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The Conflict of Science and Faith

From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for April, 1875
It was the elder D’Israeli, the author of the Calamities of Authors, if our memory is not at fault, who has, in some one of his numerous works, a chapter entitled "The History of events which never happened." Professor Draper seems to have taken from it a hint for the title of this volume. He professes to give in it the history of the conflict between religion and science, or of a conflict that has never occurred, and never can occur. A conflict between science and superstition or various mythologies there may have been, and also between so-called scientists and the theologians; but, between religion and science, never. Such a conflict is impossible, for religion and science are simply two parts of one dialectic whole. Truth can never be in conflict with itself, nor can one truth be more or less true, if a truth at all, than another. Religion, if religion, is true, and science, if science, is also true: how, then, is it possible that there can be any conflict between them?

Dr. Draper nowhere shows in his volume any trace of the conflict of which he professes to write the history. It is worthy of note that he nowhere tells us what he means either by religion or by science, nor does he even deign to tell us what are for him the tests by which eh distinguishes science from its counterfeit, or religion from superstition. His method is as unscientific as it is possible to imagine, and bears no trace of scientific culture on the part of the author, or of any habit of scientific investigation. He seems to be incapable of a logical or scientific conception. He has a fine command of language, and a rare facility in stringing words into sentences, without violating any of the recognized laws of syntax or rhetoric; but he appears to have considered it quite beneath his dignity to attach any meaning to them, or, when they happen to mean something, to inquire whether what they mean is true or false. His book is a jumble of not badly constructed sentences, of high-sounding words and rounded periods, but for the most part meaningless, glaringly false.

Who are the parties to the conflict of which he professes to write the history, or what is the matter in dispute, the professor nowhere clearly and distinctly tells us; but from the general tone and drift of his remarks, we are led to conclude that the conflict is between those who recognize and assert an intelligible and spiritual, or a supersensible, world, and those who deny such world, and confine all reality, or at least all knowable reality, to the sensible or material. The assertion of the former he calls religion; and its denial, and the assertion and development of the latter, he calls science. This, in the most general point of view, we take it, is his doctrine; but the special end and aim of his book is to show the conflict between Christianity, or, more strictly, Catholicity and modern thought, or so-called modern civilization. His history, as far as history it is, is a history of the conflict of the church with the world, with infidelity, materialism, and atheism; and the author would seem to justify himself for taking sides against the church or Christianity, by assuming that she is only the continuation and development of the absurdities and abominations of the old pagan superstitions. The author ranks all religions so called, true or false, Jewish, Christian, and gentile, in one and the same category, and reasons of them and from them as if they were one and the same thing, with no radical difference between the gross fetichism of the groveling African, and the sublime spiritualism of the Hebrew prophet, the gross polytheism of the Hindu, or the polished but equally base and debasing polytheism of the Greek and Roman, and the sublime monotheism of the Jew and Christian. If he finds an absurd fable or an obscene rite in Egyptian or Gentoo mythology or ritual, he holds Christianity responsible for it, and adduces it as an argument against the Catholic Church, and the claims of the pope to be the vicar of Christ. It is reason enough for him to deny the divine Sonship of Christ, that Alexander the Great claimed to be the son of Jupiter-Ammon; and for rejecting the incarnation of the Word, that the Hindus assert the avater of Vishnu. It is hard to say of a writer who confounds, or treats as identical, things so radically different, so heterogeneous, which is most to be deplored: his ignorance or his malice, his mental or his moral obliquity. In any case, he proves his utter incapacity to be a teacher of science.

It is one of the arts of our advanced thinkers, like Tyndall, Huxley, Herbert Spencer, Draper, and others, to class heathenism, varying form nation to nation, from tribe to tribe, and Christianity together, and to derive their notions of the latter from their superficial study of the former. It may be that they are led to this in part from their familiarity with what is called Protestant Christianity, itself simply a form of paganism. Nothing can be more unscientific. Christianity teaches that gentilism is apostasy from God and from his truth, and that, so far from being his worship, it is the worship of devils. We protest, therefore, against the logic that concludes that what it finds true of gentilism, is and must be true of Christianity. We protest also against concluding that, because Protestantism is a congeries of absurdities, Catholicity is unreasonable and false. Gentilism and Protestantism may stand in the same category, or be simply varieties of the same species; but they are specifically, and even generically, different from Christianity. They belong to another genus, and we were taught that "argumentum a genere ad genus non valet." Dr. Draper and the rest of our advanced thinkers appear to have never been taught logic at all: certain it is they have never learned to practice it.

Under pretence of giving a history of the alleged conflict between religion and science, Dr. Draper really makes a coarse and vulgar attack on the Catholic Church, and proves in his attack that he is alike ignorant of her doctrine, her history, and her worship. He has the temerity to charge her with hostility to science, for the conflict he speaks of, he says, is chiefly a conflict with the Catholic Church. He doubtless considers Protestantism too weak and insignificant an affair to be counted as a representative of religion. He probably does not regard it as a religion at all, and most likely feels instinctively that it can offer no obstacle to the "advanced thought of the age." It is not an organized power, and is not worth counting as an enemy; it is rather a friend, for does it not wage a deadly war against the church? But the Catholic Church is an organized power, and presents the strongest organization on earth; and when she speaks, her voice is potent, and millions listen and obey in spite of kings and kaisers, statesmen and scientists, bonds and imprisonment, exile and death. She alone is to be dreaded, she alone is to be warred against, and crushed, - if possible.

Well, is it a fact that the church opposes, or ever has opposed, the cultivation of science or the sciences? Let us come to the proof. Cease your vague declamations, and come to definite and specific charges. We challenge you, we challenge the whole world, to name one single scientific truth that she opposes, or ever has opposed. The alleged conflict is, the author himself avows, between the Catholic Church and science. He himself exonerates Greek and Roman paganism in the glowing pages in which he details the marvelous victories of Greek science in Greece, the Greek islands, the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, in Italy, and in Egypt, - victories rivaling, if not surpassing, those achieved by our modern scientists, and sending the favorite doctrine of progress to the dogs. He also exonerates from the charge of hostility to science the sublime, pure, and elevating religion of the Arabian prophet, which he holds to be a protest against Christianity in behalf of science. So it is only the Catholic religion that comes into conflict with science. The Catholic religion is not something intangible, uncertain, vague, and indefinite. We know what it teaches, what it exacts, and what it opposes. But we cannot say as much of what our advanced thinkers call science. Science is a good word, and science, if science, is always and everywhere respectable. But it is never vague, uncertain, but always certain, definite, fixed, unchangeable, and indisputable. Let us now descend to particulars. We demand of our advanced thinkers, champions of modern thought, and boasters of modern civilization, in a word, of our unbelieving scientists, the Huxleys, the Tyndalls, the Spencers, the Comtes, the Littres, the Darwins, the Lyells, the Youmans, the Fiskes, the Drapers, to name a single doctrine the church teaches that science has demonstrated or proved to be untrue; or a single scientific truth, or truth scientifally demonstrated to be truth, that the church forbids, or has ever forbidden, to be held or taught? Let us, gentlemen, have no evasion, no subterfuge, no vague declamation, but give us a plain, frank, specific statement. We know, as we told your representative, the Metropolitan Editor, in our Conversations on Liberalism and the Church, that you have a great dislike to descending to particulars, and to making specific and definite statements, or distinct and definite charges. But we demand a "bill of particulars;" and if you have any claim to be regarded as honorable men, as lovers of truth and fair dealing, or as friends and advocates of science, you will not refuse to render it.

Well, gentlemen, what truth of science do you allege the church prohibits, opposes, or contradicts in her teaching? We do not ask what theory, hypothesis, conjecture, or guess of so-called scientists she refuses to accept; but what fact of truth that you yourselves dare pretend is scientifically certain and unquestionable, that conflicts with her teaching, or which she anathematizes. Think, gentlemen, examine your own minds and precise your own thoughts. Can you name one? Suffer us to tell you that you cannot. We take no pride in the fact, but we belonged to your party before we became a Christian, and we find, in reading your works, nothing, no thought, no theory, no hypothesis, or conjecture even, bearing on the conflict you speak of, that we were not familiar with before any of you were heard of, and before some of you, it may be, were born. You are none of you original thinkers; you are notorious plagiarists. Our own youth was fed with the literature from which you pilfer, and our young mind was nourished with the absurd and blasphemous theories and speculations which you are putting forth at present as something new, original, and profound – as science even, - but which had become an old story with us long before you produced them. We know, minus a few details or variations of phrase, all you can say in favor of your pretended science, and all you can maintain against the church. Were we not trained in Boston, "the Hub of the Universe," at a time when it was really the focus of all sorts of modern ideas, good, bad, and indifferent? What have any of you to teach one who participated in the Boston intellectual movement from 1830 to 1844? We Bostonians were a generation ahead of you. We have the right to speak with confidence, and we tell you beforehand that you have no truth the church denies, and that you have disproved or demonstrated the falsity of no doctrine the church teaches.

But let us come to the test. The church teaches us to "believe in one God, Creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible." Have the scientists, who say with the fool in his heart, "Non est Deus," demonstrated that her teaching in this respect is erroneous? Can they say that it is scientifically proved that God and creation are untruths? Certainly not. They confess the impotence of science to prove there is no God; and both Herbert Spencer and Professor Tyndall deny that they are atheists. The most advanced scientists or thinkers pretend to prove by their science, not that there is no God, but that he is the unknowable. Atheism is in no sense a proved or a provable hypothesis, and till it is scientifically established it cannot be claimed as science, that is, certain knowledge. It cannot, then, be alleged that the doctrine of the church conflicts with any truth of science. Nor has it ever been scientifically demonstrated that God is unknowable. Herbert Spencer makes the assertion indeed, but he only proves that God is incomprehensible, not that we cannot know that he is; while, on the other hand, it has been proved over and over again that the existence of God and his essential attributes are, to a certain extent at least, knowable and known. We have ourselves proved it in our brief Essay in Refutation of Atheism.

But the church, in asserting God as creator, denies the scientific doctrine of evolution. St. George Mivart, a scientist of no mean repute, thinks not: and certainly there can be no evolution where there is nothing to evolve. What or whence is that something which precedes the process of evolution as its necessary condition precedent, and therefore cannot be the result of evolution? Herbert Spencer evolves the universe from matter and force. But whence the matter and force? They are eternal? But that is an hypothesis, not a truth of science. So you do not get rid of the necessity of creation by your theory of evolution. But your doctrine of evolution is not science; it is only an unverified hypothesis, an unproved theory, and a very absurd theory at that. Even that prince of modern English humbugs, Herbert Spencer, did not originate it, but plagiarized it from the old Greek sophists refuted by both Plato and Aristotle, and laughed out of countenance by old Hermias. It is possible, as it often has been done, to prove the origin of the universe in the creative act of God; but it is not possible to prove the contrary, or to prove that the church in teaching it conflicts with any scientific truth, or truth scientifically established.

The advanced thinkers of the age, called thinkers because they do not think, and are incapable, through their own fault, of thinking, if they are not avowed materialists, restrict all our knowledge to the material order, and exclude from the domain of science the whole supersensible world. Matter and its laws constitute for them the whole field of science. Because the church insists on the recognition, partly by science and partly by faith, of not only a supersensible, but a supernatural and superintelligible world, they cry out against her as the enemy of science. But has she ever denied matter or any of its laws scientifically established? Certainly not. The assertion of the spiritual or the superintelligible does not negate the material, any more than the assertion of the supernatural denies the reality of the natural. That matter is the only reality, or that nothing but matter is or exists, is the assumption of the materialists; but nobody can pretend that it is a scientific truth. It is a theory, opinion, not science. In teaching the contrary, or in asserting a spiritual or intelligible world above the material or the sensible world, and which the sensible imitates and on which it depends, the church in no sense conflicts with science.

That matter or the sensible alone is cognizable, assumed by our advanced thinkers, and therefore alone should be the object of our affections and our studies, is not a truth of science. The sensible is not cognizable without the intelligible, any more than the senses are cognitive without the intellect or mind – the noetic faculty. Matter is, to say the least, as unintelligible, as difficult to know in itself as spirit. Berkeley and Collier deny the existence of a material world out of or distinct from the mind. Berkeley held that what we call external or material objects are simply pictures painted by the hand of God on the retina of the eye, and have no existence out of it. Fichte makes all objects, whether material or spiritual, the Ego projected or protended; Leibnitz resolves matter into force, or vis activa, acting always from its centre outward; Father Bosovich regards matter as centers of attraction; and Huxley denies that he is a materialist, because he does not know what matter is. Form the disputes of philosophers we should conclude that nothing is less cognizable or further from being an object of science than matter, which our advanced thinkers hold to be the only thing knowable at all, nay, as the only reality. Certain it is that science has not yet demonstrated that so-called material existences are the only existences, or justified the Sadducees who believed in neither angel nor spirit.

The present article having for its object only to show that the church in her teaching does not conflict with science, we are not required to establish the truth of her teaching, or even to raise the question whether her teaching is true or false. All we are required to do here in order to refute Dr. Draper’s charge is, to show that her teaching in no instance conflicts with any scientific truth, or truth which scientific investigation has established or can establish. If the scientists can establish no truth which she denies, or which does not deny any doctrine she teaches, there obviously is no conflict between religion as she presents it, and science. There may be differences, but difference is not necessarily antagonism. Spirit and matter may differ, or be diverse; but the assertion of the one does not deny the other, for both may be real existences. We do not deny matter or its laws as far as scientifically determined; what we deny is, that science has proved or can prove that matter and its laws are the only reality, and that matter and its laws explain the existence of the universe with all its forms and phenomena, especially life, feeling, thought, reason, and moral affection, or conscience. Science has not yet shown that any possible combination of lifeless atoms can originate life, or that gravitation and gratitude are the result of one and the same physical law, as Mr. Emerson teaches. It is enough for our present purpose to say, - what cannot be denied, - that the materialism defended by Tyndall and Spencer as science, in which Dr. Draper seems to agree, is not science, and is at best only an opinion, and in our judgment, a very absurd opinion, held by some so-called scientists. We may say the same of every theory of the so-called scientists rejected by the church.

But it is the recent so-called science of geology, that affords the most ample proofs of the conflict between religion and science. But we are aware of no geological facts that the church denies. That there are geological theories, and deductions from those theories, which do not accord with the teachings of the church, or at least with the teaching so some theologians, is not denied. In matters of pure science, theologians are simply scientists, and have no more authority than they to bind the church by their theories. The only thing to be said in their favor is, that knowing the teaching of the church, which is rarely, if ever the case with professed scientists, they are better judges of what theories or explanation of facts do or do not conflict with that teaching. It has been attempted to show that the facts disclosed by the investigation of geologists conflict with the account of the creation given in the first chapter of Genesis. We will only say here that the church has never, as far as we are informed, defined in what sense that chapter is to be understood, whether it is to be understood in a literal or an historical sense; in a philosophical sense, as Josephus tells us it was understood by the Jews; or in a moral sense, as marking the moral order of the work of creation, as it was explained by Saint Augustine. But we see no conflict between it, taken historically, and any theological facts we are aware of. We are told that the earth was at first without form, and void; that is, as we understand it, was not completed in its complete and perfect state, but only in its principles or elements, which given room for its development and completion, so to speak, by the agency of second causes, though always by force of the original principle which determines the nature, the direction, and limit of the development. This gives room for all those changes, variations, and modifications geology shows the earth has undergone from physical causes. So here is no conflict, at least no necessary conflict.

But these changes could not have taken place in the brief space of time allowed by the Biblical chronology. We answer to this: that many of the changes the earth is supposed to have undergone, and which are assumed to require millions of ages for effecting them, are geological theories, hypotheses, conjectures, guesses, not scientifically verified facts. The reality of the several geological periods as distinct and successive periods, remains to be proved. Several of them may have been contemporaneous, as, for instance, the so-called stone period may have been contemporary, if not in the same locality, in different localities, with the so-called bronze period or the iron period. The North American Indians, when New England was first settled by Europeans, used stone axes, stone knives, and other implements made of stone. We have often, in our own boyhood, picked them up in the fields we were traversing. They were called Indian axes, Indian knives etc. The discovery of stone implements in a given locality proves nothing as to the age of the world, nor either of the origin or of the successive stages of civilization. Dr. Draper, in some one of his works, tells us as an unquestionable fact that there was a time when all parts of the North-American continent were isothermal, had one and the same mild and equable climate, which we are sure is more than he knows or can scientifically establish. It is an unverified and an unverifiable hypothesis. We can conclude nothing against the church, of we find her teaching conflicting with such conjectures or hypotheses.

2. To the alleged "chronicles of the rocks," and the long period that the earth was in preparation for the abode of man, we have little to say till geologists prove to us that they have the key to those chronicles, and rightly interpret them. But if they demand more time than the Biblical chronology allows, we would remind them that chronology begins with the first day. How long a period elapsed between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the first day, we do not know – perhaps long enough to answer all the reasonable demands of the geologists.

3. We reply still further, that the church, we believe, has never given any authoritative decision of the question of chronology, and it rests with learned and scientific men. It is a question of science and erudition, not a question of faith, at least so far as we have been taught. For ourselves, we are content to receive the chronology of the Septuagint; but we do not regard the age of the world as very important to be known, for time began with its creation. Before it was created, there was no time to be reckoned. The important thing to be recognized is the fact itself of creation, that "God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth." Created we say, not evolved, generated, or projected them. He who admits the fact of creation of all things from nothing by the sole energy of the divine Word, admits what is essential, whether he counts a few centuries more or less since the world began. And that such is the mind of the church we infer from the fact, that she leaves the chronological question undetermined.

The church’s teaching conflicts with the Spencerian doctrine of evolution, and so does plain common sense, for it denies both God and creation. We have not read all the publications of Mr. Herbert Spencer, but we have read the second edition of his Principles of a new Philosophy, and the first volume of his Biology, and looked through some of his other works. When we have learned an author’s principles and method, we have learned all of any importance he has to tell us. We take no interest in his elaboration of his system, or its details. No truth in the details can redeem the falsity of the principles, or atone for the viciousness of the method. Spencer may have some acquaintance with the physical sciences, but he has not a spark of philosophical genius, and his mind is essentially unscientific. He is turgid, verbose, wearisome, and dull, as a writer; shallow, nay, imbecile, as a thinker; inept, as a reasoner; and conceited and ignorant almost beyond conception, as a man; who, because he has perhaps advanced in some respects beyond what he knew in his own childhood, fancies that he knows more than all the rest of mankind. There is not a page of his writings that we have read in which we do not discover a total lack of insight, and a most deplorable ignorance of what others know. He found a new philosophy, and revolutionize the world of thought! He become a teacher of mankind! Bah! The man is a humbug, a more unmitigated humbug than was even Jeremy Bentham.

The new philosophy divides all things into the knowable and the unknowable. To the unknowable it relegates all principles, substances, and causes, and restricts the knowable to the phenomenal. Yet it writes a volume on first principles! First principles of the new philosophy indeed, not of the real, nor of nature. Be it so. That only confesses that the new philosophy is unreal, and has nothing to do with the explanation of the real cosmos. What is unknowable is to us as if it were not, how then, treat of the knowable at all? Yet a whole division of Mr. Spencer’s First Principles is devoted to the unknowable. But pass to the knowable. The knowable is restricted to the phenomenal. Phenomena have no subsistence in themselves, but are simple appearances or manifestations, and are, as Mr. Spencer, or, if not he, his disciple, a much brighter intellect, Mr. John Fiske, justly asserts, unthinkable without thinking a substance, a reality, or a Something of which they are manifestations, or which appears in them. What is thinkable is knowable, so there is no knowable without knowing the unknowable! Brave philosophers, these fellows, and worthy of the admiration and patronage of Professor Youmans and the great publication house of D. Appleton and Co. The new philosophy teaches us that science deals only with the phenomenal, and it includes in the phenomenal the entire mimetic order of Plato, the whole individual and sensible universe, thus reducing sensible facts themselves, historical events, and the results of scientific experiment and investigation, to phenomena or appearances; and then tells us very gravely that the phenomenal is unthinkable without the real, which in all cases is unknowable and, therefore, unthinkable! Suppose the church does come in conflict with this new philosophy, is it any thing to her discredit?

Both Spencer and his disciple Fiske deny that they are atheists, on the ground that they recognize a real and substantial cosmos that appears or manifests itself in the cosmic phenomena. This substance, reality, something, that is to say, the real cosmos manifested in the cosmic phenomena, Mr. Fiske says, may be called either God or nature, as looked at from the religious or from the scientific point of view. The cosmists are not aware, we suppose, that a clearer and more decided avowal of atheism it would be impossible to make. Mr. Draper is chary of professing atheism, as are most of our English and American advanced thinkers; but after commending the Mahometan Averrhoes for his successful cultivation of science and his scientific views of God, he tells us his conceptions of God were pantheistic. We suppose the professor is ignorant that pantheism is only a form of atheism. Atheism identifies God with the cosmos, pantheism identifies the cosmos with God, and both hold him to be the force, substance, or reality of the cosmic phenomena, and neither recognizes any supercosmic Being. Men who know any thing of theology know that, however our advanced thinkers may deceive themselves or try to deceive others, they are neither more nor less than pitiable atheists, and therefore both blasphemers and fools according to the Holy Scriptures.

But we have already seen that atheism is an unproved and an unprovable hypothesis, and therefore not a scientific truth. Equally removed from established science are all the theories constructed to explain the existence and various changing forms of the universe or cosmos without the act of creation. The Orientals and the earlier Greeks, after the great gentile apostasy, or the introduction of national, or rather gentile, tribal, or family religions, appear to have held the origin of the universe in generation, and hence they represented their gods as male and female. Later we find, with the Brahmins and Buddhists, the theory of emanation. Plato and Aristotle, though failing to recognize the creative act, adopted what comes nearest to it: the theory of formation, or the formation of the cosmos and its contents, by an intelligent Mind detaching from itself ideas or substantial forms and impressing them on preexisting matter. Spinoza made the cosmos and all existences modes or affections of one infinite and only substance. Epicurus, Leucippus, and Democritus made all things, life, thought, love, hatred, etc., originate in the fortuitous combination of material, lifeless, and senseless atoms; but whence came the atoms, they forget to tell us. Spencer, Huxley, Tyndall, and others agree in many respects with the Epicurean cosmogony. Spencer differs from Epicurus only in the respect that the combination is not fortuitous, but by force of law; but whence came the law, he does not inform us: very likely he does not know himself. He attempts to explain the origin and all the facts of the cosmos or universe, man and nature, religion, morality, the state, and society, by what he calls evolution. Yet he confesses that the word evolution does not exactly express his meaning, and, in fact, what he attempts to express by it is no evolution at all, for it evolves nothing. Given matter and motion, he can produce the cosmos. As we understand him, there is no evolution in the case, but simple concentration and dispersion of force, in "eterne alternation," to borrow of phrase from Ralph Waldo Emerson. There is a ceaseless ebb and flow of material force in endless alternation or succession. The concentration which takes place by a fixed and invariable law of life, and its dispersion is death; as what is concentration on the one side or in one place is dispersion on the other side or in another place, so life springs from death, and death from life. What is life here is death there, and what is to us death is to others life. This is mere theory, and not even Dr. Draper will pretend that it is established science. We do not pretend that the church teaches that the world was created in the beginning precisely as we now find it, any more than she teaches that the infant is born a full-grown man. We do not deny the fact of very great physical changes, as well as moral; nor do we deny evolution or development in every sense. All we maintain is, that neither evolution nor development can operate without something to operate upon, and it can only evolve or develop the germs deposited in the matter created. Hence we reject Darwinism, not because it directly denies the creative act of God, but because it assumes that species may be originated and formed without any created germ from which they are developed. It, therefore, supposes that natural causes can do what our advanced thinkers deny that God can do, - create something from nothing. But Darwinism is a mere hypothesis, and in no sense established science. We have read Darwin on the "Origin of Species by natural Selection," and on "The Descent of Man." He presents us a considerable array of pacts pertaining to natural history, some of them both interesting and important; but they fail, as far as we can see, to warrant his inductions. They may all be conceded without those inductions, for there is no necessary connection between them and the theory they are adduced to establish.

But the real offence of the church is, not that she rejects any facts or truth of science, proved to be such, but that she steadily refuses to accept mere hypotheses, conjectures, guesses, as science, and by men who have devoted themselves not unsuccessfully, it may be, to some one or more of the special sciences; and does not proceed forthwith to endorse them and to modify her time-honored doctrine to conform to them, that is, to change her entire doctrine to make it conform to unfounded and generally absurd assumptions. The greater part of what our advanced thinkers call science, consists not only of assumptions, but of assumptions hardly made before they are modified or rejected for others equally baseless, to be in their turn modified or rejected. We know nothing so uncertain and changeful as this so-called science, which our author holds the church very blamable for not accepting and teaching. Professor John Fiske, after setting forth with an air of perfect conviction the leading features of the cosmic or new philosophy, which he had accepted only the preceding year, adds: "Such is the teaching of science today; but what will it be fifty years hence, what changes or modifications the investigations continually going on in all quarters will necessitate, no one can say." Indeed, our scientists regard science, as our free-lovers regard marriage, as simply provisory, and would be disgusted with it if not at liberty to be constantly changing it. They regard truth as variable as their own views and moods. Then these advanced thinkers, these "prophets of the newness," as a witty friend of our happily termed them, shrink with horror from the unchangeable, or the invariable and the permanent. They wish to be able to change their science as often as the fashionable lady changes the style of her bonnet. Their greatest and most crushing objection to the church is, that she does not change with the times or with men’s opinions, but teaches the same doctrines to the nineteenth century that she did to the first, the tenth, or the thirteenth century. They hold that truth except in pure mathematics, which is a purely analytical science, is a variable quantity. Or rather, like the God of the Hegelians, it is a becoming, das Werden, not something that is. They never attain to truth; they are only in hopes that by continued and more extended investigations, with more ample means and better instruments, they will – attain it? No, but solve provisorily some problems, which science is not now in a condition to solve even provisorily. Yet they insist that their theories, hypotheses, conjectures, and guesses shall be received and treated as unquestionable science. Can it be any serious objection to the church that she refuses to do so?

Many of the theories the church condemns or refuses to entertain are grossly immoral and blasphemous, and strike at the foundation of public order and social well-being. Such is the new philosophy concocted by Herbert Spencer and endorsed by Professor Youmans. The cosmists are not mere theorizers and speculators. They, - and in this respect Tyndall, Huxley, Draper, and other atheistic writers are to be classed with them, - in the name of science deny science itself. They reject the principles on which all science as well as religion rests. If they are right there is and can be no truth, no right or wrong, no moral order, no society, no government, as we see in Protestantized Germany, except that of brute force, no state, no public or private virtue; for these all suppose a distinction between moral laws and physical laws, between gratitude and gravitation, between a virtuous act and a handsome face, between vice and a deformed leg, and in the cause as well as in the effect. The questions involved are not comparatively idle questions, such as, Are there inhabitants in the moon? Or, has the earth, as Dr. M’Cosh maintains, been molded out of star dust? They strike at the very basis of all held dear and sacred by mankind in all ages and nations of the world. These men scatter firebrands and death, and would have us believe them in sport; and a shallow and unreasoning age, like the nineteenth century, decrees them its highest honors, and runs in crowds after them, and listens to them with open ears and gaping mouths. What would become of the nations, of the human race itself, if the church were not in the world to cover the great elemental truths of science and virtue with her sacred aegis, and to brand these enemies of God and man with her anathema?

The instances we have adduced are amply sufficient to prove that while there is no conflict between her and genuine science, the church has been and is fully justified in her condemnation of the immoral and false theories, assumptions, and speculations of our advanced thinkers or prophets of the newness, who pretend to be men of science. We hold that it is false to allege that error is harmless while truth is free to combat it. "Error," says the Chinese proverb, "will make the circuit of the globe, while Truth is pulling her boots." A man is morally responsible for the opinions he emits as he is for any other of his acts. A thousand highway robberies or a thousand cold-blooded murders would be but a light social offence in comparison with the publication of one such book as this before us. Men of science should honor and defend truth, not disparage and deny, or labor to undermine it. They should study the syllabus [Syllabus of Errors] of our Holy Father , Pius IX, and try to profit by its condemnation of their more prominent errors. It unquestionably condemns much that is called, by people who have lost all conception of the spiritual life, modern civilization, but it condemns nothing that science does or can verify, and nothing but such theories, assumptions, and crude opinions as tend, in proportion as they are received and acted on, to undermine and destroy civilization itself. Civilization, as we understand it, is the predominance in society of reason over passion, knowledge over ignorance, moral power over brute force, which is not possible without the predominance of those truths the church teaches, and the influence she exerts. Her freedom and independence is the indispensable condition of all real civilization. This freedom and independence of the church is religious liberty. But the religious liberty of modern civilization, though it bears the name, - and that fact deceives many, - is a very different thing. It does not mean the freedom and independence of the church of God, but freedom of the individual, society, and the state from the church, and therefore from the divine sovereignty and from all the obligations and restraints of religion, that is to say, of moral truth, of reason, and eternal justice. The pope, then, in condemning this sort of religious liberty, which indirectly, as we see in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and elsewhere, paves the way for the despotism of the state and the oppression of conscience, is not warring against civilization, but in its favor, and doing all in his power to save it from the theories and influences at work to destroy it. So with regard to all the other points on which the syllabus conflicts with modern ideas and tendencies.

The church holds that there is a higher order of reality than the sensible, and higher and more imperative interests than material interests, - the only real interests regarded with favor by modern civilization. But it is a mistake to suppose that she has opposed or discouraged the study of nature or the cultivation of the physical sciences. She does not give them the highest rank, but she includes them in her curriculum; and we know of no Catholic college or university in which they do not hold an honorable place. They were formerly called by the general name of mathematics; and if they did not receive as much attention as they receive at present since the would-be scientists, in their theories, have narrowed the universe down to the world of matter and its laws, that is, material facts and their generalization, they were studied, and the true method of investigating nature was as well understood in the great Catholic schools of the middle ages as it is now. St. Thomas was acquainted with the teachings of Averroes, Dr. Draper’s pet, and refutes them with a far superior science wherever they come in conflict with the teachings of the church or sound philosophy. Friar Bacon was superior as a physicist to Francis Bacon, my Lord Verulam. The pretence of the later and meaner Bacon, that the medieval students solved all questions of natural science by a priori reasoning, is a pure, unmitigated falsehood, as eh would have known if he had known any thing of them. Most of them studied and followed Aristotle; and Dr. Draper contends that Aristotle understood and practiced the inductive method. Bacon was another and an earlier English humbug, though less of a humbug than most of those who profess to follow him. The English mind lost its integrity when it lost its Catholic faith, and it seems impossible for it since either to discern or to speak the truth where religion is in question. Dr. Draper, we are told, is an Englishman born and bred, not, we are happy to think, an American. But all nations and races have their humbugs, though no people have them in so great a profusion, or are so easily humbugged, as the apostate English.

The whole trouble with the scientists, and which brings them into conflict with religion, is their neglect to distinguish between assumptions, hypotheses, or conjectures, and what they have scientifically demonstrated or verified.

All in modern science so called, to which the church or religion objects, is assumption or unverified hypothesis. Who has ever found the church objecting to any certain knowledge in the natural order, the axioms of the mathematician, or the definitions of the geometer, for instance? We have never found her warring against the properties of the screw or lever, as taught us in mechanics. Where there is real science, or certain knowledge in the natural order, she includes it in the preamble to faith, and censures its denial. If scientists would be careful to distinguish between fact and conjecture, knowledge and opinion, and insist only on what they have demonstrated or is scientifically verifiable, there would be no conflict between them and the theologians. Galileo’s troubles arose from his demanding of the church her endorsement of his heliocentric theory, which was not then, even if it be now, any thing but an undemonstrated hypothesis. What he wanted was, not liberty to pursue his investigations as a scientist or physicist, for that he had in its plentitude, but that the church should intervene, and by her authority silence his contradictors. A very modest request!

Let the scientists purse their investigations into every department of nature to the full extent of their means and ability, but if they wish to avoid all conflict with religion, let them scrupulously refrain from asserting as science what is not science, and from denying the teachings of the church, which they have not disproved and cannot disprove by science. There may be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy. Lalande proved nothing in favor of atheism when he said he "had never seen God at the end of his telescope." Nor does Herbert Spencer disprove the existence of an intelligible world, or prove that the sensible is the only reality by relegating being, substance, principles, and causes to the unknowable, especially since he is obliged to confess that the sensible, which he asserts, is knowable only by virtue of the intelligible, the physical only through the metaphysical. Huxley does not prove that protoplasm is the physical basis of life, or that life originates in dead matter, for he cannot say what other element than the chemical constituents, into which he resolves protoplasm, is operative in the production and support of life. Because the principle of life escapes all chemical analysis, he cannot say there is no such principle, or that it is identical with protein, itself a hypothetical existence. Tyndall finds only matter, but it does not follow therefore that spirit is not as real and as intelligible as matter. The blind man, because he cannot see the light, has no right to deny the existence of the light. Our advanced thinkers have no right to measure the capacity of the human mind by the narrow dimensions of their own; because they are purblind, that no one sees or can see farther than they themselves. How do they know that they do not, in their blindness and lack of insight, exclude from their universe the greater and more important part of reality, and, if not sensible, yet very intelligible? Nay, how do they know that there is not a supernatural order, supernaturally revealed to the human race, and taught to all who will hear her by the church? They, therefore, must not presume to deny and reject as unreal or as a fable what the race has always held, unless they have certain proof that it is false. So, on the other hand, they must take care to affirm nothing as science which is only opinion, conjecture, or mere theory; such as that the earth is constructed from a fragment of an exploded comet, or from "star dust," the existence of said star dust being itself exceedingly problematical.

The prophets of the newness, or our advanced thinkers, are greatly scandalized if any one presumes to question "modern ideas," or to doubt the infallibility of "modern civilization." Their whole labor is to draw off the affections from the heavenly, and fix them on the "earthly." They assign the highest rank to material interests or sensible goods: nay, hold them to be the only real interests, the only solid goods. They would have us live for this life alone, and this they would persuade us is the teaching of science. But experience is playing sad pranks with this sort of science. What is called modern civilization is based on it; and it is only the willfully blind that do not see that it is as destructive to material interests as it is to spiritual interests, to the goods of this life as to the hopes of heaven. The greatest conceivable folly is that which gives up heaven for earth, the unseen and the eternal for the temporal and the perishing. All true science teaches us that the goods of this life, as religion herself teaches, are secured only by self-denial, by turning our back on them as the end of our labors, and living only for the goods of the life to come.

England is the best representative of modern civilization, and, after England or Great Britain, comes our own Republic. England is precisely the country in which we find the greatest poverty and the most squalid wretchedness; and hundreds and thousands of workingmen and women in our own country are out of work because there is no work for them to do, and must starve unless kept alive by public or private charity. Moral principles are sacrificed to material interests, and with them the material interests themselves. The sad result of modern civilization in the material order, in relation to the well-being of the laboring classes, as evinced by the frequent strikes and destructive combinations to which they are driven, is a sad commentary on "modern civilization" and "modern ideas."