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Book Review - God- or Gorilla?, Chapter 11

This entry is part of a series. For a bit of an introduction and an index of all entries in the series, go here.

God or Gorilla PicThis installment covers Chapter 11, H. G. Wells.

Here is yet another example of how McCann didn't like tentativeness.

As if in defiance of all the pal├Žontological and zoological evidence to the contrary, H. G. Wells devotes 103 pages, vol. 1, "Outline of History," to an elaborate moving picture of man's descent from the ape. His "logic" is a thing of awe and wonder. He elaborates exactly ninety-six premises for his conclusion "it follows, therefore."' These ninety-six steps of departure establish a new system in the tracery of deduction. There can be no more adequate or accurate method of describing an object than the exhibition of the object itself. Therefore, Wells' ninety-six steps, in the form of the very phrases he employs, are lifted from his stairway of "reason" without alteration, mutilation or change of any kind. Here they are:


         Phrases Used         Number of Times

Is probably or was probably ......... 20
It must have been ................... 12
It would seem ....................... 11
It may have been ....................  9
May or may not ......................  8
Perhaps .............................  5
It seems to be ......................  5
It is probable ......................  4
Possibly ............................  3
We may guess ........................  3
So far as we can guess ..............  1
This is pure guessing, of course ....  1
It is supposed ......................  1
They suppose ........................  1
If we assume ........................  1
It appears to be ....................  1
It is possible ......................  1
It may be possible ..................  1
It is doubtful ......................  1
It is commonly asserted .............  1
Almost certainly ....................  1
Are said to be ......................  1
Whole story is fogged ...............  1
As yet we do not know ...............  1
Confessedly jumbled .................  1
Inextricably mixed up ...............  1

This halting, faltering, stumbling gait is dignified by Wells' admirers as the logical stride of science from pure hypothesis to "it follows, therefore." Conscious always of the uncertainty, the fog, the darkness, the jumble, the inextricable mix-up through which he plods, Wells nevertheless is determined to get to man's ancestor, the lemur, as quickly as possible. (McCann 137-138)

I look at the above list, and that's exactly the type of wording I would expect. Like I said before, what other option is there? To pretend certainty where there is none? To assume that we have all the correct answers now?


McCann hasn't been shy about citing religion as a reason for his rejecting evolution, but this comment in particular struck me as a little funny.

The Son of Man is to be described, if described at all, as the Son of Ape. (McCann 142)

For some reason, this quote made me think of Charlton Heston.


McCann had an early version of, 'if we're just animals, why don't we act like animals?'

Why, indeed, should the descendants of such beasts yield reverence to Moses or Christ? Why should there be such speculation concerning an immortal soul, a future life? Why should the ouija board or the spiritist be worked overtime by the lineal offspring of the lemur? Why should men respect the commandment - "Thou shalt not kill" - or any of the other commandments now held in such contempt in a world in which killing, lynching, rape and graft can have no terror for the progeny of apes? Why meditate on chastity, mercy, justice, benevolence, honesty, truth? Why not take? Why not kill? (McCann 143)

First of all, it takes a person with a very weak moral compass to say that rape and murder are just fine if we weren't specially created. To people who actually believe such things, I tell them to keep on doubting evolution if that's all that keeps them in line. There's also the problem in thinking that understanding the history of life implies anything about morality. It's not as if understanding gravity implies that we should go pushing people off cliffs to test the theory. Besides, even if evolution somehow did away with morality, that still wouldn't be an argument for or against the reality of evolution. It's nothing more than an argument from consequences.


Proceed to Chapter 12

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