Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/62

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52
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

divine, and that therefore, if a conflict there be, the error must be on the side of science. It is true that many statements, which are really little more than scientific conjectures, are represented, at least by those who take their science at second or third hand, as if they were the well-established conclusions of science. But it is true also that the progress of science has corrected the assertions of a crude theology. We are disposed nowadays to smile at the idea of any opposition between the Copernican system and the teaching of revelation; but we need not go back to the days of the persecution of Galileo to find an example of a well-supported scientific conclusion having met with a similar opposition, issuing in a similar result.

To gauge thoroughly the amount of evidence on which an asserted scientific conclusion rests, one ought to be well acquainted with the branch of science to which it relates. Still, one can get a fair general notion of the evidence by an amount of reading which is by no means prohibitive, or by conversing with those who have made that branch a special study. It may be that the impression thus left on the mind will be that the votaries of science, carried away by an excess of zeal in the attempt to discover the causes of natural phenomena, have really, though honestly, overestimated the evidence. It may be, on the other hand, that the inquirer will perceive the evidence to be weighty and substantial, in which case it behooves him to reconsider the supposition with which he started, that the conclusion was opposed to the teaching of revelation.

One should always bear in mind the great responsibility one incurs, and the mischief one may do, by representing as bound up with revelation that which really forms no part of it. Being by hypothesis no part of it, but only erroneously tacked on to it, it may be false, and, being false, it may be in opposition to a conclusion supported by the weightiest evidence, it matters not of what kind, but say scientific. What, then, will be the effect of the error committed by the upholder of revelation? The educated man of science may see through the fallacy; but will it not put a weapon into the hands of the infidel lecturer wherewith to attack revealed religion?

But whether we can agree or can not agree with the conclusions at which the scientific investigator may have arrived, let us, above all things, beware of imputing evil motives to him; of charging him with adopting his conclusions for the purpose of opposing what is revealed. Scientific investigation is eminently truthful. The investigator may be wrong, but it does not follow that he is other than truth-loving. If on some subjects which we deem of the highest importance he does not agree with us—and yet it may be he agrees with us more than we suppose—let us, remembering our own imperfections, both of understanding and of practice, bear in mind that caution of the Apostle: "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth."—Nature.