Popular Science Monthly/Volume 8/March 1876/The Warfare of Science II

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591304Popular Science Monthly Volume 8 March 1876 — The Warfare of Science II1876Andrew Dickson White





I PASS, now, to fields of more immediate importance to us to Anatomy and Medicine.

It might be supposed that the votaries of sciences like these would be suffered to escape attack; unfortunately, they have had to stand in the thickest of the battle.

As far back as the latter part of the thirteenth century, Arnold de Villa Nova was a noted physician and chemist. The missile usual in such cases was hurled at him. He was charged with sorcery and dealings with the devil; he was excommunicated and driven from Spain.[1]

Such seemed the fate of men in that field who gained even a glimmer of new scientific truth. Even men like Cardan, and Paracelsus, and Porta, who yielded much to popular superstitions, were at once set upon if they ventured upon any other than the path which the Church thought sound—the insufficient path of Aristotelian investigation.

We have seen that the weapons used against the astronomers were mainly the epithets infidel and atheist. We have also seen that the missiles used against the chemists' and physicians were the epithets "sorcerer" and "leaguer with the devil," and we have picked up on various battle-fields another effective weapon, the epithet "Mohammedan."

On the heads of the anatomists and physicians were concentrated all these missiles. The charge of atheism ripened into a proverb: "Ubi sunt tres medici, ibi sunt duo athei."[2] Magic seemed so common a charge that many of the physicians seemed to believe it themselves. Mohammedanism and Averroism became almost synonymous with medicine, and Petrarch stigmatized Averroists as "men who deny Genesis and bark at Christ."[3]

Not to weary you with the details of earlier struggles, I will select a great benefactor of mankind and champion of scientific truth at the period of the Revival of Learning and the Reformation—Andreas Vesalius, the founder of the modern science of anatomy. The battle waged by this man is one of the glories of our race.[4]

The old methods were soon exhausted by his early fervor, and he sought to advance science by truly scientific means—by patient investigation and by careful recording of results.

From the outset Vesalius proved himself a master. In the search for real knowledge he braved the most terrible dangers. Before his time the dissection of the human subject was thought akin to sacrilege. Occasionally some anatomist, like Mundinus, had given some little display with such a subject; but, for purposes of investigation, such dissection was forbidden. Even such men in the early Church as Tertullian and St. Augustine held anatomy in abhorrence.[5] Boniface VIII. interdicted dissection as sacrilege.[6]

Through this sacred conventionalism Vesalius broke without fear. Braving ecclesiastical censure and popular fury, he studied his science by the only method that could give useful results. Ko peril daunted him. To secure the material for his investigations, he haunted gibbets and charnel-houses; in this search he risked alike the fires of the Inquisition and the virus of the plague. First of all men he began to place the great science of human anatomy on its solid, modern foundations—on careful examination and observation of the human body. This was his first great sin, and it was soon aggravated by one considered even greater.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing that has ever been done for Christianity is the tying it to forms of science which are doomed and gradually sinking. Just as in the time of Roger Bacon, excellent but mistaken men devoted all their energies to binding Christianity to Aristotle; just as in the time of Reuchlin and Erasmus, they insisted on binding Christianity to Thomas Aquinas—so in the time of Vesalius, such men made every effort to link Christianity to Galen.

The cry has been the same in all ages; it is the same which we hear in this age for curbing scientific studies—the cry for what is called "sound learning." Whether standing for Aristotle against Bacon, or Aquinas against Erasmus, or Galen against Vesalius, or making mechanical Greek verses at Eton instead of studying the handiwork of the Almighty, or reading Euripides with translations instead of Lessing and Goethe in the original, the cry always is for "sound learning." The idea always is that these studies are safe.

At twenty-eight years of age Vesalius gave to the world his great work on human anatomy. With it ended the old and began the new. Its researches, by their thoroughness, were a triumph of science; its illustrations, by their fidelity, were a triumph of art.

To shield himself as far as possible in the battle which he foresaw must come, Vesalius prefaced the work by a dedication to the Emperor Charles V. In this dedicatory preface he argues for his method, and against the parrot repetitions of the mediæval textbooks; he also condemns the wretched anatomical preparations and specimens made by physicians who utterly refused to advance beyond the ancient master.

The parrot-like repeaters of Galen gave battle at once. After the manner of their time, their first missiles were epithets; and, the almost infinite magazine of these having been exhausted, they began to use sharper weapons—weapons theologic.

At first the theologic weapons failed. A conference of divines having been asked to decide whether dissection of the human body is sacrilege, gave a decision in the negative. The reason is simple; Charles V. had made Vesalius his physician, and could not spare him. But, on the accession of Philip II. of Spain, the whole scene changed. That most bitter of bigots must of course detest the great innovator.

A new weapon was now forged. Vesalius was charged with dissecting living men,[7] and, either from direct persecution, as the great majority of authors assert, or from indirect influences, as the recent apologists for Philip II. allow, Vesalius became a wanderer. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to atone for his sin, he was shipwrecked, and in the prime of his life and strength he was lost to this world.

And yet not lost. In this century he again stands on earth. The painter Hamann has again given him to us. By the magic of Hamann's pencil, we look once more into Vesalius's cell. Its windows and doors, bolted and barred within, betoken the storm of bigotry which rages without; the crucifix, toward which he turns his eyes, symbolizes the spirit in which he labors. The corpse of the plague-stricken, over which he bends, ceases to be repulsive; his very soul seems to send forth rays from the canvas which strengthen us for the good fight in this age.[8]

He was hunted to death by men who conscientiously supposed that he was injuring religion. His poor, blind foes destroyed one of religion's greatest apostles. What was his influence on religion? He substituted for repetition, by rote, of worn-out theories of dead men, conscientious and reverent searching into the works of the living-God. He substituted for representations of the human structure—pitiful and unreal—truthful representations, revealing the Creator's power and goodness in every line.[9]

I hasten now to the most singular struggle and victory of medical science between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Early in the last century, Boyer presented Inoculation as a preventive of small-pox, in France; thoughtful physicians in England, led by Lady Montagu and Maitland, followed his example.

Theology took fright at once on both sides of the Channel. The French theologians of the Sorbonne solemnly condemned the practice. English theologians were most loudly represented by the Rev. Edward Massy, who, in 1722, preached a sermon in which he declared that Job's distemper was probably confluent small-pox, and that he had been doubtless inoculated by the devil—that diseases are sent by Providence for the punishment of sin, and that the proposed attempt to prevent them is "a diabolical operation." This sermon was entitled "The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation." Not less absurd was the sermon of the Rev. Mr. Delafaye, entitled "Inoculation an Indefensible Practice." Thirty years later the. struggle was still going on. It is a pleasure to note one great churchman, Maddox. Bishop of Worcester, giving battle on the side of right reason; but as late as 1753 we have the Rector of Canterbury denouncing inoculation from his pulpit in the primatial city, and many of his brethren following his example. Among the most common weapons hurled by churchmen at the supporters of inoculation, during all this long war, were charges of sorcery and atheism.[10]

Nor did Jenner's blessed discovery of Vaccination escape opposition on similar grounds. In 1798 an anti-vaccine society was formed by clergymen and physicians, calling on the people of England to suppress vaccination as "bidding defiance to Heaven itself—even to the will of God"—and declaring that "the law of God prohibits the practice." In 1803 the Rev. Dr. Ramsden thundered against it in a sermon before the University of Cambridge, mingling texts of Scripture with calumnies against Jenner; but Plumptre in England, Waterhouse in America, and a host of other good men and true, press forward to Jenner's side, and at last science, humanity, and right reason, gain the victory.[11]

But I pass to one typical conflict in our days. In 1847 James Young Simpson, a Scotch physician of eminence, advocated the use of Anæsthetics in obstetrical cases.

Immediately a storm arose. From pulpit after pulpit such a use of chloroform was denounced as impious. It was declared contrary to Holy Writ, and texts were cited abundantly. The ordinary declaration was, that to use chloroform was "to avoid one part of the primeval curse on woman."[12]

Simpson wrote pamphlet after pamphlet to defend the blessing which he brought into use; but the battle seemed about to be lost, when he seized a new weapon. "My opponents forget," said he, "the twenty-first verse of the second chapter of Genesis. That is the record of the first surgical operation ever performed, and that text proves that the Maker of the universe, before he took the rib from Adam's side for the creation of Eve, caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam."

This was a stunning blow; but it did not entirely kill the opposition. They had strength left to maintain that "the deep sleep of Adam took place before the introduction of pain into the world—in the state of innocence."[13] But now a new champion intervened—Thomas Chalmers. With a few pungent arguments he scattered the enemy forever, and the greatest battle of science against suffering was won.[14]

But was not the victory won also for religion? Go to yonder monument, in Boston, to one of the discoverers of anæsthesia. Read this inscription from our sacred volume: "This also cometh from the Lord of hosts which is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working."

I now ask you to look at another part of the great warfare, and I select it because it shows more clearly than any other how Protestant nations, and in our own time, have suffered themselves to be led into the same errors that have wrought injury to religion and science in other times. We will look very briefly at the battle-fields of Geology.

From the first lispings of this science there was war. The prevailing doctrine of the Church was, that "in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth," that "all things were made at the beginning of the world," and that to say that stones and fossils have been made since "the beginning," is contrary to Scripture. The theological substitutes for scientific explanations ripened into such as these—that the fossils are "sports of Nature," or "creations of plastic force," or "results of a seminal air acting upon rocks," or "models" made by the Creator before he had fully decided upon the best manner of creating various beings. But, while some latitude was allowed among these theologico-scientific explanations, it was held essential to believe that they were placed in all the strata, on one of the creation-days, by the hand of the Almighty; and that this was done for some mysterious purpose of his own, probably for the trial of human faith.

In the sixteenth century Fracastoro and Palissy broached the true idea, but produced little effect. Near the beginning of the seventeenth century De Clave, Bitaud, and De Villon, revived it; straightway the Theologic Faculty of Paris protested against the doctrine as unscriptural, destroyed the offending treatises, banished the authors from Paris, and forbade them to live in towns or enter places of public resort.[15]

At the middle of the eighteenth century, Buffon made another attempt to state simple and fundamental geological truths. The theological faculty of the Sorbonne immediately dragged him from his high position, forced him to recant ignominiously and to print his recantation.

It required a hundred and fifty years for Science to carry the day fairly against this single preposterous theory. The champion who dealt it the deadly blow was Scilla, and his weapons were facts revealed by the fossils of Calabria.

But the advocates of tampering with scientific reasoning now retired to a new position. It was strong, for it was apparently based on Scripture, though, as the whole world now knows, an utterly false interpretation of Scripture. The new position was that the fossils were produced by the deluge of Noah.

In vain had it been shown, by such devoted Christians as Bernard Palissy, that this theory was utterly untenable; in vain did good men protest against the injury sure to result to religion by tying it to a scientific theory sure to be exploded: the doctrine that fossils were the remains of animals drowned at the flood continued to be upheld by the great majority as "sound doctrine," and as a blessed means of reconciling science with Scripture.[16]

To sustain this "scriptural view," so called, efforts were put forth absolutely herculean, both by Catholics and Protestants. Mazurier declared certain fossil remains of a mammoth, discovered in France, to be bones of giants mentioned in Scripture. Father Torrubia did the same thing in Spain. Increase Mather sent similar remains, discovered in America, to England, "with a similar statement. Scheuchzer made parade of the bones of a great lizard discovered in Germany, as the homo diluvii testis, the fossil man, proving the reality of the deluge.[17]

In the midst of this appears an episode very comical but very instructive; for it shows that the attempt to shape the deductions of science to meet the exigencies of theology may mislead heterodoxy as absurdly as orthodoxy.

About the year 1760 news of the discovery of marine fossils in various elevated districts of Europe reached Voltaire. He too had a theologic system to support, though his system was opposed to that of the sacred books of the Hebrews. He feared that these new discoveries might be used to support the Mosaic accounts of the Deluge. All his wisdom and wit, therefore, were compacted into arguments to prove that the fossil fishes were remains of fishes intended for food, but spoiled and thrown away by travelers; that the fossil shells were accidentally dropped by Crusaders and pilgrims returning from the Holy Land; and that the fossil bones of a hippopotamus found between Paris and Étampes were parts of a skeleton belonging to the cabinet of some ancient philosopher. Through chapter after chapter Voltaire, obeying the supposed necessities of his theology, fights desperately the growing results of the geologic investigations of his time.[18]

But far more wide-spread and disastrous was the effort on the other side to show that the fossils were caused by the Deluge of Noah.

No supposition was too violent to support a theory which was considered vital to the Bible. Sometimes it was claimed that the tail of a comet had produced the deluge. Sometimes, by a prosaic rendering of the expression regarding the breaking up of the fountains of the great deep, a theory was started that the earth contained a great cistern, from which the waters came and to which they retired. By taking sacred poetry as prose, and by giving a literal interpretation of it, Thomas Burnet in his "Sacred Theory of the Earth," Winston in his "Theory of the Deluge," and others like them, built up systems which bear to real geology much the same relation that the "Christian Topography" of Cosmas bears to real geography. In vain were exhibited the absolute geological, zoölogical, and astronomical proofs that no universal deluge, or deluge covering any great extent of the earth, had taken place within the last six thousand or sixty thousand years; in vain did Bishop Clayton declare that the deluge could not have taken place save in that district where Noah lived before the flood; in vain was it shown that, even if there had been a universal deluge, the fossils were not produced by it; the only answers were the citation of the text—"and all the high mountains which were under the whole heaven were covered"—and denunciation of infidelity. In England, France, and Germany, belief that the fossils were produced by the Deluge of Noah was insisted upon as part of that faith essential to salvation.[19] It took a hundred and twenty years for the searchers of God's truth, as revealed in Nature—such men as Buffon, Linnæus, Whitehurst, and Daubenton—to push their works under these mighty fabrics of error, and, by statements which could not be resisted, to explode them.

Strange as it may at first seem, the war on geology was waged more fiercely in Protestant countries than in Catholic; and, of all countries, England furnished the most bitter opponents to geology at first, and the most active negotiators in patching up a truce on a basis of sham science afterward.[20]

You have noted already that there are, generally, two sorts of attack on a new science. First, there is the attack by pitting against science some great doctrine in theology. You saw this in astronomy, when Bellarmin and others insisted that the doctrine of the earth revolving about the sun is contrary to the doctrine of the incarnation. So now, against geology, it was urged that the scientific doctrine that the fossils represented animals which died before Adam, was contrary to the doctrine of Adam's fall and that "death entered the world by sin."

Then there is the attack by literal interpretation of texts, which serves a better purpose generally in rousing prejudices.

It is difficult to realize it now, but within the memory of many of us the battle was raging most fiercely in England, and both these kinds of artillery were in full play and filling the civilized world with their roar.

About thirty years ago the Rev. J. Mellor Brown, the Rev. Henry Cole, and others, were hurling at all geologists alike, and especially at such Christian divines as Dr. Buckland, and Dean Conybeare, and Pye Smith, and such religious scholars as Prof. Sedgwick, the epithets of "infidel," "impugner of the sacred record," and "assailant of the volume of God."

Their favorite weapon was the charge that these men were "attacking the truth of God," forgetting that they were simply opposing the mistaken interpretations of Messrs. Brown, Cole, and others like them, inadequately informed.

They declared geology "not a subject of lawful inquiry," denouncing it as "a dark art," as "dangerous and disreputable," as "a forbidden province," as "infernal artillery," and as "an awful evasion of the testimony of revelation."[21]

This attempt to scare men from the science having failed, various other means were taken. To say nothing about England, it is humiliating to human nature to remember the annoyances, and even trials, to which the pettiest and narrowest of men subjected such Christian scholars in our own country as Benjamin Silliman and Edward Hitchcock and Louis Agassiz.

But it is a duty and a pleasure to state here that one great Christian scholar did honor to religion and to himself by standing up for the claims of science, despite all these clamors. That man was Nicholas Wiseman, better known afterward as Cardinal Wiseman. The conduct of this pillar of the Roman Catholic Church contrasts nobly with that of timid Protestants who were filling England with shrieks and denunciations.[22]

And here let me note that one of the prettiest skirmishes in this war was made in New England. Prof. Stuart, of Andover, justly honored as a Hebrew scholar, virtually declared that geology was becoming dangerous; that to speak of six periods of time for the creation was flying in the face of Scripture; that Genesis expressly speaks of six days, each made up of an evening and a morning, and not six periods of time.

To him replied a professor in Yale College, James Kingsley. In an article admirable for keen wit and kindly temper, he showed that Genesis speaks just as clearly of a solid firmament as of six ordinary days, and that if Prof. Stuart had got over one difficulty and accepted the Copernican theory, he might as well get over another and accept the revelations of geology. The encounter was quick and decisive, and the victory was with science and our own honored Yale.[23]

But perhaps the most singular attempt against geology was made by a fine specimen of the English Don—Dean Cockburn, of York—to scold its champions out of the field. Without, apparently, the simplest elementary knowledge of geology, he opened a battery of abuse. He gave it to the world at large, by pulpit and press; he even inflicted it upon leading statesmen by private letters.[24]

From his pulpit in York Minster, Mary Somerville was denounced coarsely, by name, for those studies in physical geography which have made her honored throughout the world.[25]

But these weapons did not succeed. They were like Chinese gongs and dragon-lanterns against rifled cannon. Buckland, Pye Smith, Lyell, Silliman, Hitchcock, Murchison, Agassiz, Dana, and a host of noble champions besides, press on, and the battle for truth is won.

And was it won merely for men of science? The whole civilized world declares that it was won for religion—that thereby was infinitely increased the knowledge of the power and goodness of God.

Did time permit, we might go over other battle-fields no less instructive than those we have seen. We might go over the battlefields of Agricultural Progress, and note how, by a most curious perversion of a text of Scripture, great masses of the peasantry of Russia were prevented from raising and eating potatoes,[26] and how in Scotland at the beginning of this century the use of fanning-mills for winnowing grain was denounced as contrary to the text "the wind bloweth where it listeth," etc., as leaguing with Satan, who is "prince of the powers of the air," and as sufficient cause for excommunication from the Scotch Church.[27]

We might go over the battle-fields of Industrial Science, and note how the introduction of railways into France was declared, by the Archbishop of Besançon, an evidence of the divine displeasure against country innkeepers who set meat before their guests on fast-days, and now were punished by seeing travelers carried by their doors; and how railroad and telegraph were denounced from a noted pulpit as "heralds of Antichrist." And then we might pass to Protestant England and recall the sermon of the Curate of Rotherhithe at the breaking in of the Thames Tunnel, so destructive to life and property, declaring that "it was but a just judgment upon the presumptuous aspirations of mortal man."[28]

We might go over the battle-fields of Ethnology and note how a few years since an honored American investigator, proposing in a learned society the discussion of the question between the origin of the human race from a single pair and from many pairs, was called to order and silenced as atheistic, by a Protestant divine whose memory is justly dear to thousands of us.[29]

Interesting would it be to look over the field of Meteorology—beginning with the conception, supposed to be scriptural, of angels opening and shutting "the windows of heaven" and letting out "the waters that be above the firmament" upon the earth—continuing through the battle of Fromundus and Bodin, down to the onslaught upon Lecky, in our own time, for drawing a logical and scientific conclusion from the doctrine that Meteorology is obedient to laws.[30]

We might go over the battle-fields of Cartography and see how at one period, on account of expressions in Ezekiel, any map of the world which did not place Jerusalem in the centre, was looked on as impious.[31]

We might go over the battle-fields of Political Economy and note how a too literal interpretation of scriptural texts regarding taking interest for money wrought fearful injury, not only to the material interests, but also to the moral character of hosts of enterprising and thrifty men, during ages.[32]

We might go over the battle-fields of Social Science in Protestant countries, and note the opposition of conscientious men to the taking of the census, in Sweden and in the United States, on account of the terms in which the numbering of Israel is spoken of in the Old Testament.[33]

And we might also see how, on similar grounds, religious scruples have been avowed against so beneficial a thing as Life Insurance.[34]

I now come to the warfare on Scientific Instruction. I shall not take time for a sketch of the earlier phases of this warfare, but shall simply present a few typical conflicts that have occurred within the last ten years.

During the years 1867 and 1868 war was commenced against certain leading professors of the Medical School of Paris, especially against Profs. Vulpian and See, and against the Department of Public Instruction, having at its head the Minister of State, Duruy. The storming party in the French Senate was led by a venerable and conscientious prelate, Cardinal de Bonnechose.

It was charged by Monseigneur de Bonnechose and his party, that the tendencies of the teachings of these professors were fatal to religion and morality. A heavy artillery of phrases was hurled, such as "sapping the foundations," etc., "breaking down the bulwarks," etc., etc., and withal a new missile was used with much effect, the epithet of "materialist."

The result can be easily guessed. Crowds came to the lecture-rooms of these professors, and the lecture-room of Prof. See, the chief offender, was crowded to suffocation.

A siege was begun in due form. A young physician was sent by the cardinal's party into the heterodox camp as a spy. Having heard one lecture of Prof. See, he returned with information that seemed to promise easy victory to the besieging party. He brought a terrible statement, one that seemed enough to overwhelm See, Vulpian, Duruy, and the whole hated system of public instruction in France.

Good Cardinal Bonnechose seized the tremendous weapon. Rising in his place in the Senate he launched a most eloquent invective against the Minister of State who could protect such a fortress of impiety as the College of Medicine; and, as a climax, he asserted, on the evidence of his spy fresh from Prof. See's lecture-room, that the professor had declared, in his lecture of the day before, that so long as he had the honor to hold his professorship he would combat the false idea of the existence of the soul (idée de l'ame). The weapon seemed resistless, and the wound fatal; but M. Duruy rose and asked to be heard.

His statement was simply that he held in his hand documentary proofs that Prof. See never made such a declaration. He held the notes used by Prof. See in his lecture. Prof. See, it appeared, belonged to a school in medical science which combated the idea of an art (idée d'un art) in medicine. The real expression used was l'idée d'un art—the idea of an art; the expression which the imagination of the cardinal's eager emissary made of it was l'idée d'une ame—the idea of a soul.

The forces of the enemy were immediately turned. They retreated in confusion amid the laughter of all France; and a well-meant attempt to check what was feared might be dangerous in science simply ended in bringing ridicule on religion, and thrusting still deeper into the minds of thousands of men that most mistaken of all mistaken ideas—the conviction that religion and science are enemies.[35]

But justice forbids our raising an outcry against Roman Catholicism alone for this. In 1864 a number of excellent men in England drew up a declaration to be signed by students in the natural sciences, expressing "sincere regret that researches into scientific truth are perverted by some in our time into occasion for casting doubt upon the truth and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures." Nine-tenths of the leading scientific men of England refused to sign it. Nor was this the worst. Sir John Herschel, Sir John Bowring, and Sir W. R. Hamilton, administered, through the press, castigations which roused general indignation against the proposers of the circular, and Prof. De Morgan, by a parody, covered memorial and memorialists with ridicule. It was the old mistake, and the old result followed in the minds of multitudes of thoughtful young men.[36]

And in yet another Protestant country this same wretched mistake was made. In 1868, several excellent Churchmen in Prussia thought it their duty to meet for the denunciation of "Science falsely so called." Two results followed. Upon the great majority of these really self-sacrificing—men whose first utterances showed crass ignorance of the theories they attacked—there came quiet and wide-spread contempt; upon Pastor Knak, who stood forth and proclaimed views of the universe which he thought scriptural, but which most schoolboys knew to be childish, came a burst of good-natured derision from every quarter of the German nation.[37]

Warfare of this sort against Science seems petty indeed; but it is to be guarded against in Protestant countries not less than Catholic; it breaks out in America not less than in Europe. I might exhibit many proofs of this. Do conscientious Roman bishops in France labor to keep all advanced scientific instruction under their own control—in their own universities and colleges; so do very many not less conscientious Protestant clergymen in our own country insist that advanced education in science and literature shall be kept under control of their own sectarian universities and colleges, wretchedly one-sided in their development, and miserably inadequate in their equipment: did a leading Spanish university, until a recent period, exclude professors holding the Newtonian theory; so does a leading American college exclude professors holding the Darwinian theory: have Catholic colleges in Italy rejected excellent candidates for professorships on account of "unsafe" views regarding the Immaculate Conception; so are Protestant colleges in America every day rejecting excellent candidates on account of "unsafe" views regarding the Apostolic Succession, or the Incarnation, or Baptism, or the Perseverance of the Saints.

And how has all this system resulted. In the older nations, by a natural reaction, these colleges under strict ecclesiastical control have sent forth the most bitter enemies the Christian Church has ever known—of whom Voltaire and Renan and St. Beuve are types; and there are many signs that the same causes are producing the same result in our own country.

I might allude to another battle-field in our own land and time. I might show how an attempt to meet the great want, in the State of New York, of an institution providing scientific instruction, has been met with loud outcries from many excellent men, who fear injury thereby to religion. I might picture to you the strategy which has been used to keep earnest young men from an institution, which, it is declared, cannot be Christian because it is not sectarian. I might lay before you wonderful lines of argument which have been made, to show the dangerous tendencies of a plan which gives to scientific studies the same weight as to classical studies, and which lays no less stress on modern history and literature than on ancient history and literature.

I might show how it has been denounced by the friends and agents of denominational colleges and in many sectarian journals, how the most preposterous charges have been made and believed by good men, how the epithets of "godless," "infidel," "irreligious," "unreligious," "atheistic," have been hurled against a body of Christian trustees, professors, and students, and with little practical result save arousing a suspicion in the minds of large bodies of thoughtful young men, that the churches dread scientific studies untrammeled by sectarianism.

You have now gone over the greater struggles in the long war between Ecclesiasticism and Science, and have glanced at the lesser fields. You have seen the conflicts in Physical Geography, as to the form of the earth; in Astronomy, as to the place of the earth in the universe; in Chemistry and Physics; in Anatomy and Medicine; in Geology; in Meteorology: in Cartography; in the Industrial and Agricultural Sciences; in Political Economy and Social Science; and in Scientific Instruction.

In every case, whether the war has been long or short, forcible or feeble, you have seen this same result—Science has at last gained the victory.

In every case too, you have seen that while this ecclesiastical war, during its continuance, has tended to drive multitudes of thoughtful men away from religion, the triumph of science has been a blessing to religion—ennobling its conceptions and bettering its methods.

May we not, then, hope that the greatest and best men in the Church, the men standing at centres of thought, will insist with power, more and more, that religion be no longer tied to so injurious a policy as that which this warfare reveals; that searchers for truth, whether in theology or natural science, work on as friends, sure that, no matter how much at variance they may at times seem to be, the truths they reach shall finally be fused into each other?

No one needs fear the result. No matter whether Science shall complete her demonstration that man has been on the earth not merely six thousand years, or six millions of years; no matter whether she reveals new ideas of the Creator or startling relations between his creatures; no matter how many more gyves and clamps upon the spirit of Christianity she destroys, the result, when fully thought out, will serve and strengthen religion not less than science.[38]

The very finger of the Almighty has written on history that science must be studied by means proper to itself, and in no other way. That history is before us all. No one can gainsay it. It is decisive, for it is this: There has never been a scientific theory framed from the use of scriptural texts, wholly or partially, which has been made to stand. Such attempts have only subjected their authors to derision, and Christianity to suspicion. From Cosmas finding his plan of the universe in the Jewish tabernacle, to Increase Mather sending mastodon's bones to England as the remains of giants mentioned in Scripture; from Bellarmin declaring that the sun cannot be the centre of the universe, because such an idea vitiates the whole scriptural plan of salvation, to a recent writer declaring that an evolution theory cannot be true, because St. Paul says that "all flesh is not the same flesh," the result has always been the same.[39]

Such facts show that the sacred books of the world were not given for any such purpose as that to which so many men have endeavored to wrest them.[40]

Such facts show, too, that scientific hypotheses will be established or refuted by scientific men and scientific methods alone, and that no conscientious citation of texts or outcries as to consequences of scientific truths, from any other quarter, can do any thing save retard truth and cause needless anxiety.[41]

Is skepticism feared? All history shows that the only skepticism which does permanent harm is skepticism as to the value and safety of truth as truth. No skepticism has proved so corrosive to religion, none so cancerous in the human brain and heart.

Is faith cherished? All history shows that the first article of a saving faith, for any land or time, is faith that there is a Power in this universe strong enough to make truth-seeking safe, and good enough to make truth-telling useful.

What Science can do for the world is shown, not by those who have labored to concoct palatable mixtures of theology and science—men like Cosmas, and Torrubia, and Burnet, and Whiston—but by men who have fought the good fight of faith in truth for truth's sake—men like Roger Bacon, and Vesalius, and Palissy, and Galileo.

What Christianity can do for the world is shown, not by men who have stood on the high places screaming in wrath at the advance of science—not by men who have retreated in terror into the sacred caves and refused to look out upon the universe as it is, but by men who have preached and practised the righteousness of the prophets, and the aspirations of the Psalmist, and the blessed Sermon on the Mount, and "the first great commandment and the second which is like unto it," and St. James's definition of "pure religion and undefiled."

It is shown in the Roman Church, not by Tostatus and Bellarmin, but by St. Carlo Borromeo, and St. Vincent de Paul, and Fénelon, and Eugénie de Guérin; in the Anglican Church, not by Dean Cockburn, but by Howard, and Jenner, and Wilberforce, and Florence Nightingale; in the German Church, not by Pastor Knak, but by Pastor Harms; in the American Church, not by the Mathers and Stuarts, but by such as Bishop Whatcoat, and Channing, and Muhlenberg, and Father De Smet, and Samuel May, and Harriet Stowe.

Let the warfare of science, then, be changed. Let it be a warfare in which Religion and Science shall stand together as allies, not against each other as enemies. Let the fight be for truth of every kind against falsehood of every kind—for justice against injustice—for right against wrong—for the living kernel of religion rather than the dead and dried husks of sect and dogma; and the great powers whose warfare has brought so many sufferings shall at last join in ministering through earth God's richest blessings.

  1. Draper, "Int. Dev. of Europe," p. 421. Whewell, "Hist, of the Induct. Sciences," vol. i., p. 235; vol. viii., p. 36. Fredault, "Hist, de la Médecine," vol. i., p. 204.
  2. Honorius III. forbade medicine to be practised by archdeacons, deacons, priests, etc. Innocent III. forbade surgical operations by priests, deacons, or sub-deacons. In 1243 Dominicans banished books on medicine from their monasteries. See Daunou cited by Buckle, "Posthumous Works," vol. ii., p. 567. For thoughtful and witty remarks on the struggle at a recent period, see Maury, "L'Ancienne Academic des Sciences," Paris, 1864, p. 148. Maury says: "La faculté n'aimait pas à avoir affaire aux théologiens qui procèdent par anathèmes beaucoup plus que par analyses."
  3. Renan, "Averroés et l'Averroisme," Paris, 1867, pp. 327, 333, 335. For a perfectly just statement of the only circumstances which can justify the charge of "atheism," see Dr. Deems's article in Popular Science Monthly, February, 1876.
  4. Whewell, vol. iii., p. 328, says, rather loosely, that Mundinus "dissected at Bologna in 1315." How different his idea of dissection was from that introduced by Vesalius, may be seen by Cuvier's careful statement that the entire number of dissections by Mundinus was three. The usual statement is that it is two. See Cuvier, "Hist. des Sei. Nat.," tome iii., p. 7; also, Sprengel, Frédault, and Hallam; also, Littré, "Médécine et Médecins," chap, on anatomy. For a very full statement of the agency of Mundinus in the progress of anatomy, see Portal, "Hist. de l'Anatomie et de la Chirurgérie," vol. i., pp. 209-216.
  5. For Tertullian and Augustine against anatomical investigation, see Blount's "Essays," cited in Buckle's "Posthumous Works," vol. ii.,pp. 107, 108. The passage from St. Augustine is in "Civ. Dei," xxii., p. 24. See Abbé Migne, "Patrologia," vol. xl., p. 791.
  6. For Boniface VIII. and his interdiction of dissections, see Buckle's "Posthumous Works," vol. ii., p. 567. For injurious effects of this ecclesiastical hostility to anatomy upon the development of art, see Woltman, "Holbein and His Time," pp. 266, 267. For an excellent statement of the true relation of the medical profession to religious questions, see Prof. Acland, "General Relations of Medicine in Modern Times," Oxford, 1868.
  7. For a similar charge against anatomical investigations at a much earlier period, see Littré, "Médecine et Médecins," chapter on anatomy.
  8. The original painting of Vesalius at work in his cell, by Hamann, is now at Cornell University.
  9. For a curious example of weapons drawn from Galen and used against Vesalius, see Lewes, "Life of Goethe," p. 343, note. For proofs that I have not over-estimated Vesalius, see Portal, ubi supra. Portal speaks of him as "le génie le plus droit qu'eut l'Europe" and again, "Vesale me paraît un des plus grands hommes qui ait existé."
  10. See Sprengel, "Histoire de la Médecine," vol. vi., pp. 39-80. For the opposition of the Paris Faculty of Theology to inoculation, see the "Journal de Barbier," vol. vi., p. 294. For bitter denunciations of the inoculation by English clergy, and for the noble stand against them by Maddox, see Baron, "Life of Jenner," vol. i., pp. 231, 232, and vol. ii., pp. 39, 40. For the strenuous opposition of the same clergy, see Weld, "History of the Royal Society," vol. i., p. 464, note. Also, for the comical side of this matter, see Nichols's "Literary Illustrations," vol. v., p. 800.
  11. For the opposition of conscientious men in England to vaccination, see Duns, "Life of Sir James Y. Simpson, Bart.," London, 1873, pp. 248, 249; also Baron, "Life of Jenner," ubi supra, and vol. ii., p. 43; also "Works of Sir J. Y. Simpson," vol. ii.
  12. See Duns, "Life of Sir J. Y. Simpson," pp. 215-222.
  13. See Duns, "Life of Sir J. Y. Simpson," pp. 256-259.
  14. "Ibid.," p. 260; also "Works of Sir J. Y. Simpson," ubi supra.
  15. Morley, "Life of Palissy the Potter," vol. ii., p. 315, et seq.
  16. Audiat, "Vie de Palissy," p. 412. Cantu, "Hist. Universelle," vol. xv., p. 492.
  17. For ancient beliefs regarding giants, see Leopardi, "Saggio sopra gli errori popolari," etc., chapter xv. For accounts of the views of Mazurier and Scheuchzer, see Büchner, "Man in Past, Present, and Future," English translation, pp. 235, 236. For Increase Mather's views, see "Philosophical Transactions," xxiv., 85. For similar fossils sent from New York to the Royal Society as remains of giants, see Weld, "History of the Royal Society," vol. i., p. 421. For Father Torrubia and his Giganiologia Española, see D'Archiac, "Introduction à l'Etude de la Paléontologie stratiographique," Paris, 1864, p. 202. For admirable summaries, see Lyell, "Principles of Geology," London, 1867; D'Archiac, "Géologie et Paléontologie," Paris, 1866; Pictet, "Traité de Paléontologie," Paris, 1853; Vezian, "Prodrome de la Géologie," Paris, 1863; Haeckel, "History of Creation," New York, 1876, chapter iii.
  18. See Voltaire, "Dissertation sur les Changements arrivés dans notre Globe," also Voltaire, "Les Singularités do la Nature," chapter xii., near close of vol. v. of the Didot edition of 1843; also Jevons, "Principles of Science," vol. ii., p. 328.
  19. For a candid summary of the proofs from geology, astronomy, and zoölogy, that the Noachian Deluge was not universally or widely extended, see McClintock and Strong, "Cyclopædia of Biblical Theology and Ecclesiastical Literature," article "Deluge." For general history see Lyell, D'Archiæ, and Vezian. For special cases showing bitterness of the conflict, see the Rev. Mr. Davis's' "Life of Rev. Dr. Pye Smith," passim.
  20. For a philosophical statement of reasons why the struggle was more bitter, and the attempt at deceptive compromises more absurd in England than elsewhere, see Maury, "L'Ancienne Académie des Sciences," second edition, p. 152.
  21. See Pye Smith, D. D., "Geology and Scripture," pp. 156, 157, 168, 169.
  22. Wiseman, "Twelve Lectures on the Connection between Science and Revealed Religion," first American edition, New York, 1837.
  23. See Silliman's Journal, vol. xxx., p. 114.
  24. Prof. Goldwin Smith informs me that the papers of Sir Robert Peel, yet unpublished, contain very curious specimens of these epistles.
  25. See "Personal Recollections of Mary Somerville," Boston, 1874, pp. 139 and 375. Compare with any statement of his religious views that Dean Cockburn was able to make, the following from Mrs. Somerville: "Nothing has afforded me so convincing a proof of the Deity as these purely mental conceptions of numerical and mathematical science which have been, by slow degrees, vouchsafed to man—and are still granted in these latter times, by the differential calculus, now superseded by the higher algebra—all of which must have existed in that sublimely omniscient mind from eternity."—See "Personal Recollections," pp. 140, 141.
  26. See Haxthausen, "Études sur la Russie."
  27. Burton, "History of Scotland," vol. viii., p. 511. See also Mause Headrigg's views in Scott's "Old Mortality," chapter vii. For the case of a person debarred from the communion for "raising the devil's wind" with a winnowing-machine, see works of Sir J. Y. Simpson, vol. ii. Those doubting the authority or motives of Simpson may be reminded that he was, to the day of his death, one of the strictest adherents of Scotch orthodoxy.
  28. See Journal of Sir I. Brunel, for May 20, 1827, in "Life of I. K. Brunel," p. 30.
  29. This scene will be recalled, easily, by many leading ethnologists in America, and especially by Mr. E. G. Squier, formerly minister of the United States to Central America.
  30. The meteorological battle is hardly fought out yet. Many excellent men seem still to entertain views almost identical with those of over two thousand years ago, depicted in "The Clouds" of Aristophanes.
  31. These texts are Ezekiel v. 5 and xxxviii. 12. The progress of geographical knowledge, evidently, caused them to be softened down somewhat in our King James's version; but the first of them reads, in the Vulgate, "Ista est Hierusalem, in medio gentium posui eam et in circuitu ejus terras;" and the second reads in the Vulgate "in medio terræ," and in the Septuagint ὲπι τὸν ὸμφαλὸν τῆς γῆς. That the literal centre of the earth was meant, see proof in St. Jerome, Commentar. in Ezekiel, lib. ii., and for general proof, see Leopardi, "Saggio sopra gli errori popolari degli antichi," pp. 207, 208. For an idea of orthodox geography in the middle ages, see Wright's "Essay on Archaeology," vol. ii., chapter "On the Map of the World in Hereford Cathedral."
  32. For a very complete history of this opposition of the Church to one of the fundamental doctrines of political economy, see Murray, "History of Usury," Philadelphia, 1866; also, Lecky, "History of Rationalism," vol. ii., chapter vi. For collateral information as to effect of similar doctrines on Venetian commerce, see Lindsay, "History of Merchant Shipping," London, 1874, vol. ii.
  33. See Michaelis, "Commentaries on the Laws of Moses," 1874, vol. ii., p. 3. The writer of the present article himself witnessed the reluctance of a very conscientious man to answer the questions of a census marshal, Mr. Lewis Hawley, of Syracuse, N. Y., and this reluctance was based upon the reasons assigned in II Samuel, chapter xxiv. 1, and I. Chronicles, chapter xxi. 1, for the numbering of the children of Israel.
  34. See De Morgan, "Paradoxes," pp. 214-220.
  35. For general account of the Vulpian and See matter, see Revue des Deux Mondes, 31 Mai, 1868. "Chronique de la Quinzaine," pp. 763-765. As to the result on popular thought may be noted the following comment on the affair by the Revue which is as free as possible from any thing like rabid anti-ecclesiastical ideas: "Elle a été vraiment curieuse, instructive, assez triste et même un peu amusante."
  36. De Morgan, "Paradoxes," pp. 421-428; also Daubeny's "Essays."
  37. See the Berlin newspapers for the summer of 1868, especially Kladderadatsch.
  38. In an eloquent sermon, preached in March, 1874, Bishop Cummins said, in substance: "The Church has no fear of Science; the persecution of Galileo was entirely unwarrantable; but Christians should resist to the last Darwinism; for that is evidently contrary to Scripture." The bishop forgets that Galileo's doctrine seemed to such colossal minds as Bellarmin, and Luther, and Bossuet, "evidently contrary to Scripture." Far more logical, modest, sagacious, and full of faith, is the attitude taken by bis former associate, Dr. John Cotton Smith. "For geology, physiology, and historical criticism, have threatened or destroyed only particular forms of religious opinion; while they have set the spirit of religion free to keep pace with the larger generalizations of modern knowledge."—(Picton, "The Mystery of Matter," London, 1873, p. 72.)
  39. In the Church Journal, New York, May 28, 1874, a reviewer praising Rev. Dr. Hodge's book against Darwinism, says: "Darwinism, whether Darwin knows it or not, whether the clergy, who are half prepared to accept it in blind fright as 'science,' know it or not, is a denial of every article of the Christian faith. It is supreme folly to talk as some do about accommodating Christianity to Darwinism. Either those who so talk do not understand Christianity, or they do not understand Darwinism. If we have all, men and monkeys, women and baboons, oysters and eagles, all 'developed' from an original monad and germ, then St. Paul's grand deliverance—'All flesh is not the same flesh. There is one kind of flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial'—may be still very grand in our funeral service, but very untrue to fact." This is the same dangerous line of argument which Caccini indulged in in Galileo's time. Dangerous, for suppose "Darwinism" be proved true! For a soothing potion by a skillful hand, see Whewell on the consistency of evolution doctrines with teleological ideas; also Rev. Samuel Houghton, F. R. S., "Principles of Animal Mechanics," London, 1873, preface and page 156, for some interesting ideas on teleological evolution.
  40. To all who are inclined to draw scientific conclusions from biblical texts, may be commended the advice of a good old German divine of the Reformation period: "Seeking the milk of the Word, do not press the teats of Holy Writ too hard."
  41. For some excellent remarks on the futility of such attempts and outcries, see the Rev. Dr. Deems, in Popular Science Monthly for February, 1876.