Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/580

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Scientific Literature.


In his recently published History of the Warfare of Science,[1] Dr. Andrew D. White has given the world a work of great practical value—a work to which we can confidently refer any one who desires to know not only what is thought to-day in the principal departments of scientific inquiry, but by what stages the crude and illogical fancies of an earlier period gave way to conclusions founded on observation and induction. The title of Dr. White's book, we have no doubt, will give offense in certain quarters, but it would be difficult to say how the actual content of the book could be otherwise expressed. It is a narrative of conflict in which we invariably find that conclusions derived from the study of facts have bad to make their way against opinions resting on the supposed authoritative utterances of a sacred book. In whatever direction we turn we find that theology has been beforehand with science in telling men what to believe, even in matters that turn on the evidence of the senses, and that science has to climb over mountains of obstruction and wage many a desperate battle before it can secure the right to deliver its message to mankind. How can this conflict be described otherwise than as Dr. White has described it? It is not a conflict merely between true science and false science, between sound views and unsound views, but a conflict between the observation of Nature and of facts generally and an utterly unreasoning adherence to things said. It is a struggle of data against dicta, science taking its stand on the former and theology on the latter. It is true that theology has, in these later days, reconsidered its position, and consented to hand over to the jurisdiction of science vast regions of thought which it once assumed to rule with absolute authority; but none the less was it theology which fought science step by step in the past, and that not by argument m any true sense, but by the weapons of physical force, and often in a spirit of intolerable arrogance and cruelty.

Although the rôle in which theology is necessarily made to appear in the volumes before us is a decidedly unamiable one, it would be unjust to Dr. White not to recognize the kindly and charitable spirit in which his work is written. He deplores the crimes against intellectual liberty that were perpetrated by ecclesiastical powers, but he rarely excites our enmity against the individuals concerned. He shows that they acted according to their lights, that their judgments were overpowered by the authority which it was common in their day to ascribe to sacred texts, and that, in resisting the most convincing demonstrations of scientific truth, they honestly believed they were following a surer and higher guidance. To them science, or the observation of Nature, represented at best the unaided operations of the human intellect, whereas Holy Writ contained the direct and authentic teaching of the Divine Spirit. How, then, could they hesitate between the two? How could they fail to consider as guilty of dangerous impiety those who ventured to set up the former against the latter? As we read Dr.

  1. History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. By Andrew D. White, LL. D., L. H. D. 2 vols., 8vo, New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $5.