Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/84

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and may often have very little in common either with true religion or with the Bible. When discussions arise between theology and other sciences, it is only a pity that either side should indulge in what has been termed the odium theologicum, but which is unfortunately not confined to divines.

Superstition, considered as the unreasonable fear of natural agencies, is a passive rather than an active opponent of science, except when it becomes affected with some cruel panic. But revelation which affirms unity, law, and a Father's hand in Nature, is the deadly foe of superstition; and, as a matter of fact, no body of people who have been readers of the Bible, and imbued with its spirit, have been found ready to molest or persecute science. Work of this sort has been done chiefly by the ignorant and superstitious votaries of systems which detest the Bible as much as they dislike science.

Perhaps the most troublesome opposition to science, or rather to the progress of science, has sprung from the tenacity with which men hold to old ideas. These, which may at one time have been the best science attainable, root themselves in the general mind, in popular literature, in learned bodies, and in educational books and institutions. They become identified with men's conceptions both of Nature and religion, and modify their interpretations of the Bible itself. It thus becomes a most difficult matter to wrench them from their hold, and their advocates are too apt to invoke in their defense political, social, and ecclesiastical powers, and to seek to support them by the authority of revelation, even when this, rightly understood, might be quite as favorable to the newer views.

All these conflicts are, however, necessary incidents in human progress, which comes only by conflict; and there is reason to believe that they would be as severe in the absence of revealed religion as in its presence, were it not that the absence of revelation seems often to produce a fixity and stagnation of thought, unfavorable to any new views, and consequently to some extent to any intellectual conflict. It has been, indeed, to the disinterment of the Bible, the Reformation of the fifteenth century, that the world owes, more than to any other cause, the rapid growth of modern science, and the freedom of discussion which now prevails. The Bible is surely to be regarded as a religious book, and a very old one. Yet, its constant appeal to the individual judgment in matters of religion exposes it quite as often as science to the attacks of ecclesiastical power, and gives to those who rely on it as a rule of faith a mental stimulus which is to this day the strongest guarantee that we possess for intellectual liberty in other matters.