Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/198

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
188
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
DARWINISM AND DIVINITY.
By L. S.

WE are going through that change in regard to Mr. Darwin's speculations which has occurred so often in regard to scientific theories. When first propounded, divines regarded them with horror, and declared them to be radically opposed not only to the book of Genesis, but to all the religious beliefs which elevate us above the brutes. The opinions have gained wider acceptance; and, whatever may be the ultimate verdict as to their soundness, it certainly cannot be doubted that they are destined profoundly to modify the future current of thought. As Darwinism has won its way to respectability, as it has ceased to be the rash conjecture of some hasty speculator, and is received with all the honors of grave scientific discussion, divines have naturally come to look upon it with different eyes. They have gradually sidled up toward the object which at first struck them as so dark and portentous a phenomenon, and discovered that after all it is not of so diabolic a nature as they had imagined. Its breath does not wither up every lofty aspiration, and every worthy conception of the destiny of humanity. Darwinists are not necessarily hoofed and horned monsters, but are occasionally of pacific habits, and may even be detected in the act of going to church. Room may be made for their tenets alongside of the Thirty-nine Articles, by a little judicious crowding and rearrangement. Some of the old literal interpretations of the Scriptures must perhaps be abandoned, but after all they were in far too precarious a position already to be worth much lamentation. It would be entirely unfair to accuse persons, who have gone through this change, of the smallest conscious insincerity. They are not merely endeavoring to curry favor with an adversary because he has become too formidable to be openly encountered. They have simply found out, in all honesty and sincerity, that the object of their terror has been invested with half his terrible attributes by their own hasty imagination. They are exemplifying once more the truth conveyed in an old story. A man hangs on to the edge of a precipice through the dark hours of the night, believing that if his grasp fails him he will be instantly dashed to a thousand fragments; at length his strength will bear it no longer, and he falls only to discover that his feet had been all the time within a couple of inches of the ground! The precipice was a creation of his fancy, and the long agony entirely thrown away. So we may believe that a good many sound divines have resigned themselves to the inevitable plunge, and are astonished to find all their vital functions continuing to operate pretty nearly as well after as before the catastrophe. Perhaps they feel rather foolish, though of course they do not say so. One could wish,