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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/804

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of any other race. Let there, then, be no misunderstanding: science is not concerned to prove that there is no God, nor even that a future life is an impossibility; it simply obeys an instinct of self-preservation in seeking to repel modes of thought and belief which, in their ultimate issues, are destructive of all science.

One has only to reflect for a moment, in order to see how much theological baggage the orthodox disputant throws away, when he confines his arguments to the two points of God and a future life. Were it thrown away in sincerity, argument might cease; but no, the manœuvre is first to make a formidable demonstration as champion of two cardinal doctrines which in themselves arouse little opposition, even where they do not commend assent, and then to apply the results of the proceeding to the benefit of those parts of the system which had been kept in the background. It is not in the interest of a simple theistic belief, unconnected with any scheme of theology, that the Bishop of Ontario writes: what he has at heart, I venture to say, is that men may believe as he does. The theism of Francis Newman, or of Victor Hugo, or Mazzini—all convinced theists—would be very unsatisfactory in his eyes, and it may be doubted whether he would take up his pen for the purpose of promoting theism of this type. It should, therefore, be thoroughly understood that, while his lordship is professedly combating agnosticism, he is really waging war on behalf of that elaborate theological system of which he is an exponent—that system which bids us look to the Bible for an account of the creation of the world and of man; and which requires us to believe that the Creator found it necessary in former times, for the right government of the world, to be continually breaking through the laws of physical succession which he himself had established. In arguing against the doctrine of evolution, he labors to establish the opposite doctrine of the creation and government of the world by miracle.

The question therefore is, Can science be free and yet accommodate itself to the whole elaborate scheme of Christian orthodoxy? The great majority of those who are most entitled to speak on behalf of science say No; and it is this negative which his lordship of Ontario converts into a denial of the two doctrines above-mentioned. But let those who are at all familiar with the course of modern thought ask themselves if they recall in the writings of any leading philosopher of the day arguments specially directed against the hypothesis of God, or even against that of a possible future state of existence for humanity. What every one can at once remember is, that the writers who are called "agnostics," the Spencers, Huxleys, Tyndalls, and Darwins, plead for the universality of Nature's laws and the abiding uniformity of her processes. That is what they are concerned to maintain, because it is upon that that all science depends. Scientific men in general are but little disposed to disturb any one's faith in God or immortality, so long as these doctrines are not associated with or put for-