In 2007, I received a letter from Martin Gardner last year complimenting me on the publication of The Compleat Annotated Father Brown in 2002. In the same letter he wondered if I would be interested in publishing a volume of his essays entitle The Fantastic Fiction of Gilbert Chesterton. I called him immediately in Norman, Oklahoma to discuss his project, and I agreed without hesitation to do the project. I suggested that if Martin had any other projects to hand I would be pleased to have a look at them as well. Martin is not computer literate but his son is. The manuscript arrived and below you will find the folded out dustjacket of the publication, along with a table of contents.
About the author: Martin Gardner is a science writer best known for the 25 years that he wrote Scientific American‘s column on recreational mathematics. In literary circles he is most admired for his Annotated Alice, an in depth study of Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books. His other books range over mathematics, science, pseudoscience, philosophy, religion, and literature. He has also written two novels and edited several anthologies of popular poetry. Mr. Gardner describes himself as a “philosophical theist” in the tradition of Plato, Kant, William James, Charles Peirce, and Miguel de Unamuno. Gilbert Chesterton, H.G. Wells, and Lord Dunsany are three of his literary heroes.
Table of Contents
Foreword by John Peterson
Chapter 1: The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Chapter 2: The Club of Queer Trades
Chapter 3: The Man Who Was Thursday
Chapter 4: The Ball and the Cross
Chapter 5: The Innocence of Father Brown
Chapter 6: Did Sherlock Holmes Meet Father Brown?
Chapter 7: Chesterton’s Manalive
Chapter 8: Chesterton’s Flying Inn
Chapter 9: The Poet and the Lunatics
Chapter 10: The Man Who Knew Too Much
Chapter 11: The Trees of Pride and Other Tales
Chapter 12: Tales of the Long Bow
Chapter 13: The Return of Don Quixote
Chapter 14: Four Faultless Felons
Chapter 15: The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond
Afterword by Pasquale Accardo
Appendix A: Illustrations by W. Graham Robertson for The Napoleon of Notting Hill 179
Appendix B: Illustrations by G.K.C. for The Club of Queer Trades 187
Appendix C: “The Man Who Was Thursday” from Famous Fantastic Mysteries (March 1944) 219
Appendix D: Illustrations by Sydney Seymour Lucas for The Innocence of Father Brown 227
Mr. Belloc Objects by H.G. Wells
I. Mr. Belloc’s Arts of Controversy
II. The Theory of Natural Selection Stated
III. Mr. Belloc as a Specimen Critic of Natural Selection
IV. Mr. Belloc’s Adventures among the Sub-Men
Manifest Terror of the Neanderthaler
V. Fixity or Progress
Mr. Belloc Still Objects by Hilaire Belloc
I. Mr. Wells’s General Grievances
II. Mr. Wells as Biologist
III. Mr. Wells’s Ignorance of the Catholic Church
IV. My Errors
V. Mr. Wells Shirks
VI. The Great Rosy Dawn
An Introduction by Martin Gardner
H.G. Wells’s rare little book, Mr. Belloc Objects, is almost totally forgotten today except for Wells collectors. In 1926, when this book was first printed, Wells had hit the jackpot with his Outline of History. It had become a worldwide best seller, and had earned for Wells a considerable fortune.
Histories of the world had been written earlier, but Wells’s Outline differed from them in two ways: Its range was wider, and it opened with a history of prehistoric humanity that assumed the soundness of Darwinian evolution. Hilaire Belloc, a well known British writer and an ultra-conservative Catholic, wrote a series of articles attacking Wells’s Outline, especially his defense of Darwin. Belloc’s articles were widely published in Catholic periodicals, and later issued as a book titled A Companion to Mr. Wells’s Outline of History.
Wells was furious. Not just because evolution was dismissed as bad science, but because Belloc was savage in his personal attacks on Wells. It was the first and last time that Wells was goaded into replying in kind to ad hominem criticism. His little book not only is very funny, it is one of the strongest pieces of rhetoric ever written in defense of evolution against a form of creationism known today as Intelligent Design (ID).
The creationism Belloc defends was not, of course, the crude fundamentalism of Protestant young earthers convinced that God created the entire universe in six literal 24-hour days. Belloc was not a young earther. He accepted evolution in a sense, but insisted that each species was a new creation. In just what way it was a new creation Belloc does not say. Like today’s Iders, Belloc leaves this hopelessly vague. Did God create out of whole cloth the first pigs? Or did he merely guide mutations in such a way that pigs were suddenly born to non-pig parents?
Today’s IDers are equally mute on this point. As attorney Phillip Johnson says over and over again in his books defending ID, it is not necessary for opponents of Darwin to explain exactly how God guided evolution. It is only necessary to make clear the inadequacy of explaining the origin of species by random mutations followed by survival of the fittest. The question becomes especially bothersome with respect to the origin of humans. As Wells so beautifully argues in his last chapter, proponents of ID are haunted by the fossils of Neanderthals. Were they true humans, with immortal souls, or were they merely higher apes?
Exactly how did this monumental transition occur? Surely Belloc did not believe God created Adam out of the dust of the earth, then fabricated Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. But if the Genesis account is mythological, exactly how was the transition made? Were the first humans reared and suckled by a mother who was a beast? Belloc is as silent on this question as are today’s IDers.
At the time Belloc lambasted Wells, the Catholic Church by and large rejected all forms of evolution. Consider the tragic story of St. George Jackson Mivart (1827–1904). He was a much admired British zoologist, author of many books including a massive volume titled The Cat, and a student of the great Thomas Huxley. He was also a devout Catholic, but a Catholic with extreme liberal views. Over and over again, in scholarly journals, and in his book On the Genesis of Species, Mivart defended the evolution of all forms of life, including humans, but by a process governed by God and with the proviso that immortal souls were infused into the first men and women. Repeatedly he warned his Church that by opposing evolution it was making a foolish mistake similar to the mistake it made in persecuting Galileo for claiming the earth went around the sun. In brief, Mivart he1d views on evolution identical with the views of almost all of today’s Catholic philosophers and theologians. Poor Mivart! He was too far ahead of his time. The Church branded him a heretic, excommunicated him, and denied him a Christian burial.
Today almost all liberal Christians, Protestant or Catholic, regard evolution as God’s method of creation, no more requiring miracles along the way than the origin of the solar system required frequent pushes by the Creator , as Newton believed, to keep the planets in orbit.
Almost all of today’s IDers are conservative Christians. Phillip Johnson is an evangelical Presbyterian. David Berlinski is a conservative Baptist. Michael Behe, the most persuasive of the lot, is a Catholic. Berlinski recently teamed up with Ann Coulter to help her write the part of her book Godless in which she bashes Darwin.
How did Belloc react to Wells’s attack? He promptly wrote a book titled Mr. Belloc Still Objects. It is included in the book you hold.
How do things now stand with the Roman Church? I am pleased to report that Pope John Paul II declared evolution to be more than a theory and worthy to be taught in all Catholic schools. The Church is moving slowly and cautiously in a liberal direction — that is, in the direction promoted by such Catholic thinkers as Hans Kung, in Germany, and in the U.S. by Gary Wills, Father Andrew Greeley, and many others. Hopefully it will continue to glide in that direction. If it goes the other way, it will be a sad day for both the Church and the world. — Martin Gardner
An Epilogue by Martin Gardner
Belloc learned nothing from Wells’s attack. His rebuttal continues the same insults, the same below the belt punches. As in his original articles on Wells’s Outline of History, it is not so much what Belloc says that reveals his ignorance of biology and geology, it is what he doesn’t say.
What he doesn’t say is how he thinks the “fixed types” came into being. Did God somehow manipulate the genetic information in sperm and eggs so that mothers gave birth to widely different life forms, or did the Almighty create the first fixed types from nothing, or from, as in Adam’s case, the Earth’s dust? IDers today are similarly tongue tied on this fundamental question.
Belloc seems unable to comprehend that types seem fixed because they are end points on branches of the evolutionary tree. Intermediate forms are all in the past. Fossilization is a rare event. We get only glimpses of extinct missing links. Belloc seems to think that because a horse can’t mate with a cow, the way lions can mate with tigers, horses were always horses and cows were always cows.
I have assumed that Belloc was not a Catholic fundamentalist who took the two Genesis accounts of creation to be literal history, with the word “day” of course meaning a period of many millions, or even billions, of years . Now I’m not so sure. I was startled by a sentence on page 88 where Belloc says the Fall of Man took place 5930 years ago “in the neighborhood of Baghdad.” How Belloc arrived at that date and place beats me. Wells must have guffawed when he read this! Belloc certainly believed the Fall was some sort of event, such as Adam and Eve chewing a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is hard to believe Belloc could think this, including the roll of a talking snake, but perhaps he did. If not, just what was the Fall?
Belloc generously grants that Wells was right on a few trivial points, and he promises to make corrections on his articles when they soon go into a book. Some of Belloc’s criticisms of Wells are right on target. That Wells was an atheist is undeniable, though this was not always the case. In his younger years he believed in a limited or finite God, a God growing in time as portrayed in the philosophies of such “process theologians” as Samuel Alexander and Charles Hartshorne. Wells defended such a deity in his war novel Mr. Britling Sees it Through, and in a nonfiction work titled God the Invisible King. Later he decided he was really an atheist.
Belloc is also right in accusing Wells of having a low opinion of the Roman Church. He once likened the Church to a huge dinosaur roaming the Earth and refusing to become extinct. Shortly before he died he wrote Crux Ansata, a savage indictment of Roman Catholicism. Belloc even catches Wells in a whopping error, one often made by non-Catholics. He confused the Virgin Birth of Jesus with Mary’s Immaculate Conception!
What about Belloc’s many quotations from scientists expressing doubts about Darwinism? My guess is that most of the men quoted were finding fault with Darwin’s views about the process of evolution, not the fact. Darwin, it must be recalled, knew nothing about mutations. He was a follower of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French biologist who believed that an animal’s striving to improve its survival chances caused favorable genetic changes. For example, a giraffe’s efforts to eat leaves high on trees would somehow be transmitted to sperm and eggs with the result that its descendant’s necks would become a trifle longer. Similarly, disuse of an organ would cause it to weaken and perhaps disappear. In Belloc’s day Lamarckism was being abandoned for lack of evidence. Today the inheritance of acquired traits has been totally discredited.
“Darwinism” of course is a fuzzy term. In a narrow sense, Darwin’s Lamarckism has been so thoroughly discarded that one can say Darwinism indeed expired. But in a broader sense, Darwinism is alive and well. It is a fact, accepted today by all biologists and geologists, with very few exception, that life began on Earth with one-celled forms, then slowly altered by random mutations which were either beneficial or harmful, or neither. Favorable mutations tended to survive. Harmful mutations tended to die off. I suspect that most, perhaps not all, the scientists quoted by Belloc actually were firm believers in evolution but had differences with Darwin over the exact way evolution took place.
Consider the remark by William Bateson, a famous British geneticist, Bateson doesn’t deny evolution. He merely expresses his belief that factors other than natural selection played a dominant rôle in the process. In Bateson’s time there was considerable controversy over the mechanisms of evolution, controversy that persists today. But Bateson never doubted that all life could be graphed by a single tree.
Hans Driesch, a German biologist, was another firm believer in evolution who differed from Darwin only on technical matters. Eberhard Dennert, Belloc’s next expert, was an obvious crank. His 1904 book The Deathbed of Darwinism is described by Stephen Jay Gould in his book The Panda’s Thumb as ranking “right up there with bumblebees can’t fly” and “rockets won’t work in a vacuum.” Dennert predicted evolution’s total demise by 1910!
Belloc annoyingly never gives first names to his experts, so I was unable to learn anything about a man with the last name of Dwight. He sounds like a simple-minded creationist. There are lots of scientists with the last name of Morgan. I don’t know which one Belloc is quoting, but his disagreement with Darwin is clearly over the process, not the fact, of evolution. We are told nothing about a 1909 book by, I assume, F. le Danree, a French biologist , except that it is a “crushing blow” against evolution.
Sitting in my apartment, at an assisted living facility (I’m 94), with only a computer on hand as a research tool, I was unable to learn anything about Edward Dawson Cope, an American paleontologist who is probably the Cope Belloc had in mind. Nor could I find much about Yves Delarge, a French zoologist, or Karl Wilhelm Nägeli, a Swiss botanist. I drew a total blank on any scientist named Korchinsky. Perhaps someone more familiar than I with the early history of evolution can tell us just what the men quoted by Belloc actually believed.
Even today scientists wrangle over the mechanisms of evolution. Gould, for instance, promoted a controversial view called “punctuated equilibrium.” It emphasizes the fact that some species, trilobites for example, remained unaltered for millions of years while others changed radically over a period of a few thousand years. Gould was of course a thoroughgoing Darwinian, yet his opinions have been strongly opposed today by Richard Dawkins and others.
As far as I know, Wells made no effort to reply to Belloc’s Still Objects book. Regardless of his objections, Belloc must still have been haunted by the Neanderthals. Were they ape-like humans or human-like apea? Was there a turning point in history, according to Belloc some six thousand years ago, when the first humans suddenly appeared on old Earth like a magician’s beautiful assistant stepping out of a previously empty container? Maybe some expert on Belloc’s opinions can tell us what Belloc failed to reveal in his forgotten and funny little volume.
About the book
A critical assessment of Mary Baker Eddy and the international movement she spawned is long overdue. Of the hundreds of books written about Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science, almost all have been by believers. With the notable exception of Mark Twain’s Christian Science, the small number penned by skeptics have long since gone out of print.
Martin Gardner, noted for his work in science, mathematics, philosophy, and literature, had intended to write a short essay about Mrs. Eddy, but became so fascinated by her life and personality that his work grew to book length. Written with humor, insight, and a wealth of fantastic detail, this book will delight skeptics and infuriate true believers.
Learn about the granite replica of the Great Pyramid of Egypt that was erected on the site of Mrs. Eddy’s birthplace, only to be mysteriously dynamited years later. Read about Mrs. Woodbury, who was on her way to becoming Mrs. Eddy’s rival until Woodbury announced her “immaculate conception” of a child, which she named the Prince of Peace. Discover how Mrs. Stetson, once Mrs. Eddy’s beloved pupil, was excommunicated when her Christian Science church in Manhattan began to outshine the Mother Church in Boston.
While Mrs. Eddy foretold the coming of a millennium in which all persons would be Christian Scientists and healthy, Gardner shows her to be a power-hungry individual whose life included spiritualism, a morphine addiction, frequent hysterical rages, and accusations of the use of “malicious animal magnetism” against herself and her followers, as well as litigation against her critics and persecution of those she regarded as disloyal.
Martin Gardner exposes the plagiarism that occurs in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, including the early editions of Science and Health, which were so filled with errors of grammar, punctuation, and spelling, as well as attacks on fancied enemies, that the church has done everything in its power to prevent reprintings. Later editions were edited and polished by skillful writers, notably James Henry Wiggin, who thought the book was “balderdash.”
Recent scandal, financial woes, the resignation of top officials and editors of church publications, and the tragic deaths of Christian Science children denied medical aid by their parents have all contributed to the rapid decline of church membership.
Mr. Gardner’s final chapter places Christian Science within the context of New Thought, a movement that anticipated all the elements of today’s New Age. He focuses on the life of New Thought poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, now forgotten but once our nation’s most loved versifier. She was, in Gardner’s opinion, the Shirley MacLaine of her time.
“Laugh and the world laughs with you,” Ella began one of her famous poems, “weep and you weep alone.” While reading Martin Gardner’s eye-opening book, it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
Other Books also by Martin Gardner
The Annotated Alice
The Annotated Snark
The Annotated Man Who Was Thursday
The Annotated Ancient Mariner
The Annotated Night Before Christmas
The Flight of Peter Fromm (novel)
The No-Sided Professor (short stories)
The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener
The New Ambidextrous Universe
The Night is Large
Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?
Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries?
Great Essays in Science (ed)
The Jinn from Hyperspace
The Adventures of Humphrey Huckleberry (short stories, Martin has to visit his storage locker to retrieve a set of originals)
Note: Math and puzzle books, books for small children, books about conjuring, books about pseudoscience, or anthologies of verse are all purposely omitted from this list which was composed by the author. A complete bibliography of Martin Gardner is being compiled by David Morille and he describes this a work in progress, and he sent me a working galley which is 100’s of pages in length.
The Annotated Casey at the Bat (A work in progress — awaiting a new cover)
Visitors from Oz (novel — awaiting a new cover)
Blurbs about Martin Gardner
I read Martin Gardner’s manuscript and really enjoyed doing so. It’s quintessential Gardner, which means it is gracefully written, well-argued, extremely informative, quite convincing, already a classic. He certainly writes in an agreeable fashion. I knew from the first page I was reading an MG book. It is, of course, a collection of columns, chapters, essays, forewords, etc. — John Robert Colombo
Chesterton’s criticism almost always leads the reader to (re)read the subject of the criticism. Gardner’s essays on Chesterton’s fiction do exactly the same. They point out the many virtues of GKC’s fiction and invite a new generation to experience the wonder. — Pasquale Accardo
When the historian of philosophy Étienne Gilson was asked how Chesterton, who had never had any formal training in philosophy, could have written his brilliant study of the medieval philosopher-theologian, Thomas Aquinas, Gilson’s simple answer was that “Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed.” And when Isaac Asimov was asked whom he thought was the most intelligent person on earth, he answered without hesitation, “Martin Gardner.” — John Peterson
“For more than half a century, Martin Gardner has been the single brightest beacon defending rationality and good science against the mysticism and anti-intellectualism that surround us.” — Stephen Jay Gould
“Martin Gardner is a national treasure, and Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? should be compulsory reading in every high school and in Congress. It will no doubt hold back the current tidal wave of lunacy about UFOs, Scientology, Creationism, and the like. —Arthur C. Clarke
Martin Gardner’s contribution to contemporary intellectual culture is unique—in its range, its insight, and its understanding of hard questions that matter. — Noam Chomsky