Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/24

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civilization had a past, were so elated with their discovery that they stopped short to admire and make over again the past which they had painfully exhumed. There was a revival of mediævalism in art, in literature, in politics—modern imperialism is an instance of this—and that religion was not exempt is shown by ritualism in England. Yet the greater original movement has gone on, and in the realism that is beginning to affect art and literature, as in the spread of democracy, we see the natural growth of one inspiring thought.

If, then, we observe in the past the complex results of a single strong, animating influence, we may be justified in examining the life about us to see, so far as we may, how it is affected by contemporary thought. One of the most important influences now at work is doubtless that of science, which is of course as old as human curiosity, and is only new in its results. That the effect of the great advance in scientific thought has been to modify considerably most forms of religious belief can not be denied; and, in spite of the many attempted reconciliations of the two, it is not difficult to see that some of the leading dogmas of Christianity are doomed. Fortunately, one of the rewards of the freedom that is given to science is a lack of venom in its attack, and, on the other side, there is an absence of bitterness in those whose opinions it unavoidably alters. There are, of course, exceptions; modern science has not expelled arrogance from the world, and enlightenment Las not wholly driven out bigotry. Yet, in the calmness with which the controversy is carried on, we see how wide-spread is the belief that dogmas are less essential than the truth which all men alike are seeking. As Professor Asa Gray puts it: "No sensible person now believes what the most sensible people believed formerly. Settled scientific belief must control religious belief." It is one of the time-honored jests which the late Lord Beaconsfield thrust into his last novel, that the religion of sensible people is what sensible people never tell. They may not, but their tolerance of new truths and the altered position of ecclesiasticism declare all that need be known.

The present interest in science is distinctly part of the revolutionary movement which demands, with restless curiosity, why everything should be as it is. This is the question that is put to every existing institution, and science often gives a serviceable answer. The answer is a leveling one to all conventionalities, because science concerns itself only about facts, and it is heard now because science can only exist where thought is free. Freedom of thought is a powerful solvent, and it is especially destructive to all the conventionalities which exist by means of the common agreement that they shall not be examined. We see that in politics the divine right of kings is called in question, and in the uniform tendency of modern times toward democracy the assumption of government by those who are governed. In social matters we perceive a similar movement toward the emancipation of the individual. All knowledge advances from vague generalities to