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HISTORY OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN RELIGION AND SCIENCE

By John William Draper, M. D., LL. D.

PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK,

AUTHOR OF A TREATISE ON HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY, HISTORY OF THE
INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT OF EUROPE, HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN
CIVIL WAR, AND OF MANY EXPERIMENTAL MEMOIRS ON CHEMICAL AND
OTHER SCIENTIFIC SUBJECTS




PREFACE.

WHOEVER has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the mental
condition of the intelligent classes in Europe and America, must have
perceived that there is a great and rapidly-increasing departure from
the public religious faith, and that, while among the more frank this
divergence is not concealed, there is a far more extensive and far more
dangerous secession, private and unacknowledged.

So wide-spread and so powerful is this secession, that it can neither be
treated with contempt nor with punishment. It cannot be extinguished by
derision, by vituperation, or by force. The time is rapidly approaching
when it will give rise to serious political results.

Ecclesiastical spirit no longer inspires the policy of the world.
Military fervor in behalf of faith has disappeared. Its only souvenirs
are the marble effigies of crusading knights, reposing in the silent
crypts of churches on their tombs.

That a crisis is impending is shown by the attitude of the great powers
toward the papacy. The papacy represents the ideas and aspirations
of two-thirds of the population of Europe. It insists on a political
supremacy in accordance with its claims to a divine origin and mission,
and a restoration of the mediaeval order of things, loudly declaring
that it will accept no reconciliation with modern civilization.

The antagonism we thus witness between Religion and Science is the
continuation of a struggle that commenced when Christianity began
to attain political power. A divine revelation must necessarily be
intolerant of contradiction; it must repudiate all improvement in
itself, and view with disdain that arising from the progressive
intellectual development of man. But our opinions on every subject are
continually liable to modification, from the irresistible advance of
human knowledge.

Can we exaggerate the importance of a contention in which every
thoughtful person must take part whether he will or not? In a matter so
solemn as that of religion, all men, whose temporal interests are not
involved in existing institutions, earnestly desire to find the truth.
They seek information as to the subjects in dispute, and as to the
conduct of the disputants.

The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it
is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive
force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising
from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.

No one has hitherto treated the subject from this point of view. Yet
from this point it presents itself to us as a living issue - in fact, as
the most important of all living issues.

A few years ago, it was the politic and therefore the proper course to
abstain from all allusion to this controversy, and to keep it as far as
possible in the background. The tranquillity of society depends so
much on the stability of its religious convictions, that no one can
be justified in wantonly disturbing them. But faith is in its nature
unchangeable, stationary; Science is in its nature progressive; and
eventually a divergence between them, impossible to conceal, must take
place. It then becomes the duty of those whose lives have made them
familiar with both modes of thought, to present modestly, but
firmly, their views; to compare the antagonistic pretensions calmly,
impartially, philosophically. History shows that, if this be not done,
social misfortunes, disastrous and enduring, will ensue. When the old
mythological religion of Europe broke down under the weight of its own
inconsistencies, neither the Roman emperors nor the philosophers of
those times did any thing adequate for the guidance of public opinion.
They left religious affairs to take their chance, and accordingly those
affairs fell into the hands of ignorant and infuriated ecclesiastics,
parasites, eunuchs, and slaves.

The intellectual night which settled on Europe, in consequence of that
great neglect of duty, is passing away; we live in the daybreak of
better things. Society is anxiously expecting light, to see in what
direction it is drifting. It plainly discerns that the track along which
the voyage of civilization has thus far been made, has been left; and
that a new departure, on all unknown sea, has been taken.

Though deeply impressed with such thoughts, I should not have presumed
to write this book, or to intrude on the public the ideas it presents,
had I not made the facts with which it deals a subject of long and
earnest meditation. And I have gathered a strong incentive to undertake
this duty from the circumstance that a "History of the Intellectual
Development of Europe," published by me several years ago, which has
passed through many editions in America, and has been reprinted in
numerous European languages, English, French, German, Russian, Polish,
Servian, etc., is everywhere received with favor.

In collecting and arranging the materials for the volumes I published
under the title of "A History of the American Civil War," a work of very
great labor, I had become accustomed to the comparison of conflicting
statements, the adjustment of conflicting claims. The approval with
which that book has been received by the American public, a critical
judge of the events considered, has inspired me with additional
confidence. I had also devoted much attention to the experimental
investigation of natural phenomena, and had published many well-known
memoirs on such subjects. And perhaps no one can give himself to these
pursuits, and spend a large part of his life in the public teaching of
science, without partaking of that love of impartiality and truth which
Philosophy incites. She inspires us with a desire to dedicate our days
to the good of our race, so that in the fading light of life's evening
we may not, on looking back, be forced to acknowledge how unsubstantial
and useless are the objects that we have pursued.

Though I have spared no pains in the composition of this book, I am
very sensible how unequal it is to the subject, to do justice to which
a knowledge of science, history, theology, politics, is required; every
page should be alive with intelligence and glistening with facts. But
then I have remembered that this is only as it were the preface, or
forerunner, of a body of literature, which the events and wants of our
times will call forth. We have come to the brink of a great intellectual
change. Much of the frivolous reading of the present will be supplanted
by a thoughtful and austere literature, vivified by endangered
interests, and made fervid by ecclesiastical passion.

What I have sought to do is, to present a clear and impartial statement
of the views and acts of the two contending parties. In one sense I have
tried to identify myself with each, so as to comprehend thoroughly their
motives; but in another and higher sense I have endeavored to stand
aloof, and relate with impartiality their actions.

I therefore trust that those, who may be disposed to criticise this
book, will bear in mind that its object is not to advocate the views
and pretensions of either party, but to explain clearly, and without
shrinking those of both. In the management of each chapter I have
usually set forth the orthodox view first, and then followed it with
that of its opponents.

In thus treating the subject it has not been necessary to pay much
regard to more moderate or intermediate opinions, for, though they may
be intrinsically of great value, in conflicts of this kind it is not
with the moderates but with the extremists that the impartial reader is
mainly concerned. Their movements determine the issue.

For this reason I have had little to say respecting the two great
Christian confessions, the Protestant and Greek Churches. As to the
latter, it has never, since the restoration of science, arrayed itself
in opposition to the advancement of knowledge. On the contrary, it has
always met it with welcome. It has observed a reverential attitude to
truth, from whatever quarter it might come. Recognizing the apparent
discrepancies between its interpretations of revealed truth and the
discoveries of science, it has always expected that satisfactory
explanations and reconciliations would ensue, and in this it has not
been disappointed. It would have been well for modern civilization if
the Roman Church had done the same.

In speaking of Christianity, reference is generally made to the
Roman Church, partly because its adherents compose the majority of
Christendom, partly because its demands are the most pretentious, and
partly because it has commonly sought to enforce those demands by
the civil power. None of the Protestant Churches has ever occupied a
position so imperious - none has ever had such wide-spread political
influence. For the most part they have been averse to constraint, and
except in very few instances their opposition has not passed beyond the
exciting of theological odium.

As to Science, she has never sought to ally herself to civil power. She
has never attempted to throw odium or inflict social ruin on any human
being. She has never subjected any one to mental torment, physical
torture, least of all to death, for the purpose of upholding or
promoting her ideas. She presents herself unstained by cruelties and
crimes. But in the Vatican - we have only to recall the Inquisition - the
hands that are now raised in appeals to the Most Merciful are crimsoned.
They have been steeped in blood!

There are two modes of historical composition, the artistic and the
scientific. The former implies that men give origin to events; it
therefore selects some prominent individual, pictures him under
a fanciful form, and makes him the hero of a romance. The latter,
insisting that human affairs present an unbroken chain, in which each
fact is the offspring of some preceding fact, and the parent of some
subsequent fact, declares that men do not control events, but that
events control men. The former gives origin to compositions, which,
however much they may interest or delight us, are but a grade above
novels; the latter is austere, perhaps even repulsive, for it sternly
impresses us with a conviction of the irresistible dominion of law, and
the insignificance of human exertions. In a subject so solemn as that to
which this book is devoted, the romantic and the popular are altogether
out of place. He who presumes to treat of it must fix his eyes
steadfastly on that chain of destiny which universal history displays;
he must turn with disdain from the phantom impostures of pontiffs and
statesmen and kings.

If any thing were needed to show us the untrustworthiness of artistic
historical compositions, our personal experience would furnish it. How
often do our most intimate friends fail to perceive the real motives of
our every-day actions; how frequently they misinterpret our intentions!
If this be the case in what is passing before our eyes, may we not
be satisfied that it is impossible to comprehend justly the doings of
persons who lived many years ago, and whom we have never seen.

In selecting and arranging the topics now to be presented, I have been
guided in part by "the Confession" of the late Vatican Council, and in
part by the order of events in history. Not without interest will the
reader remark that the subjects offer themselves to us now as they did
to the old philosophers of Greece. We still deal with the same questions
about which they disputed. What is God? What is the soul? What is the
world? How is it governed? Have we any standard or criterion of truth?
And the thoughtful reader will earnestly ask, "Are our solutions of
these problems any better than theirs?"

The general argument of this book, then, is as follows:

I first direct attention to the origin of modern science as
distinguished from ancient, by depending on observation, experiment,
and mathematical discussion, instead of mere speculation, and shall show
that it was a consequence of the Macedonian campaigns, which brought
Asia and Europe into contact. A brief sketch of those campaigns, and of
the Museum of Alexandria, illustrates its character.

Then with brevity I recall the well-known origin of Christianity, and
show its advance to the attainment of imperial power, the transformation
it underwent by its incorporation with paganism, the existing religion
of the Roman Empire. A clear conception of its incompatibility with
science caused it to suppress forcibly the Schools of Alexandria. It was
constrained to this by the political necessities of its position.

The parties to the conflict thus placed, I next relate the story of
their first open struggle; it is the first or Southern Reformation. The
point in dispute had respect to the nature of God. It involved the rise
of Mohammedanism. Its result was, that much of Asia and Africa, with the
historic cities Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage, were wrenched from
Christendom, and the doctrine of the Unity of God established in the
larger portion of what had been the Roman Empire.

This political event was followed by the restoration of science, the
establishment of colleges, schools, libraries, throughout the dominions
of the Arabians. Those conquerors, pressing forward rapidly in their
intellectual development, rejected the anthropomorphic ideas of the
nature of God remaining in their popular belief, and accepted other more
philosophical ones, akin to those that had long previously been attained
to in India. The result of this was a second conflict, that respecting
the nature of the soul. Under the designation of Averroism, there came
into prominence the theories of Emanation and Absorption. At the
close of the middle ages the Inquisition succeeded in excluding those
doctrines from Europe, and now the Vatican Council has formally and
solemnly anathematized them.

Meantime, through the cultivation of astronomy, geography, and other
sciences, correct views had been gained as to the position and relations
of the earth, and as to the structure of the world; and since Religion,
resting itself on what was assumed to be the proper interpretation
of the Scriptures, insisted that the earth is the central and most
important part of the universe, a third conflict broke out. In this
Galileo led the way on the part of Science. Its issue was the overthrow
of the Church on the question in dispute. Subsequently a subordinate
controversy arose respecting the age of the world, the Church insisting
that it is only about six thousand years old. In this she was again
overthrown The light of history and of science had been gradually
spreading over Europe. In the sixteenth century the prestige of Roman
Christianity was greatly diminished by the intellectual reverses it
had experienced, and also by its political and moral condition. It was
clearly seen by many pious men that Religion was not accountable for
the false position in which she was found, but that the misfortune was
directly traceable to the alliance she had of old contracted with Roman
paganism. The obvious remedy, therefore, was a return to primitive
purity. Thus arose the fourth conflict, known to us as the
Reformation - the second or Northern Reformation. The special form it
assumed was a contest respecting the standard or criterion of
truth, whether it is to be found in the Church or in the Bible. The
determination of this involved a settlement of the rights of reason, or
intellectual freedom. Luther, who is the conspicuous man of the epoch,
carried into effect his intention with no inconsiderable success; and at
the close of the struggle it was found that Northern Europe was lost to
Roman Christianity.

We are now in the midst of a controversy respecting the mode of
government of the world, whether it be by incessant divine intervention,
or by the operation of primordial and unchangeable law. The intellectual
movement of Christendom has reached that point which Arabism had
attained to in the tenth and eleventh centuries; and doctrines which
were then discussed are presenting themselves again for review; such are
those of Evolution, Creation, Development.

Offered under these general titles, I think it will be found that all
the essential points of this great controversy are included. By grouping
under these comprehensive heads the facts to be considered, and dealing
with each group separately, we shall doubtless acquire clear views of
their inter-connection and their historical succession.

I have treated of these conflicts as nearly as I conveniently could in
their proper chronological order, and, for the sake of completeness,
have added chapters on -

An examination of what Latin Christianity has done for modern
civilization.

A corresponding examination of what Science has done.

The attitude of Roman Christianity in the impending conflict, as defined
by the Vatican Council.

The attention of many truth-seeking persons has been so exclusively
given to the details of sectarian dissensions, that the long strife, to
the history of which these pages are devoted, is popularly but little
known. Having tried to keep steadfastly in view the determination to
write this work in an impartial spirit, to speak with respect of the
contending parties, but never to conceal the truth, I commit it to the
considerate judgment of the thoughtful reader.

JOHN WILLIAM DRAPER

UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK, December, 1873.





HISTORY OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN RELIGION AND SCIENCE.



CHAPTER I.

THE ORIGIN OF SCIENCE.

Religious condition of the Greeks in the fourth century
before Christ. - Their invasion of the Persian Empire brings
them in contact with new aspects of Nature, and familiarizes
them with new religious systems. - The military,
engineering, and scientific activity, stimulated by the
Macedonian campaigns, leads to the establishment in
Alexandria of an institute, the Museum, for the cultivation
of knowledge by experiment, observation, and mathematical
discussion. - It is the origin of Science.

GREEK MYTHOLOGY. No spectacle can be presented to the thoughtful
mind more solemn, more mournful, than that of the dying of an ancient
religion, which in its day has given consolation to many generations of
men.

Four centuries before the birth of Christ, Greece was fast outgrowing
her ancient faith. Her philosophers, in their studies of the world, had
been profoundly impressed with the contrast between the majesty of the
operations of Nature and the worthlessness of the divinities of Olympus.
Her historians, considering the orderly course of political affairs,
the manifest uniformity in the acts of men, and that there was no event
occurring before their eyes for which they could not find an obvious
cause in some preceding event, began to suspect that the miracles and
celestial interventions, with which the old annals were filled, were
only fictions. They demanded, when the age of the supernatural had
ceased, why oracles had become mute, and why there were now no more
prodigies in the world.

Traditions, descending from immemorial antiquity, and formerly accepted
by pious men as unquestionable truths, had filled the islands of
the Mediterranean and the conterminous countries with supernatural
wonders - enchantresses, sorcerers, giants, ogres, harpies, gorgons,
centaurs, cyclops. The azure vault was the floor of heaven; there Zeus,
surrounded by the gods with their wives and mistresses, held his court,
engaged in pursuits like those of men, and not refraining from acts of
human passion and crime.

A sea-coast broken by numerous indentations, an archipelago with some of
the most lovely islands in the world, inspired the Greeks with a taste
for maritime life, for geographical discovery, and colonization.
Their ships wandered all over the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The
time-honored wonders that had been glorified in the "Odyssey," and
sacred in public faith, were found to have no existence. As a better
knowledge of Nature was obtained, the sky was shown to be an illusion;
it was discovered that there is no Olympus, nothing above but space and
stars. With the vanishing of their habitation, the gods disappeared,
both those of the Ionian type of Homer and those of the Doric of Hesiod.

EFFECTS OF DISCOVERY AND CRITICISM. But this did not take place without
resistance. At first, the public, and particularly its religious
portion, denounced the rising doubts as atheism. They despoiled some
of the offenders of their goods, exiled others; some they put to death.
They asserted that what had been believed by pious men in the old times,
and had stood the test of ages, must necessarily be true. Then, as the
opposing evidence became irresistible, they were content to admit that
these marvels were allegories under which the wisdom of the ancients had
concealed many sacred and mysterious things. They tried to reconcile,
what now in their misgivings they feared might be myths, with their
advancing intellectual state. But their efforts were in vain, for there
are predestined phases through which on such an occasion public opinion
must pass. What it has received with veneration it begins to doubt, then
it offers new interpretations, then subsides into dissent, and ends with
a rejection of the whole as a mere fable.

In their secession the philosophers and historians were followed by
the poets. Euripides incurred the odium of heresy. Aeschylus narrowly
escaped being stoned to death for blasphemy. But the frantic efforts
of those who are interested in supporting delusions must always end in
defeat. The demoralization resistlessly extended through every branch of
literature, until at length it reached the common people.

THE PERSIAN EMPIRE. Greek philosophical criticism had lent its aid to
Greek philosophical discovery in this destruction of the national faith.
It sustained by many arguments the wide-spreading unbelief. It compared
the doctrines of the different schools with each other, and showed from
their contradictions that man has no criterion of truth; that, since his
ideas of what is good and what is evil differ according to the country
in which he lives, they can have no foundation in Nature, but must be
altogether the result of education; that right and wrong are nothing
more than fictions created by society for its own purposes. In Athens,
some of the more advanced classes had reached such a pass that they not
only denied the unseen, the supernatural, they even affirmed that the
world is only a day-dream, a phantasm, and that nothing at all exists.

The topographical configuration of Greece gave an impress to her
political condition. It divided her people into distinct communities
having conflicting interests, and made them incapable of centralization.
Incessant domestic wars between the rival states checked her
advancement. She was poor, her leading men had become corrupt. They were
ever ready to barter patriotic considerations for foreign gold, to sell
themselves for Persian bribes. Possessing a perception of the beautiful
as manifested in sculpture and architecture to a degree never
attained elsewhere either before or since, Greece had lost a practical
appreciation of the Good and the True.

While European Greece, full of ideas of liberty and independence,
rejected the sovereignty of Persia, Asiatic Greece acknowledged it
without reluctance. At that time the Persian Empire in territorial
extent was equal to half of modern Europe. It touched the waters of
the Mediterranean, the Aegean, the Black, the Caspian, the Indian, the
Persian, the Red Seas. Through its territories there flowed six of the
grandest rivers in the world - the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Indus, the
Jaxartes, the Oxus, the Nile, each more than a thousand miles in length.
Its surface reached from thirteen hundred feet below the sea-level to
twenty thousand feet above. It yielded, therefore, every agricultural
product. Its mineral wealth was boundless. It inherited the prestige of
the Median, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Chaldean Empires, whose
annals reached back through more than twenty centuries.

THE PERSIAN EMPIRE. Persia had always looked upon European Greece as



Online LibraryJohn William DraperHistory of the Conflict Between Religion and Science → online text (page 1 of 27)