Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/508

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IT is not yet three years since we published an abridgment of the address delivered by Dr. Deems at the inauguration of Vanderbilt University, in Nashville. The speaker chose "Science and Religion" as a subject befitting the occasion, and from his intimate relations with the founder of the institution, and the share he is supposed to have had in determining the arrangement, his discourse was regarded as in some sense official and authoritative in foreshadowing the spirit of its administration. Dr. Deems said: "This recent cry of a conflict between Religion and Science is fallacious and mischievous to the interests of both science and religion, and would be most mournful if we did not believe that in the very nature of things it is to be ephemeral. Its genesis is to be traced to the weak foolishness of some professors of religion, and the weak wickedness of some professors of science." From which it is to be inferred that Vanderbilt University, at all events, would lend no countenance to this mischievous fallacy.

We protested at the time against regarding a controversy that has raged for centuries, that goes down to the very roots of human belief, and that is now more widely and intensely discussed than ever before, as "ephemeral." And we likewise protested against that superficial view of the causes of this conflict which ascribes them to the foolishness of religionists or the wickedness of scientists. We said that the cause of the warfare must be sought in the relations of the two subjects, meaning thereby the progressive nature of scientific knowledge and the fixedness of religious belief. That which is advancing must come in collision with that which is stationary, if the latter stands in the pathway of the former. And there are but two possible ways of avoiding collisions: either the moving body must stop, or the stationary body must get out of the way. Science will not cease to advance with its work, come what may, and let who will be hurt. It cannot pause, it cannot compromise. Its business is the study of Nature; its object to find out the utmost truth. It points to the vast body of modern knowledge which it has established, and to the conquest of Nature which that knowledge has conferred, as witnesses to the validity and beneficence of its great tasks, and as a presage of further triumphs in the future. The command is often and loudly given to Science to halt, but it would be just as sensible to order the Gulf Stream to halt, or to stay the course of Nature itself. The only question, then, is, whether Religion will take its unyielding theology out of the way, or wait to have it crushed and cast aside. At any rate, nothing is more futile than to resolve the conflict between Religion and Science into a mere question of decorum, propriety, or temper, between the parties engaged.

But, though much remains to be done before this warfare terminates, great progress has undoubtedly been made toward a better understanding, and more pacific relations between the parties. The spirit of liberality has already become so strong among the more intelligent portions of the community that demonstrations of bigotry on the part of theological bodies are pretty certain to incur a general condemnation. It was therefore not without con-