Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/433

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handed down by tradition do not agree. That of the Hindoos is not that of the Jews; the Persians reject the traditions of both.

Modern historic criticism has made such havoc with the historical pretensions that theologians are now throwing all the emphasis on moral consciousness. The doctrine of our sacred books is said to be unequivocally ratified by our intuitions: we feel their truth, and we see in their moral influence on mankind the verification of their divine origin. But here again the scientific method, which applied to the historical evidence has shattered its claim, applied to the evidence of moral consciousness is equally destructive. Psychology not only enlightens us as to the genesis of the intuitions, but, in a comparison with other nations and the earlier stages of human development, shows how they vary. If the intuitions of the savage are not those of the civilized, if precepts which the Hindoo feels to be divine are opposed to precepts which the Chinese, the Jew, the Mohammedan, and the Christian, feel to be divine, we need a criterion beyond these varying standards.

There is a wide-spread superstition which regards whatever is innate, or otherwise unexplained, as of a higher authority and diviner sanction than what is acquired through individual experience or is explicable on known laws. Our religious instincts are appealed to, as if instinct were the infallible guide in conduct; although a moment's reflection will show that it is the great aim of civilization to correct and repress many instincts. If the developed music of our day is of a higher order and more adapted to our sensibilities than the music of the middle ages; if our theories of natural phenomena are of a higher order and approximate more nearly to the truth than the corresponding theories of Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, why should our theories of moral phenomena be deemed inferior to those of Judaism or the councils? Is the nursery a school of riper wisdom than the laboratory?

So much as to method; now as to results. The sacred books of all theologies claim to expound a theory of the universe and a theory of human life and destiny. Their theories of the universe, both as general conceptions and particular explanations, are in such flagrant contradiction with the teachings of Science, that nowadays no one who is worth a moment's consideration seeks astronomical, geological, or physiological explanations in the sacred books. There has arisen the assertion that the sacred books were never intended to teach man scientific truths, but only to teach him his duties. The answer is twofold: first, that man's duties are comprised among scientific truths; secondly, that the books do teach, not scientific truths, but doctrines which science shows to be erroneous. We ask, therefore, if their dicta are proved to be erroneous on points where the control of observation is possible, what authority can they claim on points beyond all such verification? If their astronomical, geological, and biological statements are false, why are we to believe their statements respecting the origin of the universe, the laws of its evolution, the nature of man, and the conduct of man?