Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/617

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
597
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

ploded; the doctrine that fossils were the remains of animals drowned at the Flood continued to be upheld by the great majority of theological leaders for nearly three centuries as "sound doctrine," and as a blessed means of reconciling science with Scripture.[1] To sustain this scriptural view, efforts were put forth absolutely Herculean both by Catholics and Protestants.

In Germany, early in the seventeenth century (1612), Dr. Wolfgang Franz, Professor of Theology at Wittenberg, published his "Sacred History of Animals," described dragons with three ranges of teeth, and calmly added, "The greatest of these is the devil." This book was influential upon thought for a hundred years. It claimed to be designed for "students of theology and ministers of the word," and especially to instruct clergymen how, in biblical fashion, to utilize the various traits of animals to the edification of their hearers.[2]

In France the learned Benedictine, Calmet, in his great works on the Bible, accepted this view as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century, believing the mastodon's bones exhibited by Mazurier to be those of King Teutobocus, and held them valuable testimony to the existence of the giants mentioned in Scripture and of the early inhabitants of the earth overwhelmed by the Flood.[3]

But the greatest champion appeared in England. We have already seen how, near the close of the seventeenth century, Thomas Burnet prepared the way in his "Sacred Theory of the Earth" by rejecting the discoveries of Newton, and showing how sin led to the breaking up of the "foundations of the great deep"; and we have also seen how Whiston, in his "New Theory of the Earth," while yielding a little and accepting the discoveries of Newton, brought in a comet to aid in producing the Deluge; but far more important than these in his permanent influence was John Woodward, professor at Gresham College, a leader in scientific thought at the University of Cambridge, and, as a patient collector of fossils and an earnest investigator of their meaning, deserving of the highest respect. In 1695 he published his "Natural History of the Earth," and rendered one great service to science, for he yielded another point, and thus destroyed the foundations for the old theory of fossils. He showed that they were not "sports of Nature," or "models inserted by the Creator in the strata for some inscrutable purpose," but that they were really remains of living beings. So far, he rendered a great service both to science and religion; but, this done, the text of the Old Testament narrative and the famous passage in St. Peter's Epistle were too strong for him,

  1. See Audiat, "Vie de Palissy," p. 412, and Cantu, "Hist, universelle," vol. xv, p. 492.
  2. See Franz, "Historia Animalium," edition of 1671, especially in the preface; also Perrier, "La Philosophie zoologique avant Darwin," Paris, 1884, p. 29.
  3. See Calmet, "Dissertation sur les Géants," cited in Berger de Xivrey, "Traditions tératologiques," p. 191.