Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/31

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

myths or fabulous fulfillment of prophecies, and they wage fierce battles over minor points, as whether the first quotations from the Gospels are met with in the first or second half of the second century. But they nowhere attempt to grapple with the real difficulties, and show that the facts and arguments which converted men like Carlyle and Renan are mistaken facts and unsound arguments. Attempts to harmonize the Gospels, and to prove the inspiration of writings which contain manifest errors and contradictions, have gone the way of Buckland's proof of a universal deluge, and of Hugh Miller's attempt to reconcile Noah's ark and the Genesis account of creation with the facts of geology and astronomy. Not an inch of ground that has been conquered by science has ever been reconquered in fair light by theology.

This great scientific movement is of comparatively recent date. Darwin's "Origin of Species" was only published in 1859, and his views as to evolution, development, natural selection, and the prevalence of universal law, have already annexed nearly the whole world of modern thought, and become the foundation of all philosophical speculation and scientific inquiry.

Not only has faith been shaken in the supernatural as a direct and immediate agent in the phenomena of the worlds of matter and of life, but the demonstration of the "struggle for life" and "survival of the fittest" has raised anew, and with vastly augmented force, those questions as to the moral constitution of the universe and the origin of evil, which have so long exercised the highest minds. Is it true that "love" is "Creation's final law," when we find this enormous and apparently prodigal waste of life going on; these cruel internecine battles between individuals and species in the struggle for existence; this cynical indifference of Nature to suffering? There are, approximately, 3,000,000,000 of deaths of human beings in every century, of whom at least twenty per cent, or 720,000,000, die before they have attained to clear self-consciousness and conscience. What becomes of them? Why were they born? Are they Nature's failures, and "cast as rubbish to the heap"?

To such questions there is no answer. We are obliged to admit that as the material universe is not, as we once fancied, measured by our standards and regulated at every turn by an intelligence resembling ours; so neither is the moral universe to be explained by simply magnifying our own moral ideas, and explaining everything by the action of a Being who does what we should have done in his place. If we insist on this anthropomorphic concept ion, we are driven to this dilemma. Carlyle bases his belief in a God, "the infinite Good One," on this argument: "All that is good, generous, wise, right—whatever I deliberately and forever love in others and myself, who or what could by any possibility have given it to me, but One who first had it to give? This is not logic; this is axiom."