Bertram Coghill Alan Windle.

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and far more, let it be parenthetically said, with regard to
these philosophisings — if it is not already known to the
reader — it will become abundantly clear, as he makes his
way through this book, that Science has been constantly
changing her mind both as to facts and as to the philo-
sophical conclusions derivable from them. In the nature
of things, since we can only arrive at unrevealed knowledge
step by step, this must be so ; but it helps us to understand
a consideration mentioned at the commencement of this
chapter and left for fuller consideration until the argument
had been sufficiently developed.

We were considering why the positions of the Church
and of Science towards one another required re-stating so
frequently as it would appear that they do. That this is
largely due to the fluctuating nature of scientific opinion, the
necessarily fluctuating character of that opinion, will be-
come abundantly obvious to any reader of this book.

Apart, however, from the collection of facts, Science is
concerned, and, as will be seen shortly, necessarily and
usefully concerned in forming deductions from the facts
which she has collected, in fact of philosophising from them.
This exceedingly important branch of her work is also very
highly contentious and brings science into touch with other
branches of knowledge and other realms of thought. It
was chiefly, though of course not by any means only of
this aspect of science that Huxley was thinking when he
wrote : " Science is, I believe, nothing but trained and
organised common sense." 2 Science observes the facts of
nature by means of the senses, aided nowadays by all sorts
of truly marvellous pieces of apparatus, such as the tele-
scope and microscope. So much have we come to rely on
these aids that it is difficult for those unacquainted with

1 By " proximate explanation " is meant the reduction of facts under
general laws ; whereas philosophising proper is the tracing them back to
ultimate or transcendental causes, causes which lie beyond the range of
material experience.

2 In one of his "Lay Sermons" (1870, p. 86).


scientific history to suppose it possible for any real progress
to have been made without them. Yet Tycho Brahe
established an observatory on a little island near Elsinore,
made memorable to us by " Hamlet," an observatory which
was very remarkable as being destitute of a telescope, and
this for the very excellent reason that that instrument had
not then been invented. Of course he had other and even
elaborate apparatus with which he made extraordinarily
accurate observations, but he had no telescope. Yet it
was on the observations thus made that the great discoveries
of Kepler and the epoch-making conclusions of Newton
were founded. With or without instruments Science makes
observations out of doors and in laboratories where, with
the aid of apparatus of almost inconceivable delicacy and
ingenuity, she endeavours to wrest her secrets from

The ascertainment and verification of facts is the object
of the observations of which we have just been speaking.
When collected they must be sorted out and arranged. It
is found that some of them fall into definite categories ;
classification can now be effected. Then, as already stated,
deductions come to be made and so-called " Laws of Nature '
are formulated. It must be noted, however, that the
enormous, almost incredible growth of science during the
past half-century has brought about an extreme specialisa-
tion which if inevitable is none the less regrettable. Time
was, and that only a few years ago, when there were many
real biologists working in the field of science. Nowadays
these are divided up into Zoologists, Botanists, Geologists,
Physiologists, Bio-Chemists, and so on, each knowing but
little of any subject save that included in his own specialty.
And within these specialties are others even more minute.
Every reading person will remember the late Oliver Wendell
Holmes's " Scarabee " — the enthusiast who would not call
himself an entomologist, hardly even a coleopterist, but
who would go to his grave quite contentedly if he could
solve the question as to whether " the Pediculus Melittce
is or is not the larva of Meloe." The writer in question was,
as some people are prone to forget, a teacher of science,
and knew what he was talking about : his satire is hardly


an exaggeration. Another thing which must be noted
respecting the growth of specialisation in biological science
is the divorce which it has brought about between field
and laboratory work, though an exception should be made
in the case of geology. This has led the laboratory workers,
who are the enormous majority, rather to look upon the
field worker as an amateur, in spite of the great memories
of Darwin and Wallace. Such is the fashion of the day.
And the laboratory workers are undoubtedly too prone to
forget that the prime fact about living nature is that it is
alive. For the most part in their laboratories they study
dead nature, and very naturally they come to dwell, for
the most part, on its attributes when dead. For example,
how many persons who read about the characters and
chemical aspects of protoplasm have it really borne in upon
their minds that most of the things which we know about
that very important substance, and all the things which
we know about its chemistry, are known about dead
protoplasm, and are to be accepted with that reserva-

We may grant that the extreme specialisation to which
we have alluded has resulted in a wonderful progress in
scientific knowledge, but we are obliged also to admit that
it cannot but have a narrowing effect upon the specialisers :
since, after all, the human mind will always consider that
the problems upon which it is engaged surpass in importance
all others, and in consequence will conclude that the " laws "
which appear to be detectable in its own branch of work
must also exercise an overmastering power over those
who may endeavour to take a wider survey of scientific

And, of course, when it comes to philosophising, it is
obvious that little which is of any value in that direction
can be accomplished by any one who cannot take a fairly
comprehensive view of the general facts of science.

These moralisations respecting the effect of specialisa-
tion on science may perhaps be pardoned because they
certainly tend to explain some of the curious statements
made from time to time by very eminent specialists.

But the main point which we had before us when this


digression was entered upon, was the methodology of Science.
As we have seen, this consists in the observation of natural
facts by the use of the unaided or aided senses and
by experiments of all kinds ; of the classification of the
facts thus laid hold upon ; and, finally, of the codifica-
tion of the laws which seem to guide the operations of

With all its wide scope and its many conquests, it must
not be forgotten that Science does not cover the whole
field of knowledge. Enthusiastic writers — usually not them-
selves great authorities in any branch of science but rather
exponents to the populace of other persons' work — on the
principle that "there is nothing like leather," seem some-
times to forget this fact, but it is none the less true. As
just stated, whether we study science or literature, or com-
parative mythology, or whatever it may be, we are all of
us prone to consider the studies in which we are engrossed
as of paramount importance. We are constantly exposed
to the temptation of imagining that in our own line of
study is to be found the key which will unlock all the secret
chambers of the universe when we shall have discovered
how to fit it into the wards. When one considers all the
circumstances this is a perfectly natural obsession ; but none
the less it is an obsession, as we shall see if we look at the
matter a little more closely.

In the first place, confining ourselves for the moment
to the obvious limitations of Science, it is clear that
there are a whole range of common experiences which
are totally outside the sphere of scientific study. Sir
Oliver Lodge in his address to the British Association, 1
dealt with this aspect of the case as follows : ' The
fact is that some of the best things are, by abstrac-
tion, excluded from Science, though not from Literature
and Poetry ; hence perhaps an ancient mistrust or dislike
of science, typified by the Promethean legend. Science is
systematised and metrical knowledge, and in regions where
measurement cannot be applied it has small scope ; or, as

1 Also published as " Continuity," London, Dent, 1913, under which
caption it will be quoted in these pages: this quotation is from
p. 12.


Mr. Balfour said the other day at the opening of a new
wing of the National Physical Laboratory, ' Science depends
on measurement, and things not measurable are there-
fore excluded, or tend to be excluded, from its attention
But Life and Beauty and Happiness are not measurable.'
And then characteristically he adds : ' If there could
be a unit of happiness, Politics might begin to be
scientific' "

There is, however, another limitation which does not so
readily occur to the mind of the general reader.

Before beginning her work Science must make her Act
of Faith. She must recite her Credo as to the reality of the
things with which she has to do ; in the reality of the
External World and not less in the uniformity of its
processes. On this point it may be well to say a few

Perhaps the most awkward and difficult question of
Philosophy is that which asks : " What ground have I for
believing in the existence of a Material World outside of,
and independent of, my own thought ? ' The Absolute
Sceptic (philosophically speaking) would reply that there
are no grounds and that all that we think that we observe
is an illusion. With such there can be no argument, since
they place themselves outside all discussion. The Idealist
is a considerably mitigated form of the last, who, however,
denies the existence of an independent material world.
Locke upheld the theory that we do not know things but
only ideas excited in us by them. Berkeley carried this idea
still further by asking how it is possible for us to know that
there is anything behind these ideas to which they may be
properly attributed. For, he argued, our ideas may be
communicated to us by the direct action of God, without
the intervention of any material objects, which, on this
theory, do not exist. Thus Berkeley got rid of the material
object of knowledge. Hume went a step further and got
rid of the perceiving subject or soul : for he argued that
whilst we do know our impressions and ideas, we cannot
know anything of the mind which receives them, so that
we have no right to believe in the existence of any abiding
mental reality in ourselves as the subject of these ideas and


impressions. But, if that be true, then both object and
subject wholly disappear and the whole universe vanishes
into unreality.

It is obviously impossible to enter into any detailed
discussion of these philosophical points in such a work as
this : those who desire to follow it more fully must be
referred to the many standard philosophical treatises which
deal with it. 1 All that need here be said is that if these
views are true it is waste of time to bestow any consider-
ation on science and scientific problems.

Of course Science makes her Act of Faith and has, as
most " common-sense " persons will say, abundant reason
for doing so. For example, physicians all the world over
administer certain drugs, and, be it remembered, administer
them to patients who do not know what is being adminis-
tered to them, nor the effect which it is expected to produce.
Yet the effect follows, whether opium is administered in
London or in New York. It is difficult to see how this
can happen if there are no such things as independent
realities in existence, and if all things external to us are
mere illusions : this matter is more fully discussed in
Chapter xxxix. It is even more difficult, perhaps, if we con-
sider that science has been able to make predictions as to
the existence of objects afterwards discovered. Adams in
England and Leverrier in France simultaneously, but quite
independently, asserted by mathematical calculation the
existence of a planet, then unknown to astronomers but
afterwards discovered and named Neptune. This feat,
which is rightly considered to have been one of the most
astounding performances of science, seems wholly impossible
of achievement if we were confronted by nothing but illu-
sions. " Idealism," writes Dr. Maher, 2 " is incompatible
not only with vulgar prejudices, but with the best established
truths of science. Astronomy, Geology, Physical Optics,
and the rest of the physical sciences, are inseparably bound
up with the assumption that matter which is neither a
sensation nor an imaginary possibility of a sensation exists

1 The Catholic student may be referred especially to Fr. John Rickaby's
" First Principles of Knowledge " in the Stony hurst Series.
* " Psychology," Stonyhurst Series, p. 113.


apart from observation. They teach that real, actual,
material bodies of three dimensions, not only exist, but act
upon each other according to known laws, whilst no human
mind is contemplating them. Possibilities enjoying no
existence beyond consciousness could not attract each other
with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance ;
they could not pass from green forests into coal beds, nor
could they refract or interfere with other phenomena so as
to determine the character of visual sensations indepen-
dently of our wills."

But though we may accept the common-sense conclusion
that we must trust to everyday human experience as a safe
ground for speculation and that science is justified in pro-
ceeding on the assumption that there are real bodies of
three dimensions which exercise certain effects upon one
another, we may still be required to answer the question as
to how far it is possible to know the truth respecting the
objects of our study. Pragmatism, the latest school of
philosophical thought on this point — though indeed it is
only a modern modification of ancient Greek ideas — would
have us believe either that there is no definite truth behind
our ideas, or that, if there is, it is unattainable. Truth,
according to this philosophy, " is merely a quality in our
ideas which ' helps us to get into satisfactory relation with
the rest of our experience.' In other words, Ideas are to be
tested by their practical consequences, and true ideas are
those which practically will work. Thus there is no ultimate
or final truth, or permanent reality to be known ; there is
for us nothing but a progressive adaptation of our ideas to
one another. ... If, as Pragmatists assert, no principle is
more than a ' working hypothesis,' which may, and prob-
ably will be set aside when it has served its turn, there can
obviously be no system of Ontology in which we can repose
confidence ; and religious and scientific convictions are both
equally improbable, or can only be held under a very large
measure of reserve. But the past history of human thought
and enterprise does not suggest that such a system as this
is likely to be at all fruitful." 1

1 " The Spectrum of Truth," Sharpe and Aveling. London. Sands
& Co., 1908, p. 23 seq.


What we may conclude from this very brief discussion
of a very important and very complicated matter is that
Science, in the opinion of the world, is justified in regarding
the objects with which she deals as realities. But we have
also learnt that the whole range of knowledge and experi-
ence does not come within the scope of Science.


SCIENCE has her limitations, as we have just seen ;
so also has Religion. The Church is the mouthpiece
of Revelation and Faith just as Science is the exponent of
Reason and Sight ; their spheres are totally different. The
object of Science is to study the Universe and its phenomena ;
the object of Theology is to study God in the first place, and
in a secondary manner the relation of His creatures to Him.

In this book we are concerned with the Catholic Church
as the embodiment of Religion, and this attitude is adopted
without any intended slight to the adherents of other
denominations. But, as a matter of fact, the observations
which are now to be made with respect to the limitations of
the Church are equally applicable to all forms of Christianity.

Every Catholic is aware of the claims which his Church
has upon him and what his duties towards it are. In no
way, however, does it derogate from the august privileges
and powers of the Church, nor in any way lower it in
the estimation of any thinking person to make it quite
clear that the Church has limitations in her field of work
and in her teaching functions. As we shall see in a short
time, there have always been — nay more, it must regretfully
be admitted, there still are — the most extraordinary mis-
conceptions as to what is meant by Papal Infallibility. I
do not hesitate to say that there are still quite a number
of persons who would be very much hurt if they were de-
scribed otherwise than as educated persons, who seriously
believe that everything said by the Pope, even down to
his mere obiter dicta, must be accepted as revealed truth.

Of course, as every Catholic, indeed every really educated
person, knows, this is foolish nonsense ; but as the impres-



sion, or something closely resembling it, exists, it cannot
too frequently be pointed out that Papal Infallibility is
limited to the sphere of Faith and Morals, and thereby we
are brought face to face with the limitations of the Church.

Science, as all its followers will admit, has no right 01
title to deliver judgements in matters of Religion. Nor,
it may be added, has Religion any right or title to
express any opinion as to the Fads — I desire, for reasons
which will shortly appear, to emphasize the word Facts — of
Science. On one occasion only has any authoritative body
in connection with the Church attempted to do so. This
was in the case of Galileo, shortly to be considered, and the
result was not of a nature to be a source of pride to the
Catholic historian.

There are wide fields of knowledge over which Religion
has no sway : indeed it would hardly be too much to say
that with ninety-nine per cent of the facts and theories of
science Religion has no sort of concern. Religion could not
inform us as to the distance between the earth and the
moon, nor elucidate for us the chemical composition of the
sun, the anatomy of bird or beast, nor the composition or
origin of the rocks which lie around us ; nor, it may be added,
would any person in his senses ever seek to obtain such
information from her. One does not go to a chemical
laboratory for information as to the doings of Charlemagne,
nor expect the professor of history to be an expert in
Spectrum Analysis. The Bible, it was once said, was given
to us in order to tell us how to go to heaven, not how the
heavens go. So far then as concrete facts go, facts ascer-
tainable by observation or experiment, what has often been
urged is quite certainly true — namely, that Science and
Religion exist in different fields and have no relation to one
another, perhaps even, it would be urged by some, no points
of contact. Of course this, as we shall see, is only true in
a narrow and non-natural sense, but in that sense it is true.
This, at any rate, is true : that Religion and Science have their
respective jurisdictions in different territories and cannot,
therefore, conflict with one another when rightly inter-
preted. In order to bring this point out I will quote the utter-
ance of a typical man of science and that of a theologian,


and, in the latter case, I will select one not belonging to our
Church. These statements will exemplify the point which
I am trying to make. " Modern science," says its repre-
sentative, 1 "has arrived at a systematic interpretation of
the phenomena which we call ' Nature ' as a vast and
orderly mechanism, the working of which we can to a large
extent perceive, foresee and manipulate, so as to bring about
certain results and avoid others. In consequence we not
only enjoy that happiness and prosperity which arises from
the occurrence of the expected, the non-occurrence of the
unexpected, and the determination by ourselves within
ever expanding limits of what shall occur, but we also
experience a delight in the knowledge of the order of Nature
which comes from the exercise of our intellectual faculty
and from an increased area and complexity in the sources
and measure of that joy which we call ' the sense of beauty.'
As to what, if anything, is outside or behind this mechanism
of Nature : as to whence or how it came about, or whither
it is going : as to what it and what our consciousness of it
really are and why it is, and why we are here — modern
science has no answer."

With this statement no theologian will quarrel ; it simply
implies that science of itself can give no reply to the ques-
tions stated, though this is by no means to say that from
the facts elucidated by science it is not possible for the
theologian to deduce many cogent arguments for the
existence of an omniscient and omnipotent Creator. But
the statement in question carries us a step further, for if
science has no answer to these questions then undoubtedly
those who speak in the name of science have no claim to
assert that science has proved that there is no God, no soul,
no hereafter, as at least some of those who have been
described as " the camp-followers of science " may some-
times be found doing. This quite clearly follows from
the statement that science has no answer to these

Now let us listen to the theologian, with whose utterance
I venture to think no man of science will quarrel.

1 I take this characteristic utterance from " Science from an Easy-
Chair," by Sir Ray Lankester.


Speaking of religion and science Mr. Mozley 1 says : —
" The truths of these respective departments are the truths
of two different spheres, which cannot come into contact
with each other. If men feel a conscience within them, if
they acknowledge its presages, and respect its voice as
judicial, they must do so all the same under the Ptolemaic
and Copernican theories of the solar system. If they derive
from conscience the sense of sin they must derive it whether
light is explained upon the theory of emission or the theory
of undulation. There are difficulties in a personal Deity,
there are difficulties attaching to prayer, and there are
difficulties attaching to special providences ; but those
difficulties are exactly the same whether the cellular
theory is true or false, and whether the sun is fed by the
mechanical collision of asteroids or by the continuous con-
densation of its own matter. Free will is not contradicted
by the unifOrmitarian in geology, and predestination is
not contradicted by the revolutionist in geology. Scientific
analysis cannot possibly discover any fresh objection to
the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the Atone-
ment, the doctrine of Grace, or the doctrine of the

But, if all these statements be true — and no one will
deny their truth — how comes it that there is any quarrel,
any ground even for dispute, between Science and Religion ?
That there are such discussions and even differences of
opinion between the two must be patent to all men, and this
is demonstrated, if by nothing else, by the fact that such a
book as this should come to be written at all.

It will be well to devote some little attention to this matter,
for in doing so we shall be able to clear the way for a good
many considerations which will arise in later sections of
this book.

There are several reasons for this difference of opinion which
we will endeavour to state as clearly and as fairly as possible.
Let us take the most avoidable and the least excusable
first. It is certainly true that more than one scientific
theory, perhaps even when in a very inchoate condition,

1 In his " Bampton Lectures."


has been proclaimed and even exulted in as the final and

Online LibraryBertram Coghill Alan WindleThe church and science → online text (page 2 of 38)