Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/328

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morals, by demonstrating a universal materialism. Many are ready to cry out in anguish, "Ye have taken away our gods, what have we more? Ye have destroyed our dearest hopes and noblest aspirations, what more is left worth living for?" But I think all who are at all familiar with the history of the so-called conflict between religion and science will admit this is not the first time this cry has been raised against science. They have heard this danger-cry so often that they begin to regard it as little more than a wolf-cry—scientific wolf in the religious fold. It may not be amiss, then, to stop a moment to trace rapidly the main points of this conflict—to discuss the various forms of this scientific wolf.

First, then, it came in the form of the heliocentric theory of the planetary system. We once thought the earth the center of the universe, and so firm that it can not be moved. But science shows that it moves about the sun, and spins unceasingly on its axis. Every one has heard of the terror of the sheep produced by this discovery, and the nearly tragic results to the bold scientist. But now we look back with wonder that there should have been any trouble at all. Would any Christian now consent to give up the grand conceptions of Nature and of God thus opened to the human mind—the idea of infinite space full of worlds, of which our earth is one, moving in silent harmony as in a mystic dance? Verily, this wolf has proved itself a harmless, nay, a very noble, beast, and lies down in peace with the lambs.

Next, it came in the shape of the law of gravitation, as sustentation of the cosmos by law and resident forces. The effect of this on religious thought was even more profound, though less visible on the surface, because only perceived by the most intelligent. It seemed at that time to remove God from the course of Nature. This was the real ground of the skepticism of the last century, and also the real motive of Voltaire's ardent advocacy of Newton's views before these were generally accepted in France. But now, who would give up this grand idea—this conception of law pervading infinite space—the same law which controls the falling of a stone guiding also the planetary orbs in their fiery courses? This is indeed the divine spheral music, inaudible but to the ear of science, accompanying the celestial dance.

Next, it came in the form of the antiquity of the earth and of the cosmos. The earth which we had fondly thought made specially for us about six thousand years ago; sun moon, and stars, which we had vainly imagined shone only for our behoof—these, science tells us, existed and each performed its due course inconceivable ages before there was a man to till the ground or contemplate the heavens. Some of my readers may still remember the horror, the angry dispute which followed the promulgation of these facts. But now, who would consent to give up the noble conception of infinite time thus opened to our human mind and become forever the heritage of man?

Next it came in the form of the antiquity of man. It is probable,