Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/276

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EDITOR'S TABLE.


CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN.

THE present year will be memorable in the history of science as bringing to a close the labors of two illustrious scientific thinkers—one, perhaps, the most eminent man of science in America, Dr. John William Draper, and the other probably the most celebrated scientific man of the world at the present time, Dr. Charles Robert Darwin. Both men had accomplished their work, the former dying at the age of seventy-one, and the latter at the age of seventy-three; and it is remarkable that both were among the most distinguished representatives of the same school of progressive scientific thought. Their names will be for ever associated with that great revolution of ideas for which all modern science has prepared, but which has been accomplished only within the present generation. Both men made large and important contributions, by observation and experiment, to the departments of science which they respectively cultivated, but they will be measured in future chiefly by the bearing of their work upon the great intellectual movement of the period.

Everybody knows what we mean in speaking of the movement of thought with which the names of Draper and Darwin are identified; and which we have referred to as a revolution of ideas already accomplished. One of its leading aspects is the application of the scientific method to the phenomena of life in order to explain their changes by natural causes. Mr. Darwin's name has been so closely associated with this extension of scientific method to cover the origin of the diversities of living beings upon earth that he has come to be a representative of the idea; while the term "Darwinism" has been vaguely employed to stand for the doctrine.

The twenty volumes of "The Popular Science Monthly" bear uniform and abundant record that "Darwinism" has been generally accepted as true in the world of science for the last ten years. But there is a sharper test of the change of opinion that has taken place than any affirmation regarding the verdicts of scientific men. At its earliest promulgation "Darwinism" was denounced by the whole body of religious authorities as false and execrable. There was never such unanimity in the pulpit as was displayed in cursing the new apostle of the doctrine of man's descent from an ancestry of inferior animals. The devil got a considerable respite while the batteries were all being turned upon Darwin as the archenemy and subverter of all religion. But, as the movement of ideas went on all the same, common sense began to assert itself in various quarters, so that there has latterly been more temperateness of condemnation, and even a readiness to accept the long-detested doctrine as probably true, and by no means so bad as it at first seemed. And, now that Darwin is dead, there is a universal burst of admiration for the man, accompanied by abundant admissions that his ideas are true; and he is laid in Westminster Abbey alongside of Newton, while the most eminent preachers of London agree in declaring that there has been nothing in his teaching that is not wholly consistent with the soundest Christian belief. Canon Liddon, of St. Paul's, author of "The Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," is reported to have said in a sermon that "Mr. Darwin's theories are not necessarily hostile to the fundamental truths of religion"; and Canon Barry, author of "Orthodox Commentaries on Portions of the Bi-