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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/373

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ter, nor does microscopic study of the infinitely little always produce humility. We have our full share of original sin; need, greed, and vainglory beset us as they do other mortals; and our progress is, for the most part, like that of a tacking ship, the resultant of opposite divergencies from the straight path. But, for all that, there is one moral benefit which the pursuit of science unquestionably bestows. It keeps the estimate of the value of evidence up to the proper mark; and we are constantly receiving lessons, and sometimes very sharp ones, on the nature of proof. Men of science will always act up to their standard of veracity, when mankind in general leave off sinning; but that standard appears to me to be higher among them than in any other class of the community.

I do not know any body of scientific men who could be got to listen without the strongest expressions of disgusted repudiation to the exposition of a pretended scientific discovery, which had no better evidence to show for itself than the story of the devils entering a herd of swine, or of the fig-tree that was blasted for bearing no figs when "it was not the season of figs." Whether such events are possible or impossible, no man can say; but scientific ethics can and does declare that the profession of belief in them, on the evidence of documents of unknown date and of unknown authorship, is immoral. Theological apologists who insist that morality will vanish if their dogmas are exploded, would do well to consider the fact that, in the matter of intellectual veracity, science is already a long way ahead of the churches; and that, in this particular, it is exerting an educational influence on mankind of which the churches have shown themselves utterly incapable.

Undoubtedly that varying compound of some of the best and some of the worst elements of Paganism and Judaism, molded in practice by the innate character of certain people of the Western world, which since the second century has assumed to itself the title of orthodox Christianity, "rests on miracles," and falls to the ground, not "if miracles be impossible," but if those to which it is committed prove themselves unable to fulfill the conditions of honest belief.

That this Christianity is doomed to fall is, to my mind, beyond a doubt; but its fall will be neither sudden nor speedy. The Church, with all the aid lent it by the secular arm, took many centuries to extirpate the open practice of pagan idolatry within its own fold; and those who have traveled in Southern Europe will be aware that it has not extirpated the essence of such idolatry even yet. Mutato nomine it is probable that there is as much sheer fetichism among the Roman populace now as there was eighteen hundred years ago; and if Marcus Antoninus could descend from his horse and ascend the steps of the Ara Cœli church about Twelfth Day, the only thing that need strike him would be the extremely contemptible character of the modem idols as works of art.