Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/93

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81
SCIENCE AND RELIGION.

enfolded in the words, "He maketh his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and upon the unjust"—he contends only for the displacement of prayer, not for its extinction. He simply says, physical Nature is not its legitimate domain.

This conclusion, moreover, must be based on pure physical evidence, and not on any inherent unreasonableness in the act of prayer. The theory that the system of Nature is under the control of a Being who changes phenomena in compliance with the prayers of men, is, in my opinion, a perfectly legitimate one. It may of course be rendered futile by being associated with conceptions which contradict it, but such conceptions form no necessary part of the theory. It is a matter of experience that an earthly father, who is at the same time both wise and tender, listens to the requests of his children, and, if they do not ask amiss, takes pleasure in granting their requests. We know also that this compliance extends to the alteration, within certain limits, of the current of events on earth. With this suggestion offered by our experience, it is no departure from scientific method to place behind natural phenomena a universal Father, who, in answer to the prayers of His children, alters the currents of those phenomena. Thus far Theology and Science go hand in hand. The conception of an ether, for example, trembling with the waves of light, is suggested by the ordinary phenomena of wave-motion in water and in air; and in like manner the conception of personal volition in Nature is suggested by the ordinary action of man upon earth. I therefore urge no impossibilities, though you constantly charge me with doing so. I do not even urge inconsistency, but, on the contrary, frankly admit that you have as good a right to place your conception at the root of phenomena as I have to place mine.

But, without verification, a theoretic conception is a mere figment of the intellect, and I am sorry to find us parting company at this point. The region of theory, both in science and theology, lies behind the world of the senses, but the verification of theory occurs in the sensible world. To check the theory we have simply to compare the deductions from it with the facts of observation. If the deductions be in accordance with the facts, we accept the theory: if in opposition, the theory is given up. A single experiment is frequently devised by which the theory must stand or fall. Of this character was the determination of the velocity of light in liquids as a crucial test of the Emission Theory. According to Newton, light travelled faster in water than in air; according to an experiment suggested by Arago, and executed by Fizeau and Foucault, it travelled faster in air than in water. The experiment was conclusive against Newton's theory.

But while science cheerfully submits to this ordeal, it seems impossible to devise a mode of verification of their theory which does not arouse resentment in theological minds. Is it that, while the pleasure of the scientific man culminates in the demonstrated harmony