Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/468

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452
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.
By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE,

LATE PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

III. METEOROLOGY {concluded).

WHILE the Fathers and school-men were laboring to deduce a science of meteorology from our sacred books, there oozed up in European society a mass of traditions and observances which had been lurking since the days of paganism; and, although here and there appeared a churchman to oppose them, the theologians and ecclesiastics ere long began to adopt them and to clothe them with the authority of religion.

Both among the pagans of the Roman Empire and among the barbarians of the North the Christian missionaries had found it easier to prove the new God supreme than to prove the old gods powerless. Faith in the miracles of the new religion seemed to increase rather than to diminish faith in the miracles of the old; and the Church at last began admitting the latter as facts, but ascribing them to the devil. Jupiter and Odin sank into the category of ministers of Satan, and transferred to that master all their former powers. A renewed study of Scripture by the theologians, in the light of this hypothesis, elicited overwhelming proofs of its truth. They found very many sacred texts to support it, and it soon became a dogma. So strong was the hold it took, under the influence of the Church, that not until late in the seventeenth century did its substantial truth begin to be questioned.

Now, with no field of action had the sway of the ancient deities been more identified than with that of atmospheric phenomena. The Roman heard Jupiter, and the Teuton heard Thor, in the thunder. Could it be doubted that these powerful beings would now take occasion, unless hindered by the command of the Almighty, to vent their spite against those who had deserted their altars? Might not the Almighty himself be willing to employ the malice of these powers of the air against those who had offended him?

It was, indeed, no great step, for those whose simple faith accepted rain or sunshine as an answer to their prayers, to suspect that the untimely storms or droughts, which baffled their most earnest petitions, were the work of the arch-enemy, "the prince of the power of the air."

The great Fathers of the Church had laid the basis of this doctrine in Scripture. Saint Jerome declared the air to be full of devils, basing this belief upon various statements in the prophecies of Isaiah and in