Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/299

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295
RELIGION AND SCIENCE.

small compared with that of his rival. How could the churchmen of the thirteenth century possibly know this? It has taken six centuries for us to learn it. Bacon's Opus Majus was first printed in its complete form in 1897—seven years ago, six centuries after his death.

His colleagues only knew that his brilliant and profound scientific ideas were too hard for them to follow. His theory of the rainbow, for instance, was not confirmed until the time of Descartes (1630). His correct theory of the Milky Way was not proved until 1610. His doctrine of 'species'—of the radiation of energies like gravitation—was not completed so as to be generally intelligible until the time of Huyghens, Hooke and Newton (1700). His conclusion that light is not propagated instantaneously, but takes time to pass from place to place, was not confirmed until the day of Roemer (1700). His guesses at the nature of heat could not have been understood or verified till the day of Count Rumford (1790). Bacon died in the year 1291.

How were his colleagues to judge of such profundities? They could not. But in looking through his scientific works they found that he held, with equal tenacity, a conclusion which they were entirely capable of judging. He declared that at a future conjunction of the moon and Jupiter the christian religion would perish. They believed their religion to be immortal. Bacon subjected a spiritual truth to material things; a divine institution to configurations and conjunctions of the planets. The first duty of institutions, states and individuals is self-preservation. For the church to accept Bacon's conclusions was sheer suicide. They were accordingly condemned. Along with the false the true suffered. It was an immense loss to the science of the middle ages and of the world that these things so fell out. But can it be wondered at? Were they, in any strict sense, the signs of a conflict between religion and science? The science that was especially condemned was false science; it was not true; it was, moreover, an attack on the very life of the church. Is not the whole episode just one step in the laborious, painful, slow, disheartening struggle between enlightenment and error—between illumination and ignorance? Must we not interpret the melancholy history of Jordano Bruno in the same way? Science had far less at stake in his case than in that of Bacon.

It may fairly be said, that up to the time of Galileo there never was, in any true sense, a conflict between religion and science. I am not here concerned to push the inquiry beyond this date of 1615. The controversies of the nineteenth century are, perhaps, of a different nature. During the earlier centuries there were endless warfares between one religion and another, between religion and heresy, between science and pseudo-science, but not between religion and science, as such. Looking backward, we now discover that the science of the nineteenth century would have been in conflict with the theology of the thirteenth. But in the thirteenth century itself, and