Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/509

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

siderable surprise that we heard of the recent action of Vanderbilt University in repudiating the views of Dr. Deems's inaugural address. It has illustrated "the weak foolishness of some professors of religion" with a promptness and a shamelessness that shows how deep and intense is the living feeling of hostility to Science that animates large portions of the theological party. Vanderbilt University decides not to take its old traditions out of the way, but to fight the progress of Science by the same policy of bigotry, intolerance, and proscription, that has been employed for centuries by the same party in doing the same thing. The faculty of the institution have dismissed from his chair the Professor of Historical Geology and Zoölogy, on account of the opinions he holds concerning the antiquity of the human race.

The reader will find a notice in its place of Prof. Winchell's pamphlet on "Adamites and Preadamites," the publication of which has been made the occasion of his exclusion from the university. It will be seen that Prof. Winchell has simply accepted the views that now prevail in the scientific world regarding the time that men have inhabited the earth. The old notions upon the subject are now no longer entertained by intelligent men, because the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly against them. How long the human race has occupied the globe is an open question, but two things are settled: 1. That man has a much higher antiquity than theology has been in the habit of teaching, and has been currently believed; and, 2. That the investigation belongs entirely to science, and must be pursued and determined on the basis of scientific evidence. Prof. Winchell argues the subject strictly as a scientist, but in no spirit of antagonism to religion or to the authority of the Bible. His argument, indeed, is rather an attempt to harmonize the teachings of Scripture with the conclusions of science; a task which he had previously undertaken in a more general way, by the publication of an able book on "The Reconciliation of Science and Religion." But he has met with the not unusual treatment of peacemakers, who miscalculate the temper of the strife they would compose. The stupid Southern Methodists that control the university, it seems, can learn nothing. The fight over the antiquity of the earth has but just closed. The theologians battled long and fiercely against the geologists on this question, but have been so utterly routed that hardly a man of them can now be found who holds to the old belief. Prof. Silliman led the scientific movement upon that subject in this country, and so profound was the theological alarm that eminent doctors of divinity implored him with tears to desist from the impious crusade, because, if successful, it would be certain to destroy the Christian college with which he was associated. That institution had the good sense not to disturb the distinguished teacher in his work, but to abide by the results of investigation; and who can now be found so foolish as to regret its course? But half a century later, when an analogous question arises, Vanberbilt University adopts a different policy, follows the exploded precedents of past centuries, and puts forth its power to muzzle, repress, silence, and discredit the independent teachers of scientific truth.

There are features about this case that call for further strictures. The action of Vanderbilt University is not a little aggravating when we consider how the institution originated, and this consideration will throw some further light on the present phase of the conflict between Religion and Science. For there is a sense of honor in which it may be claimed that Mr. Vanderbilt's donations and endowments belong pre-eminently to science. How did he come by his wealth? It was by reaping the