Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/749

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731
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

ons," which have three rows of teeth to each jaw, and he piously adds, "the principal dragon is the Devil."

Near the end of the same century, Father Kircher, the great Jesuit professor at Rome, holds back the skeptical current, insists upon the orthodox view, and represents among the animals entering the ark sirens and griffins.

Yet even among theologians we note here and there a skeptical spirit in natural science. Early in the same seventeenth century Eugène Roger published his Travels in Palestine. As regards the utterances of Scripture he was soundly orthodox; he prefaces his work with a map showing, among other important points referred to in biblical history, the place where Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, the cavern which Adam and Eve inhabited after their expulsion from paradise, the spot where Balaam's ass spoke, the place where Jacob wrestled with the angel, the steep place down which the swine possessed of devils plunged into the sea, the position of the salt statue which was once Lot's wife, the place at sea where Jonah was swallowed by the whale, and "the exact spot where St. Peter caught one hundred and fifty-three fishes."

As to natural history, he sees, describes, and discusses with great theological acuteness the basilisk. He tells us that the animal is about a foot and a half long, is shaped like a crocodile, and kills people with a single glance. The one which he saw was dead, fortunately for him, since in the time of Pope Leo IV—as he tells us—one appeared in Rome and killed many people by merely looking at them; but the Pope destroyed it with his prayers and the sign of the cross. He informs us that Providence has wisely and mercifully protected man by requiring the monster to cry aloud two or three times whenever it leaves its den, and that the divine wisdom in creation is also shown by the fact that the monster is obliged to look its victim in the eye and at a certain fixed distance before its glance can penetrate the victim's brain and so pass to his heart. He also gives a reason for supposing that the same divine mercy has provided that the crowing of a cock will kill the basilisk.

Yet even in this good and credulous missionary we see the influence of Bacon and the dawn of experimental science; for, having been told many stories regarding the salamanders, he secured one, placed it alive upon the burning coals, and reports to us that the legends concerning its power to live in the fire are untrue. He also tried experiments with the chameleon, and found that the stories told of it were to be received with much allowance: while, then, he locks up his judgment whenever he discusses the letter of Scripture, he uses his mind in other things much after the modern method.