John Muehleisen Arnold.

Genesis and science; or The first leaves of the Bible online

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vacancy with three golden peaks, on which are situate the favourite
residences of the Hindu triad. At its base, like so many giant
sentinels, stand four lofty hills, on each of which grows a mango
tree, several thousand miles in height, bearing fruit delicious as
nectar, and of the enormous size of many hundred cubits. From
these mangos, as they fall, flows a mighty river of perfumed juice, so
communicative of its sweetness, that those who partake of it exhale
the odour from their persons to the distance of many leagues !

The universe is partitioned into seven inferior, and seven superior
worlds, consisting, — with the exception of our own earth, which is
the first — of immense tracts of space, besludded with glorious
luminaries and habitations of the gods, rising, not unlike the rings of
Saturn, one above the other, as so many concentric zones, or belts,
of almost measureless extent. Of the seven inferior worlds, which
dip beneath our earth in a regularly descending series, it is need-
less to say more than that they are destined to be the abodes of all
manner of wicked and loathsome creatures. The first of the ascend-
ing series being the earth, the second world is that which immediately
over- vaults the earth, and is the region of space between us and the
sun, which is declared, on divine authority, to be distant only a few
hundred thousand miles. The third in the upward ascent is the
region of space intermediate between the sun and the Polar Star.
Within this region are all the planetary and stellar mansions. The
distances of the heavenly bodies are given with the utmost precision.
The moon is placed as far beyond the sun as the sun is from the
earth. Next succeed at equal distances from each other, and in the
following order, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Ursa Major,
and the Polar Star. The four remaining worlds beyond continue to
rise one above the other at immense and increasing intervals. The
entire circumference of the celestial space is then given with the
greatest exactitude of numbers.

According to the accepted system of astronomy the revolutions
of Saturn are slow in proportion to the extent of the orbit he has to


travel. The Hindus, however, tell us of sad misfortunes that hap-
pened to Saturn in his younger days, by which he became lame.
His mother, the wife of the sun, could not bear her husband's exces-
sive heat, and ran away to her father Paulastya, to make a complaint
on the subject. He advised her to repair to the forest, to perform
austerities, and in the meantime to substitute Chaya in her own
place by the side of her husband. Saturn, as might have been ex-
pected, was not overfond of his stepmother, and one day went so far
as to give her a kick. This she bitterly resented by uttering
a curse, that his legs might be destroyed. Immediately the
boy lost the use of his legs, and he has been able only to creep
ever since ! The stars are generally regarded as glorified
Brahmins ; and the Polar Star is a Brahmin too, who attained that
exalted and fixed position on account of his resolute and fixed
abandonment of all mutable things. It is natural to suppose that
the revolutions and phases of the moon were settled by God at the
creation, and that they have continued to this day as they were
fixed at first. If, however, we may believe Brighu, the moon did
not wax and wane at the beginning, but it was the curse of a Brahmin
which superinduced it ; and eclipses are caused by Rahoo and
Ketoo, two serpents, taking the sun and moon now and then into
their mouths, in order to avenge some grievous injury they pretend
to have sustained.

Equally unhappy is the natural philosophy and physiology of the
Hindu Pooranas. There are ten winds lodging in different parts
of the body, some of which cause respiration, laughter, weeping,
cough, sneezing, etc., etc. One of them remains in the head three
days after death, when it bursts the head and escapes through the
cleft. All these winds are solemnly saluted whilst the Hindu per-
forms his ablutions.

When nourishment is received into the body it is said to undergo
a threefold distribution, according to its fineness or coarseness ; corn
and other terrenae become flesh ; the coarser particles are rejected,
whilst the finer nourish the mind. Water is chiefly converted into
blood ; part of the element is ejected, the finer part supports the
breath. Oil and other combustible substances deemed igneous,
become marrow ; the coarser part is deposited as bone, and the
finer supplies the faculty of speech. Again, a hundred and one
arteries flow from the heart, and one of them passes to the crown of
the head. It is along this artery that the liberated soul makes its
escape. From the crown of the head it passes along a sunbeam,
through various regions, to the sun. Thence it proceeds to the
moon which is far beyond the sun. If it is to be rewarded with
absorption, it advances from the moon to the region of lightning,
which is far beyond the moon. Thence, again, to the realm of


Varuna, the region of water, and all these are far beyond the
moon, which, as we have already mentioned, is again far beyond the

An apology is due for inserting some of the learned absurdities
of the Hindu Shastras, as forming part and parcel of the religious
teachings of Hinduism respecting the creation of the world. These
Pooranas are, however, to the Hindu what Genesis is to the Christian ;
and it may serve to show, from an extreme case, what difficulties the author
of Genesis avoided in altogether omitting scientific information.

Yet in spite of this vast difference between Genesis and the
Hindu Shastras, objections are raised and dissonances pointed
out between Scripture and Science. Euler, one of the most distin-
guished modern mathematicians, in reply to some of these objections,
thus expresses himself, " There is no science so firmly grounded,
against which just as weighty objections could not be raised, as are
raised against the Bible. Yea, we find in these sciences such appa-
rent contradictions as at first sight appear altogether irrecon-
cilable. Yet in tracing them to their first principles we are soon
placed in a position to remove difficulties. But should we not be
able to do this, these sciences would lose nothing of their intrinsic
certainty, and why then should the holy Scriptures lose all their
historical character by similar objections ? The science to which I
have specially devoted myself is the one in which nothing is taken
for granted, that is not clearly derived from the first principles of our
knowledge. Yet there have been people of no ordinary intellectual
powers, who imagined they had discovered the most abstruse diffi-
culties in mathematics by which they feared that science had lost all
its certainty. The objections, too, which they made were so shrewd,
that it required no small skill and penetration effectually to confute
and repel them. Yet by this difficulty the science of mathematics
will not lose any of its value among reasonable men, although they
should not be able at once satisfactorily to solve those shrewd objec-
tions. With what right, therefore, can freethinkers demand the rejec-
tion of the Bible, when difficulties are presented which are far less
important than those alluded to \ Thus their conduct proves beyond
a doubt that these objections have not originated in the love of truth,
but in an altogether different and impure fountain."

According to the Arab writer Al-Biruni we are not to abandon
what we know, because there are some things we do not know.
Instead therefore of rejecting what we do not understand, and of
fouling the residue with our feet, let the words of Socrates concerning
the writings of Heraclites be remembered when engaged in the study
of the grand opening chapters of Genesis. He says, "As much as
I can understand is good and excellent ; and methinks also that part
which I cannot as yet understand, only it will require the services of a


Delian diver" Sextus Caecilius said of the famous Twelve Tables
in answer to the objections of the philosopher Favorinus that the
cause of obscurities was not to be traced to the writer, but to the
ignorance and incompetence of the reader. This holds true in a
more actual sense of the book of Genesis.

Al-Farabi, an eastern philosopher, has set an example of patience
and perseverance in his efforts to study Aristotle which it would be
well if Bible critics would imitate. As a native Turk he was com-
pelled to study Arabic to get access to translations of the Greek
writings. He noted in his copy of the physiology of Aristotle that
he had read the book two hundred times. Of another of Aristotle's
writings he said, " I have read this book forty times, but I feel that
I must read it once more." If there were more of this patient study,
there would be less difficulties. A contemporary astronomer
suggested to Copernicus, " If the world were constructed as you
say, Venus would have phases like the moon. She has none how-
ever, what do you say to that ?" The great astronomer replied,
" I have no reply to give to that, but God will be so good as to per-
mit that an answer to this difficulty be found." Soon after, Galileo
invented the telescope, by the aid of which, these phases of Venus
were discovered. And we hold that whatever apparently well
grounded objections to the book of Genesis were to arise, God will
"be so good " as to raise up men to answer them satisfactorily.

It is one of the worst possible symptoms of our day that men
will doubt every thing but their own infallibility. Let us take a few
noted examples to show how readily men distrust every authority
but their own, and how, after they have thus sown to the wind, they
speedily reap the whirlwind. Volney wished to deprive the Penta-
teuch of all historical value. But the same author appeals with the
utmost confidence to Sanchoniathon as a safe authority whom he
assumes to have written 1300 years before our era. Yet this same
Sanchoniathon has since been unmasked as a worthless fabrication.
Again other writers like Nicol. Damascenus, Alex. Polyhistor,
Aitapanus, whose works are devoid of all independent historical
value, are treated by Volney with the utmost confidence.

Gesenius, owing to the dogmatic prejudices of his age, hesitated to
acknowledge the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, yet this
cautious philologian was most easily caught in a snare laid for him
by a French Marquise, who submitted to him a self-fabricated in-
scription as some rare antiquarian treasure. Gesenius speedily
recognised in this document a very important contribution of the
history of Gnosticism, and he learnedly commented upon it before
the eyes of all Europe in the pamphlet " De inscriptione nuper in
Cyrenaica reperta" He had scarcely recovered himself from the
serious nervous shock which his health received on the discovery


of the deception, and prepared himself to wipe out this grievous
blunder by fresh palaeographical labours, when he fell into a still
greater mistake. What had happened with regard to a few
lines, was repeated in a work of Dr. Wagenfeld of Bremen, which
was given out by him, and adopted by Gesenius as a fragment of
Sanchoniathon !

The discovery of the zodiac in the temple of Denderah during the
expedition of Napoleon to Egypt created an immense sensation.
The zodiac was declared to be at least 15000 years old; and a
second one found at Esne with the same signs only differently dis-
tributed, was thought to be 20,000 years old. It was plausibly
argued that when these temples were built, the signs must have
stood, just as they appear in these zodiacs, and their existence was
quoted in every direction as evidence of the high antiquity of
mankind and the early development of arts and sciences.

When, however, the inscriptions came to be understood, it was
found that the temple at Denderah was dedicated to the health of
the Emperor Tiberius, and upon the zodiac itself was discovered the
title of autocrator, which probably applied to Nero. Upon a pillar
in the temple at Esne was inscribed the date of the tenth year of
the reign of Antoninus which coincides with the 147th year after
Christ ; and respecting the temple itself which had been estimated
by some at 40,000 years, Champollion wrote in 1829: " I have
satisfied myself by accurate investigations, that this temple which
was considered to be the oldest, in consequence of certain
hypotheses connected with the zodiac, is the most modern of all
Egyptian buildings. The sculptures of the temple go back only to
Caracalla (21 1 — 217 A. D.) and amongst these is to be reckoned
the zodiac respecting which so much has been written." Thus the
40,000 come down nearly to 1000 years !

Still more recently, the rare historical discovery was gravely
submitted to the Royal Society upon "incontestable evidence," that
a civilised people had occupied the valley of the Nile for 1 5,000 years.
The evidence consisted in a piece of pottery dug up so many feet
deep, which on closer inspection was proved to have been
manufactured by the Greeks or Romans. Again the Geological
Society are favoured with specimens of Roman pottery from a bed
which was assumed to date back to the days of Nero, but shortly
afterwards, the same Society had it proved to them that the said
specimens of Roman pottery consisted of portions of modern brown
" pigs " and flower-pots ; and that the supposed ancient silt bed is
nothing more than the soil surface, and its contents the imperishable
relics of a cottager's dung-hill amongst which were fragments of
T. W. tobacco-pipes.

The jaw-bone from the valley of the Somme, together with the


gravel in which it was said to have been deposited, was recently
estimated to be of enormous antiquity, but a fortnight had scarcely
passed when it was discovered to be a huge imposition on the part
of the workmen, and the famous jaw, clearly shown by a late
antiquarian to belong to an inferior race of human beings, had been
obtained from a neighbouring burying ground on the confession of
the perpetrators of the fraud.

Still more mortifying, recently, has been the experience of many a
zealous and ambitious scientist and sciologist, when his calculations
as to certain deposits, such as theKjokkenmoddingers, in Denmark,
or the Pfahlbauten on the Swiss lakes, or in Mecklenburg, have been
suddenly reduced to all but a cypher compared with the figures he
put forth on their behalf. In most cases it seems that some fiery
young man is anxious to win his spurs as a bold and original thinker,
and before he himself has entered the years of discretion, the whole
theory comes to irreparable grief. Such disappointments at least
ought to inspire caution.

Happily there exists a noble band of truly scientific men who pene-
trate these miserable fallacies. It has been proved by them that the
adverse theories which threaten the Mosaic cosmogony are far from
being in a position as yet to claim scientific certainty. Andreas Wagner,
one of the most distinguished palaeontologists, admits that there is a
dissonance between Scripture and Science ; but says, it arose when
some naturalists offered their subjective opinions and conjectures as
the infallible results of Science, and he adds : " The disreputable
confusion between theory and matter-of-fact must be arrested by true
science, and if this be done, it will soon appear that the assumed
discrepancy between Revelation and Science rests on misapprehen-
sions of the actual state of things, or what is worse, on a wilful per-
version of the truth. The deeper the mysteries of nature are pene-
trated by men really competent, the more clear will become the
harmony between Science and Religion. Not a few scruples, at first
held by honest natural philosophers, touching the Biblical cosmogony,
have resolved themselves into downright errors or prejudice."

Gcethe for half a century was much attached to the neptunic theory
of the origin of the world, and when the rival theory of volcanic
action came to be generally received, he was greatly disturbed.
Referring to the violent actions and reactions which the volcanic
theory assumed, the great poet wrote these words, which admit of a
wider application : " I hate the noisy chamber of this new theory of
the creation of the world. Surely some talented young man will rise
up to confront this general but mad consensus in a manly and bold
spirit. Is there no one to make these men pause, and to ask whether
limited and feeble creatures like ourselves are really competent to
deal with these marvellous things \ " Gcethe, who was a man of


science as well as a poet, did not live to see that " general consent "
of the learned world, against which he protested, come to grief, but
it came to grief soon after he was dead.

More burning and more confident are the words of Professor
Pritchard, who spent a lifetime in the pursuit of natural knowledge.
He says : — "I meet with a grateful and hopeful thought all those
unexpected accessions to our knowledge of God in Nature, which in
recent times have come to us in almost overwhelming abundance.
There is no need to be frightened at the phantoms raised by such
terms as matter and force, and molecules, and protoplasmic energy,
and rythmic vibrations of the brain ; there are no real terrors in a
philosophy which affirms the conceivability that two and two might
possibly make five ; or of that which predicates that an infinite
number of straight lines constitute a finite surface ; or in that which
denies all evidence of a design in Nature ; or in that which assimi-
lates the motives which induce a parent to support his offspring, to
the pleasures derived from wine and music ; or in that which boldly
asserts the unknowableness of the Supreme, and the vanity of
prayer. Surely, philosophies which involve results such as these
have no permanent grasp on human nature ; they are in themselves
suicidal, and in their turn, and after their brief day, will, like other
such philosophies, be refuted or denied by the next comer, and are
doomed to accomplish the happy despatch. Meanwhile, we have
the means of at least partially summarising the results of modern
discovery, or the interpretation of the revelation of God's will con-
tained in the Sacred Scriptures. The discoveries of Copernicus,
Galileo, and Kepler, taught the Christian Church that the language
of the Bible was to be understood in the ordinary sense of the ordi-
nary language of men, and was not to be strained into an adamantine
literalness. The subsequent discoveries of geology have carried a
similar lesson still further, and we may safely conclude that in the
earlier chapters of Genesis the great Father of Mankind is teaching
His children as children, and only up to the measure of their capa.
cities and their needs, at and about the time of the revelation."



1. Anti- Materialistic Tendency of Science.

The unfounded suspicion that Science is subversive of
faith and religious truth is happily disappearing ; and
the prejudice still existing in many quarters against
scientific research is mainly due to the groundless
theories which are put forth from time to time as the
bona fide results of exact science. I purpose to show in
this paragraph that the tendency of Science properly so
called, is essentially anti-materialistic. It can only
become materialistic, when matter or nature is being
made to teach and to do what it was never meant to
teach and to do.

The deeper, truer, and wider our knowledge of natural
science in all its branches, the more it will appear that
the entire realm of nature is one wholly at unity with
itself; and this is just what would be expected in a
kino-dom with one supreme lawgiver, and with the same
universal laws to be obeyed by all the forces which are
at work in the universe. Look where we will in the
physical universe there is unity, harmony, and the
utter absence of dissonance ; and what could be more
damaging to the intellectual reputation of modern
materialists, than their non-perception of this great


Let us cive a few illustrations to prove that the results


of true science happen to be wholly adverse to material-
istic or atheistical tendencies. If the same pulsation
be felt in the head, the hand, and the foot, we naturally
infer that all these are organically connected with the
central action of the heart. If it can also be estab-
lished that there are successive periods extending over
a term of exactly 11 J years, within which there is
a corresponding increase and decrease in the solar spots,
and in the deviations of the magnetic currents of our
planet, we naturally conclude that the sun and this
our own planet are intimately connected the one with
the other, though separated by a distance of about
92 millions of miles ; that the one is in close sympathy
with the other, and that there is a power superior to
the cosmical force inherent in the bodies themselves.

Again, as the hand ministers to the head, and the
head in its turn fulfils the conditions of life to the
hand and its fellow members, it is clear that there
exists an organic connection between the one and the
other. In like manner if the planets are seen to re-
volve around the sun with a precision and regularity
which to conceive surpasses the united skill and intel-
ligence of the wisest men, and if the sun in its turn
excite and diffuse on this earth light and life, it is
evident that they are members of the same system,
and that one is made to exist because of the other.

Has it come about by chance that all the moons, as
seen from the sun, should appear to have the same
diameter, though more or less remote from the sun ;
that the spheroid shape or form of the planets should
exactly correspond to their respective force of revolu-
tion ; or that the sun and the moon should appear to us
of equal magnitude though in reality vastly different in
size ? Whence the opposite rotation of the moons of
Jupiter? Whence the mutual relation of Mars, the


earth, and the moon, according to which Mars is exactly
seven times larger than the moon, and seven times
smaller than the earth, thus all of them fulfilling
the condition of the permanent harmony of the entire
solar system ? Again, is it not highly significant of the
unity of the entire universe that the one simple law of
gravitation should suffice to account for the bulk, the
density and the shape of the several planets, as well
as for the velocity of their revolutions and the character
of their orbits, all the planetary bodies being duly
balanced in their several orbits by the inter-actions of
the centrifugal and the centripetal forces ? Can we
take it as sheer accident that by the simplest of all
means our own planet should have secured to it in per-
petuity, not only the certain change of day and night,
but also of the seasons of the year, whilst the slightest
change in the axis of our globe would be fraught with
the most disastrous consequences?

This may also be the proper place briefly to point
out the astounding fact that the very deviations which
are observed in the planetary orbits invariably adjust
themselves in the most perfect harmony. The secular
interruptions are observed to increase and decrease so
as mutually to compensate each other. Hence the very
irregularities confirm the truth we seek to establish,
i. e. that it is not matter but mind, not materialism but
spiritualism, which is the guiding principle of the

Nothing seems more surprising to those that can
appreciate the force of the argument than the incom-
mensurability of all the planets in their orbits. Take
the case of Jupiter and Saturn. The revolution periods
of these two planets are very nearly as 2:5 ; if, however,
they had been precisely as 2:5, irregularities must have
ensued by their regular approximation, which could not


fail to end in concussion, and in consequence of the
breaking up of the necessary balance, it would lead to
the breaking up of the whole planetary system. But
owing to the present incommensurability of all the
planets, such an event is physically impossible; and
we ask is there no proof in this that some great master
mind so adjusted the whole mechanism of the universe
as to ensure the eternal peace and harmony of the entire

Online LibraryJohn Muehleisen ArnoldGenesis and science; or The first leaves of the Bible → online text (page 2 of 27)