Evolution of Evolution





This paper quotes extensively from the work of John Reader, 1986, illustrated by John Gurche (referenced below). Reader’s account of Owen’s 1846 and 1851 Law of Progression from the General to the Particular would be difficult to improve. Useful input by Darwin and associates in 1859 and the years following enables modification and improvement of Owen’s original Law of Progression. Meanwhile, Lamarck, predecessor to both Owen and Darwin, could yet be resuscitated as a leading player in the remarkable Evolution of Evolution — as science advances.

By the end of the sixteen-hundreds, a revolution in science was convincing the majority of Europeans of a sun-centered solar system. This revolution was brought about by men of the christian religion and was opposed by men of the christian religion.

Both stances are understandable, although not necessarily supportable, given the nature of the Christians’ Bible.

A rump of Earth-centered proponents has persisted up to the 21st Century: some of these quote the Bible to support the geocentric notion.

A cursory glance at the Bible reveals far more support for a geocentric universe than for a 24-hour day of creation.

In fact, the Bible – although not a technical authority in the conventional sense – technically disowns a young earth. (It also implies a rotating, circular earth, but possibly does not address the question of solar system design?)

Any observant person, of whom Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was one, had long since concluded that fossils could not be a product of Noah’s flood. The Bible agrees.

During the seventeen-hundreds, fossil study – palaeontology – advanced to the status of a scientific discipline. By 1850, the history of life had been outlined. Evolution in its dictionary meaning of a progressive unfolding or unrolling, was recognized and published as fact.

The two men pivotal to this progress were the Frenchman, Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), and the Englishman, Richard Owen (1804-92). It would provoke little or no dissent to name Cuvier and Owen as the two most significant pioneering anatomists upon whose work palaeontology stands.

Both these men were foundational to modern geology. Both these men clearly saw an unrolling or unfolding of life over time. Both were acquainted with theories of evolution, such as the theory now named Darwinism. Both asserted a theory of evolution – and both deliberately disavowed natural selection and survival of the fittest as the engine.

Origins-related european thought of the 18th and 19th Centuries is documented by J. Reader, p.140-142. “Every right-thinking man knew that nature was an orderly and wonderfully harmonious system, operating in accordance with divine laws which, though they might not always be easily understood, were never without purpose. All living things were purposefully adapted to the places where they were destined to live and were endowed from the moment of creation with all the physical adaptations they needed to function there, whatever the prevailing conditions. Perfect adaptation was the term used to explain the bewildering diversity of living things. Each organism was perfectly adapted to its ordained place and status on Earth, and each part of the organism was perfectly adapted to an ordained function in life. The eye, for instance, was so constructed because in that way it best fulfilled the need to see. And so on, with every part of every living thing, everywhere. The first natural historians filled volumes with examples of just how perfect the divine adaptations were, and explorers returned from foreign shores with ever more exotic confirmation of the fact.

For many naturalists active at the beginning of the nineteenth century perfect adaptation was no longer merely a fact to be observed, but also a factor to be sought out and employed as the explanation of observed facts. Cuvier called it the final cause, the condition of existence.

Divinely ordained perfect adaptation sufficed as an explanation of the living world … . After Cuvier established the fact of extinction in 1796, many chose to view it as proof of divine intervention … Cuvier … [suggested] … that the earth had experienced a series of divinely ordained catastrophic upheavals, during which its physical features had been sculpted and its inhabitants annihilated, to be created afresh each time, equipped with all the new adaptations needed for a new world. … The modern world was calm because it represented the completion of the divine plan, the final cause: the emergence of man.

But neither the deluge nor Cuvier’s catastrophes satisfied everyone. Others saw more than just a sequence of creation and extinction in the coming and going of species through the ascending fossil record. Perhaps species did not come and go at all, they suggested, but were transformed one into the other by a process of gradual adaptation that spanned generations. This suggestion had the welcome merit of explaining away the evidence of extinction, which remained for many an uncomfortable contradiction of the divinely ordained perfect adaptation they had been taught to believe. It became known as the theory of the transmutation of species, much adhered to during the nineteenth century … .

But if this was so, countered Cuvier in an 1821 publication, traces of the gradual modifications linking ancestral and modern forms must exist in the fossil record. Where, he challenged, are the intermediate forms … .? This early example of the call for missing links that has so characterized studies of the fossil record was answered in 1851 by Richard Owen … .”

Owen, with the benefit of a more complete fossil collection, did not propose missing links in the common or darwinistic meaning of the term. J. Reader, p. 148-149. “Owen’s theory … published in 1851 … The Law of Progression … . The key point of Owen’s theory was that the nature and physical structure of animals was preordained, not acquired in response to … environment … . Owen first presented his theory of successive development at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1846, illustrating it with what he described as the archetype [= master template] of the vertebrate skeleton. … Owen’s archetype is remarkably similar to the simplest [and oldest] vertebrates subsequently found. … . In a series of drawings he showed how every bone in the skeletons of fish, reptiles, birds, mammals and man could have been adapted from the archetype. The successive development of the cranium, jaw and all four limbs is quite explicit; so too are the origins of eye, ear and nose. … Based on the studies of fossils and comparative anatomy, it charted a perfectly believable course for the vertebrates’ successive development, with the added benefit of discounting extinction – species did not die out, they were … transformed.

Owen set down this answer to the question of how species originated … . Species had an innate tendency to diverge from the ancestral form according to the dictates of a divine plan, he said, and the existence of the divine plan was proven in the very conception of the archetypal vertebrate: ‘… the recognition of an ideal Exemplar for the vertebrated animals proves that the knowledge of such a being as Man must have existed before Man appeared. For the divine mind which planned the archetype also knew all its modifications.

The [fossil record of] the horse? Owen had an explanation: ‘Of all the four-legged servants of man none have proved of more value to him, in peace and war, than the horse: none have co-operated with the advancing races more influentially in Man’s destined mastery of the Earth and its lower denizens. In all the modifications of the old … type to this end, the horse has acquired nobler proportions and higher faculties, more strength, more speed … . As such, I believe the Horse to have been predestined and prepared for Man.’

‘Even the space between the incisors and the molars in the jaw of the modern horse seem to have been specially prepared to accommodate the bit, he added.”

Horse Sequence

Sequence of Horses

Fossil Horse Sequence, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, as reproduced in J. Reader, author, & J. Gurche, illustrator. 1986, The Rise of Life, W. Collins, London.


Twenty-first Century mainstream thought strains to comprehend Owen’s technical meaning. We wonder how he could be so certain of a Law of Progression, an evolution of life somehow programmed into nature itself, but not caused by nature itself? A brilliant anatomist, by all accounts, and an undeviating proponent of the Law of Progression against all protagonists, to the end. Why? And what exactly did he mean?

He was saying, if we read him correctly, that when the divisions of life were brought into being, an inbuilt, natural, principle was incorporated, which would cause them to expand and flower, genetically, over time. This expansion, or upwards progression, would happen without any original contribution of genetic information by any component of nature whatsoever; without species originating as the genetic offspring of other species; and without reproductive isolation of species being compromised. Somehow, species transformation was part of the workings of this hidden process or principle.

He asserted that the life-forms had been evolved, (progressively revealed): he asserted that the divisions they comprised had been pre-programmed to automatically do so, species transformation being somehow implicated in this procedure: this could not have been achieved merely through natural selection and survival of the fittest. On the last point he was adamant.

Was he some sort of a Jules Verne of Palaeontology, seeing the future but unable to explain how he could see it?

Was he guided by a flash of almost other-worldly insight, the sort of intuition that enabled him to reconstruct an entire extinct creature from a single bone?

Was he in fact prompted by the book of Genesis – with its divisions of life made and created on each day; living species pre-existence and hidden modification procedures; the animals being made specifically as an help for Mankind, and so on? He was possibly the first man in history to be given the opportunity of seeing the stunning correlation between many aspects of that Book, and the fossil record. If Genesis was his inspiration, there is little or no overt acknowledgement of it in his Law of Progression. Especially in his day and age an obvious correlation with such a well-known and respected part of the Scriptures would have given the theory immense kudos.

But Darwin, rather than Owen, had trained for church work; and neither of these men had DNA and genetic engineering to assist them – only bones, and inspired intuition, if you were fortunate.

They say that Stephenson saw the parts for his steam locomotives in his mind, then built the Rocket, and other machines, from what he saw. There was no blueprint and no school of locomotive engineering. Darwin’s case was slightly different – he could have consulted the Bible, which in his case might or might not have been as much use to him as it might or might not have been to Stephenson. Stephenson initially couldn’t read – but there were few, if any, writings of value on his topic: Darwin is supposed to have learned theology; he was a proficient reader and writer; yet it seems he never got as far as the Scriptural and scientific law which makes species, special, reproductive islands unto themselves. He did consult Owen and in fact relied on him for fossil identifications.

It is thought-provoking to speculate: what if Darwin had intelligently applied Genesis 1&2, in concert with Owen’s Law of Progression, to the origin of species … ? But the best theologians of the day were themselves confused on the technical meaning of this part of the Scriptures – and if the Law of Progression had no engine for species transformation other than predestination – how could a man looking for answers in biology profitably employ predestination? In those times it seems men applied the things they saw in their minds and hoped for the best.

Darwin’s theories were not entirely new when first published in 1859, and he was not the only contributor to them. Owen was not impressed by The Origin of the Species. Neither, it appears, was the general public. Owen was knighted. Benjamin Disraeli, English statesman: “Man is a being born to believe. And if no Church comes forward with its title-deeds of truth, sustained by the tradition of sacred ages and by the conviction of countless generations, to guide him, he will find altars and idols in his own heart and his own imagination … The discoveries of science, we are told, are not consistent with the teachings of the Church…. What is the question now placed before society with a glib assurance the most astounding? The question is this – Is man an ape or an angel? …. I am on the side of the angels.” (A. Maurois, p. 249-50.)

Statesmen are called upon to generalize and simplify, whilst warming the heart.

Cuvier and Owen, celebrated anatomists, both insisted on an unfolding over time(evolution) consistent with religious faith. Darwin, the retiring, almost shy, inventor/writer, suggested a mechanism – natural selection and survival of the fittest. Perhaps he was trying to find the mechanism for Owen’s species transformations? Owen evaluated this proposed mechanism and discarded it on the basis of impossibility …but could it have a small place in the divine purpose, overlooked by Owen? … . Could the onset of challenging environmental conditions, although not a mechanism of species transformation, have a pre-ordained preparatory effect upon an organism, clearing the way for the real transforming mechanism to work? We now know that if various cells within a living organism can be induced to receive particular information, theoretically, the organism would transform. (This refers to the subatomic – an area covered by quantum physics. DNA is already being investigated as an information programmable molecule, a possible adjunct to a quantum-category information storage and transmission device (“computer”) built into nature. This confirms Genesis in detail. Genesis even nails down the “computer”. In a quantum-category information system such as this, there must be a way of getting specific living cells to accept specific information at specific times. Quantum-category computational devices are very susceptible to incoherence. This is why we do not yet have man-made quantum computers. Some natural event must have cleared the way for clear receival at the exact times of information transfer. Thus, environmental pressure still has a chance, but not in the sense Darwin intended. Is there any feedback from external environmental conditions to the electro-magnetic conditions affecting atoms within cell nuclei?)

In the 19th Century, the atom was less understood than the fossil record. The best computers were simple, modified, abacus- type mathematical aids. No mortal man could be expected to see a link between species actuation and information technology. Who would suspect information codes inside every living cell, and a pre-programmed machine in nature that could signal into the cell?

Darwin may have stumbled somewhere near the truth. He mentioned the perplexing conundrum of husbands and wives – people physically and emotionally very close to each other – sometimes gaining physical similarity over protracted time. He thereby drew attention to a phenomenon of nature, almost “miraculous”, that implies some sort of hidden signalling modifying living cells. Every experienced outdoorsman knows that nature has within itself mysterious signalling capabilities implicating living organisms, which produce tangible results every day. Objective research of the 20th-21st Centuries confirms it. Some of these signals are presumably quantum-category. So this 19th Century seeker of the mechanism of species transformation may have wandered close. Like many inventors, he laboured under the handicap of being 100 years before his time.

The father of the concept of pre-programmed species transformation, a chronicler of the dinosauria and other vertebrate groups, Sir Richard Owen, stayed with the Law of Progression. Pre-ordination might not be a tangible mechanism, but it does not overthrow the laws of Nature. He was awaiting I.T. and information responsive transformers.

This time-worn illustration shows one of Owen’s archetypes (ideal types) in the upper right. This is the archetype for the vertebrates. He believed that ideal types existed only in the mind of God, serving as a blueprint (in modern parlance, an information responsive transformer) for all the other variations.

From: Richard Owen (1804–1892). On the Nature of Limbs…. London: John van Voorst, 1849.

Owen saw no mechanism in Darwin and Darwin could scarcely apply, as a mechanism, pre-destination.

Science has difficulty progressing if it does not have some sort of a tangible theory, whether right or not quite right, that it can prod, probe, dissect, improve, or, if necessary, desert. A practical, definable theory gives definition to a sphere of research.

Owen’s was correct, but awaited future technologic advances for clarification. Darwin’s was an affront to reason, but it did have an actual suggested mechanism.

Whither scientific progress in the sphere of the unravelling of the history of life?

Enter Thomas H. Huxley (1825-95), one-time zoologist aboard HMS Rattlesnake, anatomist, speaker, government appointee, self-appointed guru, wildcard. Disraeli may have had him in mind – “The discoveries of science, we are told, are not consistent with the teachings of the Church”. He trumpeted in no unclear tones the contradictions of Church and science – perhaps not without some justification. He fell out with Owen, and Owen’s scientific record sustained self-inflicted damage over a petty detail, reinforcing the Huxlyite position: a father of evolution at odds with one of its interpreters, who himself claimed to be beyond religion, but couldn’t leave religion alone. He classed himself “agnostic”, yet recommended that schools use the Bible … .which, with the exception of the parts which deal with the brotherhood of Man, or which say that species reproduce only after their kind, he often quoted. When asked by Bishop S. Wilberforce, during a public debate, whether the apes were on his grandfather’s or his grandmother’s side of the family, he responded to the effect that the bishop was acting worse than an ape by introducing ridicule into grave scientific discussion – Huxley’s idea of grave scientific discussion going as far as a discussion in which Nature is attributed with supernatural creative powers. He unknowingly stated his religious position in a letter to C. Darwin, shortly before publication of The Origin of the Species: “You have loaded yourself with an unnecessary difficulty in adopting the stance that nature does not make leaps”. Darwin at least had understood the necessity for unlimited time, if his species-transmuting mechanism of natural selection was to have a basis in possibility. Huxley blithely brushed such rationalist niceties aside, assuming that Nature would “make leaps” of its own volition. This from a man who is supposed to have championed the principle that all theories must be based on actual observation! He joked about the cockroaches aboard the Rattlesnake and threatened “claw and beak” against the “curs which will bark and yelp” about Darwin. He seems to have alternated between a scholarly humorist and a lockjaw verbal bulldog … he actually called William Booth of the Salvation Army a sort of anti-christ, publicly.

An eminent engineer and physicist such as W. Thomson (1824-1907; Lord Kelvin) did not hesitate in publicly and summarily dismissing his claims in most disciplines other than anatomy and english rhetoric. His theory of origins was classed as fabulous and unfounded, by some of the most thorough and inspired scientists of all time.

Darwin’s idea at least received good coverage by a pot-boiling propagandist. The contradictions and gross miscarriages in logic of what may be termed, modern, full-blown Evolutionism, are as many as the mystifying contradictions of its undisputed Champion of yesteryear. But someone had to keep Owen’s spark burning, and although the fuel thrown on produced choking fumes, the spark burns! Incontrovertibly, species were evolved, as Owen saw; and although some sort of sophisticated, quantum-physical(?) intelligence system was implicated in the process – well done, Owen! – science cannot just now completely eliminate environmental pressures as (pre-ordained) catalysts, influencing DNA and immune systems, etc., so as to make the organism receptive to the information signalling. Is there going to be a place in the corner for Darwin? And Huxley’s leaps of nature – could there have been lucidity there? All truth of potential benefit to mankind has value – even technical truth. If that technical truth is taking up valuable space in the holy Bible, it is bound to be important.

“Owenism”, if we wish, pre-dates Darwinism. As is widely known, “Lamarckism” also pre-dates Darwinism. Best known for his idea of inheritance of acquired characteristics, Lamarck proposed species transformation guided by an existing species’ response to environment. The ‘predecessor’ of the giraffe felt a need to reach higher! Somehow, the feeling got through! But Lamarck’s proposed mechanisms were no better than Darwin’s. Epigenetics may introduce a mechanism?

Combine Lamarck’s idea with Owen’s information driven transformer ‘archetypes’. ….. information processing ……. at the moment of transformation, stored information relating to needed response to environment is processed to become permanently written into DNA ….. along with other necessary changes to ‘re-wire’ the living cells.

The sequential revelation (evolution) of pre-existing life over time, divinely pre-ordained, entirely an act of God, entirely reliant upon earthly vessels, has complete correlation with Scripture, with mainstream christian thought, with human experience, and, in the mundane, technical, sense, with the fossil record.

REFERENCES: …Reader, J.,1986. The Rise of Life. W. Collins & Sons, London, U.K..

Maurois, A., 1936. Disraeli. Time-Life Books, Chicago, Ill., U.S.A..

The Authorized Version with margin alternatives is the source of biblical information.

FURTHER READING: Papers such as Buchanan, M., 2000: Life Force. “Every living thing from the greatest whale to the lowest bacterium depends on …. quantum computers ….?” New Scientist, No.2234, p.20-24.

Books such as Graves, R.H.G.(undated): “It appears to this writer that some forms of life have developed senses quite beyond our human experience … .” The 10 Bushcraft Books, Dymock’s Book Arcade, Sydney, Australia. and

Tiner, J.H.(undated): “… Science still contains unanswered questions and undisclosed errors which have not yet been weeded out.” When Science Fails, Accelerated Christian Education, Lewisville, Texas, U.S.A..

Internet publications such as “Lord Kelvin Quotations” (http://zapatopi.net/kelvin/quotes.html): “I need scarcely say that the beginnings and maintenance of life on earth is absolutely and infinitely beyond the range of all sound speculation in dynamical science. The only contribution of dynamics to theoretical biology is absolute negation of automatic commencement or automatic maintenance of life.”

The Huxley-Owen “row”- over human and ape brains! – is covered by Reader, J.,1986.(above) p. 162.

Huxley’s attack on W. Booth is outlined by Collier, R., 1965. The General Next to God. Collins, London, p. 193

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (2011, July 25). Epigenetic ‘memory’ key to nature versus nurture. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 6, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110724135553.htm. Quote, “Researchers at the John Innes Centre have made a discovery, reported this evening (24 July) in Nature, that explains how an organism can create a biological memory of some variable condition, such as quality of nutrition or temperature. The discovery explains the mechanism of this memory — a sort of biological switch — and how it can also be inherited by offspring.”