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Evolution and the Bible by Elum Mizell Russell, M.D. - HTML preview

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Evolution and the Bible

with a scientific basis for the hope of immortality

 

by: Elum Mizell Russell, M.D.

 

Foreword

 

This manuscript was written by my grandfather about 1930. The first 107 pages are typewritten on yellowed paper in “Elite” typescript, which is unavailable in this word processor (Word 2003). The remaining pages are handwritten in pencil on lined tablet paper. I’m not sure who had custody of this package in the years after my grandfather’s death in 1947, before I was born, but ultimately it passed to my mother and then to me. One thing is sure: It has remained dormant for almost seventy-five years. In my youth I had determined to “re-type” it and made several attempts, but the fact is that it is a daunting enough task that it lay in a desk drawer until my retirement. I doubt the distribution of this will be far and wide, perhaps as an Acrobat document it can have a small life on the Net, with copies to relatives as I find them.

In this reconstruction I have attempted to remain faithful to Dr. Russell’s original script. The language he used is much more complex than our generation is accustomed to. From my standpoint, his use of punctuation and complex sentences is highly suspect, but the fact is I do not know how people talked, nor much how they wrote during his time. It’s not my task to edit the document into a modern format, for it would then become part my document as well as his. I wanted his voice to remain as he presented it.

I have corrected obvious typographical errors, even consistent ones, but left syntax alone. The second half of the manuscript, which is hand-written, is much rougher than the first. Very likely dashes would have turned into periods as he typed up his notes. I have no way to tell, therefore I have left his sentence structure (or lack thereof) intact. It is also often difficult to tell whether a given word is actually capitalized. Grandfather often used a large “lower case” letter as a capital. I have used my best judgment in these cases. The only major area where this treatment differs is in line breaks and dashes where words are broken in the original between lines. This is done on a word processor, of course, which tends to make its own decisions along those lines.

In this respect I find myself in agreement with Nicholson Baker, a novelist and self-appointed library critic who bemoans automation in libraries, particularly the automation of the card catalog. His issue with libraries is that the old hand-written cards are a part of history, complete with annotations, many in pencil, which are lost once a collection is converted. I have always rolled my eyes at this viewpoint for I am not convinced saving an errant pencil mark on a catalog card is worth saving for its historical interest; and the populace has certainly not indicated agreement to finance such an undertaking. However, looking at this manuscript gives me a similar feeling. My grandfather’s penciled changes in the first portion show his mind at work. The handwritten portion, in the beautiful and legible script people learned in those days, really is his communication through the ages. You can’t see that in this rendition, of course, and so that is lost, though it remains a single-copy heirloom for as long as time and future generations agree to save it.

I may very well have introduced my own errors into this transcription. I hope they are minimal. (Note: I have noticed that the translation to Adobe’s PDF format will sometimes introduce typographical errors: For example, “is” became “os” a couple of times in the first draft. When I went back to correct the error I found it as it ought to have been.) If potential changes I introduced to this manuscript are an issue with you, by all means contact me and I will furnish copies of the original manuscript. My contact information is below.

 

Elum Mizell Russell was born in 1872. Originally from England, the Russells were in America by the 1700s and emigrated from Virginia to Tennessee prior to the Civil War. He graduated from the Chattanooga Medical College in January, 1896. I have framed this moth-eaten certificate, which barely survived. As I understand it, medical education in those days was very different from today. A medical college was essentially a junior college one attended immediately after high school. He practiced in various locations in the Midwest. He was in Oklahoma when my aunt was born in 1908 (then Indian Territory) and by July of 1914, the year of my mother’s birth, he obtained a license to practice in the State of Colorado. I have this certificate as well. I believe he moved to Colorado because of health reasons. He had chronic and severe asthma, and my grandmother had tuberculosis. (She died aged 42 when my mother was two years old.) He worked in various mining towns until he settled in Gunnison, where my mother grew up. He was in private practice in the mountains for many years, complete with horse and buggy. At one point he was the physician for the Western State Teacher’s College. He was an active member of the Masonic Lodge and served as the Grand High Priest for the State of Colorado in 1941.

So think of the context here. Elum Mizell Russell was born in 1872, shortly after the end of the Civil War. He had uncles who fought on both sides. The Age of Sail was giving way to the Age of Steam. In his house as a youngster he was allowed only the Bible to read. A playing card used as a bookmark went unrecognized. If it had been, it would have been considered evil. A family story, I have the card. 1872 was also the year Darwin’s “Descent of Man” was first published. If his first book, the 1859 “Origin of Species” caused controversy, it was nothing compared to the second volume, which put Homo sapiens squarely in the middle of the debate by claiming humans, too, were the subject of evolution. The controversy is still raging well over a century later.

In the 1890’s Dr. Russell attended what passed for medical school and became an “educated” man in the context of the end of the nineteenth century—certainly not a scholar, but a man with a keen an interest in science and medicine, and a man who quite obviously attempted to keep up with advances in science. He was oriented to the future and expressed the sentiment that it was his hope that medicine could advance to the point where it “did not hurt.” This was an era where amputation without anesthesia was common, whole populations were affected by the great epidemics, where penicillin was unknown. It was a time when syphilis was a greater epidemic than AIDS is today by far, and where the average lifespan was half what it is today.

Yet by the end of his life in 1947 the atomic bomb was a reality, as were jet planes, automobiles, electricity, and all manner of wonders. It is within this context that this volume is interesting. Here is a fairly intelligent, fairly well-educated citizen attempting to make sense of the world in 1930. He was someone who grew up in a fundamentalist household, yet worked in a scientific occupation as change swirled around him.

In 1934 Fortuny’s Publishers sent out an announcement for publication of this manuscript. It was actually a subscription solicitation which stated, “The publication of this book depends upon obtaining a sufficient number of advanced orders.” I can find no indication that the book was ever published. A copy of this flyer is appended. Indeed, though the manuscript itself was finished, its state shows it was never typed in full and likely never submitted for publication in a final form.

 

Michael R. Schuyler, September, 2005

michael@schuyler.com