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THE THEORY OF THE ORIGIN OF ORGANIC BEINGS
BY SPONTANEOUS GENERATION.
The first chapter of Genesis tells us that God created the vegetable world and the different kinds of animals, and lastly, created a man and a woman. In the account of the Flood it is further said that all men were destroyed on the earth excepting Noah and his family, and that all mankind is descended from the three sons of Noah. How do scientific doctrines concerning the origin of organic life, and the relations of the different organisms to one another, agree with these Biblical statements ? And what does biology in particular say to the Biblical doctrine of the unity of the human race? I shall have to discuss these points in my next lectures. I begin with the Origin of Organic Beings.
We here come to the question, whether organic beings, viz. plants and animals, can be produced only by reproduction from the germs and eggs of other plants and animals, or whether a so-called generatio æquivoca or spontaneous generation, or, as others say, Heterogeny
* Cf. Frohschammer, Das Christenthum, etc., p. 54 (Der Ursprung des Organischen in der Natur). Th. H. Martin, Les Sciences, etc., p. 91 (L'Hétérogénie et l'origine de la vie sur la terre). Huber, Die Lehre Darwins, p. 7. Reinke, Die Organismen und ihr Ursprung (Nord und Süd, vol. xviii., 1881, pp. 201, 213). T. von Nanstein, Das Protoplasma, Heidelberg 1880. Cf. Huxley's speech at the Meeting of the British Associaticn at Liverpool : see Athenæum, 1870, 17th Sept., p. 374.
or Autogony,' i.e. the origin of plants and animals without germs and eggs from inorganic matter, is also possible. I will begin by surveying the history of the question ; this history is interesting in itself, but it is also important to my object, because it shows that the theologian need not take a side in this question, but that, on the contrary, he may simply leave it to natural science to decide whether spontaneous generation is possible, and really can occur, or has occurred.
In the Biblical account of creation it is only said that the origin of the vegetable and animal world must be referred to the creative activity of God, and that God has taken measures for the reproduction and preservation of the species of plants and animals. We are not told how the first organic beings originated, and still less how thenceforth the separate individuals should come into existence; whether all plants should spring only from seeds or shoots, and all animals should come into existence by means of procreation or from eggs or germs, or whether there should be other ways also. The author of Genesis had no reason for entering into such scientific details.
S. Augustine, in his explanation of the Mosaic account of creation, raises the question whether “ certain small animals” were also created on the fifth and sixth days, or whether they originated later from putrefied matter. “For,” he says, “ many small animals originate from unhealthy vapours, from evaporations from the earth, or from corpses; some also
i On the expression generatio aequivoca, see Huber, Op. cit. p. 11.
? D Gen. ad lit. iii. 14, c. Faust, M., vi. 8. De Trin. iïi. 8, 9. Peter Lombard, Sent. ii. 15.