Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/February 1888/New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Physical Sciences IV
|NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.|
By ANDREW DICKSON WHITE,
LATE PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
AMONG the philosophers of Greece and Rome we find, even at an early period, germs of geological truth, and—what is of vast importance—an atmosphere in which such germs could grow. These germs were transmitted to Roman thought; an atmosphere of tolerance continued; there was nothing which forbade unfettered reasoning either upon the earth's strata or upon the remains of former life found in them, and under the empire a period of fruitful observation seemed sure to begin.
But, as Christianity took control of the world, there came a great change. The earliest attitude of the Church toward geology and its kindred sciences was indifferent, and even contemptuous. According to the prevailing belief, the earth was a "fallen world," and was soon to be destroyed. Why, then, should it be studied? Why, indeed, give a thought to it? The scorn which Lactantius had cast upon the study of astronomy was extended largely to other sciences. St. Jerome summed up the general feeling of the Church in his time by asserting that the broken and twisted crust of the ruined earth exhibits the wrath of God against human sin. St. Augustine showed this feeling at various times in a very marked degree.
But the germs of scientific knowledge and thought developed in the ancient world could be entirely smothered neither by eloquence nor logic, and St. Augustine himself began an effort to evolve from these germs a growth in science which should be "sacred" and "safe." With this intent he prepared his great commentary on the work of creation, as given in Genesis, beside touching upon the subject in other writings. Once engaged in this work, he gave himself to it more earnestly than any other of the earlier fathers ever did; but his vast powers of research and thought were not directed to actual observation or reasoning upon observation; the key-note of his whole method is seen in his famous phrase, "Nothing is to be accepted save on the authority of Scripture, since greater is that authority than all the powers of the human mind." All his thought was given to studying the letter of the sacred text, and to the application of it by methods purely theological.
Among the many questions he then raised and discussed may be mentioned such as these: "What caused the creation of the stars on the fourth day?" "Were beasts of prey and venomous animals created before or after the fall of Adam? If before, how can their creation be reconciled with God's goodness; if afterward, how can their creation be reconciled to the letter of God's word?" "Why were only beasts and birds brought before Adam to be named, and not fishes and marine animals?" "Why did the Creator not say, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' to plants as well as to animals?"
As to the creation of animals, Augustine curiously anticipates the Darwinian theory in his statement that birds take their origin in water. As to land animals, he holds that insects were not created "actually" during the six days, but only "potentially and virtually" so, since they sprang afterward from carrion.
Such was the contribution of the greatest of the Latin Fathers to the scientific knowledge of the world, after a most thorough study of the biblical text, and a most profound application of theological reasoning. The results of this contribution were most important. In this, as in so many other fields, Augustine gave direction to the main current of thought in Western Europe, Catholic and Protestant, for nearly thirteen centuries.
In the ages that succeeded, the vast majority of prominent scholars followed him implicitly. Even so strong a man as Pope Gregory the Great yielded to his influence, and such leaders of thought as St. Isidore, in the seventh century, and the venerable Bede, in the eighth, planting themselves upon Augustine's premises, only ventured timidly to extend their conclusions upon lines he had laid down.
In his great work on "Etymologies," Isidore took up Augustine's attempt to bring the creation of insects into satisfactory relations with the book of Genesis, and, adopting the theory of the ancient philosophers, declared that bees are generated out of decomposed veal, beetles out of, horse-flesh, grasshoppers out of mules, and scorpions out of crabs. Under the influence of the biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar, which appears to have taken strong hold upon mediæval thought in science, he declared that human beings had been changed into animals, especially into swine, wolves, and owls. As to fossil remains, he, like Tertullian, thought that they resulted from the Flood of Noah.
In the following century Bede developed the same orthodox traditions in science; but he held with St. Jerome that the reason why God did not pronounce the work of the second day good is to be found in the fact that there is something essentially evil in the number two. As to the Deluge, he discussed the question as to the amount of food taken into the ark, and declared that there was no need of a supply for more than one day, since God could throw the animals into a deep sleep, or otherwise miraculously make one day's supply sufficient.
The difficulty in making Noah's ark large enough to contain all the animals had begun to be seriously felt even at that period. Origen had dealt with it by supposing that the "cubit" in Noah's time was six times greater. Bede explained Noah's ability to complete such a Herculean task by supposing that he gave to it a hundred years; and he leaned toward diminishing the number of animals taken into the ark, supporting himself upon Augustine's theory of the after development of insects out of carrion. In this way the strain upon faith required in believing that all the animals were literally brought into the ark was somewhat lessened.
The best guess in a geological sense among the mediæval followers of St. Augustine was made by an Irish monkish scholar, who, in order to diminish the difficulty arising from the distribution of animals after the flood, especially in view of the fact that the same animals are found in Ireland as in England, held that various lands now separated were once connected. Fortunately for this theologian, the fact that the kangaroo is only found on a continent in the South Pacific, and so, in accordance with the theory, must either by a single leap have jumped from Mount Ararat to Australia, or have found his way across a causeway temporarily erected between Armenia and the South Pacific continent, had not been discovered.
These general lines of thought upon geology and its kindred science of zoölogy were followed by St. Thomas Aquinas and by the whole body of mediæval theologians, so far as they gave any attention to such subjects.
But there was one influence coming from the Hebrew Scriptures which wrought to mitigate ideas regarding the worthlessness of any study of Nature; this came from the grand utterances in the Psalms regarding the beauty and wonders of creation, and we see the glow of this noble poetry radiated upon those whom logic drew away from studies in natural science. Some of the results produced were indeed curious. Thus, in the science of zoölogy, so essentially connected with geology, Vincent de Beauvais and his compeers, while showing a great desire to display to their readers the glories and wonders of Nature, rely in their attempts to do so, not upon observation but upon authority. Neglecting the wonders which the dissection of any animal would have afforded them, they amplified statements found in various mediæval legends, and especially in the lives of the saints. Hence such additions to learning as careful descriptions of the unicorn and dragon mentioned in Scripture, and such statements as that the lion when pursued by hunters effaces his tracks with the end of his tail; that the hyena can talk with shepherds, and changes its sex every year; that a certain bird is born of the fruit of a certain tree when that fruit happens to fall into the water; and innumerable other statements equally valuable.
Very pious uses were made of this science, especially by monkish writers. The phoenix rising from his ashes proved the doctrine of the Resurrection; the structure and mischief of monkeys proved the existence of demons; the fact that certain monkeys have no tails served to prove that Satan was shorn of his glory; the weasel, which constantly changes its place, was exhibited as a type of man estranged from the word of God, and finding no rest.
The next great development, mainly under Church guidance, was by means of the scholastic theology. Phrase-making was substituted for investigation. Without the Church and within it wonderful contributions were thus made. In the eleventh century Avicenna accounted for the fossils by suggesting a "stone-making force"; in the thirteenth, Albert the Great attributed them to a "formative quality." In the following centuries some philosophers ventured the idea that they grew from seed, and the Aristotelian doctrine of spontaneous generation was constantly used to prove that these stony fossils possessed powers of reproduction like plants and animals.
Still, at various times and places, germs implanted by Greek and Roman thought were warmed into life. The Arabian schools seem to have been less fettered by the letter of the Koran than the contemporary Christian scholars by the letter of the Bible; and to Avicenna belongs the credit of first announcing substantially the modern geological theory of changes in the earth's surface.
The direct influence of the Reformation was at first unfavorable to scientific progress. Nothing could be more at variance with any scientific theory of the development of the universe than the ideas of the Protestant leaders. The strict adherence to the text of Scripture which made Luther and Melanchthon denounce the idea that the planets revolve about the sun, would naturally be extended to every other scientific statement apparently at variance with the sacred text. There is much reason to believe that the fetters upon scientific thought were closer under the strict interpretation of Scripture made by the early Protestants than they had been under the older Church. The dominant spirit among the reformers is shown by the declaration of Peter Martyr to the effect that, if a wrong opinion should obtain regarding the creation as described in Genesis, "all the promises of Christ fall into nothing, and all the life of our religion would be lost." Zwingli, broad as his views on other subjects generally were, was closely bound down in this matter, and held to the opinion of the Fathers, that a great floor separated the heavens from the earth, that above it were the waters and angels, and below it the earth and men. The only scope given to independent thought among the reformers was in a few minor speculations regarding the rivers which encompassed the paradise of Adam and Eve, the exact character of the conversation of the serpent with Eve, and the like, And in the times immediately succeeding the Reformation matters went from bad to to worse. Under Luther and Melanchthon there was some little freedom of speculation, but under their successors there was none; to question any interpretation of Luther came to be thought almost as wicked as to question the literal interpretation of the Scriptures themselves. Examples of this are seen in the struggles between those who held that birds were created entirely from water and those who held that they were created out of water and mud. The accepted belief being that the "waters above the heavens" were contained in a vast receptacle upheld by a solid vault, when Calixt ventured, in interpreting the Psalms, to question this interpretation, be was bitterly denounced as heretical.
Musæus, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, interpreted the account of Genesis to mean that "first God made the heavens for the roof or vault, and left it there on high swinging until three days later he put the earth under it." In the city of Lubeck, the ancient center of the great Hanseatic League, close at the beginning of the
seventeenth century, Pfeiffer, "General Superintendent" or bishop in those parts, published a book entitled "Pansophia Mosaica," calculated, as he believed, to beat back science forever. In a long series of declamations he insisted that in the strict text of Genesis alone is safety; that it contains all wisdom and knowledge, human and divine; that twenty-eight articles of the Augsburg Confession are to be found in it; that it is an arsenal of arguments against all sects and sorts of "Atheists, Heathen, Jews, Turks, Tartars, Papists, Calvinists, Socinians, and Baptists"; the source of all sciences and arts, including law, medicine, philosophy, and rhetoric; "the source and essence of all histories and all professions, trades, and works"; "an exhibition of all virtues and vices"; "the origin of all consolation." This being the case, who could care to waste time on the study of material things and give thought to the structure of the world? Above all, who, after such a proclamation by such a ruler in the Lutheran Israel, would dare to talk of the "days" mentioned in Genesis as "periods of time"; or of the "firmament" as not meaning a solid vault over the universe; or of the "waters above the heavens," as not contained in a vast cistern supported by the heavenly vault; or of the "windows of heaven" as a figure of speech?
In England the same spirit was shown even as late as the time of Sir Matthew Hale. We find in his book on the "Origination of Mankind," published in 1685, the strictest devotion to a theory of creation based upon the mere letter of Scripture, and a complete incapacity for the attainment of knowledge regarding the earth's origin and structure by any scientific process.
Still, while the Lutheran, Calvinistic, and Anglican reformers clung to literal interpretations of the sacred books, and turned their faces away from scientific investigation, it was among their contemporaries at the coming in of the modern period with the revival of learning that there began to arise fruitful thought in this field. Then it was, about the beginning of the sixteenth century, that Leonardo da Vinci, as great a genius in science as in art, broached the true idea as to the origin of fossil remains; and his compatriot, Fracastoro, developed this on the modern lines of thought. Others in other parts of Europe took up the idea, and, while mixing with it many crudities, evolved from it more and more truth. Toward the end of the sixteenth century Bernard Palissy, in France, took hold of it with the same genius which he showed in artistic creation; but, remarkable as were his assertions of scientific realities, they could gain little hearing. Theologians, philosophers, and even some scientific men of value, under the sway of scholastic phrases, insisted upon such explanations as that fossils were the product of "fatty matter set into a fermentation by heat"; or of a "lapidific juice"; or of a "seminal air"; or of a "tumultuous movement of terrestrial exhalations"; and there was a prevailing belief that fossil remains, in general, might be brought under the head of "sports of Nature," a pious turn being given to this phrase by the suggestion that these "sports" were in accordance with some inscrutable purpose of the Almighty.
Such remained a leading orthodox mode of explanation in the Church, Catholic and Protestant, for centuries.
But the better scientific method could not be entirely suppressed; and, near the beginning of the seventeenth century, De Clave, Bitaud, and De Villon revived it in France. Straightway, the theological faculty of Paris protested against the scientific doctrine as unscriptural, destroyed the offending treatises, banished their authors from Paris, and forbade them to live in towns or enter places of public resort.
The champions of science, though repressed for a time, quietly labored on, and especially in Italy. Half a century later, Steno, a Bane, and Scilla, an Italian, went still further in the right direction; and, though they and their disciples took great pains to throw a tub to the whale, in the shape of sundry vague concessions based upon the book of Genesis, geological truth was more and more developed by them.
In France, the old theological spirit remained more powerful. At the middle of the eighteenth century Buffon made another attempt to state simple geological truths; but the theological faculty of the Sarbonne dragged him at once from his high position, forced him to recant ignominiously, and to print his recantation. This humiliating document reminds us painfully of that forced upon Galileo nearly a hundred years before. It runs as follows: "I declare that I had no intention to contradict the text of Scripture, that I believe most firmly all therein related about the creation, both as to order of time and matter of fact. I abandon everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth, and generally all which may be contrary to the narrative of Moses."
It has been well observed by one of the greatest of modern authorities that the doctrine which Buffon thus "abandoned" is as firmly established as the earth's rotation upon its axis. Yet one hundred and fifty years were required to secure for it even a fair hearing; the prevailing doctrine of the Church continued to be that "in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth"; that "all things were made at the beginning of the world"; and that to say that stones and fossils were made before or since "the beginning" is contrary to Scripture. Again, we find theological substitutes for scientific explanation ripening into phrases more and more hollow, making fossils "sports of Nature," or "mineral concretions," or "creations of plastic force," or "models" made by the Creator before he had fully decided upon the best manner of creating various beings.
Of this period, when theological substitutes for science were carrying all before them, there still exists a monument commemorating at the same time a farce and a tragedy. This is the work of Johann Beringer, professor in the University of Würzburg and private physician to the Prince-Bishop—the treatise bearing the title "Lithographiæ Wirceburgensis specimen primum," "illustrated with the marvelous likenesses of two hundred figured or rather insectiform stones." Beringer, for the greater glory of God, had previously committed himself so completely to the theory that fossils are simply "stones of a peculiar sort, hidden by the Author of Nature for his own pleasure," that some of his students determined to give his faith in that pious doctrine a thorough trial. They therefore buried in a place where he was wont to search for specimens a store of sham fossils in baked clay—of their own manufacture—including not only plants, reptiles, and fishes of every sort that their knowledge or imagination could suggest, but even Hebrew and Syriac inscriptions, one of them the name of the Almighty. The joy of the pious professor on unearthing these proofs of the immediate agency of the finger of God in creating fossils knew no bounds. At great cost he prepared this book, whose twenty-two elaborate plates of fac-similes were forever to settle the question in favor of theology and against science. Prefixed to the work was an allegorical title-page, wherein not only the glory of his own sovereign, but that of heaven itself, was pictured as based upon a pyramid of these miraculous fossils. So robust was his faith that not even a premature exposure of the fraud could dissuade him from its publication. Dismissing in one contemptuous chapter this exposure as the slander of his rivals, he appealed to the learned world. But the shout of laughter that welcomed the work soon convinced even its author. In vain did he try to suppress it; and, according to tradition, having wasted his fortune in vain attempts to buy up all the copies of it, and, being taunted by the rivals whom he had thought to overwhelm, he died of chagrin. Even death did not end his misfortunes. The copies of the first edition having been sold by a graceless descendant to a Leipsic bookseller, a second edition was brought out under a new title, and this, too, is now much sought as a precious memorial of human folly.
But even this discomfiture did not end the idea which had caused it, for, although some latitude was allowed among the various theologico-scientific explanations, it was still held meritorious to believe that all fossils were placed in the strata on one of the creative days by the hand of the Almighty, and that this was done for some mysterious purpose, probably for the trial of human faith.
Strange as it may at first seem, the theological war upon the true scientific method in geology was waged more fiercely in Protestant countries than in Catholic. The older Church had learned by her earlier wretched mistakes, especially in the cases of Copernicus and Galileo, what dangers to her claim of infallibility lay in meddling with a growing science. In Italy, therefore, comparatively little opposition was made, while England furnished the most bitter opponents to geology so long as the controversy could be maintained and the most active negotiators in patching up a truce on the basis of a sham science afterward. The Church of England did, indeed, produce some noble men, like Bishop Clayton and John Mitchell, who stood firmly by the scientific method; but these appear generally to have been overwhelmed by a chorus of churchmen and dissenters, whose mixtures of theology and science, sometimes tragic in their results and sometimes comic, are among the most instructive things in modern history.
We have already noted that there are generally three periods or phases in a theological attack upon any science. The first of these is marked by the general use of scriptural texts and statements against the new scientific doctrine; the third by attempts at compromise by means of far-fetched reconciliations of textual statements with ascertained fact; but the second or intermediate period between these two is frequently marked by the pitting against science of some great doctrine in theology. We saw this in astronomy when Bellarmin and his followers insisted that the scientific doctrine of the earth revolving about the sun is contrary to the theological doctrine of the incarnation. So now against geology it was urged that the scientific doctrine that fossils represent animals which died before Adam contradicts the theological doctrine of Adam's fall and the statement that "death entered the world by sin."
In this second stage of the theological struggle with geology, land was especially fruitful in champions of orthodoxy. First among these may be named Thomas Burnet. In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, just at the time when Newton's great discovery was given to the world, Burnet issued his "Sacred Theory of the Earth." His position was commanding; he was a royal chaplain and a cabinet officer of high standing. Planting himself upon the famous text in the second epistle of Peter, he declares that the flood had destroyed the old and created a new world. The Newtonian theory he refuses to accept. In his theory of the deluge he lays less stress upon the "opening of the windows of heaven" than upon the "breaking up of the fountains of the great deep." On this latter point he comes forth with great strength. His theory is that the earth is hollow, and filled with fluid like an egg. Mixing together the texts in Genesis and in the second epistle of Peter, the theological doctrine of the "Fall," an astronomical theory regarding the ecliptic, and sundry notions caught from Descartes, he insisted that, before sin brought on the deluge, the earth was of perfect mathematical form, smooth and beautiful, "like an egg with neither seas nor islands nor valleys nor rocks, "with not a wrinkle, scar, or fracture," and that all creation was equally perfect.
In the second book of his great work Burnet went still further. As in his first book he had mixed his texts of Genesis and St. Peter with Descartes, he now mixes the account of the Garden of Eden in Genesis with heathen legends of the golden age, and concludes that before the flood there was, over the whole earth, perpetual spring, disturbed by no rain more severe than the falling of the dew.
In addition to his other grounds for denying the earlier existence of the sea, he assigns the reason that, if there had been a sea before the Deluge, sinners would have learned to build ships, and so, when the Deluge set in, could have saved themselves.
The work was written with much power, and attracted universal attention. It was translated into various languages, and called forth a multitude of supporters and opponents in all parts of Europe. Strong men rose against it—especially in England—and among them a few dignitaries of the Church; but the Church generally hailed the work with joy. Addison praised it in a Latin ode, and for nearly a century it exercised a strong influence upon European feeling. It aided to plant more deeply than ever the theological opinion that the existing earth is now but a ruin; whereas, before sin brought on the Flood, it was beautiful in its "egg-shaped form," and free from every imperfection.
A few years later came another writer of the highest standing William Whiston, professor at Cambridge, who in 1696 published his "New Theory of the Earth." Unlike Burnet, he endeavored to avail himself of the Newtonian idea, and brought in, to aid the geological catastrophe caused by human sin, a comet, which opened "the fountains of the great deep."
But, far more important than either of these champions, there arose in the eighteenth century, to aid in the subjection of science to theology, three men of extraordinary power—John Wesley, Adam Clarke, and Richard Watson. All three were men of extraordinary intellectual gifts, the purest character, and the noblest purpose; and the first named one of the greatest men in English history. Yet we find them in geology hopelessly fettered by the mere letter of Scripture, and by a temporary phase in theology. As in regard to witchcraft and the doctrine of comets, so in regard to geology, this theological view drew Wesley into enormous error. The great doctrine which Wesley, Watson, Clarke, and their followers thought it especially necessary to uphold against geologists was, that death entered the world by sin—the first transgression of Adam and Eve. The extent to which the supposed necessity of upholding this doctrine carried Wesley seems now almost beyond belief. Basing his theology on the declaration that the Almighty after creation found the earth and all created things "very good," he declares in his sermon on the "Cause and Cure of Earthquakes," that no one who believes the Scriptures can deny that "sin is the moral cause of earthquakes, whatever their natural cause maybe." Again, he declares that earthquakes are the "effect of that curse which was brought upon the earth by the original transgression." Bringing into connection with Genesis the declaration of St. Paul that "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now," he finds additional scriptural proof that the earthquakes were the result of Adam's fall. He declares, in his sermon on "God's Approbation of His Works," that "before the sin of Adam there were no agitations within the bowels of the earth, no violent convulsions, no concussions of the earth, no earthquakes, but all was unmoved as the pillars of heaven. There were then no such things as eruptions of fires; no volcanoes or burning mountains." Of course, a science which showed that earthquakes had been in operation for ages before the appearance of man on the planet, and which showed, also, that those very earthquakes which he considered as curses resultant upon the Fall were really blessings, producing the fissures in which we find to-day those mineral veins so essential to modern civilization, was entirely beyond his comprehension. He insists that earthquakes are "God's strange works of judgment, the proper effect and punishment of sin."
So, too, as to death and pain. In his sermon on the "Fall of Man" he takes the ground that death and pain entered the world by Adam's transgression, insisting that the carnage now going on among animals is the result of Adam's sin. Speaking of the birds, beasts, and insects, he says that, before sin entered the world by Adam's fall, "none of these attempted to devour or in any way hurt one another"; that "the spider was then as harmless as the fly and did not then lie in wait for blood."* Here, again, Wesley arrayed his early followers against geology, which reveals, in the fossil remains of carnivorous animals, pain and death countless ages before the appearance of man. The half-digested fragments of weaker animals within the fossilized bodies of the stronger have destroyed all Wesley's arguments in behalf of his great theory.
Dr. Adam Clarke held similar views. He insisted that thorns and thistles were given as a curse to human labor, on account of Adam's sin, and appeared upon the earth for the first time after Adam's fall. So, too, Richard Watson, the most prolific writer of the great evangelical reform period, and the author of the "Institutes," the standard theological treatise in the evangelical array, says, in a chapter treating of the Fall, and especially of the serpent which tempted Eve: "We have no reason at all to believe that the animal had a serpentine form in any mode or degree until his transformation. That he was then degraded to a reptile, to go upon his belly, imports, on the contrary, an entire alteration and loss of the original form." All that admirable adjustment of the serpent to its environment which delights naturalists, was to Adam Clarke simply an evil result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Yet here again geology was obliged to confront theology in revealing the python in the Eocene—ages before man appeared.
The immediate results of such teaching by such men was to throw many who would otherwise have resorted to observation and investigation back upon scholastic methods. Again reappears the old system of solving the riddle by phrases. In 1733, Dr. Theodore Arnold urged the theory of "models," and insisted that fossils result from "infinitesimal particles brought together in the creation to form the outline of all the creatures and objects upon and within the earth"; and Arnold's work translated into German gained wide acceptance.
Such was the influence of this succession of great men that toward the close of the last century the English opponents of geology on biblical grounds seemed likely to sweep all before them. Cramping our whole inheritance of sacred literature within the rules of an historical compend, they showed the terrible dangers arising from the revelations of geology, which make the earth older than the six thousand years required by Archbishop Usher's interpretation of the Old Testament. Nor was this feeling confined to ecclesiastics. Williams, a thoughtful layman, declared, that such researches led to infidelity and atheism, and are "nothing less than to depose the Almighty Creator of the universe from his office." The poet Cowper, one of the mildest of men, was also roused by these dangers, and in his most elaborate poem wrote;
"Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn
That he who made it, and revealed its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age!"
Howard summoned England to oppose "those scientific systems which are calculated to tear up in the public mind every remaining attachment to Christianity."
While this great attack upon geological science by means of the dogma of Adam's fall was kept up, the more general attack by the literal interpretation of the text was continued. The legendary husks and rinds of our sacred books were insisted upon as equally precious and nutritious with the great moral and religious truths which they envelop. Especially precious were the six days—each "the evening and the morning"—and the exact statements as to the time when each part of creation came into being. To save these the struggle became more and more desperate.
Difficult as it is to realize it now, within the memory of many now living the battle was still raging most fiercely in England, and both kinds of artillery usually brought against a new science were in full play, and filling the civilized world with their roar.
About forty years ago, the Rev. J. Mellor Brown, the Rev. Henry Cole, and others, were hurling at all geologists alike, and especially at such Christian divines as Dr. Buckland and Dean Conybeare and Pye Smith, and such religious scholars as Professor Sedgwick, the epithets of "infidel," "impugner of the sacred record," and "assailant of the volume of God."
The favorite weapon of the orthodox party was the charge that the geologists were "attacking the truth of God." They declared geology "not a subject of lawful inquiry," denouncing it as "a dark art," as "dangerous and disreputable," as "a forbidden province," as "infernal artillery," and as "an awful evasion of the testimony of revelation."
This attempt to scare men from the science having failed, various other means were taken. To say nothing about England, it is humiliating to human nature to remember the annoyances, and even trials, to which the pettiest and narrowest of men subjected such Christian scholars in our own country as Benjamin Silliman and Edward Hitchcock and Louis Agassiz.
But it is a duty and a pleasure to state here that one great Christian scholar did honor to religion and to himself by quietly accepting the claims of science and making the best of them, despite all these clamors. That man was Nicholas Wiseman, better known afterward as Cardinal Wiseman. The conduct of this pillar of the Roman Catholic Church contrasts admirably with that of timid Protestants, who were filling England with shrieks and denunciations.
And here let me note that one of the most interesting skirmishes in this war was made in New England. Professor Stuart, of Andover, justly honored as a Hebrew scholar, declared that to speak of six periods of time for the creation was flying in the face of Scripture; that Genesis expressly speaks of six days, each made up of "the evening and the morning," and not six periods of time.
To him replied a professor in Yale College, James Kingsley. In an article admirable for keen wit and kindly temper, he showed that Genesis speaks just as clearly of a solid firmament as of six ordinary days, and that, if Professor Stuart had got over one difficulty and accepted the Copernican theory, he might as well get over another and accept the revelations of geology. The encounter was quick and decisive, and the victory was with science and our own honored Yale.
But perhaps the most singular attempt against geology was made by a fine specimen of the English Don—Dean Cockburn, of York—to scold its champions out of the field. Having no adequate knowledge of geology, he opened a battery of abuse. He gave it to the world at large by pulpit and press; he even  From his pulpit in York Minster, Mary Somerville was denounced coarsely, by name, for those studies in physical geography which have made her honored throughout the world.it upon leading statesmen by private letters.
But these weapons did not succeed; they were like Chinese gongs and dragon-lanterns against rifled cannon, and we are now to look at a very different chapter in this war. This chapter will form the next subject of our study.
- For a compact and admirable statement as to the dawn of geological conceptions in Greece and Rome, see Mr. Lester Ward's masterly essay on paleobotany in the "Fifth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey," for 1883-'84. For the reference to St. Jerome, see Shields's "Final Philosophy," p. 119; also Lyell's "Introduction to Geology," vol. i, chapter ii. As to the reasons why Greek philosophers did comparatively so little for geology, see D'Archiac, "Géologie," p. 18.
- For citations and authorities on this point, see my chapter on "Meteorology."
- See Augustine, "De Genesi," ii, 13, iii, 13, 15, et seq., ix, 12, et seq.
- See Isidore, "Etymologiæ," xi, 4, xiii, 22.
- See Bede, "Hexæmeron," i, ii.
- The so-called Pseudo-Augustine. His treatise, "De mirabilibus mundi," is usually appended to the works of Augustine.
- See Berger de Xivrey, "Traditions tératologiques," and such mediæval books of exempla as the "Lumen animæ."
- See Rambaud, "Histoire de la Civilisation française," Paris, 1885, vol. i, pp. 368, 369.
- "Vis lapidifica."
- "Virtus formativa."
- See authorities given in Mr. Ward's essay, as above.
- For Avicenna, see Lyell and D'Archiac, and from these it appears that at least one other scholar found as much trouble from Mohammedan as his contemporaries found from Christian religion.
- See his commentary on Genesis, cited by Zöckler, "Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Theologie und Naturwissenschaft," vol. i, p. 690.
- See citations in Zöckler, vol. i, p. 693.
- See Zöckler, vol. i, p. 679.
- See Musæus, "Auslegung des ersten Buch Mosy," Magdeburg, 1576, cited by Zöckler, vol. ii, pp. 673-677, 761.
- See Zöckler, vol. i, pp. 688, 689.
- "Succus lapidificus."
- "Aura seminalis."
- See Morley, "Life of Palissy the Potter," vol. ii, p. 315, et seq.
- See citation and remark in Lyell's "Principles of Geology," chap, iii, p. 57.
- See Beringer's "Lithographiæ," etc., p. 91.
- See Carus, "Geschichte der Zoologie," Munich, 1872, p. 467, note, and Reusch, "Bibel und Natur," p. 197. A list of the authorities upon this episode, with the text of one of the epigrams circulated at poor Beringer's expense, is given by Dr. Reuss in the "Serapeum" for 1852, p. 203. The book itself (the original impression) is in the White Library at Cornell University. For Beringer himself, see especially the encyclopædia of Ersch and Gruber, and the "Allg. deutsche Biographic."
- For a comparison between the conduct of Italian and English ecclesiastics as regards geology, see Lyell, "Principles of Geology," tenth English edition, vol. i, p. 33. For a philosophical statement of reasons why the struggle was more bitter and the attempt at deceptive compromises more absurd in England than elsewhere, see Maury, "L'ancienne Académie des Sciences," second edition, p. 152. For very frank confessions of the reasons why the Roman Catholic Church has become more careful in her dealings with science, see Roberts, "The Pontifical Decrees against the Earth's Movement," London, 1885, especially pp. 94 and 132, 133, and St. George Mivart's article in the "Nineteenth Century" for July, 1885. The first of these gentlemen is a Roman Catholic clergyman, and the second an eminent layman of the same church, and both admit that it was the Pope, speaking ex cathedra., who erred in the Galileo case; but their explanation is that God allowed the Pope and Church to fall into this grievous error, which has cost so dear, in order to show once and for all that the Church has no right to decide questions in science.
- See "The Warfare of Science," original edition, for a discussion of this point.
- See II Peter, iii, 6.
- For his statement that "the giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible," see Wesley's "Journal," 1766-'68.
- See Wesley's sermon on "God's Approbation of His Works," 11th and 12th parts.
- See "Westminster Review," October, 1870, article on "John Wesley's Cosmogony," with citations from Wesley's "Sermons," Watson's "Institutes of Theology," Adam Clarke's "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures," etc.
- See citation in Mr. Ward's article, as above, p. 390.
- See Lyell, "Introduction."
- For these citations, see Lyell, "Principles of Geology," introduction.
- See Pye Smith, D. D., "Geology and Scripture," pp. 156, 157, 168, 169.
- Wiseman, "Twelve Lectures on the Connection between Science and Revealed Religion," first American edition. New York, 1837. As to the comparative severity of the struggle regarding astronomy, geology, etc., in Catholic and Protestant countries, see Lecky, "England in the Eighteenth Century," chap, ix, p. 525.
- See "Silliman's Journal," vol. xxx, p. 114.
- Professor Goldwin Smith informs me that the papers of Sir Robert Peel, yet unpublished, contain very curious specimens of these epistles.
- See "Personal Recollections of Mary Somerville," Boston, 1874, pp. 139 and 375. Compare with any statement of his religious views that Dean Cockburn was able to make, the following from Mrs. Somerville: "Nothing has afforded me so convincing a proof of the Deity as these purely mental conceptions of numerical and mathematical science which have been, by slow degrees, vouchsafed to man—and are still granted in these latter times by the differential calculus, now superseded by the higher algebra—all of which must have existed in that sublimely omniscient mind from eternity." (See "Personal Recollections," pp. 140, 141.)