous rocks, which were once molten, there are no fossils. A Canadian once said he had found in these rocks a fossil of the Dawn Animal. This caused a ten-day newspaper sensation, until someone pointed out that a similar fossil could be seen in any earthenware plate that had been many times in the kitchen oven. The simplest fossils are found in the earliest chalk deposits. Then as one geological period succeeds another fossils of more complete animals are found in each successive strata of rocks. Thus in sandstone, laid down twenty million years ago in the U.S.A., are the fossils of herrings. These are identical with the herrings that now swim in the North Sea. In Europe, fossils have been found of every animal now living there. The same will probably apply to other continents when their geological strata have been fully explored. The fossil record shows no missing links. There is no fossil intermediate between a fish and a snake, nor any between a snake and a bird. As G.K. Chesterton said, the only thing about the Missing Link is that it is still missing. The last Missing Link has been found to be a fake. This was the Piltdown skull discovered some forty years ago. In 1954 experts proved that this was a genuine fossil skull of a genuine pre-historic man. To this skull the jaw-bone of a modern ape had been fitted. The fake was discovered by scientists at the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London. It is interesting to note that they received several abusive letters from persons who must have been very proud of their simian ancestry. Creation is an unsolvable mystery. From memory I quote Thomas Carlyle: “Though man stands in the centre of immensities and in the conflux of eternities he may say of the Universe ‘This is my home’, such power is in the words well spoken Credo, I believe.”

From Irish Journey (1956) by Dr Halliday Sutherland.

Photo-credit: Milky Way Illustration by Philippe Donn Photography.

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This entry was posted on 2 April 2019 by in Ireland, Irish Journey.

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