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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/462

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

laws more or less clearly ascertained. Babel thus takes its place quietly among the sacred myths.

Secondly, as to the origin of writing, we have the more eminent theologians at first insisting that God taught Adam to write; next we find them gradually retreating from this position, but insisting that writing was taught to the world by Noah. After the retreat from this position, we find them insisting that it was Moses whom God taught to write. But scientific modes of thought still progressed, and we next have influential theologians agreeing that writing was a Mosaic invention; this is followed by another theological retreat to the position that writing was a post-Mosaic invention. Finally, all the positions are relinquished, save by some few skirmishers who appear now and then upon the horizon, making attempts to defend some subtle method of incorporating the Babel myth into modern science.

Just after the middle of the nineteenth century a new system of theological defense appears. It is that which is seen in the history of almost every science after it has successfully fought its way through the theological period—the declaration that the scientific discoveries in question are nothing new, but have really always been known and held by the Church, and that they simply substantiate the position taken by the Church. This new contention, which always betokens the last gasp of theological resistance to science, was now echoed from land to land. In 1856 it was given forth by a divine of the Anglican Church, Archdeacon Pratt, of Calcutta. He gives a long list of eminent philologists who had done most to destroy the old supernatural view of language, reads into their utterances his own wishes, and then exclaims, "So singularly do their labors confirm the literal truth of Scripture."

Two years later this contention is echoed from the American Presbyterian Church, and Dr. B. W. Dwight, having stigmatized as "infidels" those who have not incorporated into their science the literal acceptance of Hebrew legend, declares that "chronology, ethnography, and etymology have all been tortured in vain to make them contradict the Mosaic account of the early history of man." Twelve years later another echo comes from the Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. Dr. Baylee, Principal of the College of St. Aidan's in England, declares, "With regard to the varieties of human language, the account of the confusion of tongues is receiving daily confirmation by all the recent discoveries in comparative philology." And this is echoed in the same year (1870) from the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, when Dr. John Eadie, Professor of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, declares that "comparative philology has established the miracle of Babel."