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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/752

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

deference to the Chaldean and other ancient myths and legends embodied in the Hebrew sacred books.

About the middle of the seventeenth century came a great conquest of the scientific over the theologic method. At that time Francesco Redi published the results of his inquiries into the doctrine of spontaneous generation. For over two hundred years the accepted doctrine had been that water, filth, and carrion had received power from the Creator to generate worms, insects, and a multitude of the smaller animals. This doctrine had been especially welcomed by St. Augustine and many of the fathers, since it relieved the Almighty of making, Adam of naming, and Noah of living in the ark with these innumerable despised species. But to this fallacy Redi put an end. By researches which could not be gainsaid, he showed that every one of these animals came from an egg; each, therefore, must be the lineal descendant of an animal created, named, and preserved from "the beginning."

Similar work went on in England, but with a more distinctly religious tendency. In the same seventeenth century a very famous and popular English book was that by the naturalist John Ray, a fellow of the Royal Society, who produced a number of works on plants, fishes, and birds; but the most widely read among all his books was entitled The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of Creation. Between the years 1691 and 1827 it passed through nearly twenty editions.

Ray argues the goodness and wisdom of God from the adaptation of the animals not only to man's uses but to their own lives and surroundings.

In the first years of the eighteenth century Dr. Nehemiah Grew, of the Royal Society, published his Cosmologia Sacra to refute anti-scriptural opinions by producing evidences of creative design. Discoursing on "the ends of Providence," he says, "A crane, which is scurvy meat, lays but two eggs in the year, but a pheasant and partridge, both excellent meat, lay and hatch fifteen or twenty." He points to the fact that "those of value which lay few at a time sit the oftener, as the woodcock and the dove." He breaks decidedly from the doctrine that noxious things in Nature are caused by sin, and shows that they, too, are useful; that, "if nettles sting, it is to secure an excellent medicine for children and cattle"; that, "if the bramble hurts man, it makes all the better hedge"; and that, "if it chances to prick the owner, it tears the thief." "Weasels, kites, and other hurtful animals induce us to watchfulness; thistles and moles, to good husbandry; lice oblige us to cleanliness in our bodies, spiders in our houses, and the moth in our clothes." This very optimistic view, triumphing over the theological theory of noxious animals and plants as effects of sin, which prevailed with so much force from St. Augustine to