John Buchanan's 1905 Letter to the Editor on Evolution

Forty six years after Charles Darwin's Origins book, a John Buchanan wrote the following anti-evolution letter to the editor. 110 years after that, Real Science Radio posted online the transcription just below of a scan of a copy of Buchanan's insightful letter. If you research this letter, which appears on New Zealand's official newspaper archive at, and find out more about it, please consider passing along whatever you learn to Any biographical information about the author would be great. Thanks! -The Crew, Real Science Radio

Transcript by RSR listeners Lou F. Reyes and Joe Spears):

GOD ?"

(To the Editor.)

SIR--Being absent from home I
lost the opportunity of perusing Mr
Lewis' address in your issue of the
12th current on the subject, "Has
Evolution Abolished God?" but as the
topic has lost none of its interest per-
haps you will allow me a few remarks
on the other side of the question. Mr
Lewis, it appears to me, is in error in
writing thus: "Evolution is a new
name given by science to the process
by which all things came to be as
they now are." Would it not have
been more accurate to have said,
"Evolution is the new name of a
supposed process by which living
beings became as they now are."

Scientific men are divided on this
great controversy, which, beginning
In the fifth century B.C., has been a
subject of debate from then till now.
The opinion that unaided matter pro-
duced all the living forms as they are,
flourished most in decadent times.
Epicurus was its exponent in the days
when Athens, once the university of
the world, entered on, the down grade,
and reached a depth from which she
has never yet risen. Lucretius, in his
poem "In the Nature Things,"
descanted on it beyond all admiration
in the corrupt times of the first
Triumvirate. De Marllet, in Bel-
gium, took up the parable in 1758.
Buffon and Lamarck, in France,
adopted his views. Not much occurred
of note in this direction till Charles
Darwin published his "Origin of
Species" in 1859. Darwinian evo-
lution is the form of this doctrine
with which we have mostly to do, and
is that form, I daresay, which Mr
Lewis contemplated in his lecture.

It is not too much to say that that
"epoch making book" took the
world by storm, not altogether be-
cause of the sublimity of the hypo-
thesis, but because the numerous ob-
servations of the great naturalist im—
parted to the work peculiar value.
Inductive science led the way from
the times of Galileo, and gathered in
its majestic career the richest harvest
of knowledge — Newton, the Hers-
chels, with many others, not the least
among whom adorned that brilliant
constellation of writers which in Eng-
land appeared in the century recently
closed. Amongst these were Sedgwick,
Brewster, Clerk Maxwell, and last,
but not the least, Lord Kelvin, still
happily to the fore.

But great contemporaries of
Darwin were not evolutionists.
Cuvier disowned it; Agassir de-
nounced it; Davidson, the great ex-
pert in the study of the Brachopoda,
regretted he could not assist him in
connection with his writing, "On the
Origin of Species," from anything
he knew. And Mr Darwin exclaimed,
"Why have all the most eminent
living naturalists and geologists re-
jected this view of the mutability of
species?" The reason was not far to
seek. Mr Darwin was not guided by
inductive science. He indulged
In endless and useless suppositions. If
his reasoning in the "Origin of
Species" was a fair specimen of his
logical powers, he must be pronounced
in this respect less than brilliant. He
was however, in a mild degree, a
poet, a seer of visions, and a dreamer
of dreams. The only element of
science found in his famous book con-
sists of his observations. The "Origin
of Species" is perhaps the most in-
consequential and erratic book that
ever claimed to be a work of science.

Were we to believe in Darwin we
must believe in the ridiculous dictum
that man made himself. It is impos-
sible to prove that natural selection
originated the sexes in the course of
linear development; and the linear
forms from which all organisms
sprang are themselves unaccounted
for.  Let anyone read any text book
on geology as to where the common
boundary between the Cretaceous and
the Eocene may be defined. The
former was the great Reptilian Age.
The ichthyosaurus, the iguanodon,
the mososaurus; some of them 70ft.
long, and very many tons in weight.
They all disappear with the Cretaceous
Period. The strata above them dis-
lose a new world consisting of hog-
like and tapir-like forms, horse-like
animals, opossums, wolves, and foxes.
But what had become of the linear
developments of the great animals of
the Cretaceous. Did they evolve into
hogs, tapirs, and horses? or did they
break up into animals of smaller size,
the representatives of the earliest
terrestrial carnivora ? Can any man
be found credulous enough to believe
that such a transmutation of living
beings could ever have occurred, as
that which must have occurred in the
supposed evolution of the animals of
the Cretaceous into those of the early
Eocene ? on the hypothesis of Darwin.
And when we remember this is
supposed to have been effected through
blood descent, by insensible grada-
tions, over millions and millions of
years, can anyone believe the
supposition possible?

No doubt the universe is the work
of God; no less on the hypothesis of
evolution than on the theory of
creation. But that is not the ques-
tion. What we are considering is its
truth. Has it any scientific basis ?
I hazard the statement that there is
not a fact discovered since the days
of Deniveritus from which one could
justly deduce the inference that the
hypothesis of Darwin is a sound one.
It has been said by Dr Daper that
we cannot prove creation.  That may
be true. But: we can show beyond a
doubt that there could not possibly
Be time for the evolution of the rep-
tiles of the Cretaceous into the animals
of the early Eocene. If not evolution,
the sole alternative is creation. Like
the average sensible man we adopt
that conclusion.

When evolution is adopted by
scientific man we nearly invariably
find his creed becomes a medley of
Science and religion, or irreligion.
When he adopts Pantheism, Materi-
alism, Monism, or Naturalism, the one
ingredient mixed with science makes
it a belief of every diversified colours.
Nor does he hesitate to endeavour to
propagate his opinions.  He is not
Always tolerant to those of an oppos-
ing faith. It seems also to obscure
the intellect to a certain extent. The
statement of Lord Kelvin's views in
which he declared that he had been
led in the study of physics to the con-
clusion that behind Nature there was
an intelligent, creative, directive cause
incited a great flutter amongst the
dovecots of science of the shoddy
kind.  Sir W. Thistleton Dyer,
director of Kew Gardens, and Pro-
fessor Karl Pearson were shot with
passion. Because Lord Kelvin de-
clared that he believed in God, they
made the counter declaration that the
noble lord had struck out, as with a
pen, all that Darwin had done for
them. The trouble is that they were
right. But what are men coming to
when Professor Drummond, a great
and a good man, fell head and ears in
love with this very same jade evolu-
tion? not because she was true and
good. It was not because it was a
just and true hypothesis that might
be verified in the future, but because
it was so splendid and beautiful, so
stupendous as to control all things.
What Drummond was so enamoured
with he called science, so does Mr
Lewis following in his footsteps.
Thomas Carlyle more appropriately
called it "the gospel of dirt".

I am, etc.,
24th June, 1905.
Related: 25 years after Origin of Species,
Dr. J. W. Lowber wrote in 1884 The Monkey
and the Man