Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/11

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.



MAY, 1891.




NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

XII. MIRACLES AND MEDICINE.

By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE, LL. D., L. H. D.,

EX-PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

PART I.

NOTHING in the evolution of human thought appears more inevitable than the idea of supernatural intervention in producing and curing disease. The causes of disease are so intricate that they are reached only after ages of scientific labor. In those periods when man sees everywhere miracle and nowhere law; when he attributes all things which he can not understand to a will like his own, he naturally ascribes his diseases either to the wrath of a good being or to the malice of an evil being.

This idea underlies that connection of the priestly class with the healing of diseases of which we have survivals among rude tribes in all parts of the world, and which is seen in nearly every ancient civilization — especially in the powers over disease claimed in Egypt by the priests of Osiris and Isis, in Greece by the priests of Æsculapius, and in Judea by the priests and prophets of Jahveh.

In Egypt there is evidence reaching back to a very early period that the sick were often regarded as afflicted or possessed by demons; the same belief comes constantly before us in both the great religions of India, in those of China, and it is especially elaborated in Persia. As to the Jews, the Old Testament, so precious in showing the evolution of religious and moral truth among men, attributes such diseases as the leprosy of Miriam and Uzziah, the boils of Job, the dysentery of Jehoram, the withered hand of Jeroboam, the fatal illness of Asa, and many other ills to the wrath of God or the malice of Satan; in the New Testament,