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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/462

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the evolution of truth, in human history, and because in poem, chronicle, code, legend, myth, apologue, or parable they reflect this development of what is best in the onward march of humanity. To say that they are not true is as if one should say that a flower or a tree or a planet is not true; to scoff at them is to scoff at the law of the universe. In welding together into noble form, whether in the book of Genesis, or in the Psalms, or in the book of Job, or elsewhere, the great conceptions of men acting under earlier inspiration, whether in Egypt, or Chaldea, or India, or Persia, the compilers of our sacred books have given to humanity a possession ever becoming more and more precious; and modern science in substituting a new heaven and a new earth for the old—the reign of law for the reign of caprice, and the idea of evolution for that of creation—has added and is steadily adding a new revelation divinely inspired.

In the light of these two evolutions, then—one of the visible universe, the other of a sacred creation-legend—science and theology have at last been reconciled. A great step in this reconciliation was recently seen at the main center of theological thought among English-speaking people, when, in the collection of essays entitled Lux Mundi, emanating from the college established in these latter days as the fortress of orthodoxy at Oxford, the legendary character of the creation accounts in our sacred books was acknowledged, and when an archbishop suggested that the "Holy Spirit may at times have made use of myth and legend."[1]

 


 
In a communication to the Belgian Geological Society M. Dallo has called attention to some truly scientific conceptions expressed or foreshadowed hy Dante in his great poem, including such truths as the moon the principal cause of the tides; the level, except for the relief of the waves, of the surface of the sea; the existence of a centripetal force, illustrated in the fall of bodies; the spherical form of the earth; that the land above the sea is simply a protuberance from the surface of the globe; that the continents are grouped in the northern hemisphere; the existence of universal attraction; that the elasticity of vapors is a motive power; that the continents have been upraised; and the existence of the chemical elements, more or less as they were conceived by Lavoisier.

  1. For the first citations above made, see The Cosmogony of Genesis, by the Rev. S. R. Driver, D. D., Canon of Christ Church and Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, in The Expositor for January, 1886; for the second series of citations, see The Early Narrations of Genesis, by Herbert Edward Ryle, Hulsean Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, London, 1892. For evidence that even the stiffest of Scotch Presbyterians have now come to discard the old literal biblical narrative of creation and to regard the declaration of the Westminster Confession thereon as a "disproved theory of creation," see Principal John Tulloch, in Contemporary Review, March, 1877, on Religious Thought in Scotland especially page 550.