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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/286

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

"Christian science" can find believers shows that what is referred to in our other editorial as the fancy of the multitude for theories which save them trouble and minister to their love of the marvelous has not yet disappeared from the world. The fascination for holding odd notions seems to be a weakness of the human mind which is hard to eradicate. Such beliefs have been pretty well driven out of chemistry, physics, zoology, and other fields of science which can be searchingly investigated, and they remain only in psychology and medicine, dealing with the living human organism, which can not be freely experimented upon. Human credulity has been greatly lessened by the march of scientific enlightenment, and what remains has taken on a new form. In earlier times it delighted in the supernatural, now it revels in its own false ideas of the natural. Then it trusted the revelations of self-appointed prophets, now it pins its faith to the slipshod reasoning of sham investigators. Science has done such wonderful things of late that a certain class of people, including many of excellent judgment in other fields, has come to believe any marvels put forth under its name. Hence we have a modern class of mystery-mongers which will flourish until the spread of scientific culture has diffused the power of discriminating between science and base imitations of science.

 

 

DR. ABBOTT'S DEFENSE OF THE DEVIL-THEORY.

Replying to our recent article on "The Devil-Theory," Dr. Lyman Abbott says that he objects to it because it is "unscientific." Will the reverend doctor allow us to say that we object to his article because it is evasive? It is evasive, in the first place, because, though he declares our position to be unscientific, he does not attempt to show in what way, but leaves his readers to discover it for themselves, as he expresses it, "between the lines." It is evasive, in the second place, because it does not attempt to defend the particular version of the devil-theory put forward by the doctor in his "Sunday afternoon" discourse and criticised by us; but, without a word of warning or apology to the reader, cleverly switches that version away and substitutes a completely édifièrent one. It will be remembered that the view which Dr. Abbott advocated, in the essay to which we referred, as being most in harmony both with reason and with Scripture was that the victims of devil possession were unhappy creatures who, by a long course of sin, had virtually lost control of themselves and were compelled to act as they might be moved by the malign spirit or spirits to whom they had "voluntarily" surrendered themselves. We pointed out that this was not in harmony with Scripture, which nowhere dropped the slightest hint that the possessed were other than the involuntary and helpless victims of their diabolical persecutors. One would have expected some notice by Dr. Abbott of this direct challenge of the "Scriptural" character of his teaching; but no, not one word have we on this point in his last deliverance in the "Christian Union." We are treated instead to a reproduction of something written by him twenty years ago, which, as he says, expresses perfectly the opinions he holds to-day. What, then, is the drift of the resuscitated article? The reader may judge by a few extracts:

"It may be confidently asserted that, if there are no cases of demonstrable demoniacal possession in modern times, there are mental phenomena which the hypothesis of such possession better solves than any other. What more reasonable explanation has science to afford of the case of that nurse who begged to be dismissed from her mistress's service because, in undressing the child whom she devoutly loved, an almost irresistible passion seized her to tear it to pieces; or that young girl who, otherwise exemplary, seemed to herself to be im-