Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/137

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125
EDITOR'S TABLE.
EDITOR'S TABLE.


SCIENCE, ORTHODOXY, AND RELIGION.

JUDGING by a kind of "symposium" we saw lately in a San Francisco paper, the clergy of that city, or at least some of them, seem to think it their duty to keep a watchful eye on the utterances of the professors of science in the neighboring universities, in order that they may raise a voice of warning should anything be said that threatens to conflict with their ideas of theological orthodoxy. As usually happens in such cases, the men who have fallen under the censure of these guardians of the truth are two of the brightest ornaments of the Western scientific world — Prof. Joseph Le Conte, of the University of California, and President David Starr Jordan, of Stanford University. These eminent scientists had not succeeded in "hitting it off" to the entire satisfaction of their clerical critics, and were consequently attacked by the latter with no little acrimony. To offset this manifestation of narrow-mindedness, however, the Episcopalian Church Club of San Francisco, as we learn, gave a dinner to the incriminated professors, at which liberal, kindly, and rational sentiments were the order of the day. It is to this celebration, if we may so call it, that the discussion which we referred to at the outset relates. Prof. Le Conte, who contributes the first paper, predicts that, when the religious world has succeeded in adjusting itself to the doctrine of evolution, as it has already done to various geological and astronomical theories which it once considered very alarming and heretical, religion will only be the stronger because more rational. Prof. David Starr Jordan makes so bold as to say that "science can not demand anything less than absolute freedom of development; it must be free alike from the need of premature decisions and of premature reconciliations." He says, moreover, that whatever be the origin of a doctrine or opinion, science claims the right to set it aside if it is found to be scientifically false or unsound. He declines to accept the dictum that there are three kinds of evolution, theistic, agnostic, and atheistic, and that these must be carefully distinguished. He says there is but one kind of evolution, and that the epithets in question have no application to it, but only to individuals. What he means, evidently, is that the only kind of evolution a man of science as such can believe in is that which reveals itself to him as the result of his investigations. Mr. W. T. Stead, editor of the Review of Reviews, says (writing from Chicago, where he was at the time) that "it will take a good many banquets to evolutionists before the Christian Church can adequately acknowledge the debts which it owes to the man (Darwin) and the school which revivified the popular conception of the living God."

Thus good comes out of evil. The ecclesiastical mind would fain still impose fetters upon scientific thought, but whenever it makes any open attempt to do so, it is sure in these days to meet with repulse. If our religious teachers would but believe it, there is an ample field open to them for instructing and benefiting mankind without making any attempts to restrict scientific investigation or the enunciation of scientific doctrines. It is theirs to interpret to their fellow-men — in so far as they may be sufficient for the task — their deepest relations to the universe in which they live. The hygienist may tell us how to maintain our physical health, the sociologist how to govern ourselves as members of society, the publicist or political