Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/616

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596
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

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

LATE PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

IV.—GEOLOGY
(concluded).

LONG before the end of the struggle described in the last article, even at a very early period, the futility of the usual scholastic weapons had been seen by the more keen-sighted champions of orthodoxy; and, as the difficulties of the ordinary attack upon science became more and more evident, many of these champions began endeavors to patch up a truce. So began the third stage in the war—the period of attempts at compromise.

The position which the compromise party took was that the fossils were produced by the Deluge of Noah.

This position was strong, for it was apparently based upon Scripture. Moreover, it had high ecclesiastical sanction—some of the fathers had held that fossil remains, even on the highest mountains, represented animals destroyed at the Deluge—Tertullian was especially firm on this point, and St. Augustine thought that a fossil tooth discovered in North Africa must have belonged to one of the giants mentioned in Scripture.[1]

In the sixteenth century especially, weight began to be attached to this idea by those who felt the worthlessness of various scholastic explanations. Strong men in both the Catholic and the Protestant camps accepted it; but the man who did most to give it an impulse into modern theology was Martin Luther. With his keen eye he saw that scholastic phrase-making could not meet the difficulties raised by fossils, and he naturally urged the doctrine of their origin at the Deluge of Noah.[2]

With such support, it soon became the dominant theory in Christendom. Nothing seemed able to stand against it, but before the end of the same sixteenth century it met some serious obstacles. Bernard Palissy, one of the most keen-sighted of scientific thinkers in France, as well as one of the most devoted of Christians, showed that this theory was utterly untenable. Conscientious investigators in other parts of Europe, and especially in Italy, showed the same thing.[3] All in vain—in vain did good men protest against the injury sure to be brought upon religion by tying it to a scientific theory sure to be ex-

  1. For Tertullian, see his "De Pallio," c. ii (Migne, "Patr. Lat.," ii, 1033). For Augustine's view, see Cuvier, "Recherches sur les Ossements fossiles," fourth edition, vol. ii, p. 143.
  2. For Luther's opinion, see his "Commentary on Genesis."
  3. For a very full statement of the honorable record of Italy in this respect, and for the enlightened views of some Italian churchmen, see Stoppani, "Il Dogma e le Scienze Positive," Milan, 1886, pp. 203 et seq.