Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/15

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
3
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE

recently declared his belief that the Chaldæo-Babylonian theory was the undoubted source of the similar theory propounded by the Ionic philosopher Anaximander, in the sixth century, the Greek thinkers deriving this view from the Babylonians through the Phœnicians; and he also allows that from the same source its main features were adopted into both the accounts given in the first of our sacred books, and in this general view the most eminent Christian Assyriologists concur.

It is true that each of these sacred accounts of ours contradicted the other. In that part of the first or Elohistic account given in the first chapter of Genesis the waters bring forth fishes, marine animals, and birds (Genesis, i, 20); but in that part of the second or Jehovistic account given in the second chapter of Genesis both the land animals and birds are declared to have been created not out of. the water, but “out of the ground” (Genesis, ii, 19).

The dialectic skill of the fathers was easily equal to explaining away this contradiction between these two legends as regards the origin of birds; but the old current of thought, strengthened by both these accounts, arrested their attention, and, passing through the minds of a succession of the greatest men of the Church, influenced theological opinion deeply, if not widely, for ages in favor of an evolution theory.

This ancient idea that the animals and man were produced by lifeless matter at the divine command “in the beginning” was afterward supplemented by the idea, strengthened doubtless by Aristotle, that some of the lesser animals, especially the insects, were produced by a sort of later evolution, being evoked after the original creation from various sources, but chiefly from matter in a state of decay.

As typical examples of this thought we may note the view taken by St. Basil the Great in the fourth century. Discussing the work of creation, he declares that, at the command of God, “the waters were gifted with productive power”; “from slime and muddy places frogs, flies, and gnats came into being”; and he finally declares that the same voice which gave this energy and quality of productiveness to earth and water shall be similarly efficacious until the end of the world.

This idea of the great father of the Eastern Church took even stronger hold on the great father of the Western Church. For St. Augustine, so fettered usually by the letter of the sacred text, broke from his own famous doctrine as to the acceptance of Scripture and spurned the generally received belief of a creative process like that by which a toymaker brings into existence a box of playthings. In his great treatise on Genesis he says: “To suppose that God formed man from the dust with bodily hands is