Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/745

This page has been validated.
729
EDITOR'S TABLE.

longer bow down to an authority that assumes to prescribe his opinions in matters which he is quite capable of judging for himself. He has arrived at the conclusion that even as regards the interpretation of Scripture the Church is just as liable to err as the humble layman. He quotes most persistently the case of Galileo, in which the Church, in the most formal and official manner, declared that Scripture taught what for nearly a century now it has admitted Scripture does not teach. If the highest organs of ecclesiastical authority could make such a blunder in Galileo's day, what blunders may they not commit in our day? But if the Church can err egregiously in what is its own peculiar province—if anything is—how great is likely to be its inaptitude when it undertakes to deal with scientific questions!

"God has taught us," says Mr. Mivart, "through history, that it is not to ecclesiastical congregations but to men of science that he has committed the elucidation of scientific questions, whether such questions are or are not treated of by Scripture, the Fathers, the Church's common teaching, or special congregations or tribunals of ecclesiastics actually summoned for the purpose. This also applies to all science—to Scripture criticism, to biology, and to all questions concerning evolution, the antiquity of man, and the origin of either his body or his soul or of both. For all ecclesiastics who know nothing of natural science it is an act necessarily as futile as impertinent to express any opinion on such subjects."

The opposition of the rulers of the Church to the true theory of the solar system in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is paralleled, according to Mr. Mivart, by their opposition to the doctrine of evolution to-day. He refers to the fact that two Catholic professors who had ventured to give a partial support to the doctrine in question—one of them Father Zahm, who contributed an article, as many of our readers will remember, to this magazine a couple of years ago—had both been compelled to retract and disavow what they had published on the subject. Professor Mivart draws a distinction, however, between the rulers of the Church and the Church. The latter he idealizes and we by no means dispute his right to do so—as a vast organization the office of which is to keep alive man's sense of spiritual things, and to bear eternal testimony in favor of those truths of the heart which do not admit, like intellectual truths, of logical demonstration. Though cut off by authority from participation in the rites of the Church, he feels himself still one in sympathy with all who in the Church are aspiring to a higher life. We look upon his case as a very instructive one, affording as it does clear evidence of the absolute incompatibility between any authoritative system of dogma and the free pursuit of truth. It has taken Professor Mivart a long time to arrive at his present standpoint, but it is well that he has got there at last. His example, we believe, will encourage not a few to assert in like manner their right to think freely and to utter what they think.

 

 

A MORE EXCELLENT WAY.

When our article of last month, entitled A Commission in Difficulties, was written we had not seen the paper by Mr. Theodore Dreiser, in Harper's Magazine for February, describing the important educational work which the Western railways are doing with a view to promoting the prosperity of the agricultural regions through which they pass. In our article we observed that "the more interference there