Popular Science Monthly/Volume 8/February 1876/Science and Religion
THIS recent cry of the "Conflict of Religion and Science" is fallacious, and mischievous to the interests of both science and religion; and would be most mournful if we did not believe that, in the very nature of things, it must be ephemeral. Its genesis is to be traced to the weak foolishness of some professors of religion, and to the weak wickedness of some professors of science. No man of powerful and healthy mind, who is devout, ever has the slightest apprehension that any advancement of science can shake the foundations of that faith which is necessary to salvation. No man of powerful and healthy mind, engaged in observing, recording, and classifying facts, and in searching among them for those identities and differences which point to principles and indicate laws, ever feels that he suffers any embarrassment or limitations in his studies by the most reverent love he can have for God as his Father, or the most tender sympathy he can have for man as his brother, or that hatred for sin which produces penitence, or that constant leaning of his heart on God which produces spiritual-mindedness, or that hope of a state of immortal holiness which has been the ideal of humanity in all ages.
All this dust about "the conflict" has been flung up by men of insufficient faith, who doubted the basis of their faith; or by men of insufficient science, who have mistaken theology or the Church for religion; or by unreasonable and wicked men, who have sought to pervert the teachings of science so as to silence the voice of conscience in themselves, or put God out of their thoughts, so that a sense of his eternal recognition of the eternal difference between right and wrong; might not overawe their spirits in the indulgence of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. It may be profitable to discriminate these; and, if badges and flags have become mixed in this fray, it may be well to readjust our ensigns, so that foes shall strike at only foes.
It is, first of all, necessary to settle distinctly what science is, as well as what it is not; and also, what religion is, as well as what it is not.
We can all afford to agree upon the definition rendered by the only man who has been found in twenty-two centuries to add anything important to the imperial science of logic. Sir William Hamilton defines science as "a complement of cognitions, having in point of form the character of logical perfection, and in point of matter the character of real truth." Under the focal heat of a definition like this, much that claims to be science will be consumed. It is the fashion to intimate, if not to assert, that it is much more easy to become scientific than to become religious; that in one case a man is dealing with the real, in the other with the ideal; in the one case with the comprehensible, in the other with the incomprehensible; in the one case with that which is certain and exact, and in the other case with that which at best is only probable and indefinite.
There can be no doubt, among thoughtful men, of the great value of both science and religion. A thinker who is worth listening to is always misunderstood if it be supposed that he means to disparage either. An attempt to determine the limits of religion is no disparagement thereof, because all the most religious men who are accustomed to think are engaged in striving to settle those limits, in order that they may have advantage of the whole territory of religion on the one hand, and on the other may not take that as belonging to religion which belongs to something else.
Now, if Sir William Hamilton's definition is to be taken, we shall perceive that he represents science in its quality, in its quantity, and in its form. Cognition of something is necessary for science. Then, (1) the knowledge of things known must be true; (2) that knowledge must be full, and (3) it must be accurate; it must be in such form as to be most readily and successfully used by the logical understanding for purposes of thought.
This sets aside very much that has been called science, and, as it seems, perhaps nearly all that which has been the material used by those who have raised the most smoke over this "conflict" question.
"Guesses at truth" are valuable only as the pecking at a plastered wall, to find where a wooden beam runs, is useful; but a guess is not knowledge. A working hypothesis were not to be despised, although the student of science might feel quite sure in advance that when he had learned the truth in this department he would throw the hypothesis away. A working hypothesis, like a scaffold, is useful; but a scaffold is not a wall. Art is not science. Art deals with the appearances, science with the realities, of things. Art deals with the external, science with the internal, of a thing; art with the phenomenon, science with the noumenon. It must be the "real truth" which we know, and know truly.
Weak men on both sides have done much harm—the weak religionists by assuming, and the weak scientists by claiming, for guesses and hypotheses, the high character and full value of real truth. The guesses of both have collided in the air, and a real battle seemed impending; but it was only "guesses" which exploded—bubbles, not bombs; and it is never to be forgotten that a professor of religion has just as much right to guess as a professor of science, and the latter no more right than the former, although he may have more skill.
No man can abandon a real truth without degradation to his intellectual and moral nature; but Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, in their studies from time to time, employed and discarded theory after theory, until they reached that which was capable of demonstration. It was only that which took its place as science. In the case of Kepler, it is known what great labor he spent in attempting to represent the orbit of Mars by combinations of uniform circular motion. His working hypothesis was the old doctrine of epicyclic curves. But his great labor was not fruitless, as has been carelessly asserted. The theory was false, and therefore not a part of real science; but, working on it, he discovered that the orbit of Mars is an ellipse, and this led him to the first of his three great laws of planetary motion, and enabled him almost immediately to discover the second. Here was a great intellect employing as a working hypothesis a theory which has always been false, and now is demonstrably false. It was not science.
Now if, while scientific men are employing working hypotheses merely as such, men representing religion fly at them as if they were holding those hypotheses as science, or if men representing science do set forth these hypotheses as if they were real knowledge of truth, and proceed to defend them as such, then much harm is done in all directions.
In the first instance, the religious man shows an impatience which is irreligious. "He that believeth doth not make haste." It is unfair to criticise any man while he is doing. Let him do what he will do; then criticise the deed. The artist has laid one pigment on his palette, and he is criticised before it is known what others he intends to mix with it, to procure what shade, to produce what effect. Wait until all the paint is on the canvas, and the artist has washed his brushes and drawn the curtain from his picture; then criticise the picture.
This impatient and weak criticism on the part of religious men is injurious to scientific progress, as well as to the progress of religion. For the latter, it makes the reputation of unfairness; for the former, it does one of two bad things: it obstructs free discussion among students of science, or pushes them into a foolish defiance of religion. Men must co-work with those of their own sphere of intellectual labors. They must publish guesses, conjectures, hypotheses, theories. Whatever comes into any mind must be examined by many minds. It may be true, it may be false; there must be no prejudgment. Now if, because our scientific men are discussing a new view, our religious men fly among them and disturb them by crying "Heresy!" "Infidelity!" "Atheism!" those students must take time to repel the charges, and thus their work be hurt. If let alone, they may soon abandon their false theory. Certainly, if a proposition in science be false, the students of science are the men likeliest to detect the falsehood, however unlikely they may be to discover the truth that is in religion. Nothing more quickly destroys an error than to attempt to establish it scientifically.
The premature cries of the religious against the scientific have also the effect of keeping a scientific error longer alive. Through sheer obstinacy the assailed will often hold a bad position, which, if not attacked, had been long ago abandoned. And we must have noticed that Nature seems quite as able to make scientific men obstinate as grace to do this same work for the saints.
No man should be charged with being an atheist who does not, in distinct terms, announce himself to be such; and in that case the world will believe him to be too pitiful a person to be worth assailing with hard words. But as you may drive a man away from you by representing him as your enemy, so a scientific man may be driven from the Christian faith, if convinced that the Christian faith stands in the way of free investigation and free discussion; or, he may hold on to the faith because he has brains enough to see that one may be most highly scientific and most humbly devout at the same time; but by persecution he may be compelled to withdraw from open communion with "those who profess and call themselves Christians." Then both parties lose—what neither can well afford to lose—the respect and help which each could give the other. When the son of a religious teacher turns to the works of a man whom he has heard that father denounce, and finds in any one page of those books more high religious thought than in a hundred of his father's commonplace discourses, a sad state of feeling is produced, and many mistakes are likely to follow.
Sir William Hamilton's definition of science has for genus "a complement of cognitions," and for differentia "logical perfection of form," and "real truth of matter." The definition is a demand for a certain fullness. We can only conjecture, in the case of any particular science, how much knowledge such a man as Sir William Hamilton would regard as a "complement." But students of science do well to remind themselves that it is impossible to exceed, and very difficult to succeed, and the easiest thing imaginable to fall short. In other words, we have never been able to collect more material of knowledge than the plan of any temple of science could work in, and really did not demand for the completion of the structure, and that very few temples of science have been finished, even in the outline, while all the plain of thought is covered by ruins of buildings begun by thinkers, but unfinished for want of more knowledge. Even where there has been gathered a sufficient amount of knowledge to be wrought by the logical understanding into the form of a science, so that such a mind as Hamilton's would admit it as a science—i. e., a sufficient complement of cognitions of truths put in logical form—another age of labor, in other departments, would so shrink this science that, in order to hold its rank, it would have to work in the matter of more knowledge, and, to preserve its symmetry, be compelled to readjust its architectural outlines. In other words, what is science to one age may not be science to its successor, because that successor may perceive that, although its matter had the character of real truth, and its form the character of logical perfection, as far as it went, nevertheless, there were not enough cognitions; not enough, just because in the later age it was possible to obtain additional cognitions, which could not have been obtained earlier.
And, in point of fact, has not this been the history of each of the acknowledged sciences? And can any significance be assigned to Sir William Hamilton's definition without taking the word "complement" to mean all the cognitions possible at the time? Now, unless at one time men have more cognitions of any subject than at another time, one of two things must be true: either (1) no new phenomena will appear in that department, or (2) no abler observer will arise. But the history of the human mind in the past renders both suppositions highly improbable. If no new phenomena appear, we shall have observers abler than have existed, because, although it were granted that no fresh accessions of intellectual power came to the race, each new generation of observers would have increased ability, because each would have the aid of the instruments and methods of all predecessors. When we go back to consider the immense labor performed by Kepler in his investigations which led to his brilliant discoveries, we feel that if his nerves had given way under his labors, and domestic troubles, and financial cares, or his industry had been just a little less tenacious, he would have failed in the prodigious calculations which led him to his brilliant discoveries, and gave science such a great propulsion. Just five years after the publication of Kepler's "New Astronomy" the Laird of Merchison published, in Scotland, his "Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio." If Kepler had only had Napier's logarithms! But succeeding students have enjoyed this wonderful instrumental aid, and done great mental work with less draught on their vital energies.
The very facts, then, which make us proud of modern science should make scientific men very humble. It will be noticed that the most arrogant cultivators of science are those who are most ready to assail such religious men as are rigid, and hold that nothing can be added to or taken away from theology; and such scientific men make this assault on the assumption that physical sciences are fixed, certain, and exact. How ridiculous they make themselves, a review of the history of any science for the last fifty years would show. Is there any department of physical science in which a text-book used a quarter of a century ago would now be put into the hands of any student? The fact is that any man, who is careful of his reputation, has some trepidation in issuing a volume on science, lest the day his publishers announce his book the morning papers announce, also, a discovery which knocks the bottom out of all his arguments. This shows the great intellectual activity of the age—a matter to rejoice in, but it should also promote humility, and repress egotism in all well-ordered minds. There is, probably, no one thing known in its properties and accidents, in its relations to all abstract truths and concrete existence. No one thing is exactly and thoroughly known by any man, or by all men. Mr. Herbert Spencer well says: "Much of what we call science is not exact, and some of it, as physiology, can never become exact" ("Recent Discussions," p. 158). He might have made the remark with greater width, and no less truth, since every day accumulates proof that that department of our knowledge which we call the exact sciences holds an increasingly small proportion to the whole domain of science.
There is one important truth which seems often ignored, and which should frequently be brought to our attention, viz., that the propositions which embody our science are statements not of absolute truths, but of probabilities. Probabilities differ. There is that which is merely probable, and that which is more probable, and that which is still much more probable, and that which is so probable that our faculties cannot distinguish between this probability and absolute certainty; and so we act on it as if it were certain. But it is still only a "probability," and not a "certainty." It seems as though it would forever be impossible for us to determine how near a probability can approach a certainty without becoming identical with that certainty.
Is not all life a discipline of determining probabilities? It would seem that God intends that generally the certainties shall be known only to himself. He has probably shown us a very few certainties, more for the purpose of furnishing the idea than for any practical purpose, as absolute certainty is necessary for him, while probabilities are sufficient for us. All science is purely a classification of probabilities.
We do not know that the same result will follow the same act in its several repetitions, but believe that it will; and we believe it so firmly that if a professor had performed a successful experiment before a class in chemistry, he would not hesitate to repeat the experiment after a lapse of a quarter of a century. Scientific men are not infidels. Of no men may it be more truly said that they "walk by faith." They do not creep, they march. Their tread is on made ground, on probabilities; but they believe they shall be supported, and according to their faith so is it done unto them.
And no men better know than truly scientific men that this probability can never become certainty. In the wildest dreams of fanaticism—and there are fanatics in the laboratory, as there are in the sanctuary of God and in the temple of Mammon—it has never been believed that there shall come a man who shall know all things that are, all things that have been, all things that shall be, and all things that can be, in their properties, their attributes, and their relations. Until such a man shall arise, science must always be concerned with the cognition of that which is the real truth as to probabilities, or with probable cognitions of that which is not only real truth, but absolute truth. A scientific writer, then, when he states that any proposition has been "proved," or anything "shown," means that it has been proved probable to some minds, or shown to some—perhaps to all—intelligent persons as probable. If he have sense and modesty, he can mean no more, although he does not cumber his pages or his speech with the constant repetition of that which is to be presumed, even as a Christian in making his appointments does not always say Deo volente, because it is understood that a Christian is a man always seeking to do what he thinks to be the will of God, in submission to the providence of God.
A scientific man ridicules the idea of any religious man claiming to be "orthodox." It must be admitted to be ridiculous, just as ridiculous as would be the claim of a scientific man to absolute certainty and unchangeableness for science. The more truly religious a man is, the more humble he is; the more he sees the deep things of God, the more he sees the shallow things of himself. He claims nothing positively. He certainly does not make that most arrogant of all claims, the claim to the prerogative of infinite intelligence. There can exist only one Being in the universe who is positively and absolutely orthodox, and that is God. In religion, as in science, we walk by faith; that is, we believe in the probabilities sufficiently to act upon them.
So far from any conflict being between science and religion, their bases are the same, their modes are similar, and their ends are identical, viz., what all life seems to be, that is, a discipline of faith.
It is not proper to despise knowledge, however gained: whether from the exercise of the logical understanding, or from consciousness, or from faith; and these are the three sources of knowledge. That which has been most undervalued is the chief of the three; that is, faith.
We believe before we acquire the habit of studying and analyzing our consciousness. We believe before we learn how to conduct the processes of our logical understanding.
We can have much knowledge by our faith without notice of our consciousness, and without exertion of our reasoning faculties; but we can have no knowledge without faith. We can learn nothing from our examination of any consciousness without faith in some principle of observation, comparison, and memory. We can acquire no knowledge by our logical understanding without faith in the laws of mental operations.
This last statement, if true, places all science on the same basis with religion. Although so familiar to many minds, we may take time to show that it is true.
For proof let us go to a science which is supposed to demonstrate all its propositions, and examine a student in geometry. We will not call him out on the immortal 47: I of Euclid. We can learn all we need from a bright boy who has been studying Euclid a week. The following may represent our colloquy:
Q. Do you know how many right angles may be made by one straight line upon one side of another straight line?
A. Yes; two, and only two. Innumerable angles may be made by two straight lines so meeting, but the sum of all the possible angles will be two right angles.
Q. You say you know that. How do you know that you know it?
A. Because I can prove it. A man knows every proposition which he can demonstrate.
Q. Please prove it to me.
The student draws the well-known diagrams. If he follows Euclid, he begins with an argument like this:
A. There are obviously two angles made when a straight line stands on another straight line.
Q. My eyes show me that.
In answer he gives us the well-known demonstration of Euclid, to show that the sum of the two angles is equal to two right angles; and, when he has finished and reached the Q. E. D., he and his examiners know that this proposition is true, because he has proved it. But when we examine his argument we find that he has made three unproved assumptions—namely: 1. That a thing cannot at the same time be and not be; 2. That if equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal; 3. That things which are equal to the same are equal to one another. It so happens that each of these propositions which he has assumed to be true is, if true, much more important than the proposition which he has proved. Let us point out these three assumptions to our bright student, and then resume our catechism.
Q. Could you possibly prove this proposition in geometry if any one of those three assumed propositions were not granted?
Q. Then, if we deny these assumptions, can you prove them?
A. No; but can you deny them?
No, we cannot deny them, and cannot prove them; but we believe them, and therefore have granted them to you for argument, and know your proposition of the two right angles to be true, because you have proved it.
Now, here is the proposition which Euclid selected as the simplest of all demonstrable theorems of geometry, in the demonstration of which the logical understanding of a student cannot take the first step without the aid of faith.
From the student let us go to the master. We go to such a teacher as Euclid, and in the beginning he requires us to believe three propositions, without which there can be no geometry, but which have never been proved, and, in the nature of things, it would seem never could be proved—namely, that space is infinite in extent, that space is infinitely divisible, and that space is infinitely continuous. And we believe them, and use that faith as knowledge, and no more distrust it than we do the results of our logical understandings, and are obliged to admit that geometry lays its broad foundations on our faith.
Now, geometry is the science which treats of forms in their relations in space. The value of such a science for intellectual culture and practical life must be indescribably important, as might be shown in a million of instances. No form can exist without boundaries, no boundaries without lines, no line without points. The beginning of geometric knowledge, then, lies in knowing what a "point" is, the existence of forms depending, it is said, upon the motion of points. The first utterance of geometry, therefore, must be a definition of a point. And here it is: "A point is that which has no parts, or which has no magnitude." At the threshold of this science we meet with a mystery. "A point is"—then, it has existence—"is" what? In fact, in form, in substance, it is nothing. A logical definition requires that the genus and differentia shall be given. What is the genus of a "point?" Position, of course. Its differentia is plainly seen. It is distinguished from every thing else in this, that every thing else is something somewhere, and a point is nothing somewhere; every tiling has some characteristic, a point has none. A point is visible or invisible. Is it visible? Then we can see that which is without parts or magnitude. What is it we see when we do not see any part, do not see any magnitude? Is it substantial or ideal? If substantial, how do we detect its substantial existence? If ideal, how can an idea have motion, and by simple motion become a substantial existence? Are we not reduced to this? Ideals produce substantial, or invisible substantials, upon motion, produce visible substantials; or that which is necessary to matter—namely, form—owes its existence to that which is neither substantial nor ideal—to nothing, in fact. The entire and sublime science of geometry, at one time the only instrument of culture among the Greeks, and so esteemed by Plato that he is said to have written over his door, "Let no one enter here who does not know geometry," in all its conceptions, propositions, and demonstrations, rests upon the conception of that which has no parts, no magnitude. The old saw of the school-men was, "Ex nihilo nihil fit." If each visible solid owes its form to superficies, and each superficies its form to lines, and each line its form to a point—and a point has no form, because it has no parts—then, who shall stone the man that cries out, "Ex nihilo geometria fit?"
But lay the first three definitions of geometry side by side: 1. "A point is that which has no parts, or which has no magnitude." 2. "A line is length without breadth." 3. "The extremities of a line are points." Study these, and you will probably get the following results: That which has no parts produces all the parts of that which occupies space without occupying space, and which, although it occupies no space, has extremities, to the existence of which it owes its own existence; and those extremities determine the existence of that which has parts made up of multiplications of its extremities which have no parts. Now, you must know at least that much, or else stay out of Plato's house.
This useful science, without which men could not measure their little plantations, or construct their little roads on earth, much less traverse and triangulate the ample fields of the skies, lays for its necessary foundation thirty-five definitions, three postulates, and twelve axioms, the last being propositions which no man has ever proved; and these fifty sentences contain as much that is incomprehensible, as much that must be granted without being proved, as much that must be believed, although it cannot be proved, as can be found in all the theological and religious writings from those of John Scotus Erigina down to those of Richard Watson, of England, or Charles Hodge, of Princeton.
Does any man charge that this is a mere logical juggle? Then he shall be called upon to point out wherein it differs from the methods of those who strive to show that there is a real conflict between real science and real religion. If any man shall charge me with being an infidel as touching geometry, and try to turn me out of the church of science, I shall become hotly indignant, because I know that Euclid did not believe more in geometry than I do, and I believe as much in the teachings of geometry as I do in the teachings of theology, regarding them both, as Aristotle did, as mere human sciences, ranking theology with psychology, geology, and botany. And, being by profession a theologian, I certainly believe in theology.
And this brings us back to what was stated in the beginning, as one of the causes of this cry of "conflict." It is the confounding of theology with religion. Theology is not religion any more than psychology is human life, or zoölogy is animal life, or botany is vegetable life. Theology is objective; religion is subjective. Theology is the scientific classification of what is known of God; religion is a loving obedience to God's commandments. Every religious man must have some theology, but it does not follow that every theologian must have some religion. We never knew a religious man without some kind of a theology, nor can we conceive such a case. But we do know some theologians who have little religion, and some that seem to have none. There may be a conflict between theology and some other sciences, and religious men may deplore that conflict, or may not, according to their measure of faith. There are those whose faith is so large and strong that they do not deplore such a conflict, because they know that if, for instance, a conflict should come between geology and theology, and geology should be beaten, it will be so much the better for religion; and if geology should beat theology, still so much the better for religion: according to the spirit of the old Arabic adage, If the pitcher fall on the stone, so much the worse for the pitcher; and if the stone fall on the pitcher so much the worse for the pitcher. Geologists, psychologists, and theologists, must all ultimately promote the cause of religion, because they must confirm one another's truths, and explode one another's errors; and a religious man is a man whose soul longs for the truth, who loves truth because he loves God, who knows if the soul be sanctified it must be sanctified by the truth, even as the mind must be enlarged and strengthened by the truth. He knows and feels that it would be as irreligious in him to reject any truth found in Nature, as it would be for another to reject any truth found in the Bible.
But there is no necessary conflict between even theology and any other science. Theology has to deal with problems into which the element of the infinite enters. It will therefore have concepts some two of which will be irreconcilable, but not therefore contradictory. For instance, to say that God is "an infinite person" is to state the agreement of two concepts which the human mind is supposed never to have reconciled, and never to be able to reconcile. But they are not contradictory. If one should say that there is in the universe a circular triangle, we should deny it, not because the concept of a triangle is irreconcilable with the concept of a circle, as consistent in the same figure, which is quite true, but because they are contradictory. What is irreconcilable to you may be reconcilable to another mind, because "irreconcilable" indicates the relation of the concept to the individual intellect; but what is contradictory to the feeblest is contradictory to the mightiest mind, because "contradictory" represents the relation of the concepts to one another.
In the definition of a person there is nothing to exclude infinity, and in the definition of infinite there is nothing to exclude personality. There is no more exclusion between "person" and "infinite" than between "line" and "infinite;" and yet we talk of infinite lines, knowing the irreconcilability of the ideas, but never regarding them as contradictory.
Writers of great ability sometimes fall into this indiscrimination. For instance, a writer whom 1 greatly admire, Dr. Hill, former President of Harvard College, in one paragraph (on "The Uses of Mathesis," in Bibliotheca Sacra), seems twice to employ "contradictory" in an illogical sense, even when he is presenting an illustration which goes to show most clearly that in other sciences, as well as in theology, there are propositions which we cannot refuse to accept, because they are not contradictory, although they are irreconcilable; in other words, that there are irreconcilable concepts which are not contradictory, for we always reject one or the other of two contradictory concepts or propositions.
That is so striking an illustration of the mystery of the infinite that I will reproduce it. On a plane imagine a fixed line, pointing north and south. Intersect this at an angle of ninety degrees by another line, pointing east and west. Let this latter rotate at the point of intersection, and at the beginning be a foot long. At each approach of the rotating line toward the stationary line let the former double its length. Let each approach be made by bisecting the angle. At the first movement the angle would be forty-five degrees, and the line two feet in length; at the second, the angle twenty-two and one-half degrees, and the line four feet; at the third, the angle eleven and one-fourth degrees, and the line eight feet; at the fourth, the angle five and five-eighths degrees, and the line sixteen feet; at the fifth, the angle two and thirteen-sixteenths degrees, and the line thirty-two feet, and so on. Now, as this bisecting of the angle can go on indefinitely before the rotating line can touch the stationary line at all its points, it follows that before such contact the rotating line will have a length which cannot be stated in figures, and which defies all human computation. It can be mathematically demonstrated that a line so rotating, and increasing its length in the inverse ratio of its angle with the meridian, will have its end always receding from the meridian and approaching a line parallel to the meridian at a distance of 1.5708. We can show that the rotating line can cross the stationary line by making it do so as on a watch-dial, and yet we can demonstrate that if it be extended indefinitely it can never touch the stationary line, nor come at the end even as near as eighteen inches to it.
Here are two of the simplest human conceptions, between which we know that there is no contradiction, rendered absolutely irreconcilable to the human intellect by the introduction of the infinite. There is no religion here. And yet there is no mystery in either theology or religion more mysterious than the mystery of the infinite, which we may encounter whenever we attempt to set our watches to the right time if they have run more than an hour wrong.
Another error has been the occasion of this cry of "conflict." It is the confounding of "the Church" with "religion." This confusion has led many an honest soul astray, and is the fallacy wherewith shrewd sophists have been able to overthrow the faith of the ignorant. If the Church—and, in all my treatment of this topic, I must be understood as using "the Church," not as signifying "the holy Church universal," but simply in the sense in which antagonistic scientists employ it—if the Church and religion be the same, the whole argument must be given up, and it must be admitted that there is a conflict between religion and science, and that religion is in the wrong. Churchmen are guilty of helping to strengthen, if indeed they are not responsible for creating, this error. It has at length been presented plumply to the world in the book of Prof. J. W. Draper, entitled a "History of the Conflict between Religion and Science." The title assumes that there is such a conflict. See how it will read with synonyms substituted: "History of the Conflict between Loving Obedience to God's Word and Intelligent Study of God's Works." Does Dr. Draper believe there is such a conflict? It is not to be supposed that he does. How, then, did he come to give his book such a title? From a confusion of terms, as will be observed by the perusal of three successive sentences in his preface; "The papacy represents the ideas and aspirations of two-thirds of the population of Europe. It insists on a political supremacy, . . . . loudly declaring that it will accept no reconciliation with modern civilization. The antagonism we thus witness between religion and science," etc. Now, if "the papacy" and "religion" be synonymous terms, representing equivalent ideas, Dr. Draper's book shows that all good men should do what they can to extirpate religion from the world; but if they are not—and they are not—then the book is founded on a most hurtful fallacy, and must be widely mischievous. Their share of the responsibility for the harm done must fall to churchmen.
No, these are not synonymous terms. "The Church" is not religion, and religion is not "the Church." There may be a church and no religion; there may be religion and no church, as there may be an aqueduct without water, and there be water without an aqueduct. God makes water, and men make aqueducts. Water was before aqueducts, and religion before churches. God makes religion, and men make churches. There are irreligious men in every church, and there are very religious men in no church. Any visible, organized church is a mere human institution. It is useful for the purpose of propagating religion so long as it confines itself to that function and abstains from all other things. The moment it transcends that limit, it is an injurious institution. In either case it is merely human, and we wrong both religion and the Church when we claim for the latter that it is not a human institution. The Church of England is as much a human institution as the Royal Society; and the same may be said of the Church of Rome and the Royal Florentine Academy. A church is as much an authority in matters of religion as a society is in matters of science, and no more. "The Church" has often been opposed to science, and so it has to religion; but "the society" has often been opposed to religion, and so it has to science. "The Church," both before and since the days of Christ, has stood in opposition to the Bible, the text-book of Jewish and Christian religionists, quite as often as it has to science. But "the society," or "the academy," has stood in opposition to science quite as often as it has to religion. Sometimes the sin of one has been laid upon the other, and sometimes the property of one has been scheduled as the assets of the other. It is time to protest, in the interests of the truth of God, and in the name of the God of truth, that religion no longer be saddled with all the faults of the churchmen, all the follies of the scientists, and all the crimes of the politicians. It was not religion which brought Galileo to his humiliating retraction, about which we hear so much declamation; it was "the Church."
But why should writers of the history of science so frequently conceal the fact that "the Church" was instigated thereunto not by religious people, but scientific men—by Galileo's collaborateurs? It was the jealousy of the scientists which made use of the bigotry of the churchmen to degrade a rival in science. They began their attacks not on the ground that religion was in danger, but on such scientific grounds as these, stated by a professor in the University of Padua—namely, that as there were only seven metals, and seven days in the week, and seven apertures in man's head, there could be only seven planets! And that was some time before these gentlemen of science had instigated the sarcastic Dominican monk to attempt to preach Galileo down under the text, Viri Galilœi, quid statis adspicientes in cœlum?
In like manner, politicians have used "the Church" to overthrow their rivals. "The Church" is the engine which has been turned against freedom, against science, against religion. It would be as logical and as fair to lay all "the Church's" outrages against human rights arid intellectual advancement at the door of religion as it would be to lay all its outrages against religion at the door of science and government, because "the Church" has seldom slaughtered a holy martyr to the truth without employing some forms of both law and logic.
Science exists for the sake of religion, and because of religion. If there had been no love for God in the human race, there had been no study of the physical universe. The visible cosmos is God's love-letter to man, and religion seems to probe every corner of the sheet on which such love is written, to examine every phrase, and study every connection. A few upstarts of the present day, not the real men and masters of science, ignore the fact that almost every man who has made any great original contribution to science, since the revival of letters, was a very religious man; but their weak wickedness must not be charged to science any more than the wicked weakness of ecclesiastics to religion.
Copernicus, who revolutionized astronomy, was one of the purest Christians who ever lived—a simple, laborious minister of religion, walking beneficently among the poor by day, and living among the stars by night; and yet one writer of our day has dared to say, in what he takes to be the interest of science, that Copernicus was "aware that his doctrines were totally opposed to revealed truth." Was anything worse ever perpetrated by theologian, or even ecclesiastic? Could any man believe in any doctrine which he knew was opposed to any truth, especially if he believed that God had revealed that truth? It were impossible, especially with a man having the splendid intellect and the pure heart of Copernicus, who died believing in his "De Orbium Cœlestium Revolutionibus," and also in the Bible. And this is the inscription which that humble Christian ordered for his tomb: "Non parem Paulo veniam requiro, gratiam Petri neque posco; sed quam in crucis ligno dederis latroni, sedulus oro."
Tycho Brahe, who, although he did not produce a system which won acceptance, did, nevertheless, lay the foundation for practical astronomy, and build the stairs on which Kepler mounted to his grand discoveries, was a most religious man. He introduces into one of his scientific works ("Astronomiæ Instauratio Mechanica," p. A) this sentence: "No man can be made happy, and enjoy immortal life, but through the merits of Christ, the Redeemer, the Son of God, and by the study of his doctrines, and imitation of his example."
John Kepler was a man in whose life the only conflict between science and religion seemed to be as to which should yield the most assistance to the other. he wrought as under Luther's motto, "Orasse est studisse." He prayed before he worked, and shouted afterward. The more he bowed his soul in prayer, the higher his intellect rose in its discoveries; and, as those discoveries thickened on his head, it bowed in humbler adoration. And so that single man was able to do more for science than all the irreligious scientists of the last three centuries have accomplished, while he bore an appalling load of suffering with a patience that was sublime, and, dying, left this epitaph for his tombstone: "In Christo pie obiit."
Of Sir Isaac Newton's, and Michael Faraday's, and Sir William Hamilton's, and Sir James Y. Simpson's religious life, not to mention the whole cloud of witnesses, we need not tell what is known to all men. But the history of science shows that not the most gifted, not the most learned, not the most industrious, gain the loftiest vision, but that only the pure in heart see God. And all true science is a new sight of God.
Herbert Spencer says: "Science may be called an extension of the perceptions by means of reasoning" ("Recent Discussions," p. 60). And we may add, religion may be called an extension of the perceptions by means of faith. And having so said, have we not paraphrased Paul? "Faith is confidence in things hoped for, conviction of things not seen" (Heb. xi. 1). Science has the finite for its domain, religion the infinite; science deals with the things seen, and religion with the things not seen. When Dr. Hutton, of Edinburgh, announced, in the last century, "In the economy of the world I can find no traces of a beginning, no prospect of an end," it is said that scientific men were startled and religious men were shocked. Why should they be? The creation of the universe and its end are not questions of science, and can be known only as revealed to faith. And so Paul says: "Through faith we apprehend intellectually that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that that which is seen may have sprung from that which is not seen" (Heb. xi. 3).
- Extract from the opening address at the inauguration of Vanderbilt University, by Charles F. Deems, D.D., pastor of the Church of the Strangers, New York, October 4, 1875.