Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/459

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
443
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

dence that the evolution of language has not been determined by the philosophic utterances of Adam in naming the animals which Jehovah brought before him, but in obedience to natural law.

True, a few devoted theologians showed themselves willing to lead a forlorn hope; and perhaps the most forlorn of all was that of 1840, led by Dr. Gottlieb Christian Kayser, Professor of Theology at the Protestant University of Erlangen. He did not, indeed, dare put in the old claim that Hebrew is identical with the primitive tongue, but he insists that it is nearer it than any other. He relinquishes the two former theological strongholds—first, the idea that language was taught by the Almighty to Adam, and, next, that the alphabet was thus taught to Moses—and falls back on the position that all tongues are thus derived from Noah, giving as an example the language of the Caribbees, and insisting that it was evidently so derived. What chance similarity in words between Hebrew and the Caribbee tongue he had in mind is past finding out. He comes out strongly in defense of the biblical account of the Tower of Babel, and insists that by the "symbolical expression ' God said, Let us go down/ a further natural phenomenon is intimated, to wit, the cleaving of the earth, whereby the return of the dispersed became impossible—that is to say, through a new or not universal flood, a partial inundation and temporary violent separation of great continents until the time of the rediscovery." By these words the learned doctor means nothing less than the separation of Europe from America.

But while at the middle of the nineteenth century the theory of the origin and development of language was upon the continent considered as settled, and a well-ordered science had there emerged from the old chaos, Great Britain still held back, in spite of the fact that the most important contributors to the science were of British origin. Leaders in every English church and sect vied with each other, either in denouncing the encroachments of the science of language or in explaining it away.

But a new epoch had come, and in a way least expected. Perhaps the most notable effort in bringing it in was made by Dr. Wiseman, afterward Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. His is one of the best examples of a method which has been used with considerable effect during the latest stages in nearly all the controversies between theology and science. It consists in stating, with much apparent fairness, the conclusions of the scientific authorities, and then in making the astounding assertion that the Church has always accepted them and accepts them now as "additional proofs of the truth of Scripture." A little juggling with words, a little amalgamation of texts, a little judicious suppression, a little imaginative deduction, a little unctuous phrasing, and the thing is done. One great service this eminent Catholic