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ARTICLE II.-DARWINISM AND CHRISTIANITY.
From the German of William Bender. By EDWARD G. BOURNE.
DUBOIS REYMOND, the standing secretary of the Academy of Science in Berlin, at the usual meeting in memory of the noted dead of the past year, gave expression, somewhat exuberantly perhaps, to the thought that Darwin had rendered the same service in the interpretation of organic nature that Copernicus was celebrated for rendering in the interpretation of our planetary system.
The comparison of Darwin to Copernicus reminds me at the outset that the Christian faith, or what is commonly so called, is not involved in a conflict with natural science for the first time. This conflict is as old as the emancipation of science from the authority of the Church. When science, toward the end of the 17th century, began to attribute to mental and physical disturbances certain diseases which hitherto had been explained as coming from the influence of the Devil and evil spirits, theologians, lawyers and physicians vied with each other in shouting that Christianity was in danger, the Bible was disregarded, and the devil deprived of his just claims.
But Science has advanced and taken under its powerful protection those unfortunates who used to be racked and burned for alleged possession by the devil.
If theologians have ventured to take delight in the interesting chapter on devils and demons, thenceforward only to be found in the less prominent parts of their dogmatics, the Christian faith has thereby suffered no lose. We have become accustomed also to esteem the Bible stories of the devil and demons as belonging to the notions of the distant past, but he would be a strange man who should wish to maintain that our belief in God and his Providence had lost its old power because we no longer earnestly believe in the devil and his fellows.
The alleged struggle between Faith and Science had at that time appeared only under the form of a struggle between two VOL. VII.
theories of medicine: one, obsolete and theological; the other new, rising into favor, and scientific.
Advancing science rendered faith a great service in setting it free from the former and its evil spirits. Much the same state of affairs existed in another quarrel of those times. If we venture to believe the theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries the Christian faith was threatened by no greater danger than the rise of the Copernican system. To-day that system is taught in the schools. But on its first appearance it seemed to be nothing less than an outrage on the soul of the Christian faith.
Not only was Galileo persecuted on account of the Copernican heresy by those who claimed infallibility, but Kepler, also, had to be warned by the Protestant consistory at Stuttgart "not to throw Christ's kingdom into confusion with his silly fancies."
Well into the 18th century the theologians resisted all acknowledgments of the Copernican theory as the most danger
If we will go back in thought to that age we shall be able in a measure to understand the matter. The earth till that time was considered the solid center of the universe. Above, the vault of heaven was outstretched ; and far down in the bosom of the earth was supposed to be the place of the miserable who were damned. In that solid vault of heaven rose the throne of God from which Christ came down to redeem men from the wrath of God through the shedding of his blood. And thither he returned in the body, borne up by the clouds, to prepare a place for his followers in the upper world of the blessed. Now came the Copernican theory to teach us to recognize in the earth but an atom of the whole universe; to break through the solid vault of heaven where were enthroned God and the blessed, and to spread open to view the immensity and infinitude of the universe. Where was now that heavenly place, the throne of God from which Christ descended and to which again he ascended? Where were the mansions of the blessed for which all Christendom had been hoping? All had been swallowed up in that infinite space where for æons the constellations had revolved, full of inspiring majesty, indeed, but cold and dumb before the question of the human soul
anxious for its salvation, when the home of the blessed was forever snatched from its eyes. Indeed, he who knows how religious faith always adjusts itself to a world, appealing to ideas of sense, understands how it must have felt shaken to its very foundations as it saw these fundamental notions explained away as illusions. Yet what was the result of this struggle between Faith and Science which lasted through two centuries? I might express it in this way: the old theological cosmology bad lost and Christian faith had gained by it. The notion that the earth is the center of the universe, that the heavens are a solid place above us, and hell a no less fixed place bepeath us-in short all those views of nature which the Bible shared with antiquity are irreparably gone.
We know that we know nothing of the heavenly world in which we believe. We know that all our ideas of heaven and hell, of being lost and being saved, of resurrection and going to heaven, are only symbols which we use to designate something our thought cannot grasp. The theological attempts to evolve a topography of beaven as a physiology of our heavenly bodies can never be renewed.
But though the Copernican theory has made a more powerful attack on the old ideal world of the theologians than the later philosophical criticism, yet it has not been able to destroy the religious belief in immortality, in salvation, and in judgment. On the contrary it has transferred this belief from the realm of sense to the realm of spirit by showing that it can only be based upon the ideal data furnished by the history of civilization and upon the eternal postulates of human feeling.
The alleged struggle between Science and Faith at that time developed into a struggle between the obsolete theological and the new scientific cosmology. If we wish to understand the quarrel historically, we must be careful to remember that in the middle ages theology was the universal science, which would derive from the Bible not only the laws of moral and religious living but also the laws of physics, medicine, astrology, psychology, etc. Thus it came to pass that the Bible was treated as revealed evidence on all subjects and that the principles of natural science, medicine, psychology, were presented to the world as religious truths to be received on faith.
Therefore the history of the development of science since the Reformation has assumed the shape of a history of the emancipation of science from theology; while theology itself, when its claims to the character of the universal science had been disputed on all sides, was forced to set limits to its ambi. tion and to retire into its own peculiar field—the moral and religious side of life. But even to-day, the theology of Rome maintains in all its fullness the right to bear sway in the whole realm of knowledge with its infallible Bible. The Protestant theologians, too, occasionally assert it in a modest way.
Now I will return to my subject. Is the question which is involved in this strife between Darwinism and Christianity after all only a conflict between natural science and theology and not between science and faith? Or, to express myself a little more clearly, have we not bere also, as was the case with the Copernican theory, a conflict between old theological nature and modern exact science? Or bave we really this time a con: flict between the Christian faith and advancing science? In answering this question we must clearly distinguish between the doctrine of the descent of man, properly speaking, and dogmatic Darwinism which has been inclined to work this doctrine in the interests of materialism. This doctrine of the descent of man is undoubtedly opposed to certain traditional views of theological anthropology, but not at all with any of the vital interests of the Christian religion.
This is the first thing we have to show. But where this doctrine is enrolled in the service of materialism, we find assuredly an irreconcilable opposition between Christianity and dogma. tizing material science, which in deriving dogmas from its hy. potheses, gets out of its proper sphere just as much as theology did when from its religious beliefs it derived theories of anthropology. This is the second point.
We cannot too strongly insist on the weakness of our comparison between the theories of Copernicus and Darwin. The Copernican theory is proved scientific truth, while Darwinism, in the first place, is neither more nor less than scientific hypothesis. What it asserts is well known. According to conjecture the different species in organic nature,-since they are the first subject of discussion,-have not always existed side by side without variation, nor did plants, animals, and man come in their perfection, from the Creator's hand, as plants, animals, and man. According to conjecture, the organism, in the course of infinite periods of time, developed into well-defined species, and in the following manner.
Under favorable external conditions the lower species passed into higher, plants were transformed into animals, from which, mankind. As was said, this doctrine of transmutation, of the variation of species, of the development of the higher species from the lower, is, in the first place, still an hypothesis.
But it is an earnest, scientific hypothesis which, as a principle fruitful in discoveries, will in any case long have a ruling influence in natural science.
The hypothesis, too, is so ingenious and, superficially regarded, so luminous, that we cannot be surprised that, even before scientific proof has been brought forward, it bas met with extraordinary recognition and circulation far beyond the ranks of professional men. Further, the probability of the hypothesis appears the strongest on just the point where the religious interest is set aside.
For the investigations of the last year in the history of lan. guage and civilization and in anthropology has shown, almost beyond a doubt, that our race has developed from comparatively rude beginnings.
The development of the human race has been upward, not downward. There can scarcely be any doubt on the point. If we compare the tribes, who, to-day, are said to be in the state of nature, with civilized people, not to mention idiots, we certainly can say without exaggeration that we know human beings separated from us by as great a gap as the beasts of the field are. It is at all events nothing to the purpose to treat the derivation of men from animals simply as an absurdity and to expose it to cheap mockery.
It is much more expedient, in view of the spread of the hypothesis among the lower ranks of people, earnestly to ask, in case it is sooner or later proved, what losses we must suffer in respect to our Christian faith or what correction of it we have got to undertake.