Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/518

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

psychology recognizes it. It is futile to talk of going back to Reid and Stewart, or to look for the coming genius who is to restore them; their period is gone by.

Religion and Science. A Series of Sunday Lectures, on the Relation of Natural and Revealed Religion; or, the Truths revealed in Nature and Scripture. By Joseph Le Conte, Professor of Geolology and Natural History in the University of California. 324 pages. D. Appleton & Co.

The rapid multiplication of works at the present time which aim to bring the views of modern science into harmony with religious doctrines, is at once an attestation of the increasing interest generally taken in scientific subjects, and of the growth of a catholic and more tolerant spirit in regard to scientific and theological diversities of opinion resulting in more earnest efforts to harmonize them. The necessity for such reconciliations has arisen from time to time from the fact that theology has lent its sanction to given interpretations of natural things, while it has been the general work of science to revise and often to set aside such interpretations in the course of its progress. The main difficulty in this work of reconciliation has been the want of minds great enough to grasp and to master both spheres of inquiry. The efforts at harmonization have generally come from partisans of opposing views, who aimed at agreement by demanding great concessions from the opposite side. The scientists often ask theologians to renounce the main pretensions of theology for the sake of peace, and the theologians request the scientists to eschew three-fourths of what they believe as mere pseudo-science, that concord of opinion may be reached. And so they have alternated between treating and fighting, until at last a peace is conquered. Mean time, as the battle subsides in one field, it breaks out in another. In the field of Astronomy, where once the conflict raged with the greatest fury, all is now serene, and the Geological struggle has also become a memory. In the field of Evolution, there is still a kind of warfare, much din and smoke, and some bruises, if little slaughter. But the conflict is now undoubtedly more mild and restrained, as it will probably be more brief. In reviewing the past epochs of the conflict, it would be unwise to forget that both parties to the strife have often cared more for the combat than the cause, and, as in street-brawls, have often turned upon the peace-maker, for human nature is pugnacious, and dislikes to be interrupted in a good fight. But it is one of the grand offices of science to substitute truth for victory in the mental conflicts of men, and therefore to reduce the virulence of polemics. This is one of the ways in which science exerts a liberalizing influence, and, as the acerbities of controversy abate, and the passions are less enlisted, the harsher points of disagreement may be expected gradually to drop away.

Prof. Le Conte's admirable little book is born of the best spirit of conciliation, and goes over the whole ground of conflict, in its latest aspects, between Religion and Science. In his preface he says: "The series of lectures contained in this little volume is the result of an earnest attempt to reconcile the truths revealed in Scripture with those revealed in Nature, by one who has, all his active life, been a reverent student of both;" and he adds: "I may not entirely please either the mere scientist on the one hand, or the mere theologian on the other, but I have no apology to make for this. Perhaps my views may be all the more rational on that very account."

Prof. Le Conte's book has the rare advantage of having been produced by a man not only of profoundly earnest convictions, but of thorough intellectual preparation. His high position in the world of science has been long assured through his original contributions to some of its highest questions. He was one of the pioneer expositors of the doctrine of the correlation of forces in its application to life and its organization, and shows a wide and clear understanding of the various bearings of recent scientific inquiry. On the other hand, he holds to the great fundamental tenets of orthodox Christianity, and is therefore thoroughly prepared to consider the mutual relations of these systems of thought. Holding that all truth is one, and ever consistent with itself, he points out the past grounds of misapprehension, and shows how they may be removed, and reconciliation attained.