Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/260

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240
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and meanwhile biosis is striving vigorously to hold its ground against archebiosis.

Behold! are not Religion and Life the two greatest subjects? You are quite anxious that your readers shall fancy that religionists cannot agree in their definitions of religion. But you do not show them that even on the subject of Life the scientists are greatly at difference. Prof. Owen says that "Life is a sound;" Schelling says it is a "tendency." Herbert Spencer calls it "a continuous adjustment." Dr. Meissner says it is "but motion." Dr. Bastian holds that he has produced plants and animals from inorganic matter. Schultz positively believes it never was done and cannot be done: and Prof. Huxley holds that "constructive chemistry could do nothing without the influence of preëxisting living protoplasm."

I do not wish to crowd your pages, and so content myself with these few instances out of the multitudes of conflicting and perplexing differences among "advanced thinkers."

Even you, my dear sir, have not utterly escaped. You once wrote, "If the forces are correlated in organic growth and nutrition, they must be in organic action." Manifestly, after that sentence was written, you meditated, and, meditating, you discovered that the sequitur was not quite as apparent as it ought to be. You did not strike out the sentence, but you apologized for it handsomely by saying, "From the great complexity of the conditions, the same exactness will not be expected here as in the inorganic field." But you see, my dear sir, that theology is a science which has for its field those subjects in which there is the greatest complexity of conditions, and you must not demand of your brother scientists as much exactness in the statements of a metaphysical proposition as you may in the statement of the length of a fish's tooth.

But as to your statement that the forces must be correlated in organic action, are you not in danger of being "eaten up" by the statements of your friends, Bastian, Barker, and, what is still harder on you, Herbert Spencer? Prof. Barker teaches that the correlation of the natural forces with thought "has never yet been measured." Then, it is a mere "guess." Dr. Bastian says that it "cannot be proved" that sensation and thought are truly the direct results of molecular activity. Then it is a mere "guess." Mr. Herbert Spencer, whose name is conclusive authority with you, and who, I am most frank to admit, knows as much about the "unknowable" as any writer whose works I have read, says that the outer force and the inward feeling it excites "do not even maintain an unvarying proportion." Then it is a mere "guess." And, my dear sir, I do most heartily agree with your statement, "not he who guesses is to be esteemed the true discoverer, but he who demonstrates a new truth."

Now, if Messrs. Spencer, Barker, Tyndall, Huxley, Büchner, Draper, Youmans, "& Co.," will "get together and settle" what Life is, or Thought, "an important step will be gained;" and, not to be outdone by your generosity, I will engage to "pay the expenses of a convention of reasonable length for such a purpose," but I "stipulate not to foot the bills until you reach an agreement."

Trusting that both you and I, as we grow older, may have more science and more religion, and room enough in our heads and hearts for both without "conflict,"

I am, very faithfully, your co-laborer,

Charles F. Deems.

 

Of course Dr. Deems meant to announce, assert, and declare, the groundlessness of the conflict between Religion and Science; and we think the readers of our article which he criticises were not in the slightest danger of misapprehending his position, notwithstanding the slip of writing in which he is said to have denounced it.

Dr. Deems asks: "Why are you so anxious to keep your readers from believing that the gentlemen whose names you have recited in fact do not, and really cannot, agree as to what is religion?" Has not the doctor here slipped also, in inadvertent haste, and does he not really mean, Why are you so anxious to make your readers believe, etc.? and to this we reply, that the anxiety in regard to a definition of religion has not originated with us. It is the reviewers of Dr. Draper who have called for a definition of religion from him, and condemn his book as dealing with a "conflict" existing only in his own imagination, because he has not defined what religion is. Had he undertaken this, they tell us, it would have at once appeared that there is and can be really no such conflict. We said that "the point of contention is as to what constitutes religion," because the theological reviewers of Draper charge that what he treats as religion, and as conflicting with science, is not religion. We have not denied that religion can be so defined as to avoid all antagonism with science; and there is hope that the time may come when such a definition will be accepted and the antagonism will disappear. We only maintain that in the historic past,