Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/434

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The escape from this dilemma which is attempted by giving up the physical world to science, reserving the moral world for theology, is only a temporary escape. Let it be granted that the authority of the sacred books refers solely to to the phenomena of human nature in the double aspect of the relations of man to God and his relations to society. If they contain explicit statements which are at variance with our moral culture—such as that God is "jealous" and "vindictive," or that sinners will be consigned to everlasting torment—they must have some other guarantee of their truth than the ratification of moral consciousness, since that rejects them; and if they contain statements respecting man's nature which are at variance with experience when they can be verified, how shall we accept their authority when the statements are beyond verification?

When the statements are ratified by experience and moral culture, theology can give these no extra sanction; when they are not so ratified, theology cannot make them acceptable. By way of illustration of the conflict between Science and Theology, in their explanations of human phenomena, with the precepts which are founded upon each, let us take the case of disease.

Very little is accurately known of its causes; but whatever they are, science, recognizing disease as the result of some disturbance of the organic functions, seeks the unknown causes in the known properties of the substances composing the organism. Theology, which uniformly explains the unknown by the unknown, invokes a supernatural cause for this natural effect. It declares that God sends diseases as chastisements and lessons. Nor is this declaration withdrawn when commonsense objects that the chastisement is often an injustice and the lesson an enigma. The innocent are seen to suffer even more than the guilty, and no one knows why they suffer; no one can regard the punishment of the child for the sin of its father as in agreement with human justice. But you say, "All men are guilty?" Then why are not all punished? And why are animals and plants also afflicted with diseases? Have they, too, the burden of Adam's disobedience? There was a time when such explanations reconciled the doctrine with observation; but nowadays cultivated minds shrink from the conception of "imputed sin" as a rational explanation of human and animal suffering.

In applauding this progress we must also point out the logical inconsistency of those who maintain the absolute authority of the texts of which such conceptions are the necessary applications. Theology maintains its doctrine even when theologians set aside the practice which that doctrine ordains. To claim absolute submission to the physician's formulas, and yet refuse to follow his prescriptions, is surely irrational? Yet this is the case nowadays. When the supernatural theory of disease was undisturbed by positive knowledge, prayers and incantations were the remedies in vogue; but now even those who will not acknowledge the theory to be an antiquated error practically disa-