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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/454

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440
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

knowledge are fast coming to be recognized as profoundly immoral, was without doubt the understanding and the belief of the person or persons who compiled from the Chaldean and other earlier statements the account of creation in the first of our sacred books.[1]

Thus down to a period almost within living memory it was held, virtually "always, everywhere, and by all," that the universe, as we now see it, was created literally and directly by the voice or hands of the Almighty, or by both—out of nothing—in an instant or in six days, or in both—and for the convenience of the dwellers upon the earth, which was at the base and foundation of the whole structure.

But there had been implanted along through the ages germs of another growth in human thinking, some of them even as early as the Babylonian period. In the Assyrian inscriptions we find recorded the Chaldeo-Babylonian idea of a development of the imiverse out of the primeval flood or "great deep," and of the animal creation out of the earth and sea. This idea, recast, partially at least, into monotheistic form, passed naturally into the sacred books of the neighbors and pupils of the Chaldeans—the Hebrews; but its development in Christendom afterward was checked, as we shall hereafter see, by the more powerful influence of other inherited statements which appealed more simply and powerfully to the mind of the Church.

Far more striking was the effect of this idea, rewrought by the early Ionian philosophers, to whom it was doubtless transmitted from the Chaldeans through the Phœnicians. In the minds of Ionians like Anaximander and Anaximenes it was most strikingly developed; the first of these conceived of the visible universe as the result of processes of evolution, and the latter pressed further the same mode of reasoning, dwelling on agencies in cosmic development recognized in modern science.

This geneal idea of evolution in Nature thus took strong hold upon Greek thought and was developed in many ways, some wonderfully ingenious, some curiously perverse. Plato, indeed, withstood it; but Aristotle sometimes developed it so as to remind us of modern views.


  1. For scriptural indications of the independent existence of light and darkness, compare with the first verses of the first chapter of Genesis such passages as Job xxxviii, 19, 24; for the general prevalence of this early view, see Lukas, Kosmogonie, pp. 31, 33, 41, 74, and passim; for the view of St. Ambrose regarding the creation of light and of the sun, see his Hexameron, lib. 4, cap. iii; for an excellent general statement, see Huxley, Mr. Gladstone and Genesis, in the Nineteenth Century, 1886, reprinted in his Essays on Controverted Questions, London, 1892, note, pp. 126 et seq.; for the acceptance in the miracle plays of the scriptural idea of light and darkness as independent creations, see Wright, Essays on Archæological Subjects, vol. ii, p. 178.