When asked to name our greatest problem, President Eisenhower, about to finish his administration, replied, “The spread of communism in the world.” Since he looked for eight years into the face of this foe of freedom, very few thoughtful people disagree with him.

Yet there is another ideology which is closely related to communism but sits in a reserved seat in our assembly, namely, the theory of evolution. Since the word evolution has different meanings, like many English words, it is necessary to clarify the meaning that is referred to in this essay. It is the doctrine that all the kinds of plants and animals, including man, have developed gradually, through species of increasing complexity, from very simple living matter. It is claimed that this development was caused by the same natural forces which operate today. T. Dobzhansky states that evolution has no program, and this is inherent in the doctrine of natural selection; a free-for-all fight with the elimination of the losers. Evolutionists who believe in God have objected to this denial of teleology, and they may very well do so, but it is a logical tenet of the original theory of Charles Darwin.

Both communism and evolution are founded on some data which cannot be denied but the data are interpreted wrongly. When the facts are scrutinized it may be that evolution will be discredited, but I fear that biology in general may suffer loss of confidence. Since I am a biologist, I should regret such a loss.

Marx and Darwin: Common Ground

The founder of communism was Karl Marx (1818–1883) while the most famous proponent of evolution was Charles Darwin (1809–1882). The two men did not deal with the same subject matter. Marx studied economic enterprise and its results in government while Darwin dealt with animals and plants, especially their changes.

But both leaders claimed that the results they described were due to the working of natural laws—a determinism, broad, slow, but sure. Advanced organization is certain but the rate is not fixed, depending partly upon the cooperation of man. Furthermore the end result is claimed to be an improved condition; of government on the one hand, of living things on the other. What a line to engender optimism and incite people to work with assurance!

Projection of a Motive Force

Thus the motive force in communism is supposed to be the same as in evolution. If we reject the one we should reject the other also. Note the argument of a British biologist: “This is not the place to discuss Marx’s theory of history, but if history is the history of class struggle (and to some extent it undeniably is) there is room for hope that when mankind has united in a world cooperative commonwealth unmarked by social classes a good many of the more unpleasant features of life in a semi-barbarous state will have ceased to exist.” (So far, the typical Communist line; now comes the evolutionary basis:) “And indeed this is not a hope at all but a faith based on that guiding thread of rise in level of organization, which we have seen running throughout the evolution of the world; and hence a scientific faith.” (J. Needham. Philosophy of A. N. Whitehead, P. A. Schilpp, ed., Tudor, 1951, p. 253.)

Article continues below
What We Learn from History

But does history support the claims of Marx? He recognized different types of productive systems and claimed that they naturally follow each other in the same order. A primitive society in which goods are owned by the tribe is followed by slavery, making more production possible through agriculture rather than hunting. The third stage is a military feudal state in which most of the people are serfs. This is followed by the capitalist system, in which all factories and tools are owned by a few men. But the workers rise up, liquidate the so-called oppressors, and establish a classless society—communism.

A little reflection reminds one that in the United States the feudal stage was omitted entirely. In Europe after the fall of Rome there was not a foreordained advancement but retrogression. And Carlyle had an entirely different interpretation of history. “As I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in the world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here” (Heroes and Hero Worship, Lecture 1, Odin). Thus, in the past, history has not followed a determined course and so we find it at present. Communism has not wiped out classes in Russia, but government officials and scientists make up a favored class.

What We Learn from Biology

Just as history fails to support Marx, careful biologists find that biology is lacking in support of Darwin. Most of them still give lip service to the theory of evolution rather than raise a quarrel in the family, but they see the difficulties.

The theory of advancement by inheritance of “acquired characters,” changes due to the environment, no longer is believed (Snyder & David, Principles of Heredity, Heath, 1957, p. 348). It is true that the environment does change an organism but the next generation does not show this change if raised in another environment. Experiments performed to test the theory do not give positive results. While the name of J. B. Lamarck is connected with this theory, Darwin also believed it and relied upon it more as he advanced in years.

Article continues below

Another theory to suffer eclipse is that of recapitulation, which claimed that an embryo resembles the adults of its ancestors (G. B. Moment, General Zoology, Houghton Mifflin, 1958, p. 201). Thus the human embryo was supposed to resemble a fish. But difficulties arose. The experimental embryologists, a very active group, did not find the theory helpful, it did not apply to plants, and as a whole it was founded upon selected evidence instead of the complete data.

Honest biologists, even the ones who call themselves evolutionists, admit difficulties. Among the changes which are observed to occur, there are more detriments than improvements. According to the original theory, new and improved organs arose in animals as the centuries came and went. This is indispensable to the plan, and we could not have evolution without it. But in the wide and careful search which is being made such organs are not seen to arise.

We could rather have a theory of degeneration. And why not? It would agree with what we know about entropy. For instance, heat comes from a fire under a boiler, it runs an engine and heats a shop, and while it cannot be destroyed, it is scattered through the atmosphere and lost to man. Energy in general tends to change into forms which are not useful and entail a loss.

But if we interpret the living world in terms of gradual loss we have not explained how living things were formed. We then have no substitute for creation. We have to admit the necessity for a Creator who planned and formed animals, plants, and man. Materialists would rather not admit creation for there is no place for it in their system.

Materialism on the March

Both communism and evolution are based on theories of necessary advancement and improvement through material laws. But real progress is based upon justice and wisdom. Marx said there is no God, and Darwin, although as a young man he recognized God, said he thought God never made a revelation. We are justified in coupling these two men, “For it is on the teachings … of Darwin that the whole annihilating materialist philosophy of our age is based. Indeed, without Darwin (and to a certain extent Hegel) there could hardly be a Stalin” (E. D. O’Brien, Illustrated London News, Nov. 18, 1950, p. 834).

Before the War between the States, Lincoln said that this nation could not endure half slave and half free. Does not our half-hearted attitude toward evolution endanger a softening attitude toward our enemy, communism?


Professor of Botany


Anderson College

Anderson, Indiana

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.