Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/375

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361
EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

THE CONFLICT OF RELIGION AND SCIENCE.

IT is a common remark that there is no necessary hostility between religion and science; and this is unquestionably true. That they will be ultimately harmonized we cannot doubt; but the world is very far from having yet reached that blessed consummation. The scientist and the religionist can get on comfortably together as long as they talk in very general terms; but when they come to close quarters, and press earnestly for definitions, collision is pretty certain to ensue. This is partly due to the one-sidedness of the parties; much to still unresolved difficulties in the relation of the subjects; and not a little, it must be confessed, to that spirit of pugnacity by which humanity is still eminently animated. It is an age of propagandism and proselyting by tongue and pen; and the graceless multitude, moreover, always enjoys a good fight. The Archbishop of York was called to Edinburgh to lecture before the Philosophical Society, and the chance of pommeling some of our modern so-called philosophers was too good to be lost. Prof. Huxley happened to be engaged to give a lecture in the same town shortly after, invited by a religious body, and he would have been more a saint than his predecessor, if he could have refrained from giving back some of the archbishop's blows. In vindicating his school from the charge of materialism, Prof. Huxley felt it incumbent upon him to inquire into the nature of the juices of living things, and thus innocently kindled the great war of protoplasm that has stirred the combative propensities of the religious and scientific world to this day. And again, from the way the President of the British Association has been lately belabored by religious and semi-religious people of all sorts, we must conclude that the temper of antagonism is far from having yet died out, and that there must be a good deal more vigorous campaigning before a peace will be finally conquered.

Indeed, this conflict just now threatens to assume far larger proportions, and to be renewed upon a scale which we have been accustomed to consider as belonging to the distant past. The entire population of Europe is estimated at about 301,000,000, of which 185,000,000 are Roman Catholics, 71,000,000, Protestants, broken up into numerous sects, and the remainder are Greek Catholics, Jews, and Mohammedans. The adherents of the Roman Catholic Church are thus more numerous, by 69,000,000, than all sorts of religious people taken together. The Roman Church is the most extensive and powerfully organized of all modern societies, and with a mighty prestige of historic associations and traditions, claims to be supreme, infallible, to act under a divine commission, to have for its head the vicegerent of God, and to exact the most implicit obedience from all the members of its communion. It had long been believed that the Roman Church, silently yielding to the advance of intelligence and the growing spirit of liberality in modern times, has abated something of its ancient and arrogant pretensions; but there is not a little reason to think that this was an erroneous impression. In his "Encyclical Letter," put forth by the head of the Church, in 1864, the pope denounces that "most pernicious and insane opinion, that liberty of conscience and of worship is the right of every man, and that this right ought, in every well-governed state, to be proclaimed and asserted by law; and that the will of the people, manifested by public opin-