Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/455

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE. 441

Among tlie Romans Lucretius caught much, from it, extend- ing the evolutionary process virtually to all things.

In the early Church, as we have seen, the idea of a creation direct, material, and by means like those used by man, was all- powerful for the exclusion of conceptions based on evolution. From the more simple and crude of the two views of creation given in the Babylonian legends, and thence incorporated into Genesis, rose the stream of orthodox thought on the subject, which grew into a flood and swept on through the middle ages and into modern times. Yet here and there in the midst of this flood were to be seen high grounds of thought held by strong men. Scotus Erigena and Duns Scotus, among the schoolmen, bewildered though they were, had caught some rays of this an- cient light, and passed on to their successors, in modified form, doctrines of an evolutionary process in the universe.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century these evolutionary theories seemed to take more definite form in the mind of Giordano Bruno, who evidently divined the fundamental fact of what is now known as the " nebular hypothesis " ; but with his murder by the Inquisition at Rome this idea seemed utterly to disappear dissipated by the flames which in IGOO consumed his body on the Campo del Fiore.

Yet within a generation after Bruno's death the world was introduced into a new realm of thought in which an evolution theory of the visible universe was sure to be rapidly developed. For there came, one after the other, five of the greatest men our race has produced Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton and when their work was done the old theological concep- tion of the universe was gone ; " the spacious firmament on high," " the crystalline spheres," the Almighty enthroned upon the circle of the heavens, and with his own hands, or with angels as his agents, keeping sun, moon, and planets in motion for the bene- fit of the earth, opening and closing the " windows of heaven," letting down upon the earth the " waters above the firmament," setting his bow in the cloud, hanging out signs and wonders, hurling comets, casting forth the lightnings to scare the wicked, and shaking the earth in his wrath all this has disappeared.

These five men had given a new divine revelation to the world ; and through the last, Newton, had come a vast new concep- tion, destined to be fatal to the old theory of creation, for he had shown throughout the universe, in place of almighty caprice, all- pervading law. The bitter opposition of theology to the first four of these men is well known ; but the fact is not so widely known that Newton, in spite of his deeply religious spirit, was also strongly opposed. It was vigorously urged against him that by his statement of the law of gravitation he " took from God

�� �