Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/320

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nessed the final emancipation of the mind. I do not see that Darwin's supreme service to his fellow men was his demonstration of evolution—man could have lived on quite as happily and perhaps more morally under the old notion that he was specially made in the image of his maker. Darwin's supreme service was that he won for man absolute freedom in the study of the laws of nature; he literally fulfilled the saying of St. John, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

When we look back upon the very recent years of 1858-59, the years of revolution, we see that we were far from free either to-study nature or reason about it. Our intellectual chains were from the forges of theology both catholic and protestant. The Bible was read as a revelation of physical law rather than as an epic of righteousness and spiritual law. Theology while in power was itself in a most critical position, in a cul-de-sac of antagonism to reason and common sense, and this despite the warnings of Augustine and of Bacon. As early as the fifth century the wise theologian of Numidia had said:

Leave questions of the earth and the sky and the other elements of this world to reasoning and observation. Perceiving that you are as far from the truth as the east from the west the man of science will scarce restrain his laughter.

Similarly, the great founder of the inductive method observed:

Do not excite the laughter of men of science through an absurd mixture of matters human and divine. Do not commit the consummate folly of building a system of natural philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis or on the Book of Job.

It is difficult for the college student in this day of liberty, if not of license, to realize that, in the words of Lowell:

We breathe cheaply in the common air thoughts that great hearts once broke for.

When, in 1844, Darwin communicated to the botanist Hooker under promise of secrecy his outline of evolution, he well knew the opprobrium it would bring, for he subsequently added (1846):

When my notes are published I shall fall infinitely low in the opinion of all sound naturalists, so this is my prospect for the future.

From the borders of Poland in 1543, or just three centuries earlier, Copernicus had published his "Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies," and thus fired the first shot in a three-hundred-years war for freedom to observe nature. In 1611 the telescope of Galileo demonstrated the truth of the Copernican law that the earth moves around the sun; and the most impressive object to-day in Florence is the model of the finger of this great astronomer as he held it up before the examiners of the inquisition, with the words, "It still moves."

As time advanced the prison gave way to the milder but effective