Time was, not very long ago, when the belief in creative design was supreme. Even those who were sapping its authority were wont to pay it a formal homage, fearing to shock the public conscience by denying it. Now the revolution is so complete that a great philosopher uses it as a reductio ad absurdum, and prefers to believe that which can neither be demonstrated in detail nor imagined, rather than run the slightest risk of such a heresy.
I quite accept the professor's dictum that if natural selection is rejected we have no resource but to fall back on the mediate or immediate agency of a principle of design. In Oxford, at least, he will not find that argument is conclusive, nor, I believe, among scientific men in this country generally, however imposing the names of some whom he may claim for that belief. I would rather lean to the conviction that the multiplying difficulties of the mechanical theory are weakening the influence it once had acquired. I prefer to shelter myself in this matter behind the judgment of the greatest living master of natural science among us. Lord Kelvin, and to quote as my own concluding words the striking language with which he closed his address from this chair more than twenty years ago. "I have always felt," he said, "that the hypothesis of natural selection does not contain the true theory of evolution, if evolution there has been in biology. . . . I feel profoundly convinced that the argument of design has been greatly too much lost sight of in recent zoölogical speculations. Overpoweringly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie around us, and if ever perplexities, whether metaphysical or scientific, turn us away from them for a time, they come back upon us with irresistible force, showing to us through Nature the influence of a free will, and teaching us that all living things depend on one everlasting Creator and Ruler."