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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/582

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

regard to the constitution of the natural world was a sufficient foundation for the most highly elaborated beliefs; and the "yarns," if we may so designate them, which were told about the dragon, the unicorn, the leviathan, and one or two other unique animals mentioned in the Bible showed plainly that the imagination of our ancestors was in a state of high activity, whatever may have been the case with their logical faculties. The gap between such a condition of mind and that which prevails among the educated classes of our own day is vast; but Dr. White enables us to see by what successive accretions of knowledge a pathway was made from one to the other. To-day the idea of development is supreme, and that of creation, which was the only one our ancestors could entertain, has become almost an intellectual impossibility. In other words, we do not know how to go about thinking of creation, while familiarity with the fact of development, as it takes place in many ways before our eyes, has caused us to regard it as the typical and characteristic process by which all the constructive work of Nature is wrought.

The second chapter deals with the progress of thought on the subject of geography, including the form and size of the earth and the once muchvexed question of the antipodes. The third chapter takes up the subject of astronomy and gives a deeply interesting account of the struggle for the establishment of the Copernican system. Dr. White makes it clear that the opposition to the true view of the universe was almost if not quite as keen on the part of Protestant as of Catholic churchmen. Luther is quoted as saying: "People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. . . . This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth." Melanchthon argued in the same strain, and Calvin asked who would dare "to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?" In many universities, we are told, as late as the end of the seventeenth century, "professors were forced to take an oath not to hold the Pythagorean—that is, the Copernican—idea as to the movement of the heavenly bodies." University authorities used to make it their boast in those days that such pernicious doctrines had no place in their system of teaching, just as university authorities in our own day—it is our author who draws the parallel—sometimes boast that they discourage the reading of Mill, Spencer, and Darwin.

Further chapters are entitled From Genesis to Geology, Antiquity of Man, Fall of Man and Anthropology, Magic to Chemistry, Miracles to Medicine, Babel to Philology, etc., and all are replete with important information interestingly presented. Considered alone as a popular presentation of modern views upon the great scientific questions of the day, the work deserves to be widely read; but its value is greatly increased by the light which it sheds upon the development of opinion and the clearness with which it establishes the contrast between the fruitful methods of science and the unfruitful ones of theology in the domain of nature. Finally, it is, as we have already hinted, written in a large, tolerant, and sympathetic spirit, suggesting a mind raised altogether above petty prejudices and narrow enmities. It is a pleasure to us to think that the greater part of the matter contained in the work was first given to the public in the pages of the Popular Science Monthly.