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Andrew dickson white

Title: A history of the warfare of science with theology in Christendom

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14


FROM CREATION TO EVOLUTION.


directly by the voice or hands of the Almighty, or by both — out of nothing — in an instant or in six days, or in both — about four thousand years before the Christian era — and for the convenience of the dwellers upon the earth, which was at the base and foundation of the whole structure.

But there had been implanted along through the ages germs of another growth in human thinking, some of them even as early as the Babylonian period. In the Assyrian inscriptions we find recorded the Chaldeo-Babylonian idea ' of an evolution of the universe out of the primeval flood or " great deep," and of the animal creation out of the earth and sea. This idea, recast, partially at least, into mono- theistic form, passed naturally into the sacred books of the neighbours and pupils of the Chaldeans — the Hebrews ; but its growth in Christendom afterward was checked, as we shall hereafter find, by the more powerful influence of other inherited statements which appealed more intelligibly to the mind of the Church.

Striking, also, was the effect of this idea as rewrought by the early Ionian philosophers, to whom it was probably transmitted from the Chaldeans through the Phoenicians. In the minds of lonians like Anaximander and Anaximenes it was most clearly developed : the first of these conceiving of the visible universe as the result of processes of evolution, and the latter pressing further the same mode of reasoning, and dwelling on agencies in cosmic development recognised in modern science.

This general idea of evolution in Nature thus took strong hold upon Greek thought and was developed in many ways, some ingenious, some perverse. Plato, indeed, with- stood it ; but Aristotle sometimes developed it in a manner which reminds us of modern views.

Among the Romans Lucretius caught much from it, ex- tending the evolutionary process virtually to all things.

In the early Church, as we have seen, the idea of a crea- tion direct, material, and by means like those used by man, was all-powerful for the exclusion of conceptions based on evolution. From the more simple and crude of the views of creation given in the Babylonian legends, and thence in- corporated into Genesis, rose the stream of orthodox thought


THE VISIBLE UNIVERSE. 1 5

on the subject, which grew into a flood and swept on through the Middle Ages and into modern times. Yet here and there in the midst of this flood were high grounds of thought held by strong men. Scotus Erigena and Duns Scotus, among the schoolmen, bewildered though they were, had caught some rays of this ancient light, and passed on to their successors, in modified form, doctrines of an evolu- tionary process in the universe.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century these evolu- tionary theories seemed to take more definite form in the mind of Giordano Bruno, who evidentlv divined the funda- mental idea of what is now known as the " nebular hypothe- sis " ; but with his murder by the Inquisition at Rome this idea seemed utterly to disappear — dissipated by the flames which in 1600 consumed his body on the Campo dei Fiori.

Yet within the two centuries divided by Bruno's death the world was led into a new realm of thought in which an evolution theory of the visible universe was sure to be rap- idly developed. For there came, one after the other, five of the greatest men our race has produced — Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton — and when their work was done the old theological conception of the uni- verse was gone. "The spacious firmament on high ** — " the crystalline spheres " — the Almighty enthroned upon " the circle of the heavens,** and with his own hands, or with angels as his agents, keeping sun, moon, and planets in mo- tion for the benefit of the earth, opening and closing the " windows of heaven," letting down upon the earth the " wa- ters above the firmament," " setting his bow in the cloud," hanging out " signs and wonders,** hurling comets, " casting forth lightnings" to scare the wicked, and "shaking the earth " in his wrath : all this had disappeared.

These five men had given a new divine revelation to the world ; and through the last, Newton, had come a vast new 1/ conception, destined to be fatal to the old theory of crea- tion, for he had shown throughout the universe, in place of almighty caprice, all-pervading law. The bitter opposition of theology to the first four of these men is well known ; but the fact is not so widely known that Newton, in spite of his deeply religious spirit, was also strongly opposed. It was

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THEOLOGICAL AND SCIENTIFIC THEORIES. 65

more full became these various rivulets, soon to unite in one great stream of thought.

In 1813 Dr. Wells developed a theory of evolution by natural selection to account for varieties in the human race. About 1820 Dean Herbert, eminent as an authority in horti- culture, avowed his conviction that species are but fixed varieties. In 183 1 Patrick Matthews stumbled upon and stated the main doctrine of natural selection in evolution ; and others here and there, in Europe and America, caught an inkling of it.

To this current of thought there was joined a new element when, in 1844, Robert Chambers

published his Vestiges of Creation. The book was attractive and was widely read. In

Chambers’s view the several series of animated beings, from the simplest and oldest up to

the highest and most recent, were the result of two distinct impulses, each given once

and for all time by the Creator. The first of these was an impulse imparted to forms of

life, lifting them gradually through higher grades; the second was an impulse tending to

modify organic substances in accordance with external circumstances; in fact, the

doctrine of the book was evolution tempered by miracle—a stretching out of the creative

act through all time—a pious version of Lamarck.

Two results followed, one mirth-provoking, the other leading to serious thought. The

amusing result was that the theologians were greatly alarmed by the book: it was loudly

insisted that it promoted atheism. Looking back along the line of thought which has since

been developed, one feels that the older theologians ought to have put up thanksgivings

for Chambers’s theory, and prayers that it might prove true. The more serious result was

that it accustomed men’s minds to a belief in evolution as in some form possible or even

probable. In this way it was provisionally of service.

Eight years later Herbert Spencer published an essay contrasting the theories of creation

and evolution—reasoning with great force in favour of the latter, showing that species

had undoubtedly been modified by circumstances; but still only few and chosen men saw the

significance of all these lines of reasoning which had been converging during so many

years toward one conclusion.

On July 1, 1858, there were read before the Linnaean Society at London two papers—one

presented by Charles Darwin, the other by Alfred Russel Wallace—and with the reading of

these papers the doctrine of evolution by natural selection was born. Then and there a

fatal breach was made in the great theological barrier of the continued fixity of species

since the creation.


In the following year, 1859, came the first instalment of his work in its fuller development — his book on The Origin of Species. In this book one at least of the main secrets at the heart of the evolutionary process, which had baffled the long line of investigators and philosophers from the days of Aristotle, was more broadly revealed. The effective mech- anism of evolution was shown at work in three ascertained facts : in the struggle for existence among organized beings ; in the survival of the fittest ; and in heredity. These facts were presented with such minute research, wide observa- tion, patient collation, transparent honesty, and judicial fair- ness, that they at once commanded the world's attention. It was the outcome of thirty years' work and thought by a worker and thinker of genius, but it was yet more than that

[23] For Wilberforce’s article, see Quarterly Review, July, 1860. For the reply of Huxley

to the bishop’s speech I have relied on the account given in Quatrefages, who had it from

Carpenter; a somewhat different version is given in the Life and Letters of Darwin. For

Cardinal Manning’s attack, see Essays on Religion and Literature, London, 1865. For the

review articles, see the Quarterly already cited, and that for July, 1874; also the North

British Review, May 1860; also, F. O. Morris’s letter in the Record, reprinted at

Glasgow, 1870; also the Addresses of Rev. Walter Mitchell before the Victoria Institute,

London, 1867; also Rev. B. G. Johns, Moses not Darwin, a Sermon, March 31, 1871. For the

earlier American attacks, see Methodist Quarterly Review, April 1871; The American Church

Review, July and October, 1865, and January, 1866. For the Australian attack, see Science

and the Bible, by the Right Reverand Charles Perry, D. D., Bishop of Melbourne, London,

1869. For Bayma, see the Catholic World, vol. xxvi, p.782. For the Academia, see Essays

edited by Cardinal Manning, above cited; and for the Victoria Institute, see Scientia

Scientarum, by a member of the Victoria Institute, London, 1865.

But in 1863 came an event which brought serious confusion to the theological camp: Sir

Charles Lyell, the most eminent of living geologists, a man of deeply Christian feeling

and of exceedingly cautious temper, who had opposed the evolution theory of Lamarck and

declared his adherence to the idea of successive creations, then published his work on

the Antiquity of Man, and in this and other utterances showed himself a complete though

unwilling convert to the fundamental ideas of Darwin. The blow was serious in many ways,

and especially so in two—first, as withdrawing all foundation in fact from the scriptural

chronology, and secondly, as discrediting the creation theory. The blow was not

unexpected; in various review articles against the Darwinian theory there had been

appeals to Lyell, at times almost piteous, "not to flinch from the truths he had formerly

proclaimed." But Lyell, like the honest man he was, yielded unreservedly to the mass of

new proofs arrayed on the side of evolution against that of creation.

In 1871 was published Darwin’s Descent of Man. Its doctrine had been anticipated by

critics of his previous books, but it made, none the less, a great stir; again the

opposing army trooped forth, though evidently with much less heart than before. A few

were very violent. The Dublin University Magazine, after the traditional Hibernian

fashion, charged Mr. Darwin with seeking "to displace God by the unerring action of

vagary," and with being "resolved to hunt God out of the world." But most notable from

the side of the older Church was the elaborate answer to Darwin’s book by the eminent

French Catholic physician, Dr. Constantin James. In his work, On Darwinism, or the Man-

Ape, published at Paris in 1877, Dr. James not only refuted Darwin scientifically but

poured contempt on his book, calling it "a fairy tale," and insisted that a work "so

fantastic and so burlesque" was, doubtless, only a huge joke, like Erasmus’s Praise of

Folly, or Montesquieu’s Persian Letters. The princes of the Church were delighted. The

Cardinal Archbishop of Paris assured the author that the book had become his "spiritual

reading," and begged him to send a copy to the Pope himself. His Holiness, Pope Pius IX,

acknowledged the gift in a remarkable letter. He thanked his dear son, the writer, for

the book in which he "refutes so well the aberrations of Darwinism." "A system," His

Holiness adds, "which is repugnant at once to history, to the tradition of all peoples,

to exact science, to observed facts, and even to Reason herself, would seem to need no

refutation, did not alienation from God and the leaning toward materialism, due to

depravity, eagerly seek a support in all this tissue of fables....And, in fact, pride,

after rejecting the Creator of all things and proclaiming man independent, wishing him to

be his own king, his own priest, and his own God—pride goes so far as to degrade man

himself to the level of the unreasoning brutes, perhaps even of lifeless matter, thus

unconsciously confirming the Divine declaration, WHEN PRIDE COMETH, THEN COMETH SHAME.

But the corruption of this age, the machinations of the perverse, the danger of the

simple, demand that such fancies, altogether absurd though they are, should—since they

borrow the mask of science—be refuted by true science." Wherefore the Pope thanked Dr.

James for his book, "so opportune and so perfectly appropriate to the exigencies of our

time," and bestowed on him the apostolic benediction. Nor was this brief all. With it

there came a second, creating the author an officer of the Papal Order of St. Sylvester.

The cardinal archbishop assured the delighted physician that such a double honour of

brief and brevet was perhaps unprecedented, and suggested only that in a new edition of

his book he should "insist a little more on the relation existing between the narratives

of Genesis and the discoveries of modern science, in such fashion as to convince the most

incredulous of their perfect agreement." The prelate urged also a more dignified title.

The proofs of this new edition were accordingly all submitted to His Eminence, and in

1882 it appeared as Moses and Darwin: the Man of Genesis compared with the Man-Ape, or

Religious Education opposed to Atheistic. No wonder the cardinal embraced the author,

thanking him in the name of science and religion. "We have at last," he declared, "a

handbook which we can safely put into the hands of youth."


French theological oppositionEdit

(NOTES: All attempts at refuting a tautology are doomed. One can only point out that the

concept represented with NS1 was a hidden rhetorical tautology, it can by definition not

be verified nor refuted. The 'refutations' around 1874 all failed to notice its

tautological nature because very few yet knew what a hidden tautology actually is. Only

Charles Hodge it seems managed to grasp the concept of falsifiability, a concept

Popper gave the name for.)


[24] For the French theological oppostition to the Darwinian theory, see Pozzy, La Terre

at le Recit Biblique de la Creation, 1874, especially pp. 353, 363; also Felix Ducane,

Etudes sur la Transformisme, 1876, especially pp. 107 to 119. As to Fabre d’Envieu, see

especially his Proposition xliii. For the Abbe Desogres, "former Professor of Philosophy

and Theology," see his Erreurs Modernes, Paris, 1878, pp. 677 and 595 to 598. For

Monseigneur Segur, see his La Foi devant la Science Moderne, sixth ed., Paris, 1874, pp.

23, 34, etc. For Herbert Spencer’s reply to Mr. Gladstone, see his study of Sociology;

for the passage in the Dublin Review, see the issue for July, 1871. For the Review in the

London Times, see Nature for April 20, 1871. For Gavin Carlyle, see The Battle of

Unbelief, 1870, pp. 86 and 171. For the attacks by Michelis and Hagermann, see Natur und

Offenbarung, Munster, 1861 to 1869. For Schund, see his Darwin’s Hypothese und ihr

Verhaaltniss zu Religion und Moral, Stuttgart, 1869. For Luthardt, see Fundamental Truths

of Christianity, translated by Sophia Taylor, second ed., Edinburgh, 1869. For Rougemont,

see his L’Homme et le Singe, Neuchatel, 1863 (also in German trans.). For Constantin

James, see his Mes Entretiens avec l’Empereur Don Pedro sur la Darwinisme, Paris, 1888,

where the papal briefs are printed in full. For the English attacks on Darwin’s Descent

of Man, see the Edinburgh Review July, 1871 and elsewhere; the Dublin Review, July, 1871;

the British and Foreign Evangelical Review, April, 1886. See also The Scripture Doctrine

of Creation, by the Rev. T. R. Birks, London, 1873, published by the S. P. C. K. For Dr.

Pusey’s attack, see his Unscience, not Science, adverse to Faith, 1878; also Darwin’s

Life and Letters, vol. ii, pp. 411, 412.


To those who knew and loved him, and had noted the genial way in which by wise neglect he had allowed scientific studies to flourish at Yale, there was an amusing side to all this. Within a stone’s throw of his college rooms was the Museum of Paleontology, in which Prof. Marsh had laid side by side, among other evidences of the new truth, that wonderful series of specimens showing the evolution of the horse from the earliest form of the animal, "not larger than a fox, with five toes," through the whole series up to his present form and size—that series which Huxley declared an absolute proof of the existence of natural selection as an agent in evolution. In spite of the veneration and love which all Yale men felt for President Porter, it was hardly to be expected that these particular arguments of his would have much permanent effect upon them when there was constantly before their eyes so convincing a refutation.

But a far more determined opponent was the Rev. Dr. Hodge, of Princeton; his anger toward the evolution doctrine was bitter: he denounced it as thoroughly "atheistic"; he insisted that Christians "have a right to protest against the arraying of probabilities against the clear evidence of the Scriptures"; he even censured so orthodox a writer as the Duke of Argyll, and declared that the Darwinian theory of natural selection is "utterly inconsistent with the Scriptures," and that "an absent God, who does nothing, is to us no God"; that "to ignore design as manifested in God’s creation is to dethrone God"; that "a denial of design in Nature is virtually a denial of God"; and that "no teleologist can be a Darwinian." Even more uncompromising was another of the leading authorities at the same university—the Rev. Dr. Duffield. He declared war not only against Darwin but even against men like Asa Gray, Le Conte, and others, who had attempted to reconcile the new theory with the Bible: he insisted that "evolutionism and the scriptural account of the origin of man are irreconcilable"—that the Darwinian theory is "in direct conflict with the teaching of the apostle, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God’"; he pointed out, in his opposition to Darwin’s Descent of Man and Lyell’s Antiquity of Man, that in the Bible "the genealogical links which connect the Israelites in Egypt with Adam and Eve in Eden are explicitly given." These utterances of Prof. Duffield culminated in a declaration which deserves to be cited as showing that a Presbyterian minister can "deal damnation round the land" ex cathedra in a fashion quite equal to that of popes and bishops. It is as follows: "If the development theory of the origin of man," wrote Dr. Duffield in the Princeton Review, "shall in a little while take its place—as doubtless it will—with other exploded scientific speculations, then they who accept it with its proper logical consequences will in the life to come have their portion with those who in this life ‘know not God and obey not the gospel of his Son.’"


Other divines of strong sense in other parts of the country began to take similar ground—namely, that men could be Christians and at the same time Darwinians. There appeared, indeed, here and there, curious discrepancies: thus in 1873 the Monthly Religious Magazine of Boston congratulated its readers that the Rev. Mr. Burr had "demolished the evolution theory, knocking the breath of life out of it and throwing it to the dogs."

(NOTES: Yet another 'demolition', tautologies can by their nature not be demolished.)


This amazing performance by the Rev. Mr. Burr was repeated in a very striking way by Bishop Keener before the Oecumenical Council of Methodism at Washington in 1891. In what the newspapers described as an "admirable speech," he refuted evolution doctrines by saying that evolutionists had "only to make a journey of twelve hours from the place where he was then standing to find together the bones of the muskrat, the opossum, the coprolite, and the ichthyosaurus." He asserted that Agassiz—whom the good bishop, like so many others, seemed to think an evolutionist—when he visited these beds near Charleston, declared: "These old beds have set me crazy; they have destroyed the work of a lifetime." And the Methodist prelate ended by saying: "Now, gentlemen, brethren, take these facts home with you; get down and look at them. This is the watch that was under the steam hammer—the doctrine of evolution; and this steam hammer is the wonderful deposit of the Ashley beds." Exhibitions like these availed little. While the good bishop amid vociferous applause thus made comically evident his belief that Agassiz was a Darwinian and a coprolite an animal, scientific men were recording in all parts of the world facts confirming the dreaded theory of an evolution by natural selection. While the Rev. Mr. Burr was so loudly praised for "throwing Darwinism to the dogs," Marsh was completing his series leading from the five-toed ungulates to the horse. While Dr. Tayler Lewis at Union, and Drs. Hodge and Duffield at Princeton, were showing that if evolution be true the biblical accounts must be false, the indefatigable Yale professor was showing his cretaceous birds, and among them Hesperornis and Ichthyornis with teeth. While in Germany Luthardt, Schund, and their compeers were demonstrating that Scripture requires a belief in special and separate creations, the Archaeopteryx, showing a most remarkable connection between birds and reptiles, was discovered.

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