Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/March 1888/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

IN "The Popular Science Monthly" for January, Professor Huxley, writing on "Science and Veracity,"[1] says: "I do not know any body of scientific men who could be got to listen without the strongest expressions of disgusted repudiation to the exposition of a pretended scientific discovery, which had no better evidence to show for itself than the story of the fig-tree that was blasted for bearing no figs when 'it was not the season of figs.'"

Now this very ignorant fling at Christianity is a fair specimen of the objections generally offered by infidels and semi-infidels. Coming as this does from a man of more gentlemanly instincts than Ingersoll it lacks much of the impudence of Ingersoll, but it shows the same utter ignorance of the great subject, for Huxley here has shown himself ignorant of the facts in the case by most absurdly assuming that a fruitful fig-tree would only have fruit on it at "certain seasons"; whereas all who know the facts know that the fig-tree in Palestine should have figs on it at all seasons. Hence Professor Huxley's fling has no base on which to rest. It is a sad pity in the interests of mankind, and especially of these men, that they are not willing to give as fair tests of the truths of Christianity as they give to chemistry and other sciences. If they could be persuaded to apply the adequate tests to the claims of Christianity which Christ gave, when he said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God," they would thus have ample proof of all the important claims, and would "know of the doctrine," and, as the greater includes the leas, the importance of all these little mysteries would vanish.

Professor Huxley undoubtedly understands much about physical sciences (geography excepted, apparently). But, manifestly, he knows nothing about the science of religion.

He thereby falls into the grossest absurdities in attempting to write of it as Professor Tyndall did in his quintessence of absurd impudence, when he proposed to test the spiritual efficacy of prayer by a steel spring, which proposition is as far and no further from reason than Professor Huxley's assumption is from facts.

J. W. Huntoon, M. D.
Lowell, Massachusetts, January 12, 1888.

The obvious comment on the foregoing is, that it affords a "fair specimen" of the proneness of many people, in their extreme solicitude for the safety of favorite beliefs, to see all sorts of bugbears, where to a cooler judgment there is not the slightest occasion for alarm. The passage so excitedly complained of as "this very ignorant fling at Christianity," "a fair specimen of the objections generally urged by infidels," and as showing "utter ignorance of the great subject" is quoted by Professor Huxley from a source that should command the confidence instead of the contempt of our correspondent. For the convenience of the reader we give the passage as it occurs in the Gospel of St. Mark, chapter xi, verses 13, 14.—Editor.

"And seeing a fig-tree afar off, having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves: for the time of figs was not yet.

"And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever. And his disciples heard it."


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

In your February number there is an article by Mr. Henry Wood on the "Interstate Long and Short Haul," containing some errors of fact which may bear correction. The clause of the Interstate Act which forbids an aggregate larger charge for a shorter than for a longer distance over the same line, under substantially similar conditions, receives severe criticism, and in illustration of its alleged bad effects several instances are mentioned. It is stated (page 540) that the rail-carriers between New Orleans and New York or Boston are not allowed to quote rates in competition with water carriers lower than to intermediate points. This is a mistake; all water competition is considered sufficient excuse for violations of this short-haul section, and the tariffs of our railroads are full of such instances: New York to New Orleans or Mobile, New York to Wilmington, North Carolina, etc., are a few out of many where interior rates are much higher.

Again, in his foot-note (page 541), Mr. Wood complains that the Canadian Pacific competes with our transcontinental roads, which are prevented by this law from accepting a less rate for a longer distance. This is also an error. Our Pacific roads made a lower through rate from San Francisco to Omaha than to Denver or Lincoln, Nebraska, expressly to compete with their Canadian rival, and complaints against them for this very thing are on file before the Interstate Commission. In their decision upon this short-haul question in the Louisville and Nashville case, the commission recognize three reasons for disobeying the general principle: (1) water competition, (2) foreign competition, and (3) such a position of railroads as would destroy competition if condemned. In regard to this latter excuse there are also illustrations in our tariffs. The Erie Railway makes the same or lower rate from New York to Pittsburg via Youngstown, Ohio, than from New York to Youngstown. The Michigan Central quotes a rate of thirty-nine cents from Buffalo to Goshen, Indiana, through Detroit, while charging forty-one cents per hundred to Miles, Michigan, a town thirty miles nearer. This comes through competition with the Lake Shore road, which is the short line from Buffalo to Goshen, while the Pennsylvania Railroad is the short line between Pittsburg and New York.

Into the general question of such a law I do not now enter; but are not the facts which I have given, and which could be multiplied, sufficient to show that the injurious effects of the short-haul prohibition are greatly exaggerated in the article referred to? And is it unfair to ask that something more definite be stated before accepting so sweeping a condemnation?

Thomas L. Greene.
New York, January, 1888.

  1. "Science and the Bishops."