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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/298

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294
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Let us, in order to make the whole question clearer, hark back to the middle ages. Contrasts are more strongly shown in their uncertain light. The thirteenth century possessed two thoroughly complete systems of science. One of them was worked out by Albertus Magnus with profound learning and at great length. It was a presentation of all the knowledge of the ancients enriched by the observations of the author. It was full of novelties. It stimulated, interested and instructed, and was in no important respect antagonistic to the current beliefs of his time. It was expounded, too, in a manner that inspired respect and won friendly recognition. The system of Roger Bacon was, on the other hand, hardy and original. It was set forth with a harsh arrogance that offended all the minds it was intended to convince. It was filled with diatribes against the pope, the cardinals, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the clergy, the laity. It convicted Aristotle and the ancients of many faults. It pointed out errors in the writings of the fathers of the church and in the Vulgate. It exalted the morality of heathen philosophers like Seneca above the teachings of Christian preachers. It was, of course, not free from errors of its own. How could it be?

Both Albertus Magnus and Bacon, like all the men of their time, admitted astrology to a place among the sciences. Every one agreed that the stars influenced the destinies of individual men. Bacon went further and declared that the future of religious systems depended on conjunctions of the planets; that Christianity would perish at a future conjunction of the moon with Jupiter! He believed in this insane folly with just the same sincerity as in his wonderfully intelligent and essentially correct theory of the rainbow; and he enforced it with like vigor.

The originality of Bacon's mind shocked the timid opinion of his time. The harshness of his character swept the earth free of friends. The errors of his astrology gave a handle to his enemies. In this matter they were more nearly right than he. Is it any wonder that he was disciplined and imprisoned by generals of the Franciscans, whom he had attacked; that the chapters of his order fully confirmed his sentences; that the popes approved them?

Was his fate the result of a warfare between religion and science? Let us consider the question closely. The doctrines of Bacon were condemned by the church, the true doctrines along with the false. Church dignitaries chose the Dominican friar, Albertus Magnus, as their representative rather than the Franciscan friar, Boger Bacon. We, to-day, after six centuries of struggle with ignorance, know that Bacon's system, as a whole, is wonderfully original, comprehensive, correct in method, fruitful in results. We entirely forget his errors; we are amazed at his profound intelligence. Great as Albertus was in his time, we, to-day, see that his contribution to the world's ideas is