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EVOLUTION AND THE BRAIN AGE
An exchange giving a report of a recent lecture on Phrenology, says of it: “He showed how man had first been in a stage of existence in which his animal nature predominated, and the almost purely physical ruled him; then he slowly grew from one state to another until now, when the average man has attained to a condition in which it might be said, he is coming under the rule of the brain. Hence this age may be regarded and designated as the Brain Age. Brain pushes the great enterprises of the day. Brain takes the reigns of government; and the elements of the earth, air and water, are being brought under subjection. Man is putting his hand on all physical forces, and slowly but surely attaining such power over the domain of nature as gives evidence that ultimately he may exclaim, in the language of Alexander Selkirk, ‘I am monarch of all I survey.'”
The above is in perfect harmony with the latest discoveries of so-called scientific thought on the subject. Notably, within the past twenty years the theory of Evolution has been making rapid progress among all classes of thinking people, until now it is considered a mark of ignorance and “old fogyism” to think otherwise.
Hence, were it not that we see a necessity for it we should not trouble to contradict or refute this, more than many other claims, “babblings and oppositions of science, falsely so called.” 1 Tim. 6:20.
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The danger which we see is this: The suggestion seems to some minds reasonable and consistent, and in this day many seem inclined to reject the Bible, or place it on a level with heathen mythologies. The tendency is first to neglect and ignore its teachings on this subject; secondly, to claim a harmony between Scripture and the Evolution theory; and finally, either to so wrest and twist the Scriptures to make them conform to what is termed scientific knowledge, and thereby plant and water seeds of error, or else to the discarding of the whole or large portions of the Bible entirely as a parcel of “old wives’ fables,” as a New York Methodist minister of the gospel recently did. Perhaps now he should be known as a minister against the gospel; but the words “gospel,” “minister,” and “Christian,” have become very popular, and even those who deny and belittle the Saviour, the ransom for sin which he gave, and the forgiveness of sin which in consequence he offers, would think it very unkind for any to say that they are not Christians, but ministers against the gospel of God’s Word.
The fact that at first glance a theory appears “reasonable” should not lead us hastily to accept it and attempt to twist the Bible into harmony with it. In a thousand ways we have proved the Bible, and know beyond peradventure that it contains a superhuman wisdom which makes its statements unerring. We should remember too, that while scientific research is to be commended, and its suggestions considered, yet its conclusions are by no means infallible. And what wonder that it has proven its own theories false a thousand times when we remember that the true scientist is a student attempting under many unfavorable circumstances and struggling against almost insurmountable difficulties to learn from the great book of Nature the history of man and his home.
We would not then oppose or hinder scientific investigation, but in hearing the suggestions from these students of the book of nature, let us carefully compare their deductions, which so often have proved in part, or wholly erroneous, with our book of Divine Revelation—the Bible. Let us prove or disprove the suggestions of scientists by “the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). An accurate knowledge of the teachings of both books will be harmonious, but until then God’s revelation must to his children take precedence to and be the standard by which the supposed findings of fallible fellow men shall be judged.
But while holding to this principle, let us see whether there be not some other reasonable solution of the increased knowledge and skill and power of man than the theory of Evolution, that originally developed from a very low order of being man has now reached the Brain Age.
Perhaps after all we shall find that the inventions, conveniences, the general education and wider diffusion and increase of knowledge is not attributable to a greater brain capacity, but to more favorable circumstances for its use. That the brain capacity to-day is greater than in bygone ages we deny, while we freely admit, that owing to favorable circumstances, the use of what brain capacity men have to-day is more general than at any former period, and hence makes a much larger showing.
Let us see: In the study of painting and sculpture do not the students of this “Brain Age” go back to the great masters of the past? Do they not thereby acknowledge a brain power and originality of design as well as a skill in working out their clear designs? Does not the present “Brain Age” draw largely upon the original designs of past ages for its architecture? Do not the orators and logicians of this “Brain Age” study and copy the methods and syllogisms of Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes and others of the past? Might not many of the public speakers of to-day well covet the tongue of a Mark Anthony or an Apollos, and much more the wonderful reasoning power of the Apostle Paul?
To go still farther back, while we might well refer to the rhetorical powers of several of the prophets and to the sublime poetic paintings interspersed throughout the Psalms, we refer these “Brain-Age” philosophers to the wisdom and logic, no less than the fine moral sensibilities, of Job and his comforters.
And what shall we say of Moses? “Learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). The laws given through him have been the foundation for the laws of all civilized nations, and are still recognized. And it would be well for this “Brain Age” if the laws were more copied and observed to-day. Such, for instance, as the law of restitution in the Jubilee year. (See Lev. 25:23-41.)
The exhuming of ancient buried cities shows a knowledge of the arts and sciences surprising to some of the philosophers of this so-called “Brain Age.” And the ancient methods of embalming and of making elastic glass and Damascus steel are among the achievements of the remote past which the brain of the present age, with all its advantages is unable to comprehend and duplicate.
Going back four thousand years to about Abraham’s time, we find in the Great Pyramid of Egypt an object of wonder and amazement to the most learned scientists of to-day. Its construction is in exact accord with the most advanced attainments of this “Brain Age” in the sciences of mathematics and astronomy. It teaches positively what could only be approximated by the use of modern instruments. So striking and clear are its teachings that some of the foremost astronomers of the world have unhesitatingly pronounced it to be of Divine origin.
And even if our Brain Age Evolutionists should admit that it is of Divine arrangement, and that its wisdom is superhuman, still they must admit that it is of human construction. And the fact that in that remote day any set of men had the mental capacity to work
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out such a Divine arrangement as very few men to-day would be capable of doing with a model before them, and with all modern scientific appliances at hand, proves that our “Brain Age” develops more self-conceit than circumstances and facts warrant.
If, then, we have proven that the mental capacity of to-day is not greater than in past ages, but probably less, how shall we account for the increase of general knowledge, modern inventions, etc.? We trust we shall be able to show this reasonably and in harmony with Scripture.
The inventions and contrivances which are now proving so convenient and advantageous to mankind, and which the lecturer thought a proof that this is the Brain Age, are really very modern—nearly all within a century; and the most important are those of the last threescore years; among others the application of steam and electricity, in telegraphy, steam railroading, and the application of these principles to mechanics. If, then, these be evidences of increased brain power, the Brain Age must be only beginning, and the logical deduction would be that another century would witness every form of miracle as an every-day occurrence; and at the same ratio of increase where will it eventuate?
But let us see: Are all men inventors? How few there are whose inventions are really useful and practical compared with the number who use an invention when put into their hand! Nor do we speak disparagingly of that very useful and highly-esteemed class of public servants, when we say that the smaller number of them are men of great brains. Some of the most brainy men in the world, and the deepest reasoners, are not mechanical inventors. And some inventors are so intellectually sluggish that you wonder how they ever stumbled into the discoveries they made. The great principles which many men in many years work out and improve upon time and again, were generally discovered by the merest accident, unsought.
From a human standpoint we can account for modern inventions thus: The invention of printing, in A.D. 1440, may be considered the starting point. With the printing of books came records of the thoughts and discoveries of thinkers, which without this invention would never have been known to their successors on life’s pathway. With books came a more general education, and finally common schools. Schools and colleges do not increase mental capacity, but they do make mental exercise more general. As knowledge became more general and books more common, the generation possessing these had a decided advantage over previous generations, not only in that there were now a thousand thinkers to one, but also in that this generation has, through books, the experience of yesterday and the past in addition to their own.
Education and the laudable ambition which accompanies it, enterprise and a desire to achieve distinction and wealth, abetted by the record and descriptions of invention in the daily press, has stimulated and brightened man’s perceptive qualities, and put each upon the alert to discover, if possible, some simple or useful method or agency for the convenience of society. Hence we suggest that modern inventions, looked at from a purely human standpoint, teaches not an increase of brain capacity, but a sharpened PERCEPTION from natural causes.
But now we come to the Scriptures to see what they teach on the subject; for while we believe as suggested above, that invention and the increase of knowledge, etc., among men are the results of natural causes, yet we realize that these natural causes are all realized by Jehovah, and are permitted or hindered for a time, by the overruling providence of God, whereby he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Eph. 1:11.
According to God’s plan, as revealed in his Word, he purposed to permit sin and misery to misrule and oppress the
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world for six thousand years, and then in the seventh millennium to restore all things, and to extirpate, destroy, evil and its consequences by Jesus Christ, whom he hath afore ordained to do this work. Hence, as the six thousand years of the reign of evil began to draw to a close, God has permitted circumstances to favor discoveries, in the study both of his book of revelation and his book of nature, as well as in the preparation of mechanical and chemical appliances useful to the blessing and uplifting of mankind during the Millennial Age. That this was God’s plan, approved as the counsel of his will, is clearly indicated by the prophetic statement: “O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end: [then] many shall run to and fro, and knowledge [not capacity] shall be increased,” “and none of the wicked shall understand [God’s plan, etc.], but the wise shall understand,” “and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time.” Dan. 12:1,4,10.
To some it may seem strange that God did not so arrange that the present inventions and blessings should sooner come to man to alleviate the curse. But God’s plan has been to give mankind a full appreciation of the curse, that when the blessing shall come upon all, they may have forever decided upon the evil and unprofitableness of sin. Furthermore, God foresaw and has foretold what the world does not yet realize, viz., that God’s choicest blessings would lead to and be productive of greater evils if bestowed upon those who are depraved, and whose hearts are not in accord with the righteous laws of the universe. Ultimately it shall be seen; that God’s present permission of increased blessings is a practical lesson upon this subject, which may serve as an example of this principle for all eternity—to angels as well as restored man.
How this can be we may suggest: First, So long as mankind is in his present fallen or depraved condition, without stringent laws and penalties and a government strong enough to enforce them, the selfish propensity must hold more or less sway over all. And with the varying capacities considered, it is impossible but that the result of the invention of labor-saving machinery must (after the first flurry occasioned by the manufacturing of machines) tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The tendency is toward monopoly and self-aggrandizement, which places the advantage directly in the hands of those whose capacity and natural advantage is most favorable.
Secondly: If it were possible to legislate so as to divide the present and daily increase of wealth evenly among all classes, which is not possible, still without human perfection or a supernatural government to regulate man’s affairs, the results would be more injurious than the present condition. If the advantages of labor-saving machinery and all modern appliances were evenly divided, the result would, ere long, be a great decrease of the hours of labor and a great increase of leisure. Idleness is a most injurious thing to fallen beings. Had it not been for the necessity of labor and sweat of face, the deterioration of our race would have been much more rapid than it has been. Idleness is the mother of vice; and mental, moral, and physical degradation would ensue.
Hence the wisdom and goodness of God in withholding these blessings until in his plan it was due time for their introduction as a preparation for the reign of blessing. Under the control of the supernatural government of the kingdom of God, not only shall the blessings be equitably divided among men, but when the leisure shall be so ordered and directed by the same supernatural government, that its results shall produce virtue and tend upward toward perfection, moral and physical.
The present increase of inventions and other blessings of increasing knowledge, are permitted in this “day of preparation” to come about in so natural a way that men flatter themselves that it is because this is the “Brain Age;” but it will be permitted in great measure to work itself out, in a manner very much to the disappointment no doubt, of these wise philosophers. It is the very increase of these blessings that is already beginning to bring upon the world the time of trouble, which shall be such as never has been since there was a nation.
The prophet Daniel, as quoted above, very properly links together the increase of knowledge and the time of trouble—the knowledge causes the trouble, as shown above, because of the depravity of the race.
The blessing of KNOWLEDGE INCREASED, has not only given the world wonderful labor-saving machinery and conveniences, but it has led also to an increase of medical skill whereby thousands of lives are prolonged, and it has so enlightened mankind that human butchery, War, is becoming less popular, and thus thousands of lives are prolonged to still further multiply the race which is increasing more rapidly to-day, perhaps, than at any other period of history. Thus, while mankind is multiplying rapidly, the necessities for his labor are not increasing correspondingly, but diminishing. And the “Brain Age” philosophers have a problem before them to provide for the employment and sustenance of so large a class whose services (under present arrangements) can be dispensed with, which ultimately they must admit is beyond their brain capacity.
Selfishness will continue to control the wealthy who hold the power and advantage, and will blind them to common sense as well as to justice, while SELF-PRESERVATION and an increased knowledge of their rights, will nerve some men and inflame others, and the result of the BLESSINGS will, for a time, prove to be terrible—a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation. And this, because man in a depraved condition cannot properly use these blessings unguided. The “time of trouble” shall cease in due time, when he who spake to the raging Sea of Galilee shall likewise with authority command the raging sea of human passion, saying, “Peace be still!” The result shall be the same when this Prince of Peace shall “stand up” in authority—there shall be “a great calm.” Then the raging and clashing elements shall recognize the authority of “Jehovah’s Anointed,” “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,” and in him “shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Then men will see that what they attributed to Evolution, natural development and the smartness of the “Brain Age,” was instead, the flashings of Jehovah’s lightnings (Psa. 77:18) in “the day of his preparation” for the blessing of mankind, and shall praise him Lord of all, exclaiming, “O the depth of the riches both of the knowledge and wisdom of God. How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out. But as yet only the saints can see, and only the wise in heavenly wisdom shall understand this, for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” “He will show them his covenant.” (Psa. 25:14.) Thanks be to God, that while general knowledge has been increased, he has also ordered that his children need “not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord” and in the appreciation of his plans. And by this appreciation of his word and plans we are enabled to discern and withstand the vain philosophy and science, falsely so called, which contradicts the Word of God.
— March, 1885 —