Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/March 1888/New Chapters in the Warfare of Science: Physical Sciences V
|NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.|
LATE PRESIDENT OF CORNELL UNIVERSITY.
LONG before the end of the struggle described in the last article, even at a very early period, the futility of the usual scholastic weapons had been seen by the more keen-sighted champions of orthodoxy; and, as the difficulties of the ordinary attack upon science became more and more evident, many of these champions began endeavors to patch up a truce. So began the third stage in the war—the period of attempts at compromise.
The position which the compromise party took was that the fossils were produced by the Deluge of Noah.
This position was strong, for it was apparently based upon Scripture. Moreover, it had high ecclesiastical sanction—some of the fathers had held that fossil remains, even on the highest mountains, represented animals destroyed at the Deluge—Tertullian was especially firm on this point, and St. Augustine thought that a fossil tooth discovered in North Africa must have belonged to one of the giants mentioned in Scripture.
In the sixteenth century especially, weight began to be attached to this idea by those who felt the worthlessness of various scholastic explanations. Strong men in both the Catholic and the Protestant camps accepted it; but the man who did most to give it an impulse into modern theology was Martin Luther. With his keen eye he saw that scholastic phrase-making could not meet the difficulties raised by fossils, and he naturally urged the doctrine of their origin at the Deluge of Noah.
With such support, it soon became the dominant theory in Christendom. Nothing seemed able to stand against it, but before the end of the same sixteenth century it met some serious obstacles. Bernard Palissy, one of the most keen-sighted of scientific thinkers in France, as well as one of the most devoted of Christians, showed that this theory was utterly untenable. Conscientious investigators in other parts of Europe, and especially in Italy, showed the same thing. All in vain—in vain did good men protest against the injury sure to be brought upon religion by tying it to a scientific theory sure to be exploded; the doctrine that fossils were the remains of animals drowned at the Flood continued to be upheld by the great majority of theological leaders for nearly three centuries as "sound doctrine," and as a blessed means of reconciling science with Scripture. To sustain this scriptural view, efforts were put forth absolutely Herculean both by Catholics and Protestants.
In Germany, early in the seventeenth century (1612), Dr. Wolfgang Franz, Professor of Theology at Wittenberg, published his "Sacred History of Animals," described dragons with three ranges of teeth, and calmly added, "The greatest of these is the devil." This book was influential upon thought for a hundred years. It claimed to be designed for "students of theology and ministers of the word," and especially to instruct clergymen how, in biblical fashion, to utilize the various traits of animals to the edification of their hearers.
In France the learned Benedictine, Calmet, in his great works on the Bible, accepted this view as late as the beginning of the eighteenth century, believing the mastodon's bones exhibited by Mazurier to be those of King Teutobocus, and held them valuable testimony to the existence of the giants mentioned in Scripture and of the early inhabitants of the earth overwhelmed by the Flood.
But the greatest champion appeared in England. We have already seen how, near the close of the seventeenth century, Thomas Burnet prepared the way in his "Sacred Theory of the Earth" by rejecting the discoveries of Newton, and showing how sin led to the breaking up of the "foundations of the great deep"; and we have also seen how Whiston, in his "New Theory of the Earth," while yielding a little and accepting the discoveries of Newton, brought in a comet to aid in producing the Deluge; but far more important than these in his permanent influence was John Woodward, professor at Gresham College, a leader in scientific thought at the University of Cambridge, and, as a patient collector of fossils and an earnest investigator of their meaning, deserving of the highest respect. In 1695 he published his "Natural History of the Earth," and rendered one great service to science, for he yielded another point, and thus destroyed the foundations for the old theory of fossils. He showed that they were not "sports of Nature," or "models inserted by the Creator in the strata for some inscrutable purpose," but that they were really remains of living beings. So far, he rendered a great service both to science and religion; but, this done, the text of the Old Testament narrative and the famous passage in St. Peter's Epistle were too strong for him, and he, too, insisted that the fossils were produced by the Deluge. Strengthened by his great authority, the assault on the true scientific position was strong: Mazurier exhibited certain fossil remains of a mammoth discovered in France as bones of the giants mentioned in Scripture; Father Torrubia did the same thing in Spain; Increase Mather sent to England similar remains discovered in America, with a like statement.
For the edification of the faithful, such "bones of the giants mentioned in Scripture" were hung up in public places. Jurieu saw some of them thus suspended in one of the churches of Valence; and Henrion, apparently under the stimulus thus given, drew up tables showing the size of our antediluvian ancestors, in which the height of Adam was given as 123 feet 9 inches, that of Eve as 118 feet 9 inches and 9 lines.
But the most brilliant service rendered to the theological theory came from another quarter; for, in 1726, Scheuchzer, having discovered a large fossil lizard, exhibited it to the world as the "human witness of the Deluge"; this great discovery was hailed everywhere with joy, for it seemed to prove not only that human beings were drowned at the Deluge, but that "there were giants in those days." Cheered by the applause thus gained, he determined to make the theological position impregnable. Mixing together various texts of Scripture with notions derived from the philosophy of Descartes and the speculations of Whiston, he developed the theory that "the fountains of the great deep" were broken up by the direct physical action of the hand of God, which, literally applied to the axis of the earth, suddenly stopped the earth's rotation, broke up "the fountains of the great deep," spilled the water therein contained, and produced the Deluge. But his service to sacred science did not end here, for he prepared an edition of the Bible, in which magnificent engravings in great number illustrated his view and enforced it upon all readers. Of these engravings no less than thirty-four were devoted to the Deluge alone.
In the midst of this war appeared an episode very comical but very instructive; for it shows that the attempt to shape the deductions of science to meet the exigencies of theology may mislead heterodoxy as absurdly as orthodoxy.
About the year 1760 news of the discovery of marine fossils in various elevated districts of Europe reached Voltaire. He, too, had a theologic system to support, though his system was opposed to that of the sacred books of the Hebrews. He feared that these new discoveries might be used to support the Mosaic accounts of the Deluge: all his wisdom and wit, therefore, were compacted into arguments to prove that the fossil fishes were remains of fishes intended for food, but spoiled and thrown away by travelers; that the fossil shells were accidentally dropped by Crusaders and Pilgrims returning from the Holy Land; and that sundry fossil bones found between Paris and Étampes were parts of a skeleton belonging to the cabinet of some ancient philosopher. Through chapter after chapter, Voltaire, obeying the supposed necessities of his theology, fought desperately the growing results of the geologic investigations of his time.
But far more prejudicial to Christianity was the continued effort on the other side to show that the fossils were caused by the Deluge of Noah.
No supposition was too violent to support this theory, which was considered vital to the Bible. By taking the mere husks and rinds of biblical truth for truth itself, by taking sacred poetry as prose, and by giving a literal interpretation of it, the followers of Burnet, Whiston, and Woodward built up systems which bear to real geology much the same relation that the "Christian Topography" of Cosmas bears to real geography. In vain were exhibited the absolute geological, zoölogical, astronomical proofs that no universal deluge, or deluge covering any great extent of the earth, had taken place within the last six thousand or sixty thousand years; in vain did so enlightened a churchman as Bishop Clayton declare that the Deluge could not have taken place save in that district where Noah lived before the Flood; in vain did others, like Bishop Croft and Bishop Stillingfleet, and the nonconformist Matthew Poole, show that the Deluge might not have been and probably was not universal; in vain was it shown that, even if there had been a universal deluge, the fossils were not produced by it: the only answers were the citation of the text, "And all the high mountains which were under the whole heaven were covered," and, to clinch the matter, Worthington and men like him insisted that any argument to show that fossils were not remains of animals drowned at the Deluge of Noah was "infidelity." In England, France, and
Germany, belief that the fossils were produced by the Deluge of Noah was insisted upon as part of that faith essential to salvation.
But the steady work of science went on; not all the force of the Church—not even the splendid engravings in Scheuchzer's Bible—could stop it; and the foundations of this theological theory began to crumble away. The process was, indeed, slow; it required a hundred and twenty years for the searchers of God's truth, as revealed in Nature—such men as Hooke, Linnæus, Whitehurst, Daubenton, and Cuvier—to push their works under this fabric of error, and, by statements which could not be resisted, to undermine it. As we arrive at the beginning of the nineteenth century, science is becoming irresistible in this field. Blumenbach, Von Buch, and Schlotheim lead the way, but most important is the work of Cuvier. In the early years of the present century, his researches among fossils began to throw new light into the whole subject of geology: he was, indeed, very wary and diplomatic, and seemed, like Voltaire, to feel that "among the wolves one must howl a little." It was a time of reaction. Napoleon had made peace with the Church, and to disturb that peace was akin to treason. Still, by large but vague concessions, Cuvier kept the theologians satisfied, while he undermined their strongest fortress. The danger was instinctively felt by some of the champions of the Church, and typical among these was Chateaubriand; and in his best-known work, once so great, now so little—the "Genius of Christianity"—he grappled with the questions of creation by insisting upon a sort of general deception "in the beginning," under which everything was created by a sudden fiat, but with appearances of pre-existence. His words are as follows: "It was part of the perfection and harmony of the nature which was displayed before men's eyes that the deserted nests of last year's birds should be seen on the trees, and that the sea-shore should be covered with shells which had been the abode of fish, and yet the world was quite new, and nests and shells had never been inhabited." But the real victory was with Brongniart, who, about 1820, gave forth his work on fossil plants, and thus built a barrier against which the enemies of science raged in vain.
Still the struggle was not ended, and, a few years later, a forlorn hope was led in England by Granville Penn.
His fundamental thesis was that "our globe has undergone only two revolutions, the Creation and the Deluge, and both by the immediate fiat of the Almighty"; he insisted that the Creation took place in exactly six days of ordinary time, each made up of "the evening and the morning"; and he ended with a piece of that peculiar presumption so familiar to the world, by calling on Cuvier and all other geologists to "ask for the old paths and walk therein until they shall simplify their system and reduce their numerous revolutions to the two events or epochs only—the six days of Creation and the Deluge." The geologists showed no disposition to yield to this peremptory summons; on the contrary, the President of the British Geological Society, and even so eminent a churchman and geologist as Dean Buckland, soon acknowledged that facts obliged them to give up the theory that the fossils of the coal-measures were deposited at the Deluge of Noah, and to deny that the Deluge was universal. The combat deepened; churchmen and dissenters were alike aroused; from pulpit and press missiles were showered upon men of science. As typical we may take Fairholme, who in 1837 published his "Mosaic Deluge" and argued that no early convulsions of the earth, such as those supposed by geologists, could have taken place, because there could have been no deluge "before moral guilt could possibly have been incurred"—that is to say, before the creation of mankind. In touching terms he bewailed the defection of the President of the Geological Society and Dean Buckland—protesting against geologists who "persist in closing their eyes upon the solemn declarations of the Almighty."
Still the geologists continued to seek truth, and those theologians who felt that denunciation of science as "godless" could accomplish little labored upon schemes for reconciling geology with Genesis. Some of these show amazing ingenuity, but an eminent religious authority, going over them with great thoroughness, has well characterized them as "daring and fanciful," Such attempts have been variously classified; but the fact regarding them all is that each mixes up more or less of science with more or less of Scripture, and produces a result more or less absurd. Though a few men here and there have continued these exercises, the capitulation of the party which set the literal account of the Deluge of Noah against the facts revealed by geology was at last clearly made.
One of the first evidences of the completeness of this surrender has been so well related by the eminent physiologist. Dr. W. B. Carpenter, that it may best be given in his own words: "You are familiar with a book of considerable value. Dr. W. Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible.' I happened to know the influences under which that dictionary was framed. The idea of the publisher and of the editor was to give as much scholarship and such results of modern criticism as should be compatible with a very judicious conservatism. There was to be no objection to geology, but the universality of the Deluge was to be strictly maintained. The editor committed the article 'Deluge' to a man of very considerable ability, but, when the article came to him, he found that it was so excessively heretical that he could not venture to put it in. There was not time for a second article under that head, and, if you look in that dictionary, you will find under the word 'Deluge' a reference to 'Flood.' Before 'Flood' came, a second article had been commissioned from a source that was believed safely conservative. But, when the article came in, it was found to be worse than the first. A third article was then commissioned, and care was taken to secure its 'safety.' If you look for the word 'Flood' in the dictionary, you will find a reference to 'Noah.' Under that name you will find an article written by a distinguished professor of Cambridge, of which I remember that Bishop Colenso said to me at the time, 'In a very guarded way the writer concedes the whole thing,' You will see by this under what trammels scientific thought has labored in this department of inquiry."
A similar surrender was seen when from a new edition of Bishop Home's "Introduction to the Scriptures," the standard text-book of orthodoxy, its accustomed use of fossils to prove the universality of the Deluge was quietly dropped.
The date of a similar capitulation in the United States was fixed, when somewhat later two divines, among the most eminent for piety and scholarship, inserted in the "Biblical Cyclopædia" published under their supervision, a candid summary of the proofs from geology, astronomy, and zoology that the Deluge of Noah was not universal, or even widely extended, and this without protest from any man of note in any branch of the American Church.
The time when the struggle was relinquished by enlightened theologians of the Roman Catholic Church may be fixed at about 1862, when Reusch, professor of theology at Bonn, in his work on "The Bible and Nature," cast off the old diluvial theory and all its supporters, accepting the conclusions of science.
But, though the sacred theory with the Deluge of Noah as a universal solvent for geological difficulties was dead, there still remained in various quarters a touching fidelity to its memory. In Roman Catholic countries the old theory has been widely though quietly cherished and taught from the religious press, the pulpit, and the theological professor's chair: Pope Pius IX was doubtless in sympathy with this feeling when, about 1850, he forbade the scientific congress of Italy to meet at Bologna.
In 1856 Father Debreyne congratulated the theologians of France on their admirable attitude: "instinctively," he says, they still insist upon deriving the fossils from Noah's Flood. In 1875 the Abbe Choyer published at Paris and Angers a text-book widely approved by church authorities, in which he took similar ground; and in 1877 the Jesuit father, Bosizio, published at Mayence a treatise on geology and the Deluge, endeavoring to hold the world to the old solution of the problem, allowing, indeed, that the "days" of creation were long periods, but making atonement for this concession by sneers at Darwin,
In the Russo-Greek Church, in 1869, Archbishop Macarius, of Lithuania, urged the necessity of believing that Creation in six days of ordinary time and the Deluge of Noah are the only causes of all that geology seeks to explain; and, as late as 1876, another eminent theologian of the same church went even farther, and refused to allow the faithful to believe that any change had taken place since "the beginning" mentioned in Genesis, when the strata of the earth were laid, tilted, and twisted, and the fossils scattered among them by the hand of the Almighty during six ordinary days.
In the Lutheran branch of the Protestant Church we also find some echoes of the old belief. Keil, eminent in scriptural interpretation at the University of Dorpat, gave forth in 1860 a treatise insisting that geology is rendered futile and its explanations vain by two great facts—the Curse which drove Adam and Eve out of Eden, and the Flood that destroyed all living things save Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark. In 1867, Phillippi, and in 1869, Diedrich, both theologians of eminence, took virtually the same ground in Germany, the latter attempting to beat back the scientific hosts with a phrase apparently pithy, but really hollow—the declaration that "modern geology observes what is, but has no right to judge concerning the beginning of things." As late as 1876, Zugler took a similar view, and a multitude of lesser lights, through pulpit and press, brought these anti-scientific doctrines to bear upon the people at large—the only effect being to deaden the intellects of the peasantry in general and to arouse grave doubts regarding Christianity among the more thoughtful young men, who naturally distrusted a cause using such weapons.
The results of this policy, both in Roman Catholic and in Protestant countries, are not far to seek. What the condition of thought is among the middle classes of France and Italy needs not to be stated here. In Germany, as a typical fact, it may be mentioned that there was in the year 1881 church accommodation in the city of Berlin for but two per cent of the population, and that even this accommodation was more than was needed. This fact is not due to the want of a deep religious spirit among the North Germans: no one who has lived among them can doubt the existence of such a spirit; but it is due mainly to the fact that, while the simple results of scientific investigation have filtered down among the people at large, the dominant party in the Lutheran Church has steadily refused to recognize this fact, and has persisted in imposing on Scripture the fetters of literal and dogmatic interpretation which Germany has largely outgrown. A similar danger threatens every other country in which the clergy pursue a similar policy. No thinking man, whatever may be his religious views, can fail to regret this. A thoughtful, reverent, enlightened clergy is a great blessing to any country; and anything which undermines their legitimate work of leading men out of the worship of material things to the consideration of that which is higher, is a vast misfortune.
But, before concluding this part of the subject, it may be instructive to note a few special attempts at truces or compromises, such as always appear when the victory of any science becomes sure. Typical among the latest of these may be mentioned the attempt of Carl von Raumer in 1819. With much pretension to scientific knowledge, but with aspirations bounded by the limits of Prussian orthodoxy, he made a labored attempt to produce a statement which, by its vagueness, haziness, and "depth," should obscure the real questions at issue. This statement appeared in the shape of an argument, used by Bertrand and others in the previous century, to prove that fossil remains of plants in the coal-measures had never existed as living plants, but had been simply a "result of the development of imperfect plant embryos"; and the same misty theory was suggested to explain the existence of fossil animals without supposing the epochs and changes required by geological science.
In 1837 Wagner sought to uphold this explanation; but it was so clearly a mere hollow phrase, unable to bear the weight of the facts to be accounted for, that it was soon given up.
Similar attempts were made throughout Europe, the most noteworthy appearing in England. In 1853 was issued an anonymous work, having as its title "A Brief and Complete Refutation of the Anti-Scriptural Theory of Geologists": the author reviewed an old idea, but put a spark of life into it—this idea being that "all the organisms found in the depths of the earth were made on the first of the six creative days, as models for the plants and animals to be created on the third, fifth, and sixth days."
But, while these attempts to preserve the old theory as to fossil remains of lower animals were thus pressed, there appeared upon the geological field a new scientific column far more terrible to the old doctrines than any which had been seen previously.
For, just at the close of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, geologists began to examine the caves and beds of drift in various parts of the world; and, within a few years from that time, a series of discoveries began in France, in Belgium, in England, in Brazil, in Sicily, and in India which have established the fact that a period of time much greater than any which had before been thought of had elapsed since the first human occupation of the earth. The chronologies of Archbishop Usher, Petavius, Bossuet, and the other great authorities on which theology had securely leaned, fell. It was clearly seen that, no matter how well based upon the Old Testament genealogies and lives of the patriarchs, all these systems must go for nothing. The most conservative geologists were gradually obliged to admit that man had been upon the earth not merely six thousand, or sixty thousand, or one hundred and sixty thousand years. A very moderate estimate has made the time that the evolution of human civilization under the guidance of man has required fully a quarter of a million of years.
The supporters of a theory based upon the letter of Scripture, who had so long taken the offensive, were now obliged to fight upon the defensive and at fearful odds. Various lines of defense were taken; but perhaps the most pathetic effort was that made in the year 1857, in England, by Gosse. As a naturalist he had rendered great services to zoological science, but he now concentrated his energies upon one last effort to save the literal interpretation of Genesis and the theological structure built upon it. In his work entitled "Omphalos" he developed the theory previously urged by Granville Penn, and asserted a new principle, called "prochronism." In accordance with this, all things were created by the Almighty hand literally within the six days, each made up of "the evening and the morning," and each great branch of creation was brought into existence in an instant. Accepting a declaration of Dr. Ure, that "neither reason nor revelation will justify us in extending the origin of the material system beyond six thousand years from our own days," Gosse held that all the evidences of convulsive changes and long epochs in strata, rocks, minerals, and fossils are simply "appearances"—only that and nothing more. Among these mere "appearances," all created instantaneously, were the glacial furrows and scratches on rocks, the marks of retreat seen in the wearing away of rocky masses, as at Niagara, the tilted and twisted strata, the piles of lava from extinct volcanoes, the fossils of every sort in every part of the earth, the foot-tracks of birds and reptiles, the half-digested remains of weaker animals found in the fossilized bodies of the stronger, the marks of hyenas' teeth on fossilized hones found in various caves, and even the skeleton of the Siberian mammoth at St. Petersburg with lumps of flesh bearing the marks of wolves' teeth—all these, with all gaps and imperfections, he urged mankind to believe came into being in an instant. The preface of the work is especially touching, and ends with the prayer that science and Scripture may be reconciled by his theory, and "that the God of truth will deign so to use it, and if he do, to him be all the glory." And at the close of the whole book he declares: "The field is left clear and undisputed for the one witness on the opposite side, whose testimony is as follows: "In six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." This quotation he placed in capital letters, as the final refutation of all that the science of geology had built.
In other parts of Europe desperate attempts have been made in recent times to save the letter of our sacred books by the revival of a theory in some respects more striking. To shape this theory to recent needs, vague reminiscences of a text in Job regarding fire beneath the earth, and vague conceptions of speculations made by Humboldt and Laplace, were mingled with Jewish tradition. Out of the mixture thus obtained Schubert developed the idea that the Satanic "principalities and powers" formerly inhabiting our universe plunged it into the chaos from which it was newly created by a process accurately described in Genesis, Rougemont made the earth one of the "morning stars" of Job, reduced to chaos by Lucifer and his followers, and thence developed in accordance with the nebular hypothesis. Kurtz evolved from this theory an opinion that the geological disturbances were caused by the opposition of the Devil to the rescue of our universe from chaos by the Almighty. Delitzsch put a similar idea into a more scholastic jargon; but most desperate of all were the statements of Dr. Anton Westermeyer, of Munich, in his "The Old Testament vindicated from Modern Infidel Objections." The following passage will serve to show his ideas: "By the fructifying brooding of the Divine spirit on the waters of the deep, creative forces began to stir; the devils who inhabited the primeval darkness and considered it their own abode saw that they were to be driven from their possessions, or at least that their place of habitation was to be contracted, and they therefore tried to frustrate God's plan of creation and exert all that remained to them of might and power to hinder or at least to mar the new creation." So came into being "the horrible and destructive monsters, these caricatures and distortions of creation," of which we have fossil remains. Dr. Westermeyer goes on to insist that" whole generations called into existence by God succumbed to the corruption of the Devil, and for that reason had to be destroyed"; and that "in the work of the six days God caused the devil to feel his power in all earnest, and made Satan's enterprise appear miserable and vain."
Such is the last important assault upon the strongholds of geological science in Germany; and, in view of this and others of the same kind, it is little to be wondered at that, when, in 1870, Johann Silberschlag made an attempt to again base geology upon the Deluge of Noah, he found such difficulties that, in a touching passage, he expressed a desire to get back to the theory that fossils were "sports of Nature."
But the most noted among efforts to keep geology well within the letter of Scripture is of still more recent date. In the year 1885 Mr. Gladstone found time, amid all his labors and cares as the greatest parliamentary leader in England, to take the field in the struggle for the letter of Genesis against geology.
On the face of it his effort seemed Quixotic, for he confessed at the outset that in science he was "utterly destitute of that kind of knowledge which carries authority," and his argument soon showed that this confession was entirely true.
But he had some other qualities of which much might be expected—great skill in marshaling words, great shrewdness in adapting the meanings of single words to conflicting necessities in discussion, wonderful power in erecting showy structures of argument upon the smallest basis of fact, and a facility almost preternatural in "explaining away" troublesome realities. So striking was his power in this last respect that a humorous London chronicler once stated that a bigamist had been advised, as his only hope, to induce Mr. Gladstone to "explain away" one of his wives.
At the basis of this theologico-geological structure, Mr. Gladstone placed what he found in the text of Genesis: "A grand four-fold division" of animated Nature "set forth in an orderly succession of times," and he arranged this order and succession of creation as follows: "First, the water population; secondly, the air population; thirdly, the land population of animals; fourthly, the land population consummated in man."
His next step was to slide in upon this basis the apparently harmless proposition that this division and sequence "is understood to have been so affirmed in our time by natural science that it may be taken as a demonstrated conclusion and established fact."
Finally, upon these foundations he proceeded to build an argument out of the coincidences thus secured between the record in the Hebrew sacred books and the truths revealed by science as regards this order and sequence, and he easily arrived at the desired conclusion with which he crowned the whole structure, namely, as regards the writer of Genesis, that "his knowledge was divine."
Such was the skeleton of the structure; it was abundantlywith the rhetoric in which Mr. Gladstone is so skillful an artificer, and it towered above "the average man" as a structure beautiful and invincible—like some Chinese fortress in the nineteenth century, faced with porcelain and defended with bows and arrows.
But its strength was soon seen to be unreal. A single shot from a leader in the army of science wrecked it. In an essay admirable in its temper, overwhelming in its facts, and absolutely convincing in its argument, Professor Huxley, late President of the Royal Society, and doubtless the most eminent living authority on the scientific questions concerned, took up the matter.
Mr. Gladstone's first proposition, that the sacred writings give us a great "fourfold division" created "in an orderly succession of times," Professor Huxley did not presume to gainsay.
But, as to Mr. Gladstone's second proposition, that "this great fourfold division. . . created in an orderly succession of times. . . has been so affirmed in our own time by natural science that it may be taken as a demonstrated conclusion and established fact," Professor Huxley showed that, as a matter of fact, no such "fourfold division" and "orderly succession" exist; that, so far from establishing Mr. Gladstone's assumption that the population of water, air, and land followed each other in the order given, "all the evidence we possess goes to prove that they did not"; that the distribution of fossils through the various strata proves that some land animals originated before sea animals; that there has been a mixing of sea, land, and air "population" utterly destructive to the "great fourfold division" and the creation "in an orderly succession of times"; that so far is the view presented in the sacred text, as stated by Mr. Gladstone, from having been "so affirmed in our own time by natural science, that it may be taken as a demonstrated conclusion and established fact" that Mr. Gladstone's assertion is "directly contradictory to facts known to every one who is acquainted with the elements of natural science"; that Mr. Gladstone's only geological authority, Cuvier, had died more than fifty years before, when geological science was in its infancy [and he might have added, when it was necessary to make every possible concession to the Church], and, finally, he challenged Mr. Gladstone to produce any contemporary authority in geological science who would support his so-called scriptural view. And, when in a rejoinder Mr. Gladstone attempted to support his view on the authority of Professor Dana, Professor Huxley had no difficulty in showing from Professor Dana's works that Mr. Gladstone's inference was utterly unfounded.
Both the scientific and theological world remained silent; there was nothing more to be said.
This being the case, Mr. Gladstone's wonderful fabric of coincidences between the "great fourfold division" in Genesis and the facts ascertained by geology fell of themselves. Professor Huxley's blow had shattered the central proposition—the key-stone of the supporting arch—and the last great fortress of the opponents of unfettered scientific investigation was in ruins.
But, in opposition to this attempt by a layman, we may put a noble utterance by a clergyman who has probably done more to save what is essential in Christianity among English-speaking people than any other ecclesiastic of his time. The late Dean of Westminster, Dr. Arthur Stanley, was widely known and beloved on both continents. In his memorial sermon after the funeral of Sir Charles Lyell he said: "It is now clear to diligent students of the Bible that the first and second chapters of Genesis contain two narratives of the creation side by side, differing from each other in almost every particular of time and place and order. It is well known that, when the science of geology first arose, it was involved in endless schemes of attempted reconciliation with the letter of Scripture. There was, there are perhaps still, two modes of reconciliation of Scripture and science, which have been each in their day attempted, and each has totally and deservedly failed. One is the endeavor to wrest the words of the Bible from their natural meaning and force it to speak the language of science." And again, speaking of the earliest known example, which was the interpolation of the word "not" in Leviticus xi, 6, he continues: "This is the earliest instance of the falsification of Scripture to meet the demands of science; and it has been followed in later times by the various efforts which have been made to twist the earlier chapters of the book of Genesis into apparent agreement with the last results of geology—representing days not to be days, morning and evening not to be morning and evening, the Deluge not to be the Deluge, and the ark not to be the ark."
After a statement like this we may fitly ask: Which is the more likely to strengthen Christianity for its work in the twentieth century which we are now about to enter—a large, manly, honest, fearless utterance like this of Arthur Stanley, or hair-splitting efforts, bearing in their every line the germs of failure, like that made by Mr. Gladstone?
The world is finding that the scientific revelation of creation is ever more and more in accordance with worthy conceptions of that great Power working in and through the universe. More and more it is seen that inspiration has never ceased, and that its prophets and priests are not those who work to fit the letter of its older literature to the needs of dogmas and sects, but those who patiently, fearlessly, and reverently devote themselves to the search for truth as truth, in the faith that there is a Power in the universe strong enough to make truth-seeking safe and good enough to make truth-telling wise.
- For Tertullian, see his "De Pallio," c. ii (Migne, "Patr. Lat.," ii, 1033). For Augustine's view, see Cuvier, "Recherches sur les Ossements fossiles," fourth edition, vol. ii, p. 143.
- For Luther's opinion, see his "Commentary on Genesis."
- For a very full statement of the honorable record of Italy in this respect, and for the enlightened views of some Italian churchmen, see Stoppani, "Il Dogma e le Scienze Positive," Milan, 1886, pp. 203 et seq.
- See Audiat, "Vie de Palissy," p. 412, and Cantu, "Hist, universelle," vol. xv, p. 492.
- See Franz, "Historia Animalium," edition of 1671, especially in the preface; also Perrier, "La Philosophie zoologique avant Darwin," Paris, 1884, p. 29.
- See Calmet, "Dissertation sur les Géants," cited in Berger de Xivrey, "Traditions tératologiques," p. 191.
- See Cuvier, "Recherches sur les Ossements fossiles," fourth edition, vol. vii, p. 56; also, Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, cited by Berger de Xivrey, "Traditions tératologiques," p. 190.
- "Homo diluvii testis."
- See Zöckler, vol. ii, p. 172. For the ancient belief regarding giants, see Leopardi, "Saggio." For accounts of the views of Mazurier and Scheuchzer, see Cuvier; also, Büchner, "Man in Past, Present, and Future," English translation, pp. 235, 236. For Increase Mather's views, see "Philosophical Transactions," vol. xxiv, p. 85. As to similar fossils sent from New York to the Royal Society as remains of giants, see Weld, "History of the Royal Society," vol. i, p. 421. For Father Torrubia and his "Gigantologia Española," see D'Archiae, "Introduction à l'Étude de la Paléontologie stratographique," Paris, 1864, p. 201. For admirable summaries, see Lyell, "Principles of Geology," London, 1867; D'Archiae, "Géologie et Paléontologie," Paris, 1866; Pictet, "Traité de Paléontologie," Paris, 1853; Vezian, "Prodrome de la Géologie," Paris, 1863; Haeckel, "History of Creation," English translation, New York, 1876, chapter iii; and,
- See Voltaire, "Dissertation sur les Changements arrivés dans notre Globe"; also, Voltaire, "Les Singularités de la Nature," chapter xii; also, Jevons, "Principles of Science," vol. ii, p. 328.
- For a candid summary of the proofs from geology, astronomy, and zoölogy, that the Noachian Deluge was not universally or widely extended, see McClintock and Strong, "Cyclopædia of Biblical Theology and Ecclesiastical Literature," article "Deluge." For general history, see Lyell, D'Archiac, and Vezian. For special cases showing the bitterness of the conflict, see the Rev. Mr. Davis's "Life of Rev. Dr. Pye Smith," passim.
- "Génie du Christianisme," chapter v, pp. 1-14, cited by Reusch, vol. i, p. 250.
- For admirable sketches of Brongniart and other paleobotanists, see Ward, as above.
- See the works of Granville Penn, vol. ii, p. 273.
- See Fairholme, "Mosaic Deluge," London, 1837, p. 358.
- See Shields, "The Final Philosophy," p. 340.
- See "Official Report of the National Conference of Unitarian and other Christian Churches, held at Saratoga, 1882," p. 97.
- This was about 1856; see Tyler, "Early History of Mankind," p 328.
- McClintock and Strong, "Cyclopædia of Biblical Knowledge," etc., article "Deluge."
- See Reusch, "Bibel und Natur," chap. xxi.
- See Whiteside, "Italy in the Nineteenth Century," vol. iii, chap. xiv.
- See Zöckler, vol. ii, p. 472.
- See Zöckler, vol. ii, p. 478, and Bosizio, "Geologie und die Sündfluth," Mayence, 1877, preface, p. xiv.
- See Zöckler, vol. ii, pp. 472, 571.
- See citations in Zöckler, Reusch, and Shields.
- For these statements regarding Germany the writer relies on his personal observation as a student at the University of Berlin in 1856, as a traveler at various periods afterward, and as Minister of the United States in 1879, 1880, and 1881.
- See Zöckler, vol. ii, p. 475.
- See Professor Marsh's address as President of the Society for the Advancement of Science, in 1879.
- See Gosse, "Omphalos," London, 1857, p. 5, and passim; and for a passage giving the key-note of the whole, with a most farcical note on coprolites, see pp. 353, 354.
- See Shields's "Final Philosophy," pp. 340 et seq., and Reusch's "Nature and the Bible" (English translation, 1886), vol. i, pp. 318-320.
- See Reusch, vol. i, p. 264.
- See Mr. Gladstone's "Dam of Creation and Worship," a reply to Dr. Réville, in the "Nineteenth Century," for November, 1885.
for the most recent progress, Professor O. S. Marsh's "Address on the History and Methods of Paleontology," given at Saratoga in 1879.