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CREATION AND EVOLUTION IN THE FAR EAST ILZA VEITH, PH.D.* The tremendous impact ofDarwin's Origin ofSpecies within the sphere ofWestern culture is readily understood in view ofthe need to reconcile the facts and implications ofevolution with the supernatural elements in theJudeo-Christianreligiousheritage. In theFarEast, however, neitherthe revolutionary significance of the evolutionary principle nor the violent opposition it engendered was fully comprehensible. A historical review of. Chinese ideology, which dominated the whole ofthe Far East, reveals certain similarities with early as well as post-Darwinian Western evolutionary concepts. A comparison ofthese totally independent streams ofthought, the Western and the Far Eastern, may shed light upon recent social developments in China. China has at various times been credited with the earliest formulation of almost every great thought in the history ofideas. There is convincing evidence that its ancient philosophers were deeply concerned with evolutionary speculations. Although their final conclusions were far removed from ours, the original propositions are so germane to our subject that they merit closer analysis than has yet been accorded them. In contrast to the Western concept, the Far Eastern philosophers thought of creation in evolutionary terms. Nevertheless, once a theory ofcreation satisfactory to them was established, further speculation was all but terminated, as it was in theJudeo-Christian West. For that matter, these concepts ofcreation, formed early in China's recorded history, remained unchanged and fundamental throughout the Far East until the introduction ofWestern evolu- * Associate Professor ofthe History ofMedicine, University ofChicago. I am indebted to Professors Edward A. Kracke, Jr., and Tsuen-hsuin Tsien, of the Department of Oriental Languages and Literature, University of Chicago, for their generous suggestions. This research was supported by grant M1563 from the National Institute ofMental Health, United States Public Health Service. This paper was prepared for the Darwin Centennial Celebration held at the University ofChicago, November 24-28, 1959. 528 liza Veith · Evolution in the Far East Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Summer i960 tionary theories—and these actuallyproved considerablylessalien to traditional Chinese cosmogonie ideas than they had to those ofthe West. The striking feature of the Chinese concept ofcosmogony is the fact that creation was never associated with the design or activity ofa supernatural being, but rather with the interaction of impersonal forces, the powers ofwhich persist interminably. Tao, the foremost ofthese forces, touched every conceivable facet oflife and thought. Although it is often translated as the "Way," "Tao" is a word ofan infinite variety ofmeanings ; it has even been termed "indefinable and in its essence unknowable." Its concept goes back to remote antiquity, long before Lao-tzu (sixth century b.c.), who was the spiritual father ofTaoism, which later became a separate creed. Lao-tzu neither created the word nor gave it significance. Butinhis Tao-tè Chinghe gave to the thenexisting sporadicconception of the universe a literary form in which Tao was pre-eminent. His Tao, or "Way," is the originator ofheaven and earth; it is the source ofall things. Yet it is but a metaphorical expression for how things first came into being out ofthe primal nothingness and how the phenomena ofnature continue (i). It was held to be the force that had shaped the universe out ofchaos; after creation it was thekey to the mysterious intermingling ofheaven and earth. It also means the "Way," the "Method," ofmaintaining harmony between this worldand thebeyond—that is, by shaping earthly conduct to correspond completely with the demands ofthe other world (2). That the Chinese were earlypreoccupied with thephenomena ofnature is readily understood when one recalls that long before Lao-tzu and Confucius theyderived theirlivelihood fromagriculture (3). The development ofthe concept ofTao was the crystallization ofthis preoccupation. Since the entire universe followed one immutable course which became manifest through the alternation ofnight and day, through the recurrence ofthe seasons, through growth and decay, man in his utter dependence upon the universe could not do better than to follow a way which was conceived to be after that ofnature. The only manner in which he could attain the "Way," the Tao, was by emulating the course of the universe and completely adjusting himselfto it, for, through Tao, man saw the universe endowed with a spirit that was indomitable in its...


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