Popular Science Monthly/Volume 28/March 1886/Proem to Genesis
|PROEM TO GENESIS:|
A REPLY TO PROFESSOR HUXLEY.
VOUS avez une manière si aimable d’annoncer les plus mauvaises nouvelles, qu’elles perdent par lá de leurs désagrémens. So wrote, de haut en bas (from above down), the Duchess of York to Beau Brummell, sixty or seventy years back; and so write I, de bas en haut (from below up), to the two very eminent champions who have in the "Nineteenth Century" of December entered appearances on behalf of Dr. Réville's Prolégomènes, with a decisiveness of tone, at all events, which admits of no mistake: Professor Huxley and Professor Max Müller. My first duty is to acknowledge in both cases the abundant courtesy and indulgence with which I am personally treated. And my first thought is that, where even disagreement is made in a manner pleasant, it will be a duty to search and see if there be any points of agreement or approximation, which will be more pleasant still. This indulgence and courtesy deserves in the case of Professor Huxley a special warmth of acknowledgment, because, while thus more than liberal to the individual, he has for the class of Reconcilers, in which he places me, an unconcealed and unmeasured scorn. These are they who impose upon man a burden of false science in the name of religion, who dictate as a Divine command "an implicit belief in the cosmogony of Genesis;" and who "stir unwisdom and fanaticism to their depths." Judgments so severe should surely be supported by citation or other evidence, for which 1 look in vain. To some they might suggest the idea that Passion may sometimes unawares intrude even within the precincts of the temple of Science. But 1 admit that a great master of his art may well be provoked, when he finds his materials tumbled about by incapable hands, and may mistake for irreverence what is only want of skill.
While acknowledging the great courtesy with which Professor Huxley treats his antagonist individually, and while simply listening to his denunciations of the Reconcilers as one listens to distant thunders, with a sort of sense that after all they will do no great harm, I must presume to animadvert with considerable freedom upon his method; upon the sweeping character of his advocacy; upon his perceptible exaggeration of points in controversy; upon his mode of dealing with authorities; and upon the curious fallacy of substitution by which he enables himself to found the widest proscriptions of the claim of the Book of Genesis to contain a Divine record upon a reasoned impeachment of its scientific accuracy in, as I shall show, a single particular.
As to the first of these topics, nothing can be more equitable than Professor Huxley's intention to intervene as a "science proctor" in that part of the debate raised by M. Réville, "to which he proposes to restrict his observations" (P. S. M. p. 449). This is the part on which he proposes in his first page to report as a student—and every reader will inwardly add, as one of the most eminent among all students—of natural science. Now this is not the cosmogonical part of the account in Genesis. On Genesis i. 1-19, containing the cosmogony, he does not report as an expert, but refers us (p. 859) to "those who are specially conversant with the sciences involved;" adding his opinion about their opinion. Yet in his second page, without making any reference to this broad distinction, he at once forgets the just limitation of his first, and our "proctor for science" pronounces on M. Réville's estimate, not of the fourfold succession in the stratification of the earth, but of "the account of the Creation given in the Hook of Genesis," that its terms are as "respectful as in his judgment they arc just" (ibid.). Thus the proctorship for science, justly assumed for matters within his province as a student, is rather hastily extended to matters which he himself declares to be beyond it. In truth it will appear, that as there are many roads to heaven with one ending, so, provided only a man arrives at the conclusion that the great Proem of Genesis lends no support to the argument for Revelation, it docs not much matter how he gets there. For in this "just" account of the Creation I have shown that M. Réville supports his accusation of scientific error by three particulars (N. C. p. 689): that in the first he contradicts the judgment of scholars on the sense of the original; in the second he both misquotes (by inadvertence) the terms of the text, and overlooks the distinction made so palpable (if not earlier) half a century ago, by the work of Dr. Buckland, between bara and asa; while the third proceeds on the assumption that there could be no light to produce vegetation, except light derived from a visible sun. These three charges constitute the head and front of M. Réville's indictment against the cosmogony; and the fatal flaws in them, without any notice or defense, are now all taken under the mantle of our science proctor, who returns to the charge at the close of his article (p. 459), and again dismisses with comprehensive honor as "wise and moderate" what he had ushered in as reverent and just. So much for the sweeping, undiscriminating character of an advocacy which, in a scientific writer, we might perhaps have expected to be carefully limited and defined.
I take next the exaggeration which appears to me to mark unhappily Professor Huxley's method. Under this head I include all needless multiplication of points of controversy, whether in the form of overstating differences, or understating agreements, with an adversary.
As I have lived for more than half a century in an atmosphere of contention, my stock of controversial fire has perhaps become abnormally low; while Professor Huxley, who has been inhabiting the Elysian regions of science, the edita doctrinâ sapientûm templa serena, may be enjoying all the freshness of an unjaded appetite. Certainly one of the lessons life has taught me is, that where there is known to be a common object, the pursuit of truth, there should also be a studious desire to interpret the adversary in the best sense his words will fairly bear; to avoid whatever widens the breach; and to make the most of whatever tends to narrow it. These I hold to be part of the laws of knightly tournament.
I do not, therefore, fully understand why Professor Huxley makes it a matter of objection to me that, in rebuking a writer who had treated evolution wholesale as a novelty in the world, I cited a few old instances of moral and historical evolution only, and did not extend my front by examining Indian sages and the founders of Greek philosophy (P. S. M. p. 454). Nor why, when I have spoken of physical evolution as of a thing to me most acceptable, but not yet in its rigor (to my knowledge) proved (N. G. p. 705), we have only the rather niggardly acknowledgment that I have made "the most oblique admissions of a possible value" (P. S. M. p. 454). Tims it is when agreement is threatened, but far otherwise when differences are to be blazoned. When I have spoken of the succession of orders in the most general terms only, this is declared a sharply divided succession in which the last species of one can not overlap the first species of another (p. 457). When I have pleaded on simple grounds of reasoning for the supposition of a substantial correspondence between Genesis L and science (N. C. p. 696), have waived all question of a verbal inspiration, all question whether the whole of the statements can now be made good (N. C. p. 694), I am treated as one of those who impose "in the name of religion" as a divine requisition "an implicit belief in the accuracy of the cosmogony of Genesis," and who deserve to have their heads broken in consequence (P. S. M. p. 460).
I have urged nothing "in the name of religion." I have sought to adduce probable evidence that a guidance more than human lies within the great Proem of the Book of Genesis (N. C. p. 694), just as I might adduce probable evidence to show that Francis did or did not write Junius, that William the Third was or was not responsible for the massacre of Glencoe; I have expressly excepted detail (p. 696), and have stated (N. C. p. 687) that in my inquiry "the authority of Scripture can not be alleged in proof of a primitive revelation" (N. C. p. 687). I object to all these exaggerations of charge, as savoring of the spirit of the Inquisition, and as restraints on literary freedom.
My next observation as to the Professor's method refers to his treatment of authorities.
In one passage (P. S. M. p. 450) Mr. Huxley expresses bis regret that I have not named my authority for the statement made concerning the fourfold succession, in order that he might have transferred his attentions from myself to a new delinquent. Now, published works are (as I may show) a fair subject for reference. But as to pointing out any person who might have favored me with his views in private correspondence, I own that I should have some scruple in handing him over to be pilloried as a Reconciler, and to be pelted with charges of unwisdom and fanaticism, which I myself, from long use, am perfectly content to bear.
I did refer to three great and famous names: those of Cuvier, Sir John Herschel, and Whewell (N. C. p. 697). Mr. Huxley speaks of me as having quoted them in support of my case on the fourfold succession; and at the same time notices that I admitted Cuvier not to be a recent authority, which in geology proper is, I believe, nearly equivalent to saying he is, for particulars, no authority at all. This recital is singularly inaccurate. I cited them (N. C. p. 697), not with reference to the fourfold succession, but generally for "the general accordance of the Mosaic cosmogony with the results of modern inquiry" (ibid.), and particularly in connection with the nebular hypothesis. It is the cosmogony (Gen. i. 1-19), not the fourfold succession, which was the sole object of Réville's attack, and the main object of my defense; and which is the largest portion of the whole subject. Will Mr. Huxley venture to say that Cuvier is an unavailable authority, or that Herschel and Whewell are other than great and venerable names, with reference to the cosmogony? Yet he has quietly set them aside without notice; and they with many more are inclusively bespattered with the charges, which he has launched against the pestilent tribe of Reconcilers.
My fourth and last observation on the "method" of Professor Huxley is that, after discussing a part, and that not the most considerable part, of the Proem of Genesis, he has broadly pronounced upon the whole. This is a mode of reasoning which logic rejects, and which I presume to savor more of license than of science. The fourfold succession is condemned with argument; the cosmogony is thrown into the bargain. True, Mr. Huxley refers in a single sentence to three detached points of it partially touched in my observations (p. 453). But all my argument, the chief argument of my paper, leads up to the nebular or rotatory hypothesis (N. C. 689-94 and 697-8). This hypothesis, with the authorities cited—of whom one is the author of "Vestiges of the Creation"—is inclusively condemned, and without a word vouchsafed to it.
I shall presently express my gratitude for the scientific part of Mr. Huxley's paper. But there are two sides to the question. The whole matter at issue is, 1, a comparison between the probable meaning of the Proem to Genesis and the results of cosmological and geological science; 2, the question whether this comparison favors or does not favor the belief that an element of divine knowledge—knowledge which was not accessible to the simple action of the human faculties—is conveyed to us in this Proem. It is not enough to be accurate in one term of a comparison, unless we are accurate in both. A master of English may speak the vilest and most blundering French. I do not think Mr. Huxley has even endeavored to understand what is the idea, what is the intention, which his opponent ascribes to the Mosaic writer; or what is the conception which his opponent forms of the weighty word Revelation. He holds the writer responsible for scientific precision: I look for nothing of the kind, but assign to him a statement general, which admits exceptions; popular, which aims mainly at producing moral impressions; summary, which can not but be open to more or less of criticism in detail. He thinks it is a lecture. I think it is a sermon. He describes living creatures by structure. The Mosaic writer describes them by habitat. Both I suppose are right. I suppose that description by habitat would be unavailing for the purposes of science. I feel sure that description by structure, such as the geologists supply, would have been unavailing for the purpose of summary teaching with religious aim. Of Revelation I will speak by-and-by.
In order to institute with profit the comparison, now in view, the very first thing necessary is to determine, so far as the subject-matter allows, what it was that the Pentateuchal or Mosaic writer designed to convey to the minds of those for whom he wrote. The case is, in more ways than one, I conceive, the direct reverse of that which the Professor has alleged. It is not bringing Science to be tried at the bar of Religion. It is bringing Religion, so far as it is represented by this part of the Holy Scriptures, to be tried at the bar of Science. The indictment against the Pentateuchal writer is, that he has written what is scientifically untrue. We have to find then in the first place what it is that he has written, according to the text, not an inerrable text, as it now stands before us.
First, I assume there is no dispute that in Genesis i. 20-27 he has represented a fourfold sequence or succession of living organisms. Aware of my own inability to define in any tolerable manner the classes of these organisms, I resorted to the general phrases—water population, air-population, land-population. The immediate purpose of these phrases was not to correspond with the classifications of Science, but to bring together in brief and convenient form the larger and more varied modes of expression used in verses 20, 21, 24, 23 of the Chapter.
I think, however, I have been to blame for having brought into a contact with science, which was not sufficiently defined, terms that have no scientific meaning: water-population, air-population, and (twofold) land-population. I shall now discard them and shall substitute others, which have the double advantage of being used by geologists, and perhaps of expressing better than my phrases what was in the mind of the Mosaic writer. These are the words—1, fishes; 2, birds; 3, mammals; 4, man. By all, I think, it will be felt that the first object is to know what the Pentateuchal writer means. The relation of his meaning to science is essential, but, in orderly argumentation, subsequent. The matter now before us is a matter of reasonable and probable interpretation. What is the proper key to this hermeneutic work? In my opinion it is to be found in a just estimate of the purpose with which the author wrote, and with which the Book of Genesis was, in this part of it, either composed or compiled.
If this be the true point of departure, it opens up a question of extreme interest, at which I have but faintly glanced in my paper, and which is nowhere touched in the reply to me. What proper place has such a composition as the first Chapter of Genesis in such a work as the Scriptures of the Old Testament? They are indisputably written with a religious aim; and their subject-matter is religious. We may describe this aim in various ways. For the present purpose, suffice it to say they are conversant with belief in God, with inculcation of duties founded on that belief, with history and prophecy obviously having it for their central point. But this Chapter, at the least down to verse 25, and perhaps throughout, stands on a different ground. In concise and rapid outline, it traverses a vast region of physics. It is easy to understand Saint Paul when he speaks of the world as bearing witness to God. What he said was capable of being verified or tested by the common experimental knowledge, of all who heard him. Of it, of our Saviour's mention of the lilies—and may it not be said generally of the references in Scripture to natural knowledge?—they are at once accounted for by the positions in which they stand. But this first Chapter of Genesis professes to set out in its own way a large and comprehensive scheme of physical facts: the transition from chaos to kosmos, from the inanimate to life, from life in its lower orders to man. Being knowledge of an order anterior to the creation of Adamic man, it was beyond verification, as being beyond experience. As a physical exposition in miniature, it stands alone in the Sacred Record. And, as this singular composition is solitary in the Bible, so it seems to be hardly less solitary in the sacred books of the world. "The only important resemblance of any ancient cosmogony with the Scriptural account, is to be found in the Persian or Zoroastrian:" This Bishop Browne proceeds to account for on the following among other grounds: that Zoroaster was probably brought into contact with the Hebrews, and even perhaps with the prophet Daniel; a supposition which supplies the groundwork of a recent and remarkable romance, not proceeding from a Christian school. Again, the Proem does not carry any Egyptian marks. In the twenty-seven thousand lines of Homer, archaic as they are and ever turning to the past, there is, I think, only one which belongs to physiology. The beautiful sketch of a cosmogony by Ovid seems in considerable degree to follow the Mosaic outline; but it was composed at a time when the treasure of the Hebrew records had been for two centuries imparted, through the Septuagint, to the Aryan nations.
Professor Huxley, if I understand him rightly (P. S. M. pp. 4.51-2), considers the Mosaic writer, not perhaps as having intended to embrace the whole truth of science in the province of geology, but, at least as liable to be convicted of scientific worthlessness if his language will not stand the test of this construction. Thus the "waterpopulation" is to include "the innumerable hosts of marine invertebrated animals." It seems to me that these discoveries, taken as a whole, and also taken in all their parts and particulars, do not afford a proper, I mean a rational, standard for the interpretation of the Mosaic writer; that the recent discovery of the Silurian scorpion, a highly organized animal (p. 458), is of little moment either way to the question now before us; that it is not an account of the extinct species which we should consider the Mosaic writer as intending to convey; that while his words are capable of covering them, as the oikoumenè of the New Testament covers the red and yellow man, the rules of rational construction recommend and require our assigning to them a more limited meaning, which I will presently describe.
Another material point in Professor Huxley's interpretation appears to me to lie altogether beyond the natural force of the words, and to be of an arbitrary character. He includes in it the proposition that the production of the respective orders was effected (p. 457) during each of "three distinct and successive periods of time; and only during those periods of time;" or again, in one of these, "and not at any other of these;" as, in a series of games at chess, one is done before another begins; or as in a "march-past," one regiment goes before another comes. No doubt there may be a degree of literalism which will even suffice to show that, as "every winged fowl" was produced on the fourth day of the Hexaemeron, therefore the birth of new fowls continually is a contradiction to the text of Genesis. But does not the equity of common sense require us to understand simply that the order of "winged fowl," whatever that may mean, took its place in creation at a certain time, and that from that time its various component classes were in course of production? Is it not the fact that in synoptical statements of successive events, distributed in time for the sake of producing easy and clear impressions, general truth is aimed at, and periods are allowed to overlap? If, with such a view, we arrange the schools of Greek philosophy in numerical order, according to the dates of their inception, we do not mean that one expired before another was founded. If the archæologist describes to us as successive in time the ages of stone, bronze, and iron, he certainly does not mean that no kinds of stone implement were invented after bronze began, or no kinds of bronze after iron began. When Thucydides said that the ancient limited monarchies were succeeded by tyrannies, he did not mean that all the monarchs died at once, and a set of tyrants, like Deucalion's men, rose up and took their places. Woe be, I should say, to any one who tries summarily to present in series the phases of ancient facts, if they are to be judged under the rule of Professor Huxley.
Proceeding, on what I hold to be open ground, to state my own idea of the true key to the meaning of the Mosaic record, I suggest that it was intended to give moral, and not scientific, instruction to those for whom it was written. That for the Adamic race, recent on the earth, and young in faculties, the traditions here incorporated, which were probably far older than the Book, had a natural and a highly moral purpose in conveying to their minds a lively sense of the wise and loving care with which the Almighty Father, who demanded much at their hands, had beforehand given them much, in the provident adaptation of the world to be their dwelling-place, and of the created orders for their use and rule. It appears to me that, given the very nature of the Scriptures, this is clearly the rational point of view. If it is so, then, it follows, that just as the tradition described earth, air, and heaven in the manner in which they superficially presented themselves to the daily experience of man—not scientifically, but
so he spoke of fishes, of birds, of beasts, of what man was most concerned with; and, last in the series, of man himself, largely and generally, as facts of his experience; from which great moral lessons of wonder, gratitude, and obedience were to be deduced, to aid him in the great work of his life-training.
If further proof be wanting, that what the Mosaic writer had in his mind were the creatures with which Adamic man was conversant, we have it in the direct form of verse 28, which gives to man for meat the fruit of every seed-yielding tree, and every seed-yielding herb, and the dominion of every beast, fowl, and reptile living. There is here a marked absence of reference to any but the then living species.
This, then, is the key to the meaning of the Book, and of the tradition, if, as I suppose, it was before the Book, which seems to me to offer the most probable, and therefore the rational guide to its interpretation. The question we shall have to face is whether this statement so understood, this majestic and touching lesson of the childhood of Adamic man, stands in such a relation to scientific truth, as far as it is now known, as to give warrant to the inference that the guidance under which it was composed was more than that of faculties merely human, at that stage of development, and likewise of information, which belonged to the childhood of humanity.
We have, then, before us one term of the desired comparison. Let us now turn to the other.
And here my first duty is to render my grateful thanks to Professor Huxley for having corrected my either erroneous or superannuated assumption as to the state of scientific opinion on the second and third terms of the fourfold succession of life. As one probable doctor sufficed to make an opinion probable, so the dissent of this eminent man would of itself overthrow and pulverize my proposition that there was a scientific consensus as to a sequence like that of Genesis in the production of animal life, as between fishes, birds. mammals, and man. I shall compare the text of Genesis with geological statements; but shall make no attempt, unless this be an attempt, to profit by a consensus of geologists.
I suppose it to be admitted on all hands that no perfectly comprehensive and complete correspondence can be established between the terms of the Mosaic text and modern discovery. No one, for instance, could conclude from it that which appears to be generally recognized, that a great reptile-age would be revealed by the Mesozoic rocks.
Yet I think readers, who have been swept away by the torrent of Mr. Huxley's denunciations, will feel some surprise when on drawing summarily into line the main allegations, and especially this ruling order of the Proem, they see how small a part of them is brought into question by Mr. Huxley, and to how large an extent they are favored by the tendencies, presumptions, and even conclusions of scientific inquiry.
First, as to the cosmogony, or the formation of the earth and the heavenly bodies—
1. The first operation recorded in Genesis appears to be the formation of light. 'It is detached, apparently, from the waste or formless elemental mass (verses 2–5), which is left relatively dark by its withdrawal.
2. Next we hear of the existence of vapor, and of its condensation into water on the surface of the earth (verses 6–10). Vegetation subsequently begins: but this belongs rather to geology than to cosmogony (verses 11, 12).
3. In a new period, the heavenly bodies are declared to be fully formed and visible, dividing the day from the night (verses 14–18).
Under the guidance particularly of Dr. Whewell, I have referred to the nebular hypothesis as confirmatory of this account.
Mr. Huxley has not either denied the hypothesis, or argued against it. But I turn to Phillips's "Manual of Geology," edited and adapted by Mr. Seeley and Mr. Etheridge (1885). It has a section in vol. i. (pp. 15–19) on "Modern Speculations concerning the Origin of the Earth."
The first agent here noticed as contributing to the work of production is the "gas hydrogen in a burning state," which now "forms the enveloping portion of the sun's atmosphere;" whence we are told the inference arises that the earth also was once "incandescent at its surface," and that its rocks may have been "products of combustion." Is not this representation of light with heat for its ally, as the first element in this Speculation, remarkably accordant with the opening of the Proem to Genesis?
Next it appears (ibid.) that "the product of this combustion is vapor," which with diminished heat condenses into water, and eventually accumulates "in depressions on the sun's surface so as to form oceans and seas." "It is at least probable that the earth has passed through a phase of this kind" (ibid.). "The other planets are apparently more or less like the earth in possessing atmospheres and seas." Is there not here a remarkable concurrence with the second great act of the cosmogony?
Plainly, as I suppose it is agreeable to these suppositions that, as vapor gradually passes into water, and the atmosphere is cleared, the full adaptation of sun and moon by visibility for their functions should come in due sequence, as it comes in Gen. i. 14-18.
Pursuing its subject, the Manual proceeds (p. 17): "This consideration leads up to what has been called the nebular hypothesis," which "supposes that, before the stars existed, the materials of which they consist were diffused in the heavens in a state of vapor" (ibid.). The text then proceeds to describe how local centers of condensation might throw off rings, these rings break into planets, and the planets, under conditions of sufficient force, repeat the process, and thus produce satellites like those of Saturn, or like the moon.
I therefore think that, so far as cosmogony is concerned, the effect of Mr. Huxley's paper is not by any means to leave it as it was, but to leave it materially fortified by the Manual of Geology, which I understand to be a standard of authority at the present time.
Turning now to the region of that science, I understand the main statements of Genesis, in successive order of time, but without any measurement of its divisions, to be as follows:
1. A period of land, anterior to all life (verses 9, 10).
2. A period of vegetable life, anterior to animal life (verses 11, 12),
3. A period of animal life, in the order of fishes (verse 20).
4. Another stage of animal life, in the order of birds.
5. Another, in the order of beasts (verses 24, 25). G. Last of all, man (verses 26, 27).
Here is a chain of six links, attached to a previous chain of three. And I think it not a little remarkable that of this entire succession, the only step directly challenged is that of numbers four and five, which (p. 457) Mr. Huxley is inclined rather to reverse. He admits distinctly the seniority of fishes. How came that seniority to be set down here? He admits as probable upon present knowledge, in the person of Homo sapiens, the juniority of man (p. 455). How came this juniority to be set down here? He proceeds indeed to describe an opposite opinion concerning man as holding exactly the same rank as the one to which he had given an apparent sanction (ibid.). As I do not precisely understand the bearing of the terms he uses, I pass them by, and I shall take the liberty of referring presently to the latest authorities, which he has himself suggested that I should consult. But I add to the questions I have just put this other inquiry. How came the Mosaic writer to place the fishes and the men in their true relative positions not only to one another, and not only to the rest of the animal succession, but in a definite and that a the relation of time to the origin of the first plant-life, and to the colossal operations by which the earth was fitted for them all? Mr. Huxley knows very well that it would be in the highest degree irrational to ascribe this correct distribution to the doctrine of chances; nor will the stone of Sisyphus of itself constitute a sufficient answer to inquiries which are founded, not upon a fanciful attempt to equate every word of the Proem with every dictum of science, but upon those principles of probable reasoning by which all rational lives are and must be guided.
I find the latest published authority on geology in the Second or Mr. Etheridge's volume of the Manual of Professor Phillips, and by this I will now proceed to test the six-fold series which I have ventured upon presenting.
First, however, looking back for a moment to a work, obviously of the highest authority, on the geology of its day, I find in it a table of the order of appearance of animal life upon the earth, which, with the oldest, gives us—
|1. Invertebrates||4. Birds|
|2. Fishes||5. Mammals|
|3. Reptiles||6. Man.|
I omit all reference to specifications, and speak only of the principal lines of division.
In the Phillips-Etheridge Manual, beginning as before with the oldest, I find the following arrangement, given partly by statement and partly by diagram:
1. "The Azoic or Archæan time of Dana;" called pre-Cambrian by other physicists (pp. 3, 5).
2. A commencement of plant-life indicated by Dana as anterior to invertebrate animal life; long anterior to the vertebrate forms, which alone are mentioned in Genesis (pp. 4, 5).
3. Three periods of invertebrate life.
4. Age of fishes.
5. Age of reptiles.
6. Age of mammals, much less remote.
7. Age of man, much less remote than mammals.
As to birds, though they have not a distinct and separate age assigned them, the Manual (vol. i. ch. xxv. pp. 511-20) supplies us very clearly with their place in "the succession of animal life." We are here furnished with the following series, after the fishes: 1. Fossil reptiles (p. 512); 2. Ornithosauria (p. .517); they were "flying animals, which combined the characters of reptiles with those of birds;" 3. The first birds of the secondary rocks with "feathers in all respects similar to those of existing birds" (p. 518); 4. Mammals (p. 520). I have been permitted to see in proof another statement from an authority still more recent, Professor Prestwich, which is now passing through the press. In it (pp. 80, 81) I find the following seniority assigned to the orders which I here name;
|1. Plants (cryptogamous)||4. Mammals|
|2. Fishes||5. Man|
It will now, I hope, be observed that, according to the probable intention of the Mosaic writer, these five orders enumerated by him correspond with the state of geological knowledge, presented to us by the most recent authorities, in this sense; that the origins of these orders respectively have the same succession as is assigned in Genesis to those representatives of the orders, which alone were probably known to the experience of Adamic man. My fourfold succession thus grows into a fivefold one. By placing before the first plant-life the Azoic period, it becomes sixfold. And again by placing before this the principal stages of the cosmogony, it becomes, according as they are stated, nine or tenfold; every portion holding the place most agreeable to modern hypothesis and modern science respectively.
I now notice the points in which, so far as I understand, the text of the Proem, as it stands, is either incomplete or at variance with the representations of science:
1. It docs not notice the great periods of invertebrate life standing between (1) and (2) of my last enumeration.
2. It also passes by the great age of Reptiles, with their antecessors the Amphibia, which come between (2) and (3). The secondary or Mesozoic period, says the Manual (i. 511), "has often been termed the age of Reptiles."
3. It mentions plants in terms which, as I understand from Professor Huxley and otherwise, correspond with the later, not the earlier, forms of plant-life.
4. It mentions reptiles in the same category with its mammals. Now, as regards the first two heads, these omissions, enormous
with reference to the scientific record, are completely in harmony with the probable aim of the Mosaic writer, as embracing only the formation of the objects and creatures with which early man was conversant. The introduction of these orders, invisible and unknown, would have been not agreeable, but injurious, to his purpose.
As respects the third, it will strike the reader of the Proem that plant-life (verses 11, 12) is mentioned with a particularity which is not found in the accounts of the living orders; nor in the second notice of the Creation, which appears, indeed, pretty distinctly to refer to recent plant-life (Gen. ii., 5, 8, 9). Questions have been raised as to the translation of these passages, which I am not able to solve. But I bear in mind the difficulties which attend both oral traditions and the conservation of ancient MS., and I am not in any way troubled by the discrepancy before us, if it be a discrepancy, as it is the general structure and effect of the Mosaic statement on which I take my stand.
With regard to reptiles, while I should also hold by my last remark, the case is different. They appear to be mentioned as contemporary with mammals, whereas they are of prior origin. But the relative significance of the several orders evidently affected the method of the Mosaic writer. Agreeably to this idea, insects are not named at all. So reptiles were a family fallen from greatness; instead of stamping on a great period of life its leading character, they merely skulked upon the earth. They are introduced, as will appear better from the LXX than from the A.V. or R.V., as a sort of appendage to mammals. Lying outside both the use and the dominion of man, and far less within his probable notice, they are not wholly omitted like insects, but treated apparently in a loose manner as not one of the main features of the picture which the writer meant to draw. In the Song of the Three Children, where the four principal orders are recited after the series in Genesis, reptiles are dropped altogether, which suggests either that the present text is unsound, or, perhaps more probably, that they were deemed a secondary and insignificant part of it. But, however this case may be regarded, of course I can not draw from it any support to my general contention.
I distinguish, then, in the broadest manner, between Professor Huxley's exposition of certain facts of science, and his treatment of the Book of Genesis. I accept the first, with the reverence due to a great teacher from the meanest of his hearers, as a needed correction to myself, and a valuable instruction for the world. But, subject to that correction, I adhere to my proposition respecting the fourfold succession in the Proem; which further I extend to a fivefold succession respecting life, and to the great stages of the cosmogony to boot. The five origins, or first appearances of plants, fishes, birds, mammals and man, are given to us in Genesis in the order of succession, in which they are also given by the latest geological authorities.
It is, therefore, by attaching to words a sense they were never meant to bear, and by this only, that Mr. Huxley establishes the parallel (so to speak), from which he works his heavy artillery. Land-population is a phrase meant by me to describe the idea of the Mosaic writer, which I conceive to be that of the animals familiarly known to early man. But, by treating this as a scientific phrase, it is made to include extinct reptiles, which I understand Mr. Huxley (P. S. M. p. 45:1) to treat as being land-animals; as, by taking birds of a very high formation, it may be held that mammal forms existed before such birds were produced. These are artificial contradictions, set up by altering in its essence one of the two things which it is sought to compare.
If I am asked whether I contend for the absolute accordance of the Mosaic writer, as interpreted by me, with the facts and presumptions of science, as I have endeavored to extract them from the best authorities, I answer that I have not endeavored to show either that any accordance has been demonstrated, or that more than a substantial accordance—an accordance in principal relevant particulars—is to be accepted as shown by probable evidence.
In the cosmogony of the Proem, which stands on a distinct footing as lying wholly beyond the experience of primitive man, I am not aware that any serious flaw is alleged; but the nebular hypothesis with which it is compared appears to be, perhaps from the necessity of the case, no more than a theory; a theory, however, long discussed, much favored, and widely accepted in the scientific world.
In the geological part, we are liable to those modifications or displacements of testimony which the future progress of the science may produce. In this view its testimony does not in strictness pass, I suppose, out of the category of probable into that of demonstrative evidence. Yet it can hardly be supposed that careful researches, and reasonings strictly adjusted to method, both continued through some generations, have not in a large measure produced what has the character of real knowledge. With that real knowledge the reader will now have seen how far I claim for the Proem to Genesis, fairly tried, to be in real and most striking accordance.
And this brings me to the point at which I have to observe that Mr. Huxley, I think, has not mastered, and probably has not tried to master, the idea of his opponent as to what it is that is essentially embraced in the idea of a Divine revelation to man.
So far as I am aware, there is no definition, properly so called, of revelation either contained in Scripture or established by the general and permanent consent of Christians. In a word polemically used, of indeterminate or variable sense, Professor Huxley has no title to impute to his opponent, without inquiry, anything more than it must of necessity convey.
But he seems to assume that revelation is to be conceived of as if it were a lawyer's parchment, or a sum in arithmetic, wherein a flaw discovered at a particular point is ipso facto fatal to the whole. Very little reflection would show Professor Huxley that there may be those who find evidences of the communication of Divine knowledge in the Proem to Genesis as they read it in their Bibles, without approaching to any such conception. There is the uncertainty of translation; translators are not inspired. There is the difficulty of transcription; transcribers are not inspired, and an element of error is inseparable from the work of a series of copyists. How this works in the long courses of time we see in the varying texts of the Old Testament, with rival claims not easy to adjust. Thus the authors of the recent Revision have had to choose in the text itself between different readings, and "in exceptional cases" have given a preference to the Ancient Versions. Thus, upon practical grounds quite apart from the higher questions concerning the original composition, we seem at once to find a human concerning in the sacred text. That there is a further and larger question, not shut out from the view even of the most convinced and sincere believers, Mr. Huxley may perceive by reading, for example, Coleridge's "Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit." The question whether this Proem bears witness to a Divine communication, to a working beyond that of merely human faculties in the composition of the Scriptures, is essentially one for the disciples of Bishop Butler; a question, not of demonstrative, but of probable evidence. I am not prepared to abandon, but rather to defend, the following proposition. It is perfectly conceivable that a document penned by the human hand, and transmitted by human means, may contain matter questionable, uncertain, or even mistaken, and yet may by its contents as a whole present such πίστεις, such moral proofs of truth Divinely imparted, as ought irrefragably pro tanto to command assent and govern practice. A man may possibly admit something not reconciled, and yet may be what Mr. Huxley denounces as a Reconciler.
I do not suppose it would be feasible, even for Professor Huxley, taking the nebular hypothesis and geological discovery for his guides, to give, in the compass of the first twenty-seven verses of Genesis, an account of the cosmogony, and of the succession of life in the stratification of the earth, which would combine scientific precision of statement with the majesty, the simplicity, the intelligibility, and the impressiveness of the record before us. Let me modestly call it, for argument's sake, an approximation to the present presumptions and conclusions of science. Let me assume that the statement in the text as to plants, and the statement of verses 24, 25 as to reptiles, can not in all points be sustained; and yet still there remain great unshaken facts to be weighed. First, the fact that such a record should have been made at all. Secondly, the fact that, instead of dwelling in generalities, it has placed itself under the severe conditions of a chronological order, reaching from the first nisus of chaotic matter to the consummated production of a fair and goodly, a furnished and a peopled world. Thirdly, the fact that its cosmogony seems, in the light of the nineteenth century, to draw more and more of countenance from the best natural philosophy; and fourthly, that it has described the successive origins of the five great categories of present life, with which human experience was and is conversant, in that order which geological authority confirms. How came these things to be? How came they to be, not among Accadians, or Assyrians, or Egyptians, who monopolized the stores of human knowledge when this wonderful tradition was born; but among the obscure records of a people who, dwelling in Palestine for twelve hundred years from their sojourn in the valley of the Nile, hardly had force to stamp even 80 much as their name upon the history of the world at large, and only then began to be admitted to the general communion of mankind when their Scriptures assumed the dress which a Gentile tongue was needed to supply? It is more rational, I contend, to say that these astonishing anticipations were a God-given supply, than to suppose that a race, who fell uniformly and entirely short of the great intellectual development of antiquity, should here not only have and outstripped it, but have entirely transcended, in kind even more than in degree, all known exercise of human faculties.
Whether this was knowledge conveyed to the mind of the Mosaic author, I do not presume to determine. There has been, in the belief of Christians, a profound providential purpose, little or variously visible to us, which presided, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, over the formation of thecompound, which we term the Holy Scriptures. This we wonderingly embrace without being much perplexed by the questions which are raised on them; for instance, by the question. In what exact relation the books of the Apocrypha, sometimes termed deutero-canonical, stand to the books of the Hebrew Canon. Difficulties of detail, such as may (or ultimately may not) be found to exist in the Proem to Genesis, have much the same relation to the evidence of revealed knowledge in this record, as the spots in the sun to his all-unfolding and sufficing light. But as to the Mosaic writer himself, all I presume to accept is the fact that he put upon undying record, in this portion of his work, a series of particulars which, interpreted in the growing light of modern knowledge, require from us, on the whole, as reasonable men, the admission that we do not see how he could have written them, and that in all likelihood he did not write them, without aid from the guidance of a more than human power. It is in this guidance, and not necessarily or uniformly in the consciousness of the writer, that, according to my poor conception, the idea of Revelation mainly lies.
And now one word on the subject of Evolution. I can not follow Mr. Huxley in his minute acquaintance with Indian sages, and I am not aware that Evolution has a place in the greater number of the schools of Greek philosophy. Nor can I comprehend the rapidity with which persons of authority have come to treat the Darwinian hypothesis as having reached the final stage of demonstration. To the eye of a looker-on their pace and method seem rather too much like a steeplechase. But this may very well be due to their want of appropriate knowledge and habits of thought. For myself, in my loose and uninformed way of looking at Evolution, I feel only too much biased in its favor, by what I conceive to be its relation to the great argument of design.
Not that I share the horror with which some men of science appear to contemplate a multitude of what they term "sudden" acts of creation. All things considered, a singular expression: but one, I suppose, meaning the act which produces, in the region of nature, something not related by an unbroken succession of measured and equable stages to what has gone before it. But what has equality or brevity of stage to do with the question how far the act is creative? I fail to see, or indeed am somewhat disposed to deny, that the short stage is less creative than the long, the single than the manifold, the equable than the jointed or graduated stage. Evolution is, to me, series with development. And like series in mathematics, whether arithmetical or geometrical, it establishes in things an unbroken progression; it places each thing (if only it stand the test of ability to live) in a distinct relation to every other thing, and makes each a witness to all that have preceded it, a prophecy of all that are to follow it. It gives to the argument of design, now called the teleological argument, at once a wider expansion, and an augmented tenacity and solidity of tissue. But I must proceed.
I find Mr. Huxley asserting that the things of science, with which he is so splendidly conversant, are "susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension" (P. S. M. p. 4.'59). Is this rhetoric, or is it a formula of philosophy? If the latter, will it bear examination? He pre-eminently understands the relations between those things which Nature offers to his view; but does he understand each thing in itself, or how the last term but one in an evolutional series passes into and becomes the last? The seed may produce the tree, the tree the branch, the branch the twig, the twig the leaf or flower; but can we understand the slightest mutation or growth of Nature in itself? can we tell how the twig passes into leaf or flower, one jot more than if the flower or leaf, instead of coming from the twig, came directly from the tree or from the seed?
I can not but trace some signs of haste in Professor Huxley's assertion that, outside the province of science (ibid.), we have only imagination, hope, and ignorance. Not, as we shall presently see, that he is one of those who rob mankind of the best and highest of their inheritance, by denying the reality of all but material objects. But the statement is surely open to objection, as omitting or seeming to omit from view the vast fields of knowledge only probable, which are not of mere hope, nor of mere imagination, nor of mere ignorance; which include alike the inward and the outward life of man; within which lie the real instruments of his training, and where he is to learn how to think, to act, to be.
I will now proceed to notice briefly the last page of Professor Huxley's paper, in which he drops the scientist and becomes simply the man. I read it with deep interest, and with no small sympathy. In touching upon it, I shall make no reference (let him forgive me the expression) to his "damnatory clauses," or to his harmless menace, so deftly conveyed through the prophet Micah, to the public peace.
The exaltation of Religion as against Theology is at the present day not only so fashionable, but usually so domineering and contemptuous, that I am grateful to Professor Huxley for his frank statement (p. 459) that Theology is a branch of science; nor do I in the smallest degree quarrel with his contention that Religion and Theology ought not to be confounded. We may have a great deal of Religion with very little Theology; and a great deal of Theology with very little Religion. I feel sure that Professor Huxley must observe with pleasure how strongly practical, ethical, and social is the general tenor of the three synoptic Gospels; and how the appearance in the world of the great doctrinal Gospel was reserved to a later stage, as if to meet a later need, when men had been toned anew by the morality and, above all, by the life of our Lord.
I am not, therefore, writing against him, when I remark upon the habit of treating Theology with an affectation of contempt. It is nothing better, I believe, than a mere fashion; having no more reference to permanent principle than the mass of ephemeral fashions that come from Paris have with the immovable types of Beauty. Those who take for the burden of their song "Respect Religion, but despise Theology," seem to me just as rational as if a person were to say "Admire the trees, the plants, the flowers, the sun, moon, or stars, but despise Botany, and despise Astronomy." Theology is ordered knowledge; representing in the region of the intellect what religion represents in the heart and life of man. And this religion, Mr. Huxley says a little further on, is summed up in the terms of the prophet Micah (vi. 8): "Do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God." I forbear to inquire whether every addition to this—such, for instance, as the Beatitudes—is (N. C. p. 460) to be proscribed. But I will not dispute that in these words is conveyed the true ideal of religious discipline and attainment. They really import that identification of the will which is set out with such wonderful force in the very simple words of the "Paradiso"—
and which no one has more beautifully described than (I think) Charles Lamb: "He gave his heart to the Purifier, his will to the Will that governs the universe." It maybe we shall find that Christianity itself is in some sort a scaffolding, and that the final building is a pure and perfect theism: when the kingdom shall be "delivered up to God," "that God may be all in all." Still, I can not help being struck with an impression that Mr. Huxley appears to cite these terms of Micah, as if they reduced the work of religion from a difficult to a very easy performance. But look at them again. Examine them well. They are, in truth, in Cowper's words—
Higher than the heights above,
Deeper than the depths beneath.
Do justly, that is to say, extinguish self; love mercy, cut utterly away all the pride and wrath, and all the cupidity, that make this fair world a wilderness; walk humbly with thy God, take His will and set it in the place where thine own was used to rule. "King out the old, ring in the new." Pluck down the tyrant from his place; set up the true Master on His lawful throne.
There are certainly human beings, of happy composition, who mount these airy heights with elastic step, and with unbated breath.
This comparative refinement of nature in some may even lead them to undervalue the stores of that rich armory, which Christianity has provided to equip us for our great life-battle. The text of the prophet Micah, developed into all the breadth of St. Paul and St. Augustine, is not too much—is it not often all too little?—for the needs of ordinary men.
I must now turn, by way of epilogue, to Professor Max Müller; and I hope to show him that on the questions which he raises we are not very far apart. One grievous wrong, indeed, he does me in (apparently) ascribing to me the execrable word "theanthromorphic" (N. C. p. 9:20), of which I wholly disclaim the paternity, and deny the use. Then he says, I warn him not to trust too much to etymology (p. 921). Not so. But only not to trust to it for the wrong purpose, in the wrong place: just as I should not preach on the virtue and value of liberty to a man requiring handcuffs. I happen to bear a name known, in its genuine form, to mean stones or rocks frequented by the gled; and probably taken from the habitat of its first bearer. Now, if any human being should ever hereafter make any inquiry about me, trace my name to its origin, and therefore describe the situation of my dwelling, he would not use etymology too much, but would use it ill. What I protest against is a practice, not without example, of taking the etymology of mythologic names in Homer, and thereupon supposing that in all cases we have thus obtained a guide to their Homeric sense. The place of Nereus in the mind of the poet is indisputable; and here etymology helps us. But when a light-etymology is found for Hera, and it is therefore asserted that in Homer she is a light-goddess, or when, because no one denies that Phoibos is a light-name, therefore the Apollo of Homer was the Sun, then indeed, not etymology, but the misuse of etymology, hinders and misleads us. In a question of etymology, however, I shall no more measure swords with Mr. Max Müller than with Mr. Huxley in a matter of natural science, and this for the simple reason that my sword is but a lath. I therefore surrender to the mercy of this great philologist the derivation of dine and diner from déjeuner; which may have been suggested by the use of the word dine in our Bible (as John xxi. 12) for breakfasting; a sense expressed by La Bruyère (xi.) in the words, Cliton n'a jamais eu, toute sa vie, que deux affaires, qui sont de diner le matin, et de souper le soir.
But, Mr. Max Müller says, I have offended against the fundamental principles of comparative mythology (N. C. p. 919). How, where, and why, have I thus tumbled into mortal sin? By attacking solarism. But what have I attacked, and what has he defended? I have attacked nothing but the exclusive use of the solar theory to solve all the problems of the Aryan religions; and it is to this monopolizing pretension that I seek to apply the name of solarism, while admitting that "the solar theory has a most important place" in solving such problems (N. C. p. 704). But my vis-à-vis, whom I really can not call my opponent, declares (N. C. p. 919) that the solarism I denounce is not his solarism at all; and he only seeks to prove that "certain portions of ancient mythology have a directly solar origin." So it proves that I attack only what he repudiates, and I defend what he defends. That is, I humbly subscribe to a doctrine, which he has made famous throughout the civilized world.
It is only when a yoke is put upon Homer's neck, that I presume to cry "hands off." The Olympian system, of which Homer is the great architect, is aand splendid structure. Following the guidance of ethnological affinities and memories, it incorporates in itself the most diversified traditions, and binds them into an unity by the plastic power of an unsurpassed creative imagination. Its dominating spirit is intensely human. It is therefore of necessity thoroughly anti-elemental. Yet, when the stones of this magnificent fabric are singly eyed by the observer, they bear obvious marks of having been appropriated from elsewhere by the sovereign prerogative of genius; of having had an anterior place in other systems; of having belonged to Nature-worship, and in some cases to Sun-worship; of having been drawn from many quarters, and among them from those which Mr. Max Müller excludes (p. 921): from Egypt, and either from Palestine, or from the same traditional source, to which Palestine itself was indebted. But this is not the present question. As to the solar theory, I hope I have shown either that our positions are now identical, or that, if there be a rift between them, it is so narrow that we may conveniently shake hands across it.—Nineteenth Century.
- You have so gentle a way of telling the worst news that it thereby loses its unpleasantness.
- "Life," by Jesse. Revised edition, i. 260.
- "Popular Science Monthly," February, 1886, pp. 459, 460.
- "Bridgewater Treatise," vol. i. pp. 19-28. Chap, i.: "Consistency of Geological Discoveries with Sacred History."
- Lucr. ii. 8. (Serene heights raised by the learning of the wise.)
- I wish to be understood as speaking here of the higher or ordinary mammals, which alone I assume to have been probably known to the Mosaic writer.
- Acts xiv. 1 7; Romans i. 20.
- Note on Gen. i. 5.
- "Zoroaster." By F. M. Crawford. Macmillan, 1885.
- Il, vii. 99.
- Ovid, "Metam." i. 1-38.
- Because my argument in no way requires universal accordance, what bearing the scorpion may have on any current scientific hypothesis, it is not for me to say.
- I use this enumeration to illustrate an argument, but I must, even in so using it, enter a caveat against its particulars. I do not conceive it to be either probable or historical that, as a general rule, mankind passed from the use of stone implements to the use of bronze, a composite metal, without passing through some intermediate (longer or shorter) period of copper.
- Phillips's "Manual of Geology" (vol. ii.) part ii., by R. Etheridge, F. R. S. New edition. 1885.
- "Palæontology," by Richard Owen (now Sir Richard Owen, K. C. B.). Second edition, p. 6, 1861.
- Preface to the Old Testament, p. vi
- I write thus bearing fully in mind the unsurpassed sublimity of much that is to be found in the Old Testament. The consideration of this subject would open a wholly new line of argument, which the present article does not allow me to attempt.
- "Views like these, when formulated by religious instead of scientific thought, make more of Divine Providence and fore-ordination, than of Divine intervention; but perhaps they are not the less theistical on that account." (From the very remarkable Lectures of Professor Asa Gray on Natural Science and Religion, p. 77. Scribner, New York, 1880.)
- 1 Cor. XV. 24, 28.
- Ovid, "Metam." i. 90.