THE hope is indulged by many that, with the progress of intelligence and the increase of liberal feeling, the old conflict between religion and science will either die away, or lose so much of its rancorous spirit that it may be coolly and rationally considered, like any other question. But there are parties who do not seem to think this result desirable, and do all they can to perpetuate the acrimonies that have marked this controversy in the past; and, while we will not say that this bad spirit is all on one side, we will say that the most of it and the worst form of it are on one side, and that the side which makes special pretensions to a higher guidance and the loftier virtues. There are religious teachers who habitually make use of science as a scarecrow and bugbear to arouse popular prejudice, and, in doing this, they have not the smallest possible scruple in their representations. We ask attention to the latest illustration of these tactics.
It may be news to some of our readers that there has recently been a vicious attack, on the part of divers religious editors, upon the revised edition of Appletons' Cyclopædia, now going through the press, on the ground that the work is being done in the interests of Romanism. As that charge begins to grow stale, a new cry is raised by the same parties, that the Cyclopædia is being revised in the interest of atheism. The first attack did not interest us, both because our enthusiasm has never run in the direction of ecclesiastical history, and because we knew the character of the men engaged in the revision to be a perfect guarantee for the intelligent, impartial, and thorough performance of their duty to the public. The revisers of the Cyclopædia are our nearest neighbors, and their proceedings have interested us from the beginning. What have especially and constantly attracted our attention have been, the vigorous discipline maintained in carrying on the work, and the incessant solicitude and inflexible determination manifested to make it, in the highest degree, truthful and trustworthy. Knowing this so well, we had not the slightest apprehension that a petty onslaught, inspired by sectarian jealousy, could seriously affect the character of the work with the intelligent class to which such a Cyclopædia must mainly appeal. But in this second attack, which is of wider import, we find ourselves personally implicated, and it therefore becomes proper to notice it; and, when we have shown what it amounts to, the reader will have a pretty good basis for judging the quality of other criticisms emanating from the same source.
In a late number of the Christian at Work, a newspaper edited by the Rev. De Witt Talmage, there is a leading article which contains the following passages: