Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/240

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
226
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ments which lie advances against theology are in no way peculiar to himself, or gain any of their strength from his reputation; they are virtually the arguments of the whole non-Christian world. He may possibly have, on some points, views peculiar to himself. He may also have certain peculiar ways of stating them. But it requires no great critical acuteness, it requires only ordinary fairness, to separate those of his utterances which represent facts generally accepted, and arguments generally influential, from those which represent only some peculiarity of his own. Now, all this is true not of Prof. Huxley only. With various qualifications, it is equally true of writers with whom Prof. Huxley is apparently in constant antagonism, and who also exhibit constant antagonism among themselves. I am at this moment thinking of two especially—Mr, Frederic Harrison and Mr. Herbert Spencer. Mr. Harrison, in his capacity of religious teacher, is constantly attacking both Mr. Spencer and Prof. Huxley. Prof. Huxley repays Mr. Harrison's blows with interest; and there are certain questions of a religious and practical character as to which he and Mr. Spencer would be hardly on better terms. But, underneath the several questions they quarrel about, there is a solid substructure of conclusions, methods, and arguments, as to which they all agree—agree in the most absolute way. What this agreement consists in, and what practical bearing, if taken by itself, it must have on our views of life, I shall now try to explain in a brief and unquestionable summary; and in that summary, what the reader will have before him is not the private opinion of these eminent men, but ascertained facts with regard to man and the universe; and the conclusions which, if we have nothing else to assist us, are necessarily drawn from those facts by the necessary operations of the mind. The mention of names, however, has this signal convenience—it will keep the reader convinced that I am not speaking at random, and will supply him with standards by which he can easily test the accuracy and the sufficiency of my assertions.

The case, then, of science, or modern thought, against theological religion or theism, and the Christian religion in particular, substantially is as follows:

In the first place, it is now an established fact that the physical universe, whether it ever had a beginning or no, is, at all events, of an antiquity beyond what the imagination can realize; and also that, whether or no it is limited, its extent is so vast as to be equally unimaginable. Science may not pronounce it absolutely to be either eternal or infinite, but science does say this, that so far as our faculties can carry us they reveal to us no hint of either limit, end, or beginning.

It is further established that the stuff out of which the universe