Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/426

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412
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

A GREAT SCHOLAR ON EVOLUTION.

AS many of our readers are doubtless aware, the "Fortnightly Review" has lately opened its pages to a discussion of the present relations between theology and the general thought of the age. The subject has been approached by several writers from different points of view; and we can not but believe that the conflict of opinions will result in some solid gain to the cause of truth. Meantime we are interested in the criticism which the Rev. Dr. Burgon, Dean of Chichester, one of the disputants, in replying to Canon Fremantle, whose article was reproduced in our last number, has bestowed on the doctrine of evolution. Dr. Burgon is, we believe, one of the highest authorities on the textual criticism of the Scriptures now to be found in the Church of England. He has devoted a long life, he himself tells us, exclusively to that study. One would suppose that a man conscious of having given all his attention to one line of thought and research would be diffident about his competency in another and widely different one. Not so with Dr. Burgon, however; he is quite satisfied that he is as well able to deal with the doctrine of evolution as with the age of a Greek manuscript; and in the April "Fortnightly" he tells us just what he thinks on that subject in very emphatic and unmistakable terms. It is, he affirms, "utterly unscientific," a "wild hypothesis," "the merest impertinence," "the veriest foolishness." Does the reverend gentleman advance any arguments in support of these powerfully expressed opinions? Yes; and one of them is, that "man is never found at all in a fossil state." So convinced is the reverend doctor that this is a great truth, that he himself calls in the aid of italics to give it emphasis. Yet, had he opened the most elementary contemporary treatise on geology, he would have found that abundant fossil remains of man, and abundant traces also of his works, have been found in association with the bones of now extinct animals. The other arguments used by the doctor against the theory of evolution are drawn principally from the book of Genesis. He insists that man has not yet been quite six thousand years upon the earth, and quotes as an authority on that question Clinton, the author of "Fasti Hellenici." On the subject of miracles he has nothing better to tell us than that they are strictly analogous to human action in the realm of Nature: ergo, because man finds that he can do certain things by availing himself of natural laws, he must be ready to believe whatever may be told him of things done in apparent independence of all laws.

Dr. Burgon's article will do good. The extreme ignorance he manifests on scientific questions, and the unbounded confidence with which he nevertheless undertakes to discuss them, will open the eyes of many as to the pressing need for the scientific education of the clergy. A knowledge of manuscripts is all very well in its way; but a man who has to deal with the minds and hearts of other men, needs more than that. He needs to know the times he lives in, and the influences that are molding contemporary thought. Imagine, for a moment, a clergyman approaching an intelligent parishioner who is studying carefully the geological elements of the question as to the antiquity of man, and imagine that clergyman advising the parishioner to put aside his Lyell or his Geikie, and study Clinton's "Fasti" instead! Could a more absolutely absurd situation be conceived? Yet this is precisely what the learned Dean Burgon