Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/279

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



honest teaching of social principles by the method of science. The object of the students was to gain true ideas of the nature and organization of human society. Nothing, surely, could be more pertinent, or necessary, than for them to be put upon their guard against sources of error in considering the subject. If there is a bias from theological influences that is calculated to vitiate or pervert the judgment upon social questions, what could be more important than that it should be pointed out? In dealing with society from a scientific point of view, Mr. Spencer had to consider it in its widest relations, or as manifested in varying grades, by all races of men upon the earth. In all forms of society religious systems play a leading part, but these systems are diverse and numberless. Mr. Spencer, therefore, drew his illustrations of the distorting influence of theological beliefs upon views of society from different quarters. Mohammedans and Feejeeans, Catholic and Protestant Christians, are cited to exemplify the common tendencies of theological doctrine to obscure the mental vision and prejudice opinion. He shows, moreover, with equal force, how the anti-theological bias may produce, and has produced, the same perverting effects.

The difference in the points of view of the theologian and the scientist comes out here sharply. Science inquires into the laws of phenomena; social science into the laws of social phenomena. As societies have developed, religious systems have also grown up as a part of the general phenomena of social growth. Social science is concerned with religion as a universal fact of human nature, which gives rise to universal social effects—it deals, in short, with the natural laws of universal religious phenomena. With these views theology has no sympathy. It is scornfully and passionately rejected by the religious devotee. His position is that there is one religion that is absolutely true, and that all other religions are absolutely false, and any notion of treating them all alike is rejected with horror. And the one religion that is true, being a supernatural system, is not to be studied as a natural phenomenon, or by the method of science. The devout mind thus recoils at the very fundamental conception of social science, which it regards as the offspring of infidelity and atheism.

To this source of prejudice Mr. Spencer devoted a chapter in his book, and how necessary it was is now abundantly apparent. The religious press has raised a storm of denunciation against the sociologist and all his books, and the professor, faculty, and college that have had anything to do with them. Religious prejudices are stimulated to their utmost by the odium theologicum. The "Study of Sociology" is cursed as a book of atheism, and the school that uses it is condemned as a propagator of infidelity. That stanch exponent of the spirit of orthodoxy, the "New York Observer," makes up a sharp issue between Christianity and social science as follows: "The traditions of the college (Yale) are all in favor of the Christian religion, and the public may be assured that the faculty and trustees will never consent to have the atheism of Spencer offered to the students. They can find enough of that without going to college to find books in which Christianity is argued against and ridiculed. We are glad that President Porter stands firm, and we may also add that the resignation of any professor who has sympathies with Herbert Spencer will be a great advantage to the college."

The "Christian Intelligencer" says: "Herbert Spencer's 'Sociology' has been introduced as a text-book. The faculty are divided in regard to the use of such a work. The President, it is said, opposes the study of a book essentially infidel. There should be no difference, no discussion among honest