Islip Collyer on Evolution

“There are doubtless many believers in Evolution who would deny these propositions [the absence of a plan/design] and affirm their conviction, both in Creation and overruling Providence. They are not Darwinians, and perhaps we have no quarrel with them.” 


Your would think Logos publications (a conservative Christadelphian magazine) were mocking Islip with this cover. Something a little more respectful would have been better!

So wrote Islip Collyer on page 94 of his book “The Vegetable in the Witness Box” in 1922.  Bro Collyer diligently read Darwin’s works and then prepared over time this book.  Bro Islip argues against what he calls the Darwinist – principally meaning those who remove God from the picture and deny God as creator.

Bro Islip’s arguments against evolution might not have stood the test of time.  He was writing nearly 100 years ago and some of the evidence we now have was unimaginable then.  However some of his words stand out as incredibly sensible and balanced.  Take this as his opening on page 7-8:
“In connection with almost all matters there are harmful extremes, and the truth lies somewhere between them. It is so with Evolution and Creation. There is the extreme of those who say there is no such thing as Evolution, and there is the extreme of those who, in effect, say that there is nothing else. It would be well if the distinction between the moderate central position and the two extremes could be borne in mind. Not only is a belief in a kind of Evolution quite consistent with a recognition of Creation, but it is a logical sequence of such recognition. It would be impossible to conceive of a world of life, ordered by an intelligent Creator, which should exclude the possibility of variation or development. Imagine all men like perfect twins, quite indistinguishable from each other. Intelligence would decree that with all forms of life there should be infinite variety, within the bounds of its created capacity. The growth of the adult from the infant, the development of a chicken from an egg, and the improvement of a species by artificial selection, are all instances of Evolution; but in all these cases the full potentialities are innate from the beginning. It is an Evolution within the created capacity. It is thus quite possible to evolve a strong horse from a weak one; but quite another matter to evolve a horse of any kind from nothing at all.”
In the above and following, bro Collyer demonstrated an acceptance of much more than many Christadelphians today.  Unlike many, he clearly didn’t reject the arising of new species for example.
Would bro Collyer be an Evolutionary Creationist?  Would he accept theistic evolution in any way?  We doubt it.  However he was clearly better read than many who oppose evolution.  For example he dismisses many of the misrepresentations made by creationists of Darwin and evolution in general and recognised that science even in his day had already gone past Darwin’s proposals in many ways.
While he argues against an evolution without God, and doubtless was orthodox/traditional on his understanding of Genesis 1, bro Collyer presents a model of moderation in language, diligence in understanding and distinction in argument which would be welcome today.

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