A NEW PHASE OF AN OLD CONFLICT
|A NEW PHASE OF AN OLD CONFLICT|
By LAUNCELOT W. ANDREWS
WHEN those among us were young, upon whom time has now placed his silver stamp, the intellectual atmosphere was trembling with the noise of a conflict in the clouds. It was called "The Warfare of Science and Religion." The dragon's teeth from which this warfare sprang were sown with the first steps in organizing human society.
The social order is a machine and, like every machine, consists of two functionally distinct elements, the static and the dynamic. In the machine, the static element is the framework which correlates the other parts and maintains stability, while the dynamic part is made up of the moving parts which confer the capacity for change and, hence for work. The static or conservative element in the social order is that body of ethical or moral ideas and traditions which we denominate religion, while the dynamic element is the summation of man's experience with nature, of his knowledge of phenomena, of his technical information, of his objective social history, things which, taken together, we call science.
From the earliest beginnings of science, onward, the scientists have been the pioneers of society and have exhibited the characteristics of pioneers, in their keen interest in the new, in their disregard of the old, in their readiness to risk goods already in hand for better goods dimly seen on the horizon, and their disesteem of tradition. One can easily imagine that if the parts of a machine were conscious the moving members would look upon the stationary stability of the frame with a certain contempt and, resenting its restraint, might even regard it as a thing superfluous, as an obstacle in the way of free movement. This has often been the attitude of men of science.
The religionists, on the other hand, conscious of their conservative function, must regard themselves as the responsible custodians of an inheritance threatened by every change and by every disturbance of the social order, and must, on principle, oppose a new thing until it has proved its value; by which time it is of course no longer new. So we find, the scientist always trying to induce the people to do something they have never done before, while the religionists are urging them to keep out of danger and to return to a model of the past, that is, to imitate the example set by the founders of the several sects.
From this point of view there must always be a conflict between science and religion, but a conflict only in the sense of an action and