Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/11

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



MAY, 1887.




THE NATURAL VERSUS THE SUPERNATURAL.

OUR theological professors make a mistake when they think they have weakened or parried the objections of science to their doctrines by pointing to the fact that science is constantly revising or reversing its own conclusions; that what was deemed good science at one time is found to be false science at another. "This modern infallibility which men call science " is a phrase used by Rev. Dr. Jenkins in criticising in the "Evangelist" my paper on "Science and Theology" in the December number of this magazine.

"We who are yet upon the safe side of the ministerial dead-line," he says, "can remember when it was scientific to assert the diverse origin of the race 'from four or six pairs' of progenitors; and we have come to the day in which science will not leave us as much as Adam and Eve for a beginning. We have learned the igneous origin of granite, just in time to be commanded to unlearn it, and substitute an aqueous origin." And the conclusion, therefore, is that science is discredited, and that he who builds upon it plants his house upon the sands. But science makes no claim to infallibility; it leaves that claim to be made by theology. "This shifting of positions and this changing of results" but marks its growth, its development; and it is precisely this active and inquiring spirit, this readiness to correct its errors, and this eagerness to reach a larger generalization, that makes it the enemy of the traditional theology. It abandoned the Ptolemaic system of astronomy for the Copernican, because the latter was found to be the most complete generalization; but theology still adheres to its Ptolemaic system of things. To seek to discredit science because it has made mistakes, and has had to unlearn many things, is to deny the very principle of progress; it is to reflect upon the child because he grows into a man. The main outlines of the physical universe sci-