Saturday, December 02, 2006

Chesterton defended on the pages of Touchstone

Apparently, last issue of Touchstone magazine had someone saying that Chesterton admitted the possibility of natural selection in a discussion about Darwin.

Touchstone reader Peter Hala from Alberta wrote a letter to the editor to correct this falacy.

William Kilpatrick's assumption in "The Wild Man" (September 2006) that Chesterton freely admitted the possibility of natural selection is inaccurate. Chesterton, while careful not to wade into a scientific quagmire, was quite clear about his views. His main objection was that Darwinian natural selection is completely separated from will, and it is thus reduced to millions of highly improbably accidents, which are simply "not like life." It is on this point that he agreed with G.B.Shaw:
But it is not only that the natural selection is not natural at all; it is the whole point of it that it is not selection at all. Nobody selects; and nothing cannot select. It seems to me in the largest and most luminous sense a matter of commonsense to say that, if there was not a clear design from above, then there was some sort of design from below; and it is quite possibile, of course, that there was both.

Good work, Mr. Hala.


  1. Readers of this Blog might want to return to the excellent editorial in Gilbert Magazine vol 9 number 5.

  2. I wondered what Chesterton had to say on the subject of evolution, design, natural selection, etc. I am very glad to learn this!

  3. I haven't read the article in question, so for all I know it draws attention to this, but I should mention that this passage from Orthodoxy is noteworthy:

    "Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism. If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox; for a personal God might just as well do things slowly as quickly, especially if, like the Christian God, he were outside time. But if it means anything more, it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such thing as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing. At best, there is only one thing, and that is a flux of everything and anything. This is an attack not upon the faith, but upon the mind; you cannot think if there are no things to think about. You cannot think if you are not separate from the subject of thought. Descartes said, 'I think; therefore I am.' The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram. He says, 'I am not; therefore I cannot think.'"

  4. Check out this reference and comments about Chesterton’s essay “Doubts about Darwinism” on William Dembski’s blog:

    “Doubts about Darwinism,” by G. K. Chesterton
    by William Dembski on December 4th, 2006 · 6 Comments

    Check out the following piece by G. K. Chesterton, published in 1920.
    . . . The Darwinians have this mark of fighters for a lost cause, that they are perpetually appealing to sentiment and to authority. Put your bat or your rhinoceros simply and innocently as a child might put them, before the Darwinian, and he will answer by an appeal to authority. He will probably answer with the names of various German professors; he will not answer with any ordinary English words, explaining the point at issue. God condescended to argue with Job, but the last Darwinian will not condescend to argue with you. He will inform you of your ignorance; he will not enlighten your ignorance.
    And I will add this point of merely personal experience of humanity: when men have a real explanation they explain it, eagerly and copiously and in common speech, as Huxley freely gave it when he thought he had it. When they have no explanation to offer, they give short dignified replies, disdainful of the ignorance of the multitude.

  5. That's an ILN essay, July 17, 1920, in Collected Works 32 page 55 et seq.

  6. The Touchstone article is now online at It isn't as bad as I had feared; actually it is quite good.



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