Popular Science Monthly/Volume 58/February 1901/Discussion and Correspondence

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DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE.

A DEFENSE OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE.

To the Editor: You informed me in my recent interview with you that discussions of a religious nature did not come within the scope of the purpose of your magazine. I am convinced by your fair, frank and kindly manner that you are unaware of the injustice done a large class of thinking people and many readers of your magazine by the article in question between us written by Professor Jastrow and published in the September number of the Popular Science Monthly. Nevertheless a great injustice has been done in that you have, even inadvertently, allowed a religious movement to be attacked through the press, while the rules of your publication allow no redress. This seems neither in consonance with justice, free speech nor a free press; and now accepting the situation as no motive or act of yours, and inasmuch as you must refuse to publish an article defending Christian Science, unless the said article be written wholly from a scientific viewpoint, excluding scriptural basis and argument; and inasmuch as Christian Science is not merely a philosophy but a science, having for its principle God, for its textbook the Scriptures and for its proof the moral, spiritual and physical betterment of thousands of its adherents; and inasmuch as the philosophy, works and phenomena of Christian Science can only be discussed or understood from a Christianly scientific standpoint based on the Scriptures, and not from the standpoint of so-called material science or from any hypothesis of a universe without a creator, who is omniscience (all science), and who, therefore, governs His creation with spiritually scientific, not material, law; and inasmuch as that compilation which our race and nation call the Bible, and believe to be a revelation from God as well as ancient history; inasmuch as this book with its key alone unlocks and reveals the consistent beauty, grandeur, might and majesty of spiritual law or science which the world cannot see, does not understand, and the 'wise' call foolish and inconsistent.—Considering all these points and conceding them—because you cannot deny from an opposite premise what I find true—and now, my dear sir, I will ask you to publish this, my letter to you, and a few remarks on Professor Jastrow's article, 'The Occult.'

To begin with, let it be understood that in very fact Professor Jastrow did not attack Christian Science at all. He thought he did, and was no doubt perfectly honest in decrying a thing so occult and wrong as what he believed Christian Science to be; and were it such a thing I would join issue with our critic against it—but behold the fact: Christian Science is as far above what Professor Jastrow attacked in the 'occult' as the science of astronomy is above 'tiddledewinks.'

Professor Jastrow says: "Logic is the language of science. Christian Science and what sane men call science cannot communicate, because they do not speak the same language." Here the Professor, a material scientist, confesses profound ignorance of our spiritual premises, yet sits in judgment oh mentally scientific and metaphysical statements in Science and Health, vilifies the science and calls its votaries insane. Such a position makes our critic's logic lame. Surely, Professor Jastrow must be cognizant of the fact that very many, as erudite as he, swell the ever-increasing ranks of scientific Christianity; and in face of these facts his position, to say the least, seems unfair and unkind.

The statement that Dr. Quimby practised Christian Science or that his mental method contained some of the essentials of Christian Science accounts for the further assertion that Christian Science is not Christian. Professor Jastrow deserves credit for discerning that Dr. Quimby's methods were adverse to Christ's teachings, but just how the good Professor determines the finality of what has defied eighteen centuries of time and scholastic theology is a mystery; to wit: the Doctrine of Christ. Why, ages have wrangled and fought over this subject until history points with scarlet finger to unchristly deeds and impotent creeds, all in His name; and even yet the lack of unity among Christian denominations and the utter want of that power and glory which characterized the founder of Christianity and the early Christians puts to shame the theological labor of the centuries.

Professor Jastrow is not an authority on Christianity, yet he pronounces Christian Science unchristian. Let me quote some authority on this subject: Rev. Edward T. Hiscox, D. D., of Brooklyn, in the Christian Enquirer, a Baptist organ, says: "The modern Church would be elevated to a much higher plane of Christian living than it now occupies if it were to follow them. I am profoundly convinced that the great need of all our churches is more of the religion I have seen in the lives of the Christian Scientists whom I know." Rev. Dr. E. C. Bowls, of New York City, President of the State Convention of Universalist Ministers, in speaking of Christian Science, says: "There is certainly a perception here of the true foundation of Christianity." I might quote from Phillips Brooks and many theologians of like note, but quantum sufficit. Who will venture to assert in face of the evidence given that Professor Jastrow's argument on this point has any force at all? Professor Jastrow also says Christian Science is not a science, and that Materia Medica is a science. This first assertion is most wanting in reason or proof, for if Christianity is not scientific it is not true. Anything which has a demonstrable principle is said to be science. If Christianity lacks a principle, it is nothing but theory or belief; on the other hand, if the Christian religion has a principle, it is a scientific religion or a Christian science. The second assertion that Materia Medica is a science challenges the wisdom of experienced men who are authority on this subject, while Professor Jastrow is not. The 'Standard Dictionary' says of Materia Medica: 'It is the most empirical and tentative of all sciences.' Many eminent medical teachers and practitioners do not agree with Professor Jastrow's views on Materia Medica. Of these I will mention Dr. Rush, the famous Philadelphia teacher of medical practise; Dr. Waterhouse, Professor in Harvard University; Dr. Mason Good, a learned professor in London; Dr. Chapman, Professor of the Institutes and Practise of Physics in the University of Pennsylvania. Sir John Forbes, M. D., F. R. S., Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, says: "No systematic or theoretical classification of diseases that therapeutic science has ever promulgated is true or anything like the truth, and none can be adopted as a safe guidance to the practise."

The above is to show the weakness of Professor Jastrow's argument, and not to depreciate the philanthropic efforts and labor of the noble multitude of M.D.'s who have alleviated much suffering and done much good in the world. We honor them for the noble lives and the good they have done and are still doing.

Professor Jastrow is no doubt a very clever and very learned man, but he has not proved himself capable of classifying the sciences nor of sitting in judgment on Christianity.

Mr. Jastrow acknowledged 'the popular preeminence of Christian Science' and advises reading Science and Health. Truth courts investigation, and when Science and Health is universally read, its abstract and metaphysical statements will be found simple compared with the tangled verbosity of human reason and human logic.

Logic is, indeed, the language of science, but scientific fact is based on principle, and principle—call it what you will, but I call it God.

J. Edward Smith.

 

[Professor Jastrow's article on 'The Modern Occult,' published in the September number of the Popular Science Monthly, has not unnaturally called forth a number of replies. As there seems to be some fairness in the claim of the 'Christian Scientists' that a sect counting its adherents by hundreds of thousands should be heard in its defense, and as Mr. Smith appears to have been delegated to make an official reply and has consented to do so briefly, we have pleasure in publishing Ms letter. It will be read with interest by many, and will undoubtedly confirm Professor Jastrow's statement that argument is impossible when people do not speak the same language. From the remote past men have worshiped strange gods in strange ways, and that there should be survivals and avatisms is in nowise surprising. We are not concerned with these, but when a religious sect trespasses on the domain of science it must be treated in accordance with due process of law. The Christian Scientists in their claims to treat all manner of disease have laid themselves open, not only to the charge of folly, but also of charlatanism. The writer of the above letter offered to produce before the editor of this journal a number of persons who had been cured of snake bites by Christian Science treatment. As people almost never die from bites of American snakes, and as there is no reason in this case why the Christian Science treatment should kill them, the production of the survivors was not a matter of scientific interest. It was, however, suggested to the gentleman that he permit himself to be a subject for inoculation experiments with snake venom, as his assurance that he could not be poisoned would in nowise interfere with the scientific results. To this proposal, however, he did not take kindly. It is on record that Mrs. Eddy not only suffered from toothache but took nitrous oxide gas when the teeth were extracted. But the inconsistencies of the leaders of Christian Science make no impression on its adherents. We do not speak the same language.—Editor.]

 

MR. TESLA'S SCIENCE.

To the Editor: In the New York Sun for January 3, Mr. Nikola Tesla has an article that deserves a word. The word is one of warning to all sober-minded readers to remind them that Mr. Tesla's recently published utterances have discredited him in the eyes of competent judges. In the Century Magazine for June, 1900, Mr. Tesla printed a long article, superbly illustrated with cuts that had little or nothing to do with his subjects, which dealt with a few electrical matters, and also with philosophic and social problems upon which he freely expressed a jumble of trivial, ignorant, pretentious and erroneous opinions. This article was freely reviewed in the Popular Science Monthly for July, 1900, and in Science for September 21. These reviews were doubtless seen by Mr. Tesla, but no word of reply has been made public by him. Indeed, he says in the Sun that from adverse criticisms on his work he experiences 'a feeling of satisfaction.' Any one who desires a standing among men of science is called upon to defend his public utterances when they have been seriously questioned in reputable scientific journals. Until an adequate rejoinder is received Mr. Tesla has no standing among professed men of science. He will have none among intelligent readers from the moment that the case is understood by them. It is not profitable to again go over the ground covered by the articles just mentioned, but readers are referred to them in passing.

The article in the Sun of January 3 bears the marks of authenticity. Much of it is printed in quotation marks. It gives an account of Mr. Tesla's work in Colorado during a part of the year 1899. This work had, he says, three objects: first, to transmit power without wires, and second, to develop apparatus for submarine telegraphy. These two problems have a direct commercial value. When they are solved, by Mr. Tesla or another, we shall hear of them through the Patent Office. As we have not so heard of them it is permissible to wait for results. We wish Mr. Tesla every success in these investigations. He is entitled to all the time he needs—a lifetime if necessary. If his experiments forward our present knowledge in any material degree he will be entitled to the gratitude of all mankind, and he will receive it. Until they do pronunciamentos from him and comments from us are not required.

The third problem upon which Mr. Tesla was engaged 'involves,' he says, 'a still greater mastery of electrical forces.' He will 'make it known in due course.' In the meanwhile, however, he states that he has noted "certain feeble electrical disturbances. . . . which by their character unmistakably showed that they were neither of solar origin nor produced by any causes known to me on the globe." These he supposes may have been signals from intelligent beings on Mars or some other of the 'twenty or twenty-five planets of the solar system.' Mr. Tesla obviously wants to figure in the newspapers. Every one would be greatly interested if it were true that signals are being sent from Mars. Unfortunately for Mr. Tesla's scientific standing, he has not adduced a scrap of evidence to prove it. It is of a piece with the 'twenty or twenty-five planets' he ascribes to the solar system. It would be interesting if there were so many. There is no evidence of it save Mr. Tesla's assertion, and assertions—Mr. Tesla's or another's—do not count in science. There is no further space for a notice of Mr. Tesla's latest extravagant vagary. For men of science no notice at all is needed. Any intelligent reader who will consult the reviews already mentioned and compare them with Mr. Tesla's own words will see that his vivid writings must be read with extreme caution. His electrical experiments being directed towards commercial uses must be judged by proved commercial success. His speculations on science are so reckless as to lose an interest. His philosophizing is so ignorant as to be worthless. X.