In 1963—4 and 1964—5, Sir Alister Hardy, Emeritus Professor of Zoology at the University of Oxford and noted researcher in religious experience was invited to deliver the Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen. This first volume concerns itself primarily with the relation between natural history and natural theology. Hardy consciously places himself in the tradition of Darwin and Wallace, “who, perhaps more than anyone else in their century, influenced the outlook of philosophers and shook at least some of the walls of theology.” (p. 9) Beginning with a re-articulating of Darwinian theory, Hardy seeks to sketch some of the updates and new discoveries in evolutionary thought from Darwin’s time to the contemporary moment. The aim here is not to exclude or deny the importance of Natural Theology, but rather to show the close links between biology and Natural Theology, (the time charts included here being of particular use in providing a good introduction to Darwinian thought.) Concluding his opening lecture Hardy makes the vital distinction between this “physical skeleton” of evolutionary history and the truth that there is a non-physical aspect to man, “continually made manifest in the consciousness of man…and this new element…may come to modify the nature and course of the whole stream itself.” (p. 40)
The second lecture provides a more in-depth discussion of Darwin and his predecessors before moving on in lecture three to provide an account of the development of modern evolutionary theory. Lecture four covers the natures of genetics before moving on in lecture five to a discussion of the creative power and nature of natural selection, before admitting that there are other selective forces which must be discussed in more depth – mainly behaviour. In lecture eight, Hardy moves on to establish some of the problems he finds in current evolutionary theory, which while possibly a little anachronistic due to the lectures age, are still compelling explained without being unduly technical. It is in the final lecture of the volume that the links between biology and natural theology become clearer. After arguing for the importance of animal behaviours, ‘leading to new habits and ways of life,’ (p. 262) Hardy moves on to discuss the psychic side of animal nature, where ‘Man’s religious feelings are related.’ (p. 262.) As with many of the Gifford Lecturers from the twentieth century Hardy calls for a return to theology as the science of religions as, in an age of science, this is the only way for theology to endure. In brief, Hardy works to suggest that ‘the power we call God may well have some fundamental link with the process of evolution…the living stream of evolution is as much Divine as physical in nature’ (p. 283.) Written by an eminent biologist but refreshingly free of jargon and illustrated in detail throughout, this serves as an excellent primer on evolutionary theory and opens the field of Natural Theology to a less antagonistic relationship with its Darwinian legacy, moving away from an overly simplistic materialism.