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tibrary of t:he theological Seminar;?




The ERtate of

Rockwell S. Brank

r _ \ o
BL 245 .W54 v.l

White, Andrew Dickson, 1832

A history of the warfare of

science with theology in


lAH 9 im




LL. D. (Yale), L. H. D. (Columbia), Ph. Dr. (Jena)





Copyright, 1896,

QLo i\)c Mcmoxx) of


Thoughts that great hearts once broke for, we
Breathe cheaply in the common air. — Lowell.

Discipulus est prion's posterior dies. — Publius Syrus.

Truth is the daughter of Time. — Bacon.

The Truth shall make you free. — St. John, viii, 32.


My book is ready for the printer, and as I begin this
preface my eye lights upon the crowd of Russian peasants
at work on the Neva under my windows. With pick and
shovel they are letting the rays of the April sun into the
great ice barrier which binds together the modern quays
and the old granite fortress where lie the bones of the
Romanoff Czars.

This barrier is already weakened ; it is widely decayed,
in many places thin, and everywhere treacherous; but it is,
as a whole, so broad, so crystallized about old boulders, so
imbedded in shallows, so wedged into crannies on either
shore, that it is a great danger. The waters from thou-
sands of swollen streamlets above are pressing behind it;
wreckage and refuse are piling up against it ; every one
knows that it must yield. But there is danger that it may
resist the pressure too long and break suddenly, wrenching
even the granite quays from their foundations, bringing
desolation to a vast population, and leaving, after the sub-
sidence of the flood, a widespread residue of slime, a fer-
tile breeding-bed for the germs of disease.

But the patient niujiks are doing the right thing. The
barrier, exposed more and more to the warmth of spring
by the scores of channels they are making, will break away
gradually, and the river will flow on beneficent and beau-

My work in this book is like that of the Russian miijik
on the Neva. I simply try to aid in letting the light of
historical truth into that decaying mass of outworn thought
which attaches the modern world to mediseval conceptions


of Christianity, and which still lingers among iis — a most
serious barrier to religion and morals, and a menace to the
whole normal evolution of society.

For behind this barrier also the flood is rapidly rising
— the flood of increased kno\vledp:e and new thousfht ; and
this barrier also, though honeycombed and in many places
thin, creates a danger — danger of a sudden breaking away,
distressing and calamitous, sweeping before it not onl}- out-
worn creeds and noxious dogmas, but cherished principles
and ideals, and even wrenching out most precious religious
and moral foundations of the whole social and political

My hope is to aid — even if it be but a little — in the
gradual and healthful dissolving away of this mass of un-
reason, that the stream of *' religion pure and undefiled "
may flow on broad and clear, a blessing to humanity.

And now a few words regarding the evolution of this

It is something over a quarter of a century since I la-
bored with Ezra Cornell in founding the university wdiich
bears his honored name.

Our purpose w^as to establish in the State of New York
an institution for advanced instruction and research, in
which science, pure and applied, should have an equal place
with literature ; in which the study of literature, ancient
and modern, should be emancipated as much as possible
from pedantry ; and which should be free from various
useless trammels and vicious methods which at that period
hampered many, if not most, of the American universities
and colleges.

We had especially determined that the institution should
be under the control of no political party and of no single
religious sect, and with Mr. Cornell's approval I embodied
stringent provisions to this effect in the charter.

It had certainly never entered into the mind of either
of us that in all this we were doing anything irreligious or
unchristian. Mr. Cornell was reared a member of the So-
ciety of Friends; he had from his fortune liberally aided
every form of Christian effort which he found going on about
him, and among the permanent trustees of the public library


which he had already founded, he had named all the clergy-
men of the town — Catholic and Protestant. As for myself,
I had been bred a churchman, had recently been elected a
trustee of one church college, and a professor in another ;
those nearest and dearest to me were devoutly religious ;
and, if I may be allowed to speak of a matter so personal to
myself, my most cherished friendships were among deeply
religious men and women, and my greatest sources of enjoy-
ment were ecclesiastical architecture, religious music, and
the more devout forms of poetry. So far from wishing to
injure Christianity, we both hoped to promote it ; but we
did not confound religion with sectarianism, and we saw in
the sectarian character of American colleges and universities,
as a whole, a reason for the poverty of the advanced instruc-
tion then given in so many of them.

It required no great acuteness to see that a system of
control which, in selecting a Professor of Mathematics or
Language or Rhetoric or Physics or Chemistry, asked first
and above all to what sect or even to what wing or branch of
a sect he belonged, could hardly do much to advance the
moral, religious, or intellectual development of mankind.

The reasons for the new foundation seemed to us, then,
so cogent that we expected the co-operation of all good citi-
zens, and anticipated no opposition from any source.

As I look back across the intervening years, I know not
whether to be more astonished or amused at our sim-

Opposition began at once. In the State Legislature it
confronted us at every turn, and it was soon in full blaze
throughout the State— from the good Protestant bishop
who proclaimed that all professors should be in holy orders,
since to the Church alone was given the command, ** Go,
teach all nations," to the zealous priest who published a
charge that Goldwin Smith— a profoundly Christian scholar
— had come to Cornell in order to inculcate the " infidelity,
of the Westminster Reviezv" \ and from the eminent divine
who went from city to city denouncing the '' atheistic and
pantheistic tendencies " of the proposed education, to the
perfervid minister who informed a denominational synod
that Agassiz, the last great opponent of Darwin, and a de-


vout theist, was '' preaching Darwinism and atheism " in
the new institution.

As the struggle deepened, as hostile resolutions were in-
troduced into various ecclesiastical bodies, as honored cler-
gymen solemnly warned their flocks first against the "athe-
ism," then against the " infidelity," and finally against the
"indifferentism " of the university, as devoted pastors en-
deavoured to dissuade young men from matriculation, I
took the defensive, and, in answer to various attacks from
pulpits and religious newspapers, attempted to allay the
fears of the public. " Sweet reasonableness " was fully tried.
There was established and endowed in the university per-
haps the most effective Christian pulpit, and one of the most
vigorous branches of the Christian Association, then in the
United States ; but all this did nothing to ward off the at-
tack. The clause in the charter of the university forbid-
ding it to give predominance to the doctrines of any sect,
and above all the fact that much prominence was given to
instruction in various branches of science, seemed to prevent
all compromise, and it soon became clear that to stand on
the defensive only made matters worse. Then it was that
there was borne in upon me a sense of the real difficulty —
the antagonism between the theological and scientific view
of the universe and of education in relation to it; there-
fore it was that, having been invited to deliver a lecture in
the great hall of the Cooper Institute at New York, I took
as my subject The Battlefields of Science, maintaining this
thesis which follows:

In all modern history, interference with science in the sup-
posed interest of religion, no matter hozv conscientious such in-
terference may have been, Jias resulted in the direst evils both to
religion and to science, and invariably ; and, on the other hand,
all untrammelled scientific investigation, no matter how danger-
ous to religion some of its stages may have seemed for the time
to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good both of religion
and of science.

The lecture was next day published in the New York
Tribune at the request of Horace Greeley, its editor,
who was also one of the Cornell University trustees. As
a result of this widespread publication and of sundry at-


tacks which it elicited, I was asked to maintain my thesis
before various university associations and literary clubs;
and I shall always remember with gratitude that among
those who stood by me and presented me on the lecture
platform with words of approval and cheer was my re-
vered instructor, the Rev. Dr. Theodore D wight Wool-
sey, at that time President of Yale College.

My lecture grew — first into a couple of magazine articles,
and then into a little book called The Warfare of Science,
for which, when republished in England, Prof. John Tyndall
wrote a preface.

Sundry translations of this little book were published,
but the most curious thing in its history is the fact that a
very friendly introduction to the Swedish translation was
written by a Lutheran bishop.

Meanwhile Prof. John W. Draper pubHshed his book on
The Conflict between Science and Religion, a work of great
ability, which, as I then thought, ended the matter, so far
as my giving it further attention was concerned.

But two things led me to keep on developing my own
work in this field : First, I had become deeply interested
in it, and could not refrain from directing my observation
and study to it ; secondly, much as I admired Draper's
treatment of the questions involved, his point of view and
mode of looking at history were different from mine.

He regarded the struggle as one between Science and j
Religion. I believed then, and am convinced now, that it ,
was a struggle between Science and Dogmatic Theology.

More and more I saw that it was the conflict between
two epochs in the evolution of human thought — the theo-
logical and the scientific.

So I kept on, and from time to time published Neiv
Chapters in the Warfare of Science as magazine articles in
The Popular Science Monthly. This was done under many
difficulties. For twenty years, as President of Cornell Uni-
versity and Professor of History in that institution, I was im-
mersed in the work of its early development. Besides this,
I could not hold myself entirely aloof from public affairs,
and was three times sent by the Government of the United
States to do public duty abroad: first as a commissioner


to Santo Dominc^o, in 1870; afterward as minister to Ger-
many, in 1879; finally, as minister to Russia, in 1892; and
was also called upon by the State of New York to do con-
siderable labor in connection with international exhibitions
at Philadelphia and at Paris. I was also obliged from time
to time to throw off by travel the effects of overwork.

The variety of residence and occupation arising from
these causes may perhaps explain some peculiarities in this
book which might otherwise puzzle my reader.

While these journeyings have enabled me to collect ma-
terials over a very wide range— in the New World, from
Quebec to Santo Domingo and from Boston to Mexico,
San Francisco, and Seattle, and in the Old World from
Trondhjem to Cairo and from St. Petersburg to Palermo—
they have often obliged me to write under circumstances
not very favorable : sometimes on an Atlantic steamer,
sometimes on a Nile boat, and not only in my own library
at Cornell, but in those of Berlin, Helsingfors, Munich, Flor-
ence, and the British Museum. This fact will explain to the
benevolent reader not only the citation of different editions
of the same authority in different chapters, but some itera-
tions which in the steady quiet of my own library would
not have been made.

It has been my constant endeavour to write for the gen-
eral reader, avoiding scholastic and technical terms as much
as possible and stating the truth simply as it presents itself
to me.

That errors of omission and commission will be found
here and there is probable — nay, certain ; but the substance
of the book will, I believe, be found fully true. I am en-
couraged in this belief by the fact that, of the three bitter
attacks which this work in its earlier form has already en-
countered, one was purely declamatory, objurgatory, and
hortatory, and the others based upon ignorance of facts easilv.
pointed out.

And here I must express my thanks to those who have
aided me. First and above all to my former student and
dear friend. Prof. George Lincoln Burr, of Cornell Univer-
sity, to whose contributions, suggestions, criticisms, and
cautions I am most deeply indebted ; also to my friends U.


G. Weatherly, formerly Travelling Fellow of Cornell, and
now Assistant Professor in the University of Indiana, — Prof,
and Mrs. Earl Barnes and Prof. William H. Hudson, of Stan-
ford University, — and Prof. E. P. Evans, formerly of the
University of Michigan, but now of Munich, for extensive
aid in researches upon the lines I have indicated to them,
but which I could never have prosecuted without their
co-operation. In libraries at home and abroad they have
all worked for me most effectively, and I am deeply grate-
ful to them.

This book is presented as a sort of Festschrift— -Si tribute
to Cornell University as it enters the second quarter-cen-
tury of its existence, and probably my last tribute.

The ideas for which so bitter a struggle was made at its
foundation have triumphed. Its faculty, numbering over
one hundred and fifty ; its students, numbering but little
short of two thousand; its noble buildings and equipment;
the munificent gifts, now amounting to millions of dollars,
which it has received from public-spirited men and women ;
the evidences of public confidence on all sides; and, above
all, the adoption of its cardinal principles and main features
by various institutions of learning in other States, show this
abundantly. But there has been a triumph far greater and
wider. Everywhere among the leading modern nations the
same general tendency is seen. During the quarter-century
just past the control of public instruction, not only in Amer-
ica but in the leading nations of Europe, has passed more
and more from the clergy to the laity. Not only are the
presidents of the larger universities in the United States,
with but one or two exceptions, laymen, but the same thing
is seen in the old European strongholds of metaphysical
theology. At my first visit to Oxford and Cambridge, forty
years ago, they were entirely under ecclesiastical control.
Now, all this is changed. An eminent member of the pres-
ent British Government has recently said, ** A candidate for
high university position is handicapped by holy orders." I
refer to this with not the slightest feeling of hostility to-
ward the clergy, for I have none ; among them are many of
my dearest friends ; no one honours their proper work more
than I ; but the above fact is simply noted as proving the


continuance of that evolution which I have endeavoured to
describe in this series of monographs — an evolution, indeed,
in which the warfare of Theology against Science has been
one of the most active and powerful agents. My belief is
that in the field left to them — their proper field — the clergy
will more and more, as they cease to struggle against scien-
tific methods and conclusions, do work even nobler and more
beautiful than anything they have heretofore done. And
this is saying much. My conviction is that Science, though
it has evidently conquered Dogmatic Theology based on
biblical texts and ancient modes of thought, will go hand in
hand with Religion ; and that, although theological control
will continue to diminish, Religion, as seen in the recognition
of " a Power in the universe, not ourselves, which makes for
righteousness," and in the love of God and of our neighbor,
will steadily grow stronger and stronger, not only in the
American institutions of learning but in the world at large.
Thus may the declaration of Micah as to the requirements
of Jehovah, the definition by St. James of '* pure religion
and undefiled," and, above all, the precepts and ideals of the
blessed Founder of Christianity himself, be brought to bear
more and more effectively on mankind.

I close this preface some days after its first lines were
written. The sun of spring has done its work on the Neva ;
the great river flows tranquilly on, a blessing and a joy ; the
mujiks are foro^otten.

" A. D. W.

Legation of the United States, St. Petersburg,
April 14, i8g4.

P. S. — Owing to a wish to give more thorough revision
to some parts of my work, it has been withheld from the
press until the present date.

A. D. W.

Cornell University, Ithaca, N, Y.,
August /J-, i8g^.




I. The Visible Universe.

Ancient and mediaeval views regarding the manner of creation . • i-4

Regarding the matter of creation 4-5

Regarding the time of creation 5-9

Regarding the date of creation 9

Regarding the Creator \o-\^

Regarding light and darkness I2, 13

Rise of the conception of an evolution : among the Chaldeans, the He-
brews, the Greeks, the Romans ^4

Its survival through the Middle Ages, despite the disfavour of the

Church ^4,15

Its development in modern times.— The nebular hypothesis and its strug-
gle with theology IS-IQ

The idea of evolution at last victorious 19-22

Our sacred books themselves an illustration of its truth . . • 22-24

The true reconciliation of Science and Theology . . . . . 24

II. Theological Teachings regarding the Animals and Man.

Ancient and mediaeval representations of the creation of man .
Literal acceptance of the book of Genesis by the Christian fathers

By the Reformers

By modern theologians, Catholic and Protestant

Theological reasoning as to the divisions of the animal kingdom

The Physiologiis, the Bestiaries, the Exempla ....

Beginnings of sceptical observation

Development of a scientific method in the study of Nature
Breaking down of the theological theory of creation

III. Theological and Scientific Theories of an Evolution in Animated Nature.

Ideas of evolution among the ancients 50-52

In the early Church 52-54

In the mediaeval Church 55. 5

Development of these ideas from the sixteenth to the eighteenth cen-

. • . . 57. 58

tunes -"' ^

. 24

. 25

. 26

27, 28








The work of De Maillet 53, 59

Of Linnceus . 59-61

Of Buffon 61

Contributions to the theory of evolution at the close of the eighteenth

century . 62

The work, of Treviranus and Lamarck ...... 62, 63

Geoffroy Saint- Hilaire and Cuvier ....... 63, 64

Development of the theory up to the middle of the nineteenth century 64-66

The contributions of Darwin and Wallace 66-68

The opposition of Agassiz 68, 69

IV. The Final Effort of Theology.

Attacks on Darwin and his theories in England . . . . 70, 71

In America 71, 72

Formation of sacro-scientific organizations to combat the theory of evolu-
tion y2

The attack in France 73

In Germany • • ■ • 73

Conversion of Lyell to the theory of evolution ...... 74

The attack on Darwin's Z>t^j-<:^;/^ £'/yJ/rt'« . ..... 74-77

Difference between this and the former attack . . . . 77, 78

Hostility to Darwinism in America 7S-81

Change in the tone of the controversy. — Attempts at compromise . 81, 82

Dying-out of opposition to evolution ....... 83

Last outbursts of theological hostility 83-85

Final victory of evolution 86



I. The Form of the Earth.

Primitive conception of the earth as flat 89

In Chaldea and Egypt 89

In Persia 90

Among the Hebrews 90

Evolution, among the Greeks, of the idea of its sphericity ... 91
Opposition of the early Church . . . . •. . . 91,92

Evolution of a sacred theory, drawn from the Bible .... 92

Its completion by Cosmas Indicopleustes ..... 93-95

Its influence on Christian thought 95-97

Sui"vival of the idea of the earth's sphericity — its acceptance by Isidore

and Bede 97

Its struggle and final victory 97, 98

II. llie Delineation of the Earth.

Belief of every ancient people that its own central place was the centre

of the earth 98

Hebrew conviction that the earth's centre was at Jerusalem . . -99



Acceptance of this view by Christianity 99

Influence of other Hebrew conceptions— Gog and Magog, the " four

winds," the waters " on an heap " 101,102

III. The Inhabitants of the Earth.

The idea of antipodes 102

Its opposition by the Christian Church— Gregory Nazianzen, Lactantius,
Basil, Ambrose, Augustine, Procopius of Gaza, Cosmas, Isi-
dore 102-104

Virgil of Salzburg's assertion of it in the eighth century . . . 105, 106
Its revival by William of Conches and Albert the Great in the thir-
teenth 106

Surrender of it by Nicolas d'Oresme 106

Fate of Peter of Abano and Cecco d'AscoIi 106, 107

Timidity of Pierre d'Ailly and Tostatus 107, io3

Theological hindrance of Columbus 108

Pope Alexander VI's demarcation line 108

Cautious conservatism of Gregory Reysch 109

Magellan and the victory of science • 109,110

IV. The Size of the Earth.

Scientific attempts at measuring the earth no

The sacred solution of the problem i ^ i

Fortunate influence of the blunder upon Columbus 112

V. The Character of the Earth's Surface.

Servetus and the charge of denying the fertility of Judea . . 112, 113

Contrast between the theological and the religious spirit in their effects

on science . . . . • -113


I. The Old Sacred Theory of the Universe.

The early Church's conviction of the uselessness of astronomy . .114

The growth of a sacred theory— Origen, the Gnostics, Philastrius, Cos-
mas, Isidore 114. "5

The geocentric, or Ptolemaic, theory : its origin, and its acceptance by the

Christian world -iiS

Development of the new sacred system of astronomy — the pseudo-Dio-

nysius, Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas 116, 117

Its popularization by Dante . . . . • • • • • u?

Its details 118-120

Its persistence to modern times 120

II. The Heliocentric Theory.

Its rise among the Greeks — Pythagoras, Philolaus, Aristarchus . . 120
Its suppression by the charge of blasphemy , . . . • . i2i



Its loss from sight for six hundred years, then for a thousand . . .121
Its revival by Nicholas de Cusa and Nicholas Copernicus . . 1 21-124

Its toleration as a hypothesis . .124

Its prohibition as soon as Galileo teaches it as a truth . . . .124
Consequent timidity of scholars — Acosta, Apian .... 125,126
Protestantism not less zealous in opposition than Catholicism — Luther,

Melanchthon, Calvin, Turretin 126, 127

This opposition especially persistent in England — Hutchinson, Pike,

Home, Horsley, Forbes, Owen, Wesley ..... 127, 128

Resulting interferences with freedom of teaching . . . . 128, 129

Giordano Bruno's boldness and his fate . . . . . . .130

The truth demonstrated by the telescope of Galileo .... 130

III. The War upon Galileo.

Concentration of the war on this new champion 130

The first attack 131, 132

Fresh attacks — Elci, Busaeus, Caccini, Lorini, Bellarmin . . 132-134

Use of epithets 135

Attempts to entrap Galileo 136

His summons before the Inquisition at Rome 137

Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteA history of the warfare of science with theology in christendom (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 42)