The Warfare of Science With Theology
From Creation to Evolution
by Andrew Dickson White
- Ancient and medieval views regarding the manner of creation
- Regarding the matter of creation
- Regarding the time of creation
- Regarding the date of creation
- Regarding the Creator
- Regarding light and darkness
- Rise of the conception of an evolution: among the Chaldeans,
- The Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans
- Its survival through the Middle Ages, despite the disfavour of the Church
- Its development in modern times.--The nebular hypothesis and its struggle with theology
- The idea of evolution at last victorious
- Our sacred books themselves an illustration of its truth
- The true reconciliation of Science and Theology
- Ancient and medieval 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 Physiologus, the Bestiaries, the Exempila
- Beginnings of sceptical observation
- Development of a scientific method in the study of Nature
- Breaking down of the theological theory of creation
- Ideas of evolution among the ancients
- In the early Church
- In the medieval Church
- Development of these ideas from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries
- The work of De Maillet
- Of Linneus
- Of Buffon
- Contributions to the theory of evolution at the close of the eighteenth century
- The work of Treviranus and Lamarck
- Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire and Cuvier
- Development of the theory up to the middle of the nineteenth century
- The contributions of Darwin and Wallace
- The opposition of Agassiz
- Attacks on Darwin and his theories in England
- In America
- Formation of sacro-scientific organizations to combat the theory of evolution
- The attack in France
- In Germany
- Conversion of Lyell to the theory of evolution
- The attack on Darwin's Descent of Man
- Difference between this and the former attack
- Hostility to Darwinism in America
- Change in the tone of the controversy.--Attempts at compromise
- Dying-out of opposition to evolution
- Last outbursts of theological hostility
- Final victory of evolution
AMONG those masses of cathedral sculpture which preserve so much of medieval theology, one frequently recurring group is noteworthy for its presentment of a time-honored doctrine regarding the origin of the universe.
The Almighty, in human form, sits benignly, making the sun, moon, and stars, and hanging them from the solid firmament which supports the "heaven above" and overarches the "earth beneath."
The furrows of thought on the Creator's brow show that in this work he is obliged to contrive; the knotted muscles upon his arms show that he is obliged to toil; naturally, then, the sculptors and painters of the medieval and early modern period frequently represented him as the writers whose conceptions they embodied had done -- as, on the seventh day, weary after thought and toil, enjoying well-earned repose and the plaudits of the hosts of heaven.
In these thought-fossils of the cathedrals, and in other revelations of the same idea through sculpture, painting, glass- staining, mosaic work, and engraving, during the Middle Ages and the two centuries following, culminated a belief which had been developed through thousands of years, and which has determined the world's thought until our own time.
Its beginnings lie far back in human history; we find them among the early records of nearly all the great civilizations, and they hold a most prominent place in the various sacred books of the world. In nearly all of them is revealed the conception of a Creator of whom man is an imperfect image, and who literally and directly created the visible universe with his hands and fingers.
Among these theories, of especial interest to us are those which controlled theological thought in Chaldea. The Assyrian inscriptions which have been recently recovered and given to the English-speaking peoples by Layard, George Smith, Sayce, and others, show that in the ancient religions of Chaldea and Babylonia there was elaborated a narrative of the creation which, in its most important features, must have been the source of that in our own sacred books. It has now become perfectly clear that from the same sources which inspired the accounts of the creation of the universe among the Chaldco-Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Phoenician, and other ancient civilizations came the ideas which hold so prominent a place in the sacred books of the Hebrews. In the two accounts imperfectly fused together in Genesis, and also in the account of which we have indications in the book of job and in the Proverbs, there is presented, often Avith the greatest sublimity, the same early conception of the Creator and of the creation -- the conception, so natural in the childhood of civilization, of a Creator who is an enlarged human being working literally with his own hands, and of a creation which is "the work of his fingers." To supplcirient this view there was developed the belief in this Creator as one who, having
". . . from his ample palmsits on high, enthroned "upon the circle of the heavens," perpetually controlling and directing them.
Launched forth the rolling planets into space,"
From this idea of creation was evolved in time a somewhat nobler view. Ancient thinkers, and especially, as is now found, in Egypt, suggested that the main agency in creation was not the hands and fingers of the Creator, but his voice. Hence was mingled with the earlier, cruder belief regarding the origin of the earth and heavenly bodies by the Almighty the more impressive idea that "he spake and they were made" -- that they were brought into existence by his word.*
Note:* Among the many mediaeval representations of the creation of the universe, I especially recall from personal observation those sculptured above the portals of the cathedrals of Freiburg and Upsala, the paintings on the walls of the Campo Santo at Pisa, and, most striking of all, the mosaics of the Cathedral of Monreale and those in the Cappella Palatina at Palermo. Among peculiarities showing the simplicity of the earlier conception the representation of the repose of the Almighty on the seventh day is very striking. He is shown as seated in almost the exact attitude of the "weary Mercury" of classic sculpture -- bent, and with a very marked expression of fatigue upon his countenance and in the whole disposition of his body.
The Monreale mosaics are painted in the great work of Gravina, and the Pisa frescoes in Didron's Iconographie, Paris, 1843, p. 598. For an exact statement of the resemblances which have settled the question among the most eminent scholars in favour of the derivation of the Hebrew cosmogony from that of Assyria, see Jensen, Die Kosmologie der Babylonier, Strassburg, 1890, pp. 304, 306; also Franz Lukas, Die Grundbegriffe in den Kosmographien der alten Volker, Leipsic, 1893, pp. 3546; also George Smith's Chaldean Genesis, especially the German translation with additions by Delitzsch, Leipsic, 1876, and Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, Giessen, 1883, pp. 1-54, etc. See also Renan, Histoire du peuple d'Israel, vol. i, chap. i, "L'antique influence babylonienne". For Egyptian views regarding creation, and especially for the transition from the idea of creation by the hands and fingers of the Creator to creation by his voice and his "word," see Maspero and Sayce, The Dawn of Civilization, pp. 145-146.
Among the early fathers of the Church this general view of creation became fundamental; they impressed upon Christendom more and more strongly the belief that the universe was created in a perfectly literal sense by the hands or voice of God. Here and there sundry theologians of larger mind attempted to give a more spiritual view regarding some parts of the creative work, and of these were St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine. Ready as they were to accept the literal text of Scripture, they revolted against the conception of an actual creation of the universe by the hands and fingers of a Supreme Being, and in this they were followed by Bede and a few others; but the more material conceptions prevailed, and we find these taking shape not only in the sculptures and mosaics and stained glass of cathedrals, and in the illuminations of missals and psalters, but later, at the close of the Middle Ages, in the pictured Bibles and in general literature.
Into the Anglo-Saxon mind this ancient material conception of the creation was riveted by two poets whose works appealed especially to the deeper religious feelings. In the seventh century Coedmon paraphrased the account given in Genesis, bringing out this material conception in the most literal form; and a thousand years later Milton developed out of the various statements in the Old Testament, mingled with a theology regarding "the creative Word" which had been drawn from the New, his description of the creation by the second person in the Trinity, than which nothing could be more literal and material:
"He took the golden compasses, prepared In God's eternal store, to circumscribe This universe and all created things. One foot he centered, and the other turned Round through the vast profundity obscure, And said, ' Thus far extend, thus far thy bounds: This be thy just circumference, O world!" *
Note:* For Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and the general subject of the development of an evolution theory among the Greeks, see the excellent work by Dr. Osborn, "From the Greeks to Darwin", pp. 33 and following; for Caedmon, see any edition -- I have used Bouterwek's, Gutersloh, 1854; for Milton, see Paradise Lost, book vii, lines 225-231.
So much for the orthodox view of the manner of creation.
The next point developed in this theologic evolution had reference to the matter of which the universe was made, and it was decided by an overwhelming majority that no material substance existed before the creation of the material universe -- that "God created everything out of nothing." Some venturesome thinkers, basing their reasoning upon the first verses of Genesis, hinted at a different view -- namely, that the mass, "without form and void," existed before the universe; but this doctrine was soon swept out of sight. The vast majority of the fathers were explicit on this point. Tertullian especially was very severe against those who took any other view than that generally accepted as orthodox: he declared that, if there had been any preexisting matter out of which the world was formed, Scripture would have mentioned it; that by not mentioning it God has given us a clear proof that there was no such thing; and, after a manner not unknown in other theological controversies, he threatens Hermogenes, who takes the opposite view, with "the woe which impends on all who add to or take away from the written word."
St. Augustine, who showed signs of a belief in a preexistence of matter, made his peace with the prevailing belief by the simple reasoning that, "although the world has been made of some material, that very same material must have been made out of nothing."
In the wake of these great men the universal Church steadily followed. The Fourth Lateran Council declared that God created everything out of nothing; and at the present hour the vast majority of the faithful -- whether Catholic or Protestant -- are taught the same doctrine; on this point the syllabus of Pius IX and the Westminster Catechism fully agree.*
Note:* For Tertullian, see Tertullian Against Hermogenes, chaps. xx and xxii; for St. Augustine regarding "creation from nothing," see the De Genesi contra Manichaeos, lib. i, cap. vi; for St. Ambrose, see the Hexameron, lib. i, cap. iv; for the decree of the Fourth Lateran Council, and the view received in the Church to-day, see the article "Creation" in Addis and Arnold's Catholic Dictionary.
Having thus disposed of the manner and matter of creation, the next subject taken up by theologians was the time required for the great work.
Here came a difficulty. The first of the two accounts given in Genesis extended the creative operation through six days, each of an evening and a morning, with much explicit detail regarding the progress made in each. But the second account spoke of "the day" in which "the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." The explicitness of the first account and its Naturalness to the minds of the great mass of early theologians gave it at first a decided advantage; but Jewish thinkers, like Philo, and Christian thinkers, like Origen, forming higher conceptions of the Creator and his work, were not content with this, and by them was launched upon the troubled sea of Christian theology the idea that the creation was instantaneous, this idea being strengthened not only by the second of the Genesis legends, but by the great text, "He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" -- or, as it appears in the Vulgate and in most translations, "He spake, and they were made; be commanded, and they were created."
As a result, it began to be held that the safe and proper course was to believe literally both statements; that in some mysterious manner God created the universe in six days, and yet brought it all into existence in a moment. In spite of the outcries of sundry great theologians, like Ephrem Syrus, that the universe was created in exactly six days of twenty-four hours each, this compromise was promoted by St. Athanasius and St. Basil in the East, and by St. Augustine and St. Hilary in the West.
Serious difficulties were found in reconciling these two views, which to the natural mind seem absolutely contradictory; but by ingenious manipulation of texts, by dexterous play upon phrases, and by the abundant use of metaphysics to dissolve away facts, a reconciliation was effected, and men came at least to believe that they believed in a creation of the universe instantaneous and at the same time extended through six days.*
Note:* For Origen, see his Contra Cesum, cap. xxxvi, xxxvii also his De Principibus, cap. v; for St. Augustine, see his De Genesi contra Manichaeos and De Genesi ad Litteram, passim; for Athanasius, see his Discourses against the Arians, ii, 48, 49.
Some of the efforts to reconcile these two accounts were so fruitful as to deserve especial record. The fathers, Eastern and Western, developed out of the double account in Genesis, and the indications in the Psalms, the Proverbs, and the book of Job, a vast mass of sacred science bearing upon this point. As regards the whole work of creation, stress was laid upon certain occult powers in numerals. Philo Judaeus, while believing in an instantaneous creation, had also declared that the world was created in six days because" of all numbers six is the most productive"; he had explained the creation of the heavenly bodies on the fourth day by "the harmony of the number four"; of the animals on the fifth day by the five senses; of man on the sixth day by the same virtues in the number six which had caused it to be set as a limit to the creative work; and, greatest of all, the rest on the seventh day by the vast mass of mysterious virtues in the number seven.
St. Jerome held that the reason why God did not pronounce the work of the second day "good" is to be found in the fact that there is something essentially evil in the number two, and this was echoed centuries afterward, afar off in Britain, by Bede.
St. Augustine brought this view to bear upon the Church in the following statement: "There are three classes of numbers -- the more than perfect, the perfect, and the less than perfect, according as the sum of them is greater than, equal to, or less than the original number. Six is the first perfect number: wherefore we must not say that six is a perfect number because God finished all his works in six days, but that God finished all his works in six days because six is a perfect number."
Reasoning of this sort echoed along through the medieval Church until a year after the discovery of America, when the Nuremberg Chronicle re-echoed it as follows: "The creation of things is explained by the number six, the parts of which, one, two, and three, assume the form of a triangle."
This view of the creation of the universe as instantaneous and also as in six days, each made up of an evening and a morning, became virtually universal. Peter Lombard and Hugo of St. Victor, authorities of vast weight, gave it their sanction in the twelfth century, and impressed it for ages upon the mind of the Church.
Both these lines of speculation -- as to the creation of everything out of nothing, and the reconciling of the instantaneous creation of the universe with its creation in six days -- were still further developed by other great thinkers of the Middle Ages.
St. Hilary of Poictiers reconciled the two conceptions as follows: "For, although according to Moses there is an appearance of regular order in the fixing of the firmament, the laying bare of the dry land, the gathering together of the waters, the formation of the heavenly bodies, and the arising of living things from land and water, yet the creation of the heavens, earth, and other elements is seen to be the work of a single moment."
St. Thomas Aquinas drew from St. Augustine a subtle distinction which for ages cased the difficulties in the case he taught in effect that God created the substance of things in a moment, but gave to the work of separating, shaping, and adorning this creation, six days.*
Note:* For Philo Judaeus, see his Creation of the World, chap. iii; for St. Augustine on the powers of numbers in creation, see his De Genesi ad Litteram, iv, chap. ii; for Peter Lombard, see the Sentential, lib. ii, dist. xv, 5; and for Hugo of St. Victor, see De Sacramentis, lib. i, pars i; also, Annotat. Elucidate in Pentateuchum, cap. v, vi, vii; for St. Hilary, see De Trinitate, lib. xii; for St. Thomas Aquinas, see his Summa Theologies, quest. lxxxiv, arts. i and ii; the passage in the Aluremberg Chronicle, 1493, is in fol. iii; for Bossuet, see his Dissours sur l'Histoire Universelle; for the sacredness of the number seven among the Babylonians, see especially Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, pp. 21, 22; also George Smith et al,; for general ideas on the occult powers of various numbers, especially the number seven, and the influence of these ideas on theology and science, see my chapter on astronomy. As to medieval ideas on the same subject, see Detzel, Christliche Ikonografihie, Freiburg, 1894, pp. 44 and following.
The early reformers accepted and developed the same view, and Luther especially showed himself equal to the occasion. With his usual boldness he declared, first, that Moses "spoke properly and plainly, and neither allegorically nor figuratively," and that therefore "the world with all creatures was created in six days." And he then goes on to show how, by a great miracle, the whole creation was also instantaneous.
Melanchthon also insisted that the universe was created out of nothing and in a mysterious way, both in an instant and in six days, citing the text: "He spake, and they were made."
Calvin opposed the idea of an instantaneous creation, and laid especial stress on the creation in six days: having called attention to the fact that the biblical chronology shows the world to be not quite six thousand years old and that it is now near its end, he says that "creation was extended through six days that it might not be tedious for us to occupy the whole of life in the consideration of it."
Peter Martyr clinched the matter by declaring: "So important is it to comprehend the work of creation that we see the creed of the Church take this as its starting point. Were this article taken away there would be no original sin, the promise of Christ would become void, and all the vital force of our religion would be destroyed." The Westminster divines in drawing up their Confession of Faith specially laid it down as necessary to believe that all things visible and invisible were created not only out of nothing but in exactly six days.
Nor were the Roman divines less strenuous than the Protestant reformers regarding the necessity of holding closely to the so- called Mosaic account of creation. As late as the middle of the eighteenth century, when Buffon attempted to state simple geological truths, the theological faculty of the Sorbonne forced him to make and to publish a most ignominious recantation which ended with these words: "I abandon everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth, and generally all which may be contrary to the narrative of Moses."
Theologians, having thus settled the manner of the creation, the matter used in it, and the time required for it, now exerted themselves to fix its date.
The long series of efforts by the greatest minds in the Church, from Eusebius to Archbishop Usher, to settle this point are presented in another chapter. Suffice it here that the general conclusion arrived at by an overwhelming majority of the most competent students of the biblical accounts was that the date of creation was, in round numbers, four thousand years before our era; and in the seventeenth century, in his great work, Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and one of the most eminent Hebrew scholars of his time, declared, as the result of his most profound and exhaustive study of the Scriptures, that "heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together, in the same instant, and clouds full of water," and that "this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o'clock in the morning."
Here was, indeed, a triumph of Lactantius's method, the result of hundreds of years of biblical study and theological thought since Bede in the eighth century, and Vincent of Beauvais in the thirteenth, had declared that creation must have taken place in the spring. Yet, alas! within two centuries after Lightfoot's great biblical demonstration as to the exact hour of creation, it was discovered that at that hour an exceedingly cultivated people, enjoying all the fruits of a highly developed civilization, had long been swarming in the great cities of Egypt, and that other nations hardly less advanced had at that time reached a high development in Asia.*
Note:* For Luther, see his Commentary on Genesis, 1545, introduction, and his comments on chap. i, verse 12; the quotations from Luther's commentary are taken mainly from the translation by Henry Cole, D. D., Edinburgh, 1858; for Melanchthon, see "Loci Theologici", in Melanchthon, Malanchthon, Opera, ed. Betschneider, vol. xxi, pp. 269, 270, also pp. 637, 638 -- in quoting the text (Ps. xxiii, 9) I have used, as does Melanchthon himself, the form of the Vulgate; for the citations from Calvin, see his Commentary on Genesis (Opera omnia, Amsterdam, 1671, tom. i, cap. ii, p. 8); also in the Institutes, Allen's translation, London, 1838, Vol- i, chap. xv, pp. 126, 127; for Peter Martyr, see his Commentary on Genesis, cited by Zbckler, vol. i, p. 690; for the articles in the Westminster Confession of Faith, see chap. iv; for Buffon's recantation, see Lyell, Principles of Theology, chap. iii, p. 57. For Lightfoot's declaration, see his works, edited by Pitman, London, 1822.
But, strange as it may seem, even after theologians had thus settled the manner of creation, the matter employed in it, the time required for it, and the exact date of it, there remained virtually unsettled the first and greatest question of all; and this was nothing less than the question, WHO actually created the universe?
Various theories more or less nebulous, but all centered in texts of Scripture, had swept through the mind of the Church. By some theologians it was held virtually that the actual creative agent was the third person of the Trinity, who, in the opening words of our sublime creation poem, "moved upon the face of the waters." By others it was held that the actual Creator was the second person of the Trinity, in behalf of whose agency many texts were cited from the New Testament. Others held that the actual Creator was the first person, and this view was embodied in the two great formulas known as the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, which explicitly assigned the work to "God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." Others, finding a deep meaning in the words "Let us make," ascribed in Genesis to the Creator, held that the entire Trinity directly created all things; and still others, by curious metaphysical processes, seemed to arrive at the idea that peculiar combinations of two persons of the Trinity achieved the creation.
In all this there would seem to be considerable courage in view of the fearful condemnations launched in the Athanasian Creed against all who should "confound the persons" or "divide the substance of the Trinity."
These various stages in the evolution of scholastic theology were also embodied in sacred art, and especially in cathedral sculpture, in glass-staining, in mosaic working, and in missal painting.
The creative Being is thus represented sometimes as the third person of the Trinity, in the form of a dove brooding over chaos; sometimes as the second person, and therefore a youth; sometimes as the first person, and therefore fatherly and venerable; sometimes as the first and second persons, one being venerable and the other youthful; and sometimes as three persons, one venerable and one youthful, both wearing papal crowns, and each holding in his lips a tip of the wing of the dove, which thus seems to proceed from both and to be suspended between them.
Nor was this the most complete development of the medieval idea. The Creator was sometimes represented with a single body, but with three faces, thus showing that Christian belief had in some pious minds gone through substantially the same cycle which an earlier form of belief had made ages before in India, when the Supreme Being was represented with one body but with the three faces of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva.
But at the beginning of the modern period the older view in its primitive Jewish form was impressed upon Christians by the most mighty genius in art the world has known; for in 1512, after four years of Titanic labor, Michael Angelo uncovered his frescoes within the vault of the Sistine Chapel.
They had been executed by the command and under the sanction of the ruling Pope, Julius II, to represent the conception of Christian theology then dominant, and they remain to-day in all their majesty to show the highest point ever attained by the older thought upon the origin of the visible universe.
In the midst of the expanse of heaven the Almighty Father -- the first person of the Trinity -- in human form, august and venerable, attended by angels and upborne by mighty winds, Sweeps over the abyss, and, moving through successive compartments of the great vault, accomplishes the Work of the creative days. With a simple gesture he divides the light from the darkness, rears on high the solid firmament, gathers together beneath it the seas, or summons into existence the sun, moon, and planets, and sets them circling about the earth.
In this sublime work culminated the thought of thousands of years; the strongest minds accepted it or pretended to accept it, and nearly two centuries later this conception, in accordance with the first of the two accounts given in Genesis, was especially enforced by Bossuet, and received a new lease of life in the Church, both Catholic and Protestant.* But to these discussions was added yet another, which, beginning in the early days of the Church, was handed down the ages until it had died out among the theologians of our own time.*
Note:* For strange representations of the Creator and of the creation by one, two, or three persons of the Trinity, see Didron, Icomografihie Chretienne, pp. 35, 178, 224, 483, 567-580), and elsewhere; also DetzeI as already cited. The most naive of all survivals of the medieval idea of creation which the present writer has ever seen was exhibited in 1894 on the banner of one of the guilds at the celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Munich Cathedral. Jesus of Nazareth, as a beautiful boy and with a nimbus encircling his head, was shown turning and shaping the globe on a lathe, which he keeps in motion with his foot. The emblems of the Passion are about him, God the Father looking approvingly upon him from a cloud, and the dove hovering between the two. The date upon the banner was 1727.
In the first of the biblical accounts light is created and the distinction between. day and night thereby made on the first day, while the sun and moon are not created until the fourth day. Masses of profound theological and pseudo-scientific reasoning have been developed to account for this -- masses so great that for ages they have obscured the simple fact that the original text is a precious revelation to us of one of the most ancient of recorded beliefs -- the belief that light and darkness are entities independent of the heavenly bodies, and that the sun, moon, and stars exist not merely to increase light but to "divide the day from the night, to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years," and "to rule the day and the night."
Of this belief we find survivals among the early fathers, and especially in St. Ambrose. In his work on creation he tells us: "We must remember that the light of day is one thing and the light of the sun, moon, and stars another -- the sun by his rays appearing to add lustre to the daylight. For before sunrise the day dawns, but is not in full refulgence, for the sun adds still further to its splendor." This idea became, one of the "treasures of sacred knowledge committed to the Church," and was faithfully received by the Middle Ages. The medieval mysteries and miracle plays give curious evidences of this: In a performance of the creation, when God separates light from darkness, the stage direction is, "Now a painted cloth is to be exhibited, one half black and the other half white." It was also given more permanent form. In the mosaics of San Marco at Venice, in the frescoes of the Baptistery at Florence and of the Church of St. Francis at Assisi, and in the altar carving at Salerno, we find a striking realization of it -- the Creator placing in the heavens two disks or living figures of equal size, each suitably colored or inscribed to show that one represents light and the other darkness. This conception was without doubt that of the person or persons who compiled from the Chaldean and other earlier statements the accounts of the creation in the first of our sacred books.*
Note:* For scriptural indications of the independent existence of light and darkness, compare with the first verses of the first chapter of Genesis such passages as Job xxxviii, 19, 24; for the general prevalence of this early view, see Lukas, Kosmogonie pp. 31, 33, 41, 74, and passim; for the view of St. Ambrose regarding the creation of light and of the sun, see his ffexameron, lib. 4, cap. iii; for an excellent general statement, see Huxley, Mr. Gladstone and Genesis, in the Nineteenth Century, 1886, reprinted in his Essays on Contriverted Questions, London, 1892, note, pp. 126 et seq.; for the acceptance in the miracle plays of the scriptural idea of light and darkness as independent creations, see Wright, Essays on Archaeological Subjects, vol. ii, P. 178; for an account, with illustrations, of the mosaics, etc., representing this idea, see Tikkanen, Die Genesis-mosaiken von San Marco, Helsingfors, 1889, pp. 14 and 16 of text and Plates I and II. Very naively the Salerno carver, not wishing to color the ivory which he wrought, has inscribed on one disk the word "LUX" and on the other "NOX." See also Didron, Iconographie, p. 482.
Thus, down to a period almost within living memory, it was held, virtually "always, everywhere, and by all," that the universe, as we now see it, was created literally and directly by the voice or hands of the Almighty, or by both -- out of nothing -- in an instant or in six days, or in both -- about four thousand years before the Christian era -- and for the convenience of the dwellers upon the earth, which was at the base and foundation of the whole structure.
But there had been implanted along through the ages germs of another growth in human thinking, some of them even as early as the Babylonian period. In the Assyrian inscriptions we find recorded the Chaldeo-Babylonian idea of an evolution of the universe out of the primeval flood or "great deep," and of the animal creation out of the earth and sea. This idea, recast, partially at least, into mono-theistic form, passed naturally into the sacred books of the neighbors and pupils of the Chaldeans -- the Hebrews; but its growth in Christendom afterward was checked, as we shall hereafter find, by the more powerful influence of other inherited statements which appealed more intelligibly to the mind of the Church.
Striking, also, was the effect of this idea as rewrought by the early Ionian philosophers, to whom it was probably transmitted from the Chaldeans through the Phoenicians. In the minds of Ionians like Anaximander and Anaximenes it was most clearly developed: the first of these conceiving of the visible universe as the result of processes of evolution, find the latter pressing further the same mode of reasoning, and dwelling on agencies in cosmic development recognized in modern science.
This general idea of evolution in Nature thus took strong hold upon Greek thought and was developed in many ways, some ingenious, some perverse. Plato, indeed, withstood it; but Aristotle sometimes developed it in a manner which reminds us of modern views.
Among the Romans Lucretius caught much from it, extending the evolutionary process virtually to all things.
In the early Church, as we have seen, the idea of a creation direct, material, and by means like those used by man, was all- powerful for the exclusion of conceptions based on evolution. From the more simple and crude of the views of creation given in the Babylonian legends, and thence incorporated into Genesis, rose the stream of orthodox thought on the subject, which grew into a flood and swept on through the Middle Ages and into modern times. Yet here and there in the midst of this flood were high grounds of thought held by strong men. Scotus Erigena and Duns Scotus, among the schoolmen, bewildered though they were, had caught some rays of this ancient light, and passed on to their successors, in modified form, doctrines of an evolutionary process in the universe.
In the latter half of the sixteenth century these evolutionary theories seemed to take more definite form in the mind of Giordano Bruno, who evidently divined the fundamental idea of what is now known as the "nebular hypothesis"; but with his murder by the Inquisition at Rome this idea seemed utterly to disappear -- dissipated by the flames which in 1600 consumed his body on the Campo dei Fiori.
Yet within the two centuries divided by Bruno's death the world was led into a new realm of thought in which an evolution theory of the visible universe was sure to be rapidly developed. For there came, one after the other, five of the greatest men our race has produced -- Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton -- and when their work was done the old theological conception of the universe was gone. "The spacious firmament on high" -- "the crystalline spheres" -- the Almighty enthroned upon "the circle of the heavens," and with his own hands, or with angels as his agents, keeping sun, moon, and planets in motion for the benefit of the earth, opening and closing the "windows of heaven," letting down upon the earth the "waters above the firmament," "setting his bow in the cloud," hanging out "signs and wonders," hurling comets, "casting forth lightnings" to scare the wicked, and "shaking the earth " in his wrath: all this had disappeared.
These five men had given a new divine revelation to the world; and through the last, Newton, had come a vast new conception, destined to be fatal to the old theory of creation, for he had shown throughout the universe, in place of almighty caprice, all- pervading law. The bitter opposition of theology to the first four of these men is well known; but the fact is not so widely known that Newton, in spite of his deeply religious spirit, was also strongly opposed. It was vigorously urged against him that by his statement of the law of gravitation he "took from God that direct action on his works so constantly ascribed to him in Scripture and transferred it to material mechanism," 'and that he "substituted gravitation for Providence." But, more than this, these men gave a new basis for the theory of evolution as distinguished from the theory of creation.
Especially worthy of note is it that the great work of Descartes, erroneous as many of its deductions were, and, in view of the lack of physical knowledge in his time, must be, had done much to weaken the old conception. His theory of a universe brought out of all-pervading matter, wrought into orderly arrangement by movements in accordance with physical laws -- though it was but a provisional hypothesis -- had done much to draw men's minds from the old theological view of creation; it was an example of intellectual honesty arriving at errors, but thereby aiding the advent of truths. Crippled though Descartes was by his almost morbid fear of the Church, this part of his work was no small factor in bringing in that attitude of mind which led to a reception of the thoughts of more unfettered thinkers.
Thirty years later came, in England, an effort of a different sort, but with a similar result. In 1678 Ralph Cudworth published his Intellectual System of the Universe. To this day he remains, in breadth of scholarship, in strength of thought, in tolerance, and in honesty, one of the greatest glories of the English Church, and his work was worthy of him. He purposed to build a fortress which should protect Christianity against all dangerous theories of the universe, ancient or modern. The foundations of the structure were laid with old thoughts thrown often into new and striking forms; but, as the superstructure arose more and more into view, while genius marked every part of it, features appeared which gave the rigidly orthodox serious misgivings. From the old theories of direct personal action on the universe by the Almighty he broke utterly. He dwelt on the action of law, rejected the continuous exercise of miraculous intervention, pointed out the fact that in the natural world there are "errors" and "bungles," and argued vigorously in favor of the origin and maintenance of the universe as a slow and gradual development of Nature in obedience to an inward principle. The Balaks of seventeenth-century orthodoxy might well condemn this honest Baalim.
Toward the end of the next century a still more profound genius, Immanuel Kant, presented the nebular theory, giving it, in the light of Newton's great utterances, a consistency which it never before had; and about the same time Laplace gave it yet greater strength by mathematical reasoning of wonderful power and extent, thus implanting firmly in modern thought the idea that our own solar system and others -- suns and planets, satellites, and their various movements, distances, and magnitudes -- necessarily result from the obedience of nebulous masses to natural laws.
Throughout the theological world there was an outcry at once against "atheism," and war raged fiercely. Herschel and others pointed out many nebulous patches apparently gaseous. They showed by physical and mathematical demonstrations that the hypothesis accounted for the great body of facts, and, despite clamor, were gaining ground, when the improved telescopes resolved some of the patches of nebulous matter into multitudes of stars. The opponents of the nebular hypothesis were overjoyed; they now sang paeans to astronomy, because, as they said, it had proved the truth of Scripture. They had jumped to the conclusion that all nebulae must be alike; that, if some are made up of systems of stars, all must be so made up; that none can be masses of attenuated gaseous matter, because some are not.
Science halted for a time. The accepted doctrine became this: that the only reason why all the nebulae are not resolved into distinct stars is that our telescopes are not sufficiently powerful. But in time came the discovery of the spectroscope and spectrum analysis, and thence Fraunhofer's discovery that the spectrum of an ignited gaseous body is non-continuous, with interrupting lines; and Draper's discovery that the spectrum of an ignited solid is continuous, with no interrupting lines. And now the spectroscope was turned upon the nebulae, and many of them were found to be gaseous. Here, then, was ground for the inference that in these nebulous masses at different stages of condensation -- some apparently mere patches of mist, some with luminous centers -- we have the process of development actually going on, and observations like those of Lord Rosse and Arrest gave yet further confirmation to this view. Then came the great contribution of the nineteenth century to physics, aiding to explain important parts of the vast process by the mechanical theory of heat.
Again the nebular hypothesis came forth stronger than ever, and about 1850 the beautiful experiment of Plateau on the rotation of a fluid globe came in apparently to illustrate if not to confirm it. Even so determined a defender of orthodoxy as Mr. Gladstone at last acknowledged some form of a nebular hypothesis as probably true.
Here, too, was exhibited that form of surrendering theological views to science under the claim that science concurs with theology, which we have seen in so many other fields; and, as typical, an example may be given, which, however restricted in its scope, throws light on the process by which such surrenders are obtained. A few years since one of the most noted professors of chemistry in the city of New York, under the auspices of one of its most fashionable churches, gave a lecture which, as was claimed in the public prints and in placards posted in the streets, was to show that science supports the theory of creation given in the sacred books ascribed to Moses. A large audience assembled, and a brilliant series of elementary experiments with oxygen, hydrogen, and carbonic acid was concluded by the Plateau demonstration. It was beautifully made. As the colored globule of oil, representing the earth, was revolved in a transparent medium of equal density, as it became flattened at the poles, as rings then broke forth from it and revolved about it, and, finally, as some of these rings broke into satellites, which for a moment continued to circle about the central mass, the audience, as well they might, rose and burst into rapturous applause.
Thereupon a well-to-do citizen arose and moved the thanks of the audience to the eminent professor for "this perfect demonstration of the exact and literal conformity of the statements given in Holy Scripture with the latest results of science." The motion was carried unanimously and with applause, and the audience dispersed, feeling that a great service had been rendered to orthodoxy. Sancta silplicitas!
What this incident exhibited on a small scale has been seen elsewhere with more distinguished actors and on a broader stage. Scores of theologians, chief among whom of late in zeal if not in knowledge, has been Mr. Gladstone, have endeavored to "reconcile" the two accounts in Genesis with each other and with the truths regarding the origin of the universe gained by astronomy, geology, geography, physics, and chemistry. The result has been recently stated by an eminent theologian, the Hulsean Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He declares, "No attempt at reconciling Genesis with the exacting requirements of modern sciences has ever been known to succeed without entailing a degree of special pleading or forced interpretation to which, in such a question, we should be wise to have no recourse."*
Note:* For an interesting reference to the outcry against Newton, see McCosh, The Religious Aspect of Evolution, New York, 1890, pp. 103, 104; for germs of an evolutionary view among the Babylonians, see George Smith, Chaldean Account of Genesis, New York, 1876, pp. 74, 75; for a germ of the same thought in Lucretius, see his De Natura Rerum, lib. v, pp. 187-194, 447-454; for Bruno's conjecture (in 1591), see Jevons, Ptincifiks of Science, London, 1874, vol. ii, p. 299; for Kant's statement, see his Naturgeschichte des Hitnmets; for his part in the nebular hypothesis, see Lange, Geschichte def Materialismus, vol. i. p. 266; for value of Plateau's beautiful experiment, very cautiously estimated, see Jevons, vol. ii, p. 36; also Elisic Reclus, The Earth, translated by Woodward, vol. i, pp, 14-18, for an estimate still more careful; for a general account of discoveries of the nature of nebulae by spectroscope, see Draper, Conflict between Religion and Science; for a careful discussion regarding the spectra of solid, liquid, and gaseous bodies, see Schellen, Spectrum Analysis, pp. 100 et seg.; for a very thorough discussion of the bearings of discoveries made by spectrum analysis upon the nebular hypothesis, ibid., pp. 532-537; for a presentation of the difficulties yet unsolved, see an article by Plummer in the London Popular Science Review for January 1875; for an excellent short summary of recent observations and thought on this subject, see T. Sterry Hunt, Address at the Priestley Centennial, pp. 7, 8; for an interesting modification of this hypothesis, see Proctor's writings; for a still more recent view, see Lockyer's two articles on "The Sun's Place in Nature", in Nature for February 14 and 25, 1895.
The revelations of another group of sciences, though sometimes bitterly opposed and sometimes "reconciled" by theologians, have finally set the whole question at rest. First, there have come the biblical critics -- earnest Christian scholars, working for the sake of truth -- and these have revealed beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt the existence of at least two distinct accounts of creation in our book of Genesis, which can sometimes be forced to agree, but which are generally absolutely at variance with each other. These scholars have further shown the two accounts to be not the cunningly devised fables of priestcraft, but evidently fragments of earlier legends, myths, and theologies, accepted in good faith and brought together for the noblest of purposes by those who put in order the first of our sacred books.
Next have come the archaeologists and philologists, the devoted students of ancient monuments and records; of these are such as Rawlinson, George Smith, Sayce, Oppert, Jensen, Schrader, Delitzsch, and a phalanx of similarly devoted scholars, who have deciphered a multitude of ancient texts, especially the inscriptions found in the great library of Assurbanipal at Nineveh, and have discovered therein an account of the origin of the world identical in its most important features with the later accounts in our own book of Genesis.
These men have had the courage to point out these facts and to connect them with the truth that these Chaldean and Babylonian myths, legends, and theories were far earlier than those of the Hebrews, which so strikingly resemble them, and which we have in our sacred books; and they have also shown us how natural it was that the Jewish accounts of the creation should have been obtained at that remote period when the earliest Hebrews were among the Chaldeans, and how the great Hebrew poetic accounts of creation were drawn either from the sacred traditions of these earlier peoples or from antecedent sources common to various ancient nations.
In a summary which for profound thought and fearless integrity does honor not only to himself but to the great position which he holds, the Rev. Dr. Driver, Professor of Hebrew and Canon of Christ Church at Oxford, has recently stated the case fully and fairly. Having pointed out the fact that the Hebrews were one people out of many who thought upon the origin of the universe, he says that they "framed theories to account for the beginnings of the earth and man"; that "they either did this for themselves or borrowed those of their neighbors that "of the theories current in Assyria and Phoenicia fragments have been preserved, and these exhibit points of resemblance with the biblical narrative sufficient to warrant the inference that both are derived from the same cycle of tradition."
After giving some extracts from the Chaldean creation tablets he say: "In the light of these facts it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the biblical narrative is drawn from the same source as these other records. The biblical historians, it is plain, derived their materials from the best human sources available. . . . The materials which with other nations were combined into the crudest physical theories or associated with a grotesque polytheism were vivified and transformed by the inspired genius of the Hebrew historians, and adapted to become the vehicle of profound religious truth."
Not less honorable to the sister university and to himself is the statement recently made by the Rev. Dr. Ryle, Hulsean Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. He says that to suppose that a Christian "must either renounce his confidence in the achievements of scientific research or abandon his faith in Scripture is a monstrous perversion of Christian freedom." He declares: "The old position is no longer tenable; a new position has to be taken up at once, prayerfully chosen, and hopefully held." He then goes on to compare the Hebrew story of creation with the earlier stories developed among kindred peoples, and especially with the preexisting Assyro-Babylonian cosmogony, and shows that they are from the same source. He points out that any attempt to explain particular features of the story into harmony with the modern scientific ideas necessitates "a non-natural "interpretation; but he says that, if we adopt a natural interpretation, "we shall consider that the Hebrew description of the visible universe is unscientific as judged by modern standards, and that it shares the limitations of the imperfect knowledge of the age at which it was committed to writing." Regarding the account in Genesis of man's physical origin, he says that it "is expressed in the simple terms of prehistoric legend, of unscientific pictorial description."
In these statements and in a multitude of others made by eminent Christian investigators in other countries is indicated what the victory is which has now been fully won over the older theology.
Thus, from the Assyrian researches as well as from other sources, it has come to be acknowledged by the most eminent scholars at the leading seats of Christian learning that the accounts of creation with which for nearly two thousand years all scientific discoveries have had to be "reconciled" -- the accounts which blocked the way of Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and Laplace -- were simply transcribed or evolved from a mass of myths and legends largely derived by the Hebrews from their ancient relations with Chaldea, rewrought in a monotheistic sense, imperfectly welded together, and then thrown into poetic forms in the sacred books which we have inherited.
On one hand, then, we have the various groups of men devoted to the physical sciences all converging toward the proofs that the universe, as we at present know it, is the result of an evolutionary process -- that is, of the gradual working of physical laws upon an early condition of matter; on the other hand, we have other great groups of men devoted to historical, philological, and archaeological science whose researches all converge toward the conclusion that our sacred accounts of creation were the result of an evolution from an early chaos of rude opinion.
The great body of theologians who have so long resisted the conclusions of the men of science have claimed to be fighting especially for "the truth of Scripture," and their final answer to the simple conclusions of science regarding the evolution of the material universe has been the cry, "The Bible is true." And they are right -- though in a sense nobler than they have dreamed. Science, while conquering them, has found in our Scriptures a far nobler truth than that literal historical exactness for which theologians have so long and so vainly contended. More and more as we consider the results of the long struggle in this field we are brought to the conclusion that the inestimable value of the great sacred books of the world is found in their revelation of the steady striving of our race after higher conceptions, beliefs, and aspirations, both in morals and religion. Unfolding and exhibiting this long-continued effort, each of the great sacred books of the world is precious, and all, in the highest sense, are true. Not one of them, indeed, confirms to the measure of what mankind has now reached in historical and scientific truth; to make a claim to such conformity is folly, for it simply exposes those who make it and the books for which it is made to loss of their just influence.
That to which the great sacred books of the world conform, and our own most of all, is the evolution of the highest conceptions, beliefs, and aspirations of our race from its childhood through the great turning-points in its history. Herein lies the truth of all bibles, and especially of our own. Of vast value they indeed often are as a record of historical outward fact; recent researches in the East are constantly increasing this value; but it is not for this that we prize them most: they are eminently precious, not as a record of outward fact, but as a mirror of the evolving heart, mind, and soul of man. They are true because they have been developed in accordance with the laws governing the evolution of truth in human history, and because in poem, chronicle, code, legend, myth, apologue, or parable they reflect this development of what is best in the onward march of humanity. To say that they are not true is as if one should say that a flower or a tree or a planet is not true; to scoff at them is to scoff at the law of the universe. In welding together into noble form, whether in the book of Genesis, or in the Psalms, or in the book of Job, or elsewhere, the great conceptions of men acting under earlier inspiration, whether in Egypt, or Chaldea, or India, or Persia, the compilers of our sacred books have given to humanity a possession ever becoming more and more precious; and modern science, in substituting a new heaven and a new earth for the old -- the reign of law for the reign of caprice, and the idea of evolution for that of creation -- has added and is steadily adding a new revelation divinely inspired.
In the light of these two evolutions, then -- One of the visible universe, the other of a sacred creation-legend -- science and theology, if the master minds in both are wise, may at last be reconciled. A great step in this reconciliation was recently seen at the main center of theological thought among English-speaking people, when, in the collection of essays entitled Lux Mundi, emanating from the college established in these latter days as a fortress of orthodoxy at Oxford, the legendary character of the creation accounts in our sacred books was acknowledged, and when the Archbishop of Canterbury asked, "May not the Holy Spirit at times have made use of myth and legend?*
Note:* For the first citations above made, see "The Cosmogony of Genesis", by the Rev. S. R. Driver, D. D., Canon of Christ Church and Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, in The Expositor for January, 1886; for the second series of citations, see The Early Narratives of Genesis, by Herbert Edward Ryle, Hulsean Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, London, 1892. For evidence that even the stiffest of Scotch Presbyterians have now come to discard the old literal biblical narrative of creation and to regard the declaration of the Westminster Confession thereon as a "disproved theory of creation," see Principal John Tulloch, in Contemporary Review, March, 1877, on "Religious Thought in Scotland" -- especially page 550.
IN one of the windows of the cathedral at Ulm a medieval glass-stainer has represented the Almighty as busily engaged in creating the animals, and there has just left the divine hands an elephant fully accoutred, with armor, harness, and housings, ready for war. Similar representations appear in illuminated manuscripts and even in early printed books, and, as the culmination of the whole, the Almighty is shown as fashioning the first man from a hillock of clay and extracting from his side, with evident effort, the first woman.
This view of the general process of creation bad come from far, appearing under varying forms in various ancient cosmogonies. In the Egyptian temples at Philae and Denderah may still be seen representations of the Nile gods modelling lumps of clay into men, and a similar work is ascribed in the Assyrian tablets to the gods of Babylonia. Passing into our own sacred books, these ideas became the starting point of a vast new development of theology.*
Note:* For representations of Egyptian gods creating men out of lumps of clay, see Maspero and Sayce, The Dawn of History, p. 156 for the Chaldean legends of the creation of men and animals, see ibid., p. 543 also George Smith, Chaldean Account of Genesis, Sayce's edition, pp. 36, 72, and 93; also for similar legends in other ancient nations, Lenormant, Origines de l'Histoire, pp. 17 et seq.; for medieval representations of the creation of man and woman, see Didron, Iconografihie, pp- 35, 78, 224, 537.
The fathers of the Church generally received each of the two conflicting creation legends in Genesis literally, and then, having done their best to reconcile them with each other and to mould them together, made them the final test of thought upon the universe and all things therein. At the beginning of the fourth century Lactantius struck the keynote of this mode of subordinating all other things in the study of creation to the literal text of Scripture, and he enforces his view of the creation of man by a bit of philology, saying the final being created "is called man because he is made from the ground -- homo ex hilmo."
In the second half of the same century this view as to the literal acceptance of the sacred text was reasserted by St. Ambrose, who, in his work on the creation, declared that "Moses opened his mouth and poured forth what God had said to him." But a greater than either of them fastened this idea into the Christian theologies. St. Augustine, preparing his Commentary on the Book of Genesis, laid down in one famous sentence the law which has lasted in the Church until our own time: "Nothing is to be accepted save on the authority of Scripture, since greater is that authority than all the powers of the human mind." The vigor of the sentence in its original Latin carried it ringing down the centuries: "Major est Scripture, auctoritas quam omnis humani ingenii capacitas."
Through the medieval period, in spite of a revolt led by no other than St. Augustine himself, and followed by a series of influential churchmen, contending, as we shall hereafter see, for a modification of the accepted view of creation, this phrase held the minds of men firmly. The great Dominican encyclopaedist, Vincent of Beauvais, in his Mirror of Nature, while mixing ideas brought from Aristotle with a theory drawn from the Bible, stood firmly by the first of the accounts given in Genesis, and assigned the special virtue of the number six as a reason why all things were created in six days; and in the later Middle Ages that eminent authority, Cardinal d'Ailly, accepted everything regarding creation in the sacred books literally. Only a faint dissent is seen in Gregory Reisch, another authority of this later period, who, while giving, in his book on the beginning of things, a full-length woodcut showing the Almighty in the act of extracting Eve from Adam's side, with all the rest of new-formed Nature in the background, leans in his writings, like St. Augustine, toward a belief in the preexistence of matter.
At the Reformation the vast authority of Luther was thrown in favor of the literal acceptance of Scripture as the main source of natural science. The allegorical and mystical interpretations of earlier theologians he utterly rejected. "Why," he asks, "should Moses use allegory when he is not speaking of allegorical creatures or of an allegorical world, but of real creatures and of a visible world, which can be seen, felt, and grasped? Moses calls things by their right names, as we ought to do. . . . I hold that the animals took their being at once upon the word of God, as did also the fishes in the sea."
Not less explicit in his adherence to the literal account of creation given in Genesis was Calvin. He warns those who, by taking another view than his own, "basely insult the Creator, to expect a judge who will annihilate them." He insists that all species of animals were created in six days, each made up of an evening and a morning, and that no new species has ever appeared since. He dwells on the production of birds from the water as resting upon certain warrant of Scripture, but adds, "If the question is to be argued on physical grounds, we know that water is more akin to air than the earth is." As to difficulties in the scriptural account of creation, he tells us that God "wished by these to give proofs of his power which should fill us with astonishment."
The controlling minds in the Roman Church steadfastly held this view. In the seventeenth century Bossuct threw his vast authority in its favor, and in his Discourse oiz Universal History, which has remained the foundation not only of theological but of general historical teaching in France down to the present republic, we find him calling attention to what he regards as the culminating act of creation, and asserting that, literally, for the creation of man earth was used, and "the finger of God applied to corruptible matter."
The Protestant world held this idea no less persistently. In the seventeenth century Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, the great rabbinical scholar of his time, attempted to reconcile the two main legends in Genesis by saying that of the "clean sort of beasts there were seven of every kind created, three couples for breeding and the odd one for Adam's sacrifice on his fall, which God foresaw"; and that of unclean beasts only one couple was created.
So literal was this whole conception of the work of creation that in these days it can scarcely be imagined. The Almighty was represented in theological literature, in the pictured Bibles, and in works of art generally, as a sort of enlarged and venerable Nuremberg toy-maker. At times the accounts in Genesis were illustrated with even more literal exactness; thus, in connection with a well-known passage in the sacred text, the Creator was shown as a tailor, seated, needle in hand, diligently sewing together skins of beasts into coats for Adam and Eve. Such representations presented no difficulties to the docile minds of the Middle Ages and the Reformation period; and in the same spirit, when the discovery of fossils began to provoke thought, these were declared to be "models of his works approved or rejected by the great Artificer," "outlines of future creations," "sports of Nature," or "objects placed in the strata to bring to naught human curiosity"; and this kind of explanation lingered on until in our own time an eminent naturalist, in his anxiety to save the literal account in Genesis, has urged that Jehovah tilted and twisted the strata, scattered the fossils through them, scratched the glacial furrows upon them, spread over them the marks of erosion by water, and set Niagara pouring -- all in an instant -- thus mystifying the world "for some inscrutable purpose, but for his own glory."*
Note:* For the citation from Lactantius, see Divin. Instit. , lib. ii, cap. xi, in Migne, tome vi, pp. 311, 312; for St. Augustine's great phrase, see the De Genes. ad litt., ii, 5; for St. Ambrose, see lib. i, cap. ii; for Vincent of Beauvais, see the Speculum Naturale, lib. i, cap. ii, and lib. ii, cap. xv and xxx; also Bourgeat, Etudes sur Vincent de Beauvais, Paris, 1856, especially chaps. vii, xii, and xvi; for Cardinal d'Ailly, see the Imago Mundi, and for Reisch, see the various editions of the Margarita Philosofihica; for Luther's statements, see Luther's Schriften, ed. Walch, Halle, 1740, "Commentary on Genesis", vol. i; for Calvin's view of the creation of the animals, including the immutability of species, see the "Comm. in Gen.", tome i of his Opera. omnia, Amst., 1671, cap. i, v, xx, p. 5, also cap. ii, v, ii, p. 8, and elsewhere; for Bossuet, see his Discours sur l'Histoire universelle (in his Euvres, tome v, Paris, 1846); for Lightfoot, see his works, edited by Pitman, London, 1822; for Bede, see the Hexaemeron, lib. i, in Migne, tome xci, p. 21; for Mr. Gosse's modern defence of the literal view, see his Omphalos, London, 1857, passim.
The next important development of theological reasoning had regard to the divisions of the animal kingdom.
Naturally, one of the first divisions which struck the inquiring mind was that between useful and noxious creatures, and the question therefore occurred, How could a good God create tigers and serpents, thorns and thistles? The answer was found in theological considerations upon sin. To man's first disobedience all woes were due. Great men for eighteen hundred years developed the theory that before Adam's disobedience there was no death, and therefore neither ferocity nor venom,
Some typical utterances in the evolution of this doctrine are worthy of a passing glance. St. Augustine expressly confirmed and emphasized the view that the vegetable as well as the animal kingdom was cursed on account of man's sin. Two hundred years later this utterance had been echoed on from father to father of the Church until it was caught by Bede; he declared that before man's fall animals were harmless, but were made poisonous or hurtful by Adam's sin, and he said, "Thus fierce and poisonous animals were created for terrifying man (because God foresaw that he would sin), in order that he might be made aware of the final punishment of hell."
In the twelfth century this view was incorporated by Peter Lombard into his great theological work, the Sentences, which became a text-book of theology through the middle ages. He affirmed that "no created things would have been hurtful to man had he not sinned; they became hurtful for the sake of terrifying and punishing vice or of proving and perfecting virtue; they were created harmless, and on account of sin became hurtful."
This theological theory regarding animals was brought out in the eighteenth century with great force by John Wesley. He declared that before Adam's sin" none of these attempted to devour or in any wise hurt one another"; "the spider was as harmless as the fly, and did not lie in wait for blood." Not only Wesley, but the eminent Dr. Adam Clarke and Dr. Richard Watson, whose ideas had the very greatest weight among the English Dissenters, and even among leading thinkers in the Established Church, held firmly to this theory; so that not until, in our own time, geology revealed the remains of vast multitudes of carnivorous creatures, many of them with half-digested remains of other animals in their stomachs, all extinct long ages before the appearance of man upon earth, was a victory won by science over theology in this field.
A curious development of this doctrine was seen in the belief drawn by sundry old commentators from the condemnation of the serpent in Genesis -- a belief, indeed, perfectly natural, since it was evidently that of the original writers of the account preserved in the first of our sacred books. This belief was that, until the tempting serpent was cursed by the Almighty, all serpents stood erect, walked, and talked.
This belief was handed down through the ages as part of "the sacred deposit of the faith" until Watson, the most prolific writer of the evangelical reform in the eighteenth century and the standard theologian of the evangelical party, declared: "We have no reason at all to believe that the animal had a serpentine form in any mode or degree until its transformation; that he was then degraded to a reptile to go upon his belly imports, on the contrary, an entire loss and alteration of the original form." Here, again, was a ripe result of the theologic method diligently pursued by the strongest thinkers in the Church during nearly two thousand years; but this "sacred deposit" also faded away when the geologists found abundant remains of fossil serpents dating from periods long before the appearance of man.
Troublesome questions also arose among theologians regarding animals classed as "superfluous." St. Augustine was especially exercised thereby. He says: "I confess I am ignorant why mice and frogs were created, or flies and worms. . . . All creatures are either useful, hurtful, or superfluous to us. . . . As for the hurtful creatures, we are either punished, or disciplined, or terrified by them, so that we may not cherish and love this life." As to the "superfluous animals," he says, "Although they are not necessary for our service, yet the whole design of the universe is thereby completed and finished." Luther, who followed St. Augustine in so many other matters, declined to follow him fully in this. To him a fly was not merely superfluous, it was noxious -- sent by the devil to vex him when reading.
Another subject which gave rise to much searching of Scripture and long trains of theological reasoning was the difference between the creation of man and that of other living beings.
Great stress was laid by theologians, from St. Basil and St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas and Bossuct, and from Luther to Wesley, on the radical distinction indicated in Genesis, God having created man "in his own image." What this statement meant was seen in the light of the later biblical statement that "Adam begat Seth in his own likeness, after his image."
In view of this and of well-known texts incorporated from older creation legends into the Hebrew sacred books it came to be widely held that, while man was directly molded and fashioned separately by the Creator's hand, the animals generally were evoked in numbers from the earth and sea by the Creator's voice.
A question now arose naturally as to the distinctions of species among animals. The vast majority of theologians agreed in representing all animals as created "in the beginning," and named by Adam, preserved in the ark, and continued ever afterward under exactly the same species. This belief ripened into a dogma. Like so many other dogmas in the Church, Catholic and Protestant, its real origins are to be found rather in pagan philosophy than in the Christian Scriptures; it came far more from Plato and Aristotle than from Moses and St. Paul. But this was not considered: more and more it became necessary to believe that each and every difference of species was impressed by the Creator "in the beginning," and that no change had taken place or could have taken place since.
Some difficulties arose here and there as zoology progressed and revealed ever-increasing numbers of species; but through the Middle Ages, and indeed long after the Reformation, these difficulties were easily surmounted by making the ark of Noah larger and larger, and especially by holding that there had been a human error in regard to its measurement.*
Note:* For St. Augustine, see De Genesi and De Tinitate, passim; for Bede, see "Hexameron", lib. i, in Migne, tome xci, pp. 21, 36-38, 42; and De Sex Dierum Creations, in Migne, tome xciii, p, 215; for Peter Lombard on "noxious animals," see his "Sententice", lib. ii, dist. xv, 3, Migne, tome cxcii, p. 682; for Wesley, Clarke, and Watson, see quotations from them and notes thereto in my chapter on Geology; for St. Augustine on "superfluous animals," see the De Genesi, lib. i, Cap. xvi, 26; on Luther's view of flies, see the Table Talk and his famous utterance, "Odio muscas quia sunt imagines diaboli et hereticorum"; for the agency of Aristotle and Plato in fastening the belief in the fixity of species into Christian theology, see Sachs, Geschichee der Botanik, Munchen, 1875, P. 107 and note, also p. 113.
But naturally there was developed among both ecclesiastics and laymen a human desire to go beyond these special points in the history of animated beings -- a desire to know what the creation really is.
Current legends, stories, and travellers' observations, poor as they were, tended powerfully to stimulate curiosity in this field.
Three centuries before the Christian era Aristotle had made the first really great attempt to satisfy this curiosity, and had begun a development of studies in natural history which remains one of the leading achievements in the story of our race.
But the feeling which we have already seen so strong in the early Church -- that all study of Nature was futile in view of the approaching end of the world -- indicated so clearly in the New Testament and voiced so powerfully by Lactantius and St. Augustine -- held back this current of thought for many centuries. Still, the better tendency in humanity continued to assert itself. There was, indeed, an influence coming from the Hebrew Scriptures themselves which wrought powerfully to this end; for, in spite of all that Lactantius or St. Augustine might say as to the futility of any study of Nature, the grand utterances in the Psalms regarding the beauties and wonders of creation, in all the glow of the truest poetry, ennobled the study even among those whom logic drew away from it.
But, as a matter of course, in the early Church and throughout the Middle Ages all such studies were cast in a theologic mould. Without some purpose of biblical illustration or spiritual edification they were considered futile; too much prying into the secrets of Nature was very generally held to be dangerous both to body and soul; only for showing forth God's glory and his purposes in the creation were such studies praiseworthy. The great work of Aristotle was under eclipse. The early Christian thinkers gave little attention to it, and that little was devoted to transforming it into something absolutely opposed to his whole spirit and method; in place of it they developed the Physiologus and the Bestiaries, mingling scriptural statements, legends of the saints, and fanciful inventions with Pious intent and childlike. simplicity. In place of research came authority -- the authority of the Scriptures as interpreted by the Physiologus and the Bestiaries -- and these remained the principal source of thought on animated Nature for over a thousand years.
Occasionally, indeed, fear was shown among the rulers in the Church, even at such poor prying into the creation as this, and in the fifth century a synod under Pope Gelasius administered a rebuke to the Physiologus; but the interest in Nature was too strong: the great work on Creation by St. Basil had drawn from the Physiologus precious illustrations of Holy Writ, and the strongest of the early popes, Gregory the Great, virtually sanctioned it.
Thus was developed a sacred science of creation and of the divine purpose in Nature, which went on developing from the fourth century to the nineteenth -- from St. Basil to St. Isidore of Seville, from Isidore to Vincent of Beauvais, and from Vincent to Archdeacon Paley and the Bridgewater Treatises.
Like all else in the Middle Ages, this sacred science was developed purely by theological methods. Neglecting the wonders which the dissection of the commonest animals' would have afforded them, these naturalists attempted to throw light into Nature by ingenious use of scriptural texts, by research among the lives of the saints, and by the plentiful application of metaphysics. Hence even such strong men as St. Isidore of Seville treasured up accounts of the unicorn and dragons mentioned in the Scriptures and of the phoenix and basilisk in profane writings. Hence such contributions to knowledge as that the basilisk kills serpents by his breath and men by his glance, that the lion when pursued effaces his tracks with the end of his tail, that the pelican nourishes her young with her own blood, that serpents lay aside their venom before drinking, that the salamander quenches fire, that the hyena can talk with shepherds, that certain birds are born of the fruit of a certain tree when it happens to fall into the water, with other masses of science equally valuable.
As to the method of bringing science to bear on Scripture, the Physiologus gives an example, illustrating the passage in the book of Job which speaks of the old lion perishing for lack of prey. Out of the attempt to explain an unusual Hebrew word in the text there came a curious development of error, until we find fully evolved an account of the "ant-lion," which, it gives us to understand, was the lion mentioned by Job, and it says: "As to the ant-lion, his father hath the shape of a lion, his mother that of an ant; the father liveth upon flesh and the mother upon herbs; these bring forth the ant-lion, a compound of both and in part like to either; for his fore part is like that of a lion and his hind part like that of an ant. Being thus composed, he is neither able to eat flesh like his father nor herbs like his mother, and so he perisheth."
In the middle of the thirteenth century we have a triumph of this theological method in the great work of the English Franciscan Bartholomew on The Properties of Things. The theological method as applied to science consists largely in accepting tradition and in spinning arguments to fit it. In this field Bartholomew was a master. Having begun with the intent mainly to explain the allusions in Scripture to natural objects, he soon rises logically into a survey of all Nature. Discussing the "cockatrice" of Scripture, he tells us: "He drieth and burneth leaves with his touch, and he is of so great venom and perilous that he slayeth and wasteth him that nigheth him without tarrying; and yet the weasel overcometh him, for the biting of the weasel is death to the cockatrice. Nevertheless the biting of the cockatrice is death to the weasel if the weasel eat not rue before. And though the cockatrice be venomous without remedy while he is alive, yet he looseth all the malice when he is burnt to ashes. His ashes be accounted profitable in working of alchemy, and namely in turning and changing of metals."
Bartholomew also enlightens us on the animals of Egypt, and says, "If the crocodile findeth a man by the water's brim he slayeth him, and then he weepeth over him and swalloweth him."
Naturally this good Franciscan naturalist devotes much thought to the "dragons" mentioned in Scripture. He says: "The dragon is most greatest of all serpents, and oft he is drawn out of his den and riseth up into the air, and the air is moved by him, and also the sea swelleth against his venom, and he hath a crest, and reareth his tongue, and hath teeth like a saw, and hath strength, and not only in teeth but in tail, and grieveth with biting and with stinging. Whom he findeth he slayeth. Oft four or five of them fasten their tails together and rear up their heads, and sail over the sea to get good meat. Between elephants and dragons is everlasting fighting; for the dragon with his tail spanneth the elephant, and the elephant with his nose throweth down the dragon. . . . The cause why the dragon desireth his blood is the coldness thereof, by the which the dragon desireth to cool himself. Jerome saith that the dragon is a full thirsty beast, insomuch that he openeth his mouth against the wind to quench the burning of his thirst in that wise. Therefore, when he seeth ships in great wind he flieth against the sail to take the cold wind, and overthroweth the ship."
These ideas of Friar Bartholomew spread far and struck deep into the popular mind. His book was translated into the principal languages of Europe, and was one of those most generally read during the Ages of Faith. It maintained its position nearly three hundred years; even after the invention of printing it held its own, and in the fifteenth century there were issued no less than ten editions of it in Latin, four in French, and various versions of it in Dutch, Spanish, and English. Preachers found it especially useful in illustrating the ways of God to man. It was only when the great voyages of discovery substituted ascertained fact for theological reasoning in this province that its authority was broken.
The same sort of science flourished in the Bestiaries, which were used everywhere, and especially in the pulpits, for the edification of the faithful. In all of these, as in that compiled early in the thirteenth century by an ecclesiastic, William of Normandy, we have this lesson, borrowed from the Physiologus: "The lioness giveth birth to cubs which remain three days without life. Then cometh the lion, breatheth upon them, and bringeth them to life. . . . Thus it is that Jesus Christ during three days was deprived of life, but God the Father raised him gloriously."
Pious use was constantly made of this science, especially by monkish preachers. The phoenix rising from his ashes proves the doctrine of the resurrection; the structure and mischief of monkeys proves the existence of demons; the fact that certain monkeys have no tails proves that Satan. has been shorn of his glory; the weasel, which "constailtly changes its place, is a type of the man estranged from the word of God, who findeth no rest."
The moral treatises of the time often took the form of works on natural history, in order the more fully to exploit these religious teachings of Nature. Thus from the book On Bees, of the Dominican Thomas of Cantimpre', we learn that wasps persecute bees and make war on them out of natural hatred"; and these, he tells us, typify the demons who dwell in the air and with lightning and tempest assail and vex mankind -- whereupon he fills a long chapter with anecdotes of such demonic warfare on mortals. In like manner his fellow-Dominican, the inquisitor Nider, in his book The Ant Hill, teaches us that the ants in Ethiopia, which are said to have horns and to grow so large as to look like dogs, are emblems of atrocious heretics, like Wyclif and the Hussites, who bark and bite against the truth; while the ants of India, which dig up gold out of the sand with their feet and hoard it, though they make no use of it, symbolize the fruitless toil with which the heretics dig out the gold of Holy Scripture and hoard it in their books to no purpose.
This pious spirit not only pervaded science; it bloomed out in art, and especially in the cathedrals. In the gargoyles overhanging the walls, in the grotesques clambering about the towers or perched upon pinnacles, in the dragons prowling under archways or lurking in bosses of foliage, in the apocalyptic beasts carved upon the stalls of the choir, stained into the windows, wrought into the tapestries, illuminated in the letters and borders of psalters and missals, these marvels of creation suggested everywhere morals from the Physiologus, the Bestiaries, and the Exempla.*
Note:* For the Physiologus, Bestiaries, etc., see Berger de Xivrey, Traditions Telratologigues; also Hippeau's edition of the Bestiaire de Cuillaume de Normandie, Caen, 1852, and such medieval books of Exempla as the Lumen Natura; also Hoefer, Histoire de la Zoologic; also Rambaud, Histoire de la Civilization Franraise, Paris, 1885, vol. i, pp. 368, 369 also Cardinal Pitra, preface to the Spicilegium Solismense, Paris, 1885, passim also Carus, Geschichte der Zoologie; and, for an admirable summary, the article "Physiologus" in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the illuminated manuscripts in the Library of Cornell University are some very striking examples of grotesques. For admirably illustrated articles on the Bestiaries, see Cahier and Martin, melanges d'archeologie, Paris, 1851, 1852, and 1856, vol. ii of the first series, pp. 85-232, and second series, volume on "Curiosites Mysterieuses", pp. 106-164; also J. R. Allen, Early Christian Symbolism in Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1887), lecture vi; for an exhaustive discussion of the subject, see Das Thierbuch des normannischen Dichters Guillaume le Cleic, herausgegeben von Reinisch, Leipsic, 1890; and, for an Italian example, Goldstaub und Wendriner, Ein Tosco- Venezianischer Bestiarius, Halle, 1892, where is given, on pp. 369-371, a very pious but very comical tradition regarding the beaver, hardly mentionable to ears polite. For Friar Bartholomew, see (besides his book itself) Medieval Lore, edited by Robert Steele, London, 1893, PP. 118-138.
Here and there among men who were free from church control we have work of a better sort. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Abd Allatif made observations upon the natural history of Egypt which showed a truly scientific spirit, and the Emperor Frederick II attempted to promote a more fruitful study of Nature; but one of these men was abhorred as a Mussulman and the other as an infidel. Far more in accordance with the spirit of the time was the ecclesiastic Giraldus Cambrensis, whose book on the topography of Ireland bestows much attention upon the animals of the island, and rarely fails to make each contribute an appropriate moral. For example, he says that in Ireland "eagles live for so many ages that they seem to contend with eternity itself; so also the saints, having put off the old man and put on the new, obtain the blessed fruit of everlasting life." Again, he tells us: "Eagles often fly so high that their wings are scorched by the sun; so those who in the Holy Scriptures strive to unravel the deep and hidden secrets of the heavenly mysteries, beyond what is allowed, fall below, as if the wings of the presumptuous imaginations on which they are borne were scorched."
In one of the great men of the following century appeared a gleam of healthful criticism: Albert the Great, in his work on the animals, dissents from the widespread belief that certain birds spring from trees and are nourished by the sap, and also from the theory that some are generated in the sea from decaying wood.
But it required many generations for such skepticism to produce much effect, and we find among the illustrations in an edition of Mandeville published just before the Reformation not only careful accounts but pictured representations both of birds and of beasts produced in the fruit of trees.*
Note:* For Giraldus Cambrensis, see the edition in the Bohn Library, London, 1863, p. 30; for Abd Allatif and Frederick II, see Hoefer, as above; for Albertus Magnus, see the De Animalibus, lib. xxiii; for the illustrations in Mandeville, see the Strasburg edition, 1484; for the history of the myth of the tree which produces birds, see Max Muller's Lectures on the Science of Language, second series, lect. xii.
This general employment of natural science for pious purposes went on after the Reformation. Luther frequently made this use of it, and his example controlled his followers. In 1612, Wolfgang Franz, Professor of Theology at Luther's university, gave to the world his sacred history of animals, which went through many editions. It contained a very ingenious classification, describing "natural dragons," which have three rows of teeth to each jaw, and he piously adds, the principal dragon is the Devil."
Near the end of the same century, Father Kircher, the great Jesuit professor at Rome, holds back the skeptical current, insists upon the orthodox view, and represents among the animals entering the ark sirens and griffins.
Yet even among theologians we note here and there a skeptical spirit in natural science,. Early in the same seventeenth century Eugene Roger published his Travels in Palestine. As regards the utterances of Scripture he is soundly orthodox: he prefaces his work with a map showing, among other important points referred to in biblical history, the place where Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of in ass, the cavern which Adam and Eve inhabited after their expulsion from paradise, the spot where Baalim's ass spoke, the place where Jacob wrestled with the angel, the steep place down which the swine possessed of devils plunged into the sea, the position of the salt statue which was once Lot's wife, the place at sea where Jonah was swallowed by the whale, and "the exact spot where St. Peter caught one hundred and fifty-three fishes."
As to natural history, he describes and discusses with great theological acuteness the basilisk. He tells us that the animal is about a foot and a half long, is shaped like a crocodile, and kills people with a single glance. The one which he saw was dead, fortunately for him, since in the time of Pope Leo IV -- as he tells us -- one appeared in Rome and killed many people by merely looking at them; but the Pope destroyed it with his prayers and the sign of the cross. He informs us that Providence has wisely and mercifully protected man by requiring the monster to cry aloud two or three times whenever it leaves its den, and that the divine wisdom in creation is also shown by the fact that the monster is obliged to look its victim in the eye, and at a certain fixed distance, before its glance can penetrate the victim's brain and so pass to his heart. He also gives a reason for supposing that the same divine mercy has provided that the crowing of a cock will kill the basilisk.
Yet even in this good and credulous missionary we see the influence of Bacon and the dawn of experimental science; for, having been told many stories regarding the salamander, he secured one, placed it alive upon the burning coals, and reports to us that the legends concerning its power to live in the fire are untrue. He also tried experiments with the chameleon, and found that the stories told of it were to be received with much allowance: while, then, be locks up his judgment whenever he discusses the letter of Scripture, he uses his mind in other things much after the modern method.
In the second half of the same century Hottinger, in his Theological Examination of the History of Creation, breaks from the belief in the phoenix; but his skepticism is carefully kept within the limits imposed by Scripture. He avows his doubts, first, "because God created the animals in couples, while the phoenix is represented as a single, un-mated creature"; secondly, "because Noah, when he entered the ark, brought the animals in by sevens, while there were never so many individuals of the phoenix species"; thirdly, because "no man is known who dares assert that he has ever seen this bird"; fourthly, because "those who assert there is a phoenix differ among themselves."
In view of these attacks on the salamander and the phoenix, we are not surprised to find, before the end of the century, skepticism regarding the basilisk: the eminent Prof. Kirchmaier, at the University of Wittenberg, treats phoenix and basilisk alike as old wives' fables. As to the phoenix, he denies its existence, not only because Noah took no such bird into the ark, but also because, as he pithily remarks, "birds come from eggs, not from ashes." But the unicorn he can not resign, nor will he even concede that the unicorn is a rhinoceros; he appeals to Job and to Marco Polo to prove that this animal, as usually conceived, really exists, and says, "Who would not fear to deny the existence of the unicorn, since Holy Scripture names him with distinct praises?" As to the other great animals mentioned in Scripture, he is so rationalistic as to admit that behemoth was an elephant and leviathan a Whale.
But these germs of a fruitful skepticism grew, and we soon find Dannhauer going a step further and declaring his disbelief even in the unicorn, insisting that it was a rhinoceros -- only that and nothing more. Still, the main current continued strongly theological. In 1712 Samuel Bochart published his great work upon the animals of Holy Scripture. As showing its spirit we may take the titles of the chapters on the horse:
- "Chapter VI. Of the Hebrew Name of the Horse"
- "Chapter VII. Of the Colors of the Six Horses in Zechariah."
- "Chapter VIII. Of the Horses in Job."
- "Chapter IX. Of Solomon's Horses, and of the Texts wherein the Writers praise the Excellence of Horses."
- Chapter X. Of the Consecrated Horses of the Sun."
Among the other titles of chapters are such as: Of Baalim's Ass; Of the Thousand Philistines slain by Samson with the Jawbone of an Ass; Of the Golden Calves of Aaron and Jeroboam; Of the Bleating, Milk, Wool, External and Internal Parts of Sheep mentioned in Scripture; Of Notable Things told regarding Lions in Scripture; Of Noah's Dove and of the Dove which appeared at Christ's Baptism. Mixed up in the book, with the principal mass drawn from Scripture, were many facts and reasonings taken from investigations by naturalists; but all were permeated by the theological spirit.*
Note:* For Franz and Kircher, see Perrier, La Philosophie Zoologique avant Darwin, Paris, 1884, p. 29; for Roger, see his La Terre Saincte, Paris, 1664, pp. 89-92, 139, 218, etc.; for Hottinger, see his Historie Creationis Examen theologieo- fihilologicum, Heidelberg, 1659, lib. vi, quoest. lxxxiii; for Kirchmaier, see his Disputationes Zoologies, (published collectively after his death), Jena, 1736; for Dannhauer, see his Disputationes Theologics', Leipsic, 1707, p.14; for Bochart, see his Hierozoikon, sive De Animalibus Sacrae, Scripture, Leyden, 1712.
The inquiry into Nature having thus been pursued nearly two thousand years theologically, we find by the middle of the sixteenth century some promising beginnings of a different method -- the method of inquiry into Nature scientifically -- the method which seeks not plausibilities but facts. At that time Edward Wotton led the way in England and Conrad Gesner on the Continent, by observations widely extended, carefully noted, and thoughtfully classified.
This better method of interrogating Nature soon led to the formation of societies for the same purpose. In 1560 was founded an Academy for the Study of Nature at Naples, but theologians, becoming alarmed, suppressed it, and for nearly one hundred years there was no new combined effort of that sort, until in 1645 began the meetings in London of what was afterward the Royal Society. Then came the Academy of Sciences in France, and the Accademia del Cimento in Italy; others followed in all parts of the world, and a great new movement was begun.
Theologians soon saw a danger in this movement. In Italy, Prince Leopold de' Medici, a protector of the Florentine Academy, was bribed with a cardinal's hat to neglect it, and from the days of Urban VIII to Pius IX a similar spirit was there shown. In France, there were frequent ecclesiastical interferences, of which Button's humiliation for stating a simple scientific truth was a noted example. In England, Protestantism was at first hardly more favorable toward the Royal Society, and the great Dr. South denounced it in his sermons as irreligious.
Fortunately, one thing prevented an open breach between theology and science: while new investigators had mainly given up the medieval method so dear to the Church, they had very generally retained the conception of direct creation and of design throughout creation -- a design having as its main purpose the profit, instruction, enjoyment, and amusement of man.
On this the naturally opposing tendencies of theology and, science were compromised. Science, while somewhat freed from its old limitations, became the handmaid of theology in illustrating the doctrine of creative design, and always with apparent deference to the Chaldean and other ancient myths and legends embodied in the Hebrew sacred books.
About the middle of the seventeenth century came a great victory of the scientific over the theologic method. At that time Francesco Redi published the results of his inquiries into the doctrine of spontaneous generation. For ages a widely accepted doctrine had been that water, filth, and carrion had received power from the Creator to generate worms, insects, and a multitude of the smaller animals; and this doctrine had been especially welcomed by St. Augustine and many of the fathers, since it relieved the Almighty of making, Adam of naming, and Noah of living in the ark with these innumerable despised species. But to this fallacy Redi put an end. By researches which could not be gainsaid, he showed that every one of these animals came from an egg; each, therefore, must be the lineal descendant of an animal created, named, and preserved from the beginning."
Similar work went on in England, but under more distinctly theological limitations. In the same seventeenth century a very famous and popular English book was published by the naturalist John Ray, a fellow of the Royal Society, who produced a number of works on plants, fishes, and birds; but the most widely read of all was entitled The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of Creation. Between the years 1691 and 1827 it Passed through nearly twenty editions.
Ray argued the goodness and wisdom of God from the adaptation of the animals not only to man's uses but to their own lives and surroundings.
In the first years of the eighteenth century Dr. Nehemiah Grew, of the Royal Society, published his Cosmologia Sacra to refute anti-scriptural opinions by producing evidences of creative design. Discussing "the ends of Providence," he says, "A crane, which is scurvy meat, lays but two eggs in the year, but a pheasant and partridge, both excellent meat, lay and hatch fifteen or twenty." He points to the fact that "those of value which lay few at a time sit the oftener, as the woodcock and the dove." He breaks decidedly from the doctrine that noxious things in Nature are caused by sin, and shows that they, too, are useful; that, "if nettles sting, it is to secure an excellent medicine for children and cattle"; that, "if the bramble hurts man, it makes all the better hedge"; and that, "if it chances to prick the owner, it tears the thief." "Weasels, kites, and other hurtful animals induce us to watchfulness; thistles and moles, to good husbandry; lice oblige us to cleanliness in our bodies, spiders in our houses, and the moth in our clothes." This very optimistic view, triumphing over the theological theory of noxious animals and plants as effects of sin, which prevailed with so much force from St. Augustine to Wesley, was developed into nobler form during the century by various thinkers, and especially by Archdeacon Paley, whose Natural Theology exercised a powerful influence down to recent times. The same tendency appeared in other countries, though various philosophers showed weak points in the argument, and Goethe made sport of it in a noted verse, praising the forethought of the Creator in foreordaining the cork tree to furnish stoppers for wine-bottles.
Shortly before the middle of the nineteenth century the main movement culminated in the Bridgezeatcr Treatises. Pursuant to the will of the eighth Earl of Bridgewater, the President of the Royal Society selected eight persons, each to receive a thousand pounds sterling for writing and publishing a treatise on the "power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as manifested in the creation." Of these, the leading essays in regard to animated Nature were those of Thomas Chalmers, "On The Adaption of External Nature to the oral and Intellectual Condition of Man"; of Sir Charles Bell, "On The Hand as Evincing Design"; of Roget, "On Animal and Vegetable Physiology with reference to Natural Theology"; and of Kirby, "On The Habits and Instincts of Animals with reference to Natural Theology."
Besides these there were treatises by Whewell, Buckland, Kidd, and Profit. The work was well done. It was a marked advance on all that had appeared before, in matter, method, and spirit. Looking back upon it now we can see that it was provisional, but that it was none the less fruitful in truth, and we may well remember Darwin's remark on the stimulating effect of mistaken theories, as compared with the sterilizing effect of mistaken observations: mistaken observations lead men astray, mistaken theories suggest true theories.
An effort made in so noble a spirit certainly does not deserve the ridicule that, in our own day, has sometimes been lavished upon it. Curiously, indeed, one of the most contemptuous of these criticisms has been recently made by one of the most strenuous defenders of orthodoxy. No less eminent a standard-bearer of the faith than the Rev. Prof. Zoeckler says of this movement to demonstrate creative purpose and design, and of the men who took part in it, "The earth appeared in their representation of it like a great clothing shop and soup kitchen, and God as a glorified rationalistic professor." Such a statement as this is far from just to the conceptions of such men as Butler, Paley, and Chalmers, no matter how fully the thinking world has now outlived them.*
Note:* For a very valuable and interesting study on the old idea of the generation of insects from carrion, see Osten-Sacken, On the Oxen-born Bees of the Ancients, Heidelberg, 1894; for Ray, see the work cited, London, 1827, p. 153; for Grew, see Cosmologia Sacra, or a Discourse on the Universe, as it is the Creature and Kingdom of God; chiefly written to demonstrate the Truth and Excellency of the Bible, by Dr. Nehemiah Grew, Fellow of the College of Physicians and of the Royal Society, London, 1701; for Paley and the Bridgewater Treatises, see the usual editions; also Lange, History of Rationalism. Goethe's couplet ran as follows:
Welche Verehrung verdient der Weltenerschopfer, der Gnadig, Als er den Korkbaum erschuf, gleich auch die Stopfel erfand."For the quotation from Zoeckler, see his work already cited, vol. ii, PP. 74, 440.
But, noble as the work of these men was, the foundation of fact on which they reared it became evidently more and more insecure.
For as far back as the seventeenth century acute theologians had begun to discern difficulties more serious than any that had before confronted them. More and more it was seen that the number of different species was far greater than the world had hitherto imagined. Greater and greater had become the old difficulty in conceiving that, of these innumerable species, each had been specially created by the Almighty hand; that each had been brought before Adam by the Almighty to be named; and that each, in couples or in sevens, had been gathered by Noah into the ark. But the difficulties thus suggested were as nothing compared to those raised by the distribution of animals.
Even in the first days of the Church this had aroused serious thought, and above all in the great mind of St. Augustine. In his City of God he had stated the difficulty as follows: But there is a question about all these kinds of beasts, which are neither tamed by man, nor spring from the earth like frogs, such as wolves and others of that sort, . . . as to how they could find their way to the islands after that flood which destroyed every living thing not preserved in the ark. . . . Some, indeed, might be thought to reach islands by swimming, in case these were very near; but some islands are so remote from continental lands that it does not seem possible that any creature could reach them by swimming. It is not an incredible thing, either, that some animals may have been captured by men and taken with them to those lands which they intended to inhabit, in order that they might have the pleasure of hunting; and it can not be denied that the transfer may have been accomplished through the agency of angels, commanded or allowed to perform this labor by God."
But this difficulty had now assumed a magnitude of which St. Augustine never dreamed. Most powerful of all agencies to increase it were the voyages of Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Amerigo Vespucci, and other navigators of the period of discovery. Still more serious did it become as the great islands of the southern seas were explored. Every navigator brought home tidings of new species of animals and of races of men living in parts of the world where the theologians, relying on the statement of St. Paul that the gospel had gone into all lands, had for ages declared there could be none; until finally it overtaxed even the theological imagination to conceive of angels, in obedience to the divine command, distributing the various animals over the earth, dropping the megatherium in South America, the archeopteryx in Europe, the ornithorhynchus in Australia, and the opossum in North America.
The first striking evidence of this new difficulty was shown by the eminent Jesuit missionary, Joseph Acosta. In his Natural and Moral History of the Indies, published in 1590, he proved himself honest and lucid. Though entangled in most of the older scriptural views, he broke away from many; but the distribution of animals gave him great trouble. Having shown the futility of St. Augustine's other explanations, he quaintly asks: "Who can imagine that in so long a voyage men woulde take the paines to carrie Foxes to Peru, especially that kinde they call `Acias,' which is the filthiest I have seene? Who woulde likewise say that they have carried Tygers and Lyons? Truly it were a thing worthy the laughing at to thinke so. It was sufficient, yea, very much, for men driven against their willes by tempest, in so long and unknowne a voyage, to escape with their owne lives, without busying themselves to carrie Woolves and Foxes, and to nourish them at sea."
It was under the impression made by this new array of facts that in 1667 Abraham Milius published at Geneva his book on The Origin of Animals and the Migration of Peoples. This book shows, like that of Acosta, the shock and strain to which the discovery of America subjected the received theological scheme of things. It was issued with the special approbation of the Bishop of Salzburg, and it indicates the possibility that a solution of the whole trouble may be found in the text, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind." Milius goes on to show that the ancient philosophers agree with Moses, and that "the earth and the waters, and especially the heat of the sun and of the genial sky, together with that slimy and putrid quality which seems to be inherent in the soil, may furnish the origin for fishes, terrestrial animals, and birds." On the other hand, he is very severe against those who imagine that man can have had the same origin with animals. But the subject with which Milius especially grapples is the _distribution_ of animals. He is greatly exercised by the many species found in America and in remote islands of the ocean--species entirely unknown in the other continents--and of course he is especially troubled by the fact that these species existing in those exceedingly remote parts of the earth do not exist in the neighbourhood of Mount Ararat. He confesses that to explain the distribution of animals is the most difficult part of the problem. If it be urged that birds could reach America by flying and fishes by swimming, he asks, "What of the beasts which neither fly nor swim?" Yet even as to the birds he asks, "Is there not an infinite variety of winged creatures who fly so slowly and heavily, and have such a horror of the water, that they would not even dare trust themselves to fly over a wide river?" As to fishes, he says, "They are very averse to wandering from their native waters," and he shows that there are now reported many species of American and East Indian fishes entirely unknown on the other continents, whose presence, therefore, can not be explained by any theory of natural dispersion.
Of those who suggest that land animals may have been dispersed over the earth by the direct agency of man for his use or pleasure he asks: "Who would like to get different sorts of lions, bears, tigers, and other ferocious and noxious creatures on board ship? who would trust himself with them? and who would wish to plant colonies of such creatures in new, desirable lands?"
His conclusion is that plants and animals take their origin in the lands wherein they are found; an opinion which he supports by quoting from the two narrations in Genesis passages which imply generative force in earth and water.
But in the eighteenth century matters had become even worse for the theological view. To meet the difficulty the eminent Benedictine, Dom Calmet, in his _Commentary_, expressed the belief that all the species of a genus had; originally formed one species, and he dwelt on this view as one which enabled him to explain the possibility of gathering all animals into the ark. This idea, dangerous as it was to the fabric of orthodoxy, and involving a profound separation from the general doctrine of the Church, seems to have been abroad among thinking men, for we find in the latter half of the same century even Linnaeus inclining to consider it. It was time, indeed, that some new theological theory be evolved; the great Linnaeus himself, in spite of his famous declaration favouring the fixity of species, had dealt a death-blow to the old theory. In his _Systema Naturae_, published in the middle of the eighteenth century, he had enumerated four thousand species of animals, and the difficulties involved in the naming of each of them by Adam and in bringing them together in the ark appeared to all thinking men more and more insurmountable.
What was more embarrassing, the number of distinct species went on increasing rapidly, indeed enormously, until, as an eminent zoological authority of our own time has declared, "for every one of the species enumerated by Linnaeus, more than fifty kinds are known to the naturalist of to-day, and the number of species still unknown doubtless far exceeds the list of those recorded."
Already there were premonitions of the strain made upon Scripture by requiring a hundred and sixty distinct miraculous interventions of the Creator to produce the hundred and sixty species of land shells found in the little island of Madeira alone, and fourteen hundred distinct interventions to produce the actual number of distinct species of a single well-known shell.
Ever more and more difficult, too, became the question of the geographical distribution of animals. As new explorations were made in various parts of the world, this danger to the theological view went on increasing. The sloths in South America suggested painful questions: How could animals so sluggish have got away from the neighbourhood of Mount Ararat so completely and have travelled so far?
The explorations in Australia and neighbouring islands made matters still worse, for there was found in those regions a whole realm of animals differing widely from those of other parts of the earth.
The problem before the strict theologians became, for example, how to explain the fact that the kangaroo can have been in the ark and be now only found in Australia: his saltatory powers are indeed great, but how could he by any series of leaps have sprung across the intervening mountains, plains, and oceans to that remote continent? and, if the theory were adopted that at some period a causeway extended across the vast chasm separating Australia from the nearest mainland, why did not lions, tigers, camels, and camelopards force or find their way across it?
The theological theory, therefore, had by the end of the eighteenth century gone to pieces. The wiser theologians waited; the unwise indulged in exhortations to "root out the wicked heart of unbelief," in denunciation of "science falsely so called," and in frantic declarations that "the Bible is true"--by which they meant that the limited understanding of it which they had happened to inherit is true.
By the middle of the nineteenth century the whole theological theory of creation--though still preached everywhere as a matter of form--was clearly seen by all thinking men to be hopelessly lost: such strong men as Cardinal Wiseman in the Roman Church, Dean Buckland in the Anglican, and Hugh Miller in the Scottish Church, made heroic efforts to save something from it, but all to no purpose. That sturdy Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon honesty, which is the best legacy of the Middle Ages to Christendom, asserted itself in the old strongholds of theological thought, the universities. Neither the powerful logic of Bishop Butler nor the nimble reasoning of Archdeacon Paley availed. Just as the line of astronomical thinkers from Copernicus to Newton had destroyed the old astronomy, in which the earth was the centre, and the Almighty sitting above the firmament the agent in moving the heavenly bodies about it with his own hands, so now a race of biological thinkers had destroyed the old idea of a Creator minutely contriving and fashioning all animals to suit the needs and purposes of man. They had developed a system of a very different sort, and this we shall next consider.
WE have seen, thus far, how there came into the thinking of mankind upon the visible universe and its inhabitants the idea of a creation virtually instantaneous and complete, and of a Creator in human form with human attributes, who spoke matter into existence literally by the exercise of his throat and lips, or shaped and placed it with his hands and fingers.
We have seen that this view came from far; that it existed in the Chaldaeo-Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations, and probably in others of the earliest date known to us; that its main features passed thence into the sacred books of the Hebrews and then into the early Christian Church, by whose theologians it was developed through the Middle Ages and maintained during the modern period.
But, while this idea was thus developed by a succession of noble and thoughtful men through thousands of years, another conception, to all appearance equally ancient, was developed, sometimes in antagonism to it, sometimes mingled with it--the conception of all living beings as wholly or in part the result of a growth process--of an evolution.
This idea, in various forms, became a powerful factor in nearly all the greater ancient theologies and philosophies. For very widespread among the early peoples who attained to much thinking power was a conception that, in obedience to the divine fiat, a watery chaos produced the earth, and that the sea and land gave birth to their inhabitants.
This is clearly seen in those records of Chaldaeo-Babylonian thought deciphered in these latter years, to which reference has already been made. In these we have a watery chaos which, under divine action, brings forth the earth and its inhabitants; first the sea animals and then the land animals--the latter being separated into three kinds, substantially as recorded afterward in the Hebrew accounts. At the various stages in the work the Chaldean Creator pronounces it "beautiful," just as the Hebrew Creator in our own later account pronounces it "good."
In both accounts there is placed over the whole creation a solid, concave firmament; in both, light is created first, and the heavenly bodies are afterward placed "for signs and for seasons"; in both, the number seven is especially sacred, giving rise to a sacred division of time and to much else. It may be added that, with many other features in the Hebrew legends evidently drawn from the Chaldean, the account of the creation in each is followed by a legend regarding "the fall of man" and a deluge, many details of which clearly passed in slightly modified form from the Chaldean into the Hebrew accounts.
It would have been a miracle indeed if these primitive conceptions, wrought out with so much poetic vigour in that earlier civilization on the Tigris and Euphrates, had failed to influence the Hebrews, who during the most plastic periods of their development were under the tutelage of their Chaldean neighbours. Since the researches of Layard, George Smith, Oppert, Schrader, Jensen, Sayce, and their compeers, there is no longer a reasonable doubt that this ancient view of the world, elaborated if not originated in that earlier civilization, came thence as a legacy to the Hebrews, who wrought it in a somewhat disjointed but mainly monotheistic form into the poetic whole which forms one of the most precious treasures of ancient thought preserved in the book of Genesis.
Thus it was that, while the idea of a simple material creation literally by the hands and fingers or voice of the Creator became, as we have seen, the starting-point of a powerful stream of theological thought, and while this stream was swollen from age to age by contributions from the fathers, doctors, and learned divines of the Church, Catholic and Protestant, there was poured into it this lesser current, always discernible and at times clearly separated from it--a current of belief in a process of evolution.
The Rev. Prof. Sayce, of Oxford, than whom no English-speaking scholar carries more weight in a matter of this kind, has recently declared his belief that the Chaldaeo-Babylonian theory was the undoubted source of the similar theory propounded by the Ionic philosopher Anaximander--the Greek thinkers deriving this view from the Babylonians through the Phoenicians; he also allows that from the same source its main features were adopted into both the accounts given in the first of our sacred books, and in this general view the most eminent Christian Assyriologists concur.
It is true that these sacred accounts of ours contradict each other. In that part of the first or Elohistic account given in the first chapter of Genesis the _waters_ bring forth fishes, marine animals, and birds (Genesis, i, 20); but in that part of the second or Jehovistic account given in the second chapter of Genesis both the land animals and birds are declared to have been created not out of the water, but "_out of the ground_" (Genesis, ii, 19).
The dialectic skill of the fathers was easily equal to explaining away this contradiction; but the old current of thought, strengthened by both these legends, arrested their attention, and, passing through the minds of a succession of the greatest men of the Church, influenced theological opinion deeply, if not widely, for ages, in favour of an evolution theory.
But there was still another ancient source of evolution ideas. Thoughtful men of the early civilizations which were developed along the great rivers in the warmer regions of the earth noted how the sun-god as he rose in his fullest might caused the water and the rich soil to teem with the lesser forms of life. In Egypt, especially, men saw how under this divine power the Nile slime brought forth "creeping things innumerable." Hence mainly this ancient belief that the animals and man were produced by lifeless matter at the divine command, "in the beginning," was supplemented by the idea that some of the lesser animals, especially the insects, were produced by a later evolution, being evoked after the original creation from various sources, but chiefly from matter in a state of decay.
This crude, early view aided doubtless in giving germs of a better evolution theory to the early Greeks. Anaximander, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and, greatest of all, Aristotle, as we have seen, developed them, making their way at times by guesses toward truths since established by observation. Aristotle especially, both by speculation and observation, arrived at some results which, had Greek freedom of thought continued, might have brought the world long since to its present plane of biological knowledge; for he reached something like the modern idea of a succession of higher organizations from lower, and made the fruitful suggestion of "a perfecting principle" in Nature.
With the coming in of Christian theology this tendency toward a yet truer theory of evolution was mainly stopped, but the old crude view remained, and as a typical example of it we may note the opinion of St. Basil the Great in the fourth century. Discussing the work of creation, he declares that, at the command of God, "the waters were gifted with productive power"; "from slime and muddy places frogs, flies, and gnats came into being"; and he finally declares that the same voice which gave this energy and quality of productiveness to earth and water shall be similarly efficacious until the end of the world. St. Gregory of Nyssa held a similar view.
This idea of these great fathers of the Eastern Church took even stronger hold on the great father of the Western Church. For St. Augustine, so fettered usually by the letter of the sacred text, broke from his own famous doctrine as to the acceptance of Scripture and spurned the generally received belief of a creative process like that by which a toymaker brings into existence a box of playthings. In his great treatise on _Genesis_ he says: "To suppose that God formed man from the dust with bodily hands is very childish.... God neither formed man with bodily hands nor did he breathe upon him with throat and lips."
St. Augustine then suggests the adoption of the old emanation or evolution theory, shows that "certain very small animals may not have been created on the fifth and sixth days, but may have originated later from putrefying matter." argues that, even if this be so, God is still their creator, dwells upon such a potential creation as involved in the actual creation, and speaks of animals "whose numbers the after-time unfolded."
In his great treatise on the _Trinity_--the work to which he devoted the best thirty years of his life--we find the full growth of this opinion. He develops at length the view that in the creation of living beings there was something like a growth--that God is the ultimate author, but works through secondary causes; and finally argues that certain substances are endowed by God with the power of producing certain classes of plants and animals.
This idea of a development by secondary causes apart from the original creation was helped in its growth by a theological exigency. More and more, as the organic world was observed, the vast multitude of petty animals, winged creatures, and "creeping things" was felt to be a strain upon the sacred narrative. More and more it became difficult to reconcile the dignity of the Almighty with his work in bringing each of these creatures before Adam to be named; or to reconcile the human limitations of Adam with his work in naming "every living creature"; or to reconcile the dimensions of Noah's ark with the space required for preserving all of them, and the food of all sorts necessary for their sustenance, whether they were admitted by twos, as stated in one scriptural account, or by sevens, as stated in the other.
The inadequate size of the ark gave especial trouble. Origen had dealt with it by suggesting that the cubit was Six times greater than had been supposed. Bede explained Noah's ability to complete so large a vessel by supposing that he worked upon it during a hundred years; and, as to the provision of food taken into it, he declared that there was no need of a supply for more than one day, since God could throw the animals into a deep sleep or otherwise miraculously make one day's supply sufficient; he also lessened the strain on faith still more by diminishing the number of animals taken into the ark--supporting his view upon Augustine's theory of the later development of insects out of carrion.
Doubtless this theological necessity was among the main reasons which led St. Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, to incorporate this theory, supported by St. Basil and St. Augustine, into his great encyclopedic work which gave materials for thought on God and Nature to so many generations. He familiarized the theological world still further with the doctrine of secondary creation, giving such examples of it as that "bees are generated from decomposed veal, beetles from horseflesh, grasshoppers from mules, scorpions from crabs," and, in order to give still stronger force to the idea of such transformations, he dwells on the biblical account of Nebuchadnezzar, which appears to have taken strong hold upon medieval thought in science, and he declares that other human beings had been changed into animals, especially into swine, wolves, and owls.
This doctrine of after-creations went on gathering strength until, in the twelfth century, Peter Lombard, in his theological summary, _The Sentences_, so powerful in moulding the thought of the Church, emphasized the distinction between animals which spring from carrion and those which are created from earth and water; the former he holds to have been created "potentially" the latter "actually."
In the century following, this idea was taken up by St. Thomas Aquinas and virtually received from him its final form. In the _Summa_, which remains the greatest work of medieval thought, he accepts the idea that certain animals spring from the decaying bodies of plants and animals, and declares that they are produced by the creative word of God either actually or virtually. He develops this view by saying, "Nothing was made by God, after the six days of creation, absolutely new, but it was in some sense included in the work of the six days"; and that "even new species, if any appear, have existed before in certain native properties, just as animals are produced from putrefaction."
The distinction thus developed between creation "causally" or "potentially," and "materially" or "formally," was made much of by commentators afterward. Cornelius a Lapide spread it by saying that certain animals were created not "absolutely," but only "derivatively," and this thought was still further developed three centuries later by Augustinus Eugubinus, who tells us that, after the first creative energy had called forth land and water, light was made by the Almighty, the instrument of all future creation, and that the light called everything into existence.
All this "science falsely so called," so sedulously developed by the master minds of the Church, and yet so futile that we might almost suppose that the great apostle, in a glow of prophetic vision, had foreseen it in his famous condemnation, seems at this distance very harmless indeed; yet, to many guardians of the "sacred deposit of doctrine " in the Church, even so slight a departure from the main current of thought seemed dangerous. It appeared to them like pressing the doctrine of secondary causes to a perilous extent; and about the beginning of the seventeenth century we have the eminent Spanish Jesuit and theologian Suarez denouncing it, and declaring St. Augustine a heretic for his share in it.
But there was little danger to the older idea just then; the main theological tendency was so strong that the world kept on as of old. Biblical theology continued to spin its own webs out of its own bowels, and all the lesser theological flies continued to be entangled in them; yet here and there stronger thinkers broke loose from this entanglement and helped somewhat to disentangle others.
At the close of the Middle Ages, in spite of the devotion of the Reformed Church to the letter of Scripture, the revival of learning and the great voyages gave an atmosphere in which better thinking on the problems of Nature began to gain strength. On all sides, in every field, men were making discoveries which caused the general theological view to appear more and more inadequate.
First of those who should be mentioned with reverence as beginning to develop again that current of Greek thought which the system drawn from our sacred books by the fathers and doctors of the Church had interrupted for more than a thousand years, was Giordano Bruno. His utterances were indeed vague and enigmatical, but this fault may well be forgiven him, for he saw but too clearly what must be his reward for any more open statements. His reward indeed came--even for his faulty utterances--when, toward the end of the nineteenth century, thoughtful men from all parts of the world united in erecting his statue on the spot where he had been burned by the Roman Inquisition nearly three hundred years before.
After Bruno's death, during the first half of the seventeenth century, Descartes seemed about to take the leadership of human thought: his theories, however superseded now, gave a great impulse to investigation then. His genius in promoting an evolution doctrine as regards the mechanical formation of the solar system was great, and his mode of thought strengthened the current of evolutionary doctrine generally; but his constant dread of persecution, both from Catholics and Protestants, led him steadily to veil his thoughts and even to suppress them. The execution of Bruno had occurred in his childhood, and in the midst of his Career he had watched the Galileo struggle in all its stages. He had seen his own works condemned by university after university under the direction of theologians, and placed upon the Roman _Index_. Although he gave new and striking arguments to prove the existence of God, and humbled himself before the Jesuits, he was condemned by Catholics and Protestants alike. Since Roger Bacon, perhaps, no great thinker had been so completely abased and thwarted by theological oppression.
Near the close of the same century another great thinker, Leibnitz, though not propounding any full doctrine on evolution, gave it an impulse by suggesting a view contrary to the sacrosanct belief in the immutability of species--that is, to the pious doctrine that every species in the animal kingdom now exists as it left the hands of the Creator, the naming process by Adam, and the door of Noah's ark.
His punishment at the hands of the Church came a few years later, when, in 1712, the Jesuits defeated his attempt to found an Academy of Science at Vienna. The imperial authorities covered him with honours, but the priests--ruling in the confessionals and pulpits--would not allow him the privilege of aiding his fellow-men to ascertain God's truths revealed in Nature.
Spinoza, Hume, and Kant may also be mentioned as among those whose thinking, even when mistaken, might have done much to aid in the development of a truer theory had not the theologic atmosphere of their times been so unpropitious; but a few years after Leibnitz's death came in France a thinker in natural science of much less influence than any of these, who made a decided step forward.
Early in the eighteenth century Benoist de Maillet, a man of the world, but a wide observer and close thinker upon Nature, began meditating especially upon the origin of animal forms, and was led into the idea of the transformation of species and so into a theory of evolution, which in some important respects anticipated modern ideas. He definitely, though at times absurdly, conceived the production of existing species by the modification of their predecessors, and he plainly accepted one of the fundamental maxims of modern geology--that the structure of the globe must be studied in the light of the present course of Nature.
But he fell between two ranks of adversaries. On one side, the Church authorities denounced him as a freethinker; on the other, Voltaire ridiculed him as a devotee. Feeling that his greatest danger was from the orthodox theologians, De Maillet endeavoured to protect himself by disguising his name in the title of his book, and by so wording its preface and dedication that, if persecuted, he could declare it a mere sport of fancy; he therefore announced it as the reverie of a Hindu sage imparted to a Christian missionary. But this strategy availed nothing: he had allowed his Hindu sage to suggest that the days of creation named in Genesis might be long periods of time; and this, with other ideas of equally fearful import, was fatal. Though the book was in type in 1735, it was not published till 1748--three years after his death.
On the other hand, the heterodox theology of Voltaire was also aroused; and, as De Maillet had seen in the presence of fossils on high mountains a proof that these mountains were once below the sea, Voltaire, recognising in this an argument for the deluge of Noah, ridiculed the new thinker without mercy. Unfortunately, some of De Maillet's vagaries lent themselves admirably to Voltaire's sarcasm; better material for it could hardly be conceived than the theory, seriously proposed, that the first human being was born of a mermaid.
Hence it was that, between these two extremes of theology, De Maillet received no recognition until, very recently, the greatest men of science in England and France have united in giving him his due. But his work was not lost, even in his own day; Robinet and Bonnet pushed forward victoriously on helpful lines.
In the second half of the eighteenth century a great barrier was thrown across this current--the authority of Linnaeus. He was the most eminent naturalist of his time, a wide observer, a close thinker; but the atmosphere in which he lived and moved and had his being was saturated with biblical theology, and this permeated all his thinking.
He who visits the tomb of Linnaeus to-day, entering the beautiful cathedral of Upsala by its southern porch, sees above it, wrought in stone, the Hebrew legend of creation. In a series of medallions, the Almighty--in human form--accomplishes the work of each creative day. In due order he puts in place the solid firmament with the waters above it, the sun, moon, and stars within it, the beasts, birds, and plants below it, and finishes his task by taking man out of a little hillock of "the earth beneath," and woman out of man's side. Doubtless Linnaeus, as he went to his devotions, often smiled at this childlike portrayal. Yet he was never able to break away from the idea it embodied. At times, in face of the difficulties which beset the orthodox theory, he ventured to favour some slight concessions. Toward the end of his life he timidly advanced the hypothesis that all the species of one genus constituted at the creation one species; and from the last edition of his _Systema Naturae_ he quietly left out the strongly orthodox statement of the fixity of each species, which he had insisted upon in his earlier works. But he made no adequate declaration. What he might expect if he openly and decidedly sanctioned a newer view he learned to his cost; warnings came speedily both from the Catholic and Protestant sides.
At a time when eminent prelates of the older Church were eulogizing debauched princes like Louis XV, and using the unspeakably obscene casuistry of the Jesuit Sanchez in the education of the priesthood as to the relations of men to women, the modesty of the Church authorities was so shocked by Linnaeus's proofs of a sexual system in plants that for many years his writings were prohibited in the Papal States and in various other parts of Europe where clerical authority was strong enough to resist the new scientific current. Not until 1773 did one of the more broad-minded cardinals --Zelanda--succeed in gaining permission that Prof. Minasi should discuss the Linnaean system at Rome.
And Protestantism was quite as oppressive. In a letter to Eloius, Linnaeus tells of the rebuke given to science by one of the great Lutheran prelates of Sweden, Bishop Svedberg. From various parts of Europe detailed statements had been sent to the Royal Academy of Science that water had been turned into blood, and well-meaning ecclesiastics had seen in this an indication of the wrath of God, certainly against the regions in which these miracles had occurredand possibly against the whole world. A miracle of this sort appearing in Sweden, Linnaeus looked into it carefully and found that the reddening of the water was caused by dense masses of minute insects. News of this explanation having reached the bishop, he took the field against it; he denounced this scientific discovery as "a Satanic abyss" (_abyssum Satanae_), and declared "The reddening of the water is _not_ natural," and "when God allows such a miracle to take place Satan endeavours, and so do his ungodly, self-reliant, self-sufficient, and worldly tools, to make it signify nothing." In face of this onslaught Linnaeus retreated; he tells his correspondent that "it is difficult to say anything in this matter," and shields himself under the statement "It is certainly a miracle that so many millions of creatures can be so suddenly propagated," and "it shows undoubtedly the all-wise power of the Infinite."
The great naturalist, grown old and worn with labours for science, could no longer resist the contemporary theology; he settled into obedience to it, and while the modification of his early orthodox view was, as we have seen, quietly imbedded in the final edition of his great work, he made no special effort to impress it upon the world. To all appearance he continued to adhere to the doctrine that all existing species had been created by the Almighty "in the beginning," and that since "the beginning" no new species had appeared.
Yet even his great authority could not arrest the swelling tide; more and more vast became the number of species, more and more incomprehensible under the old theory became the newly ascertained facts in geographical distribution, more and more it was felt that the universe and animated beings had come into existence by some process other than a special creation "in the beginning," and the question was constantly pressing, "By _what_ process?"
Throughout the whole of the eighteenth century one man was at work on natural history who might have contributed much toward an answer to this question: this man was Buffon. His powers of research and thought were remarkable, and his gift in presenting results of research and thought showed genius. He had caught the idea of an evolution in Nature by the variation of species, and was likely to make a great advance with it; but he, too, was made to feel the power of theology.
As long as he gave pleasing descriptions of animals the Church petted him, but when he began to deduce truths of philosophical import the batteries of the Sorbonne were opened upon him; he was made to know that "the sacred deposit of truth committed to the Church" was, that "in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth" and that "all things were made at the beginning of the world." For his simple statement of truths in natural science which are to-day truisms, he was, as we have seen, dragged forth by the theological faculty, forced to recant publicly, and to print his recantation. In this he announced, "I abandon everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth, and generally all which may be contrary to the narrative of Moses."
But all this triumph of the Chaldeo-Babylonian creation legends which the Church had inherited availed but little.
For about the end of the eighteenth century fruitful suggestions and even clear presentations of this or that part of a large evolutionary doctrine came thick and fast, and from the most divergent quarters. Especially remarkable were those which came from Erasmus Darwin in England, from Maupertuis in France, from Oken in Switzerland, and from Herder, and, most brilliantly of all, from Goethe in Germany.
Two men among these thinkers must be especially mentioned--Treviranus in Germany and Lamarck in France; each independently of the other drew the world more completely than ever before in this direction.
From Treviranus came, in 1802, his work on biology, and in this he gave forth the idea that from forms of life originally simple had arisen all higher organizations by gradual development; that every living feature has a capacity for receiving modifications of its structure from external influences; and that no species had become really extinct, but that each had passed into some other species. From Lamarck came about the same time his _Researches_, and a little later his _Zoological Philosophy_, which introduced a new factor into the process of evolution--the action of the animal itself in its efforts toward a development to suit new needs--and he gave as his principal conclusions the following:
- Life tends to increase the volume of each living body and of all its parts up to a limit determined by its own necessities.
- New wants in animals give rise to new organs.
- The development of these organs is in proportion to their employment.
- New developments may be transmitted to offspring.
His well-known examples to illustrate these views, such as that of successive generations of giraffes lengthening their necks by stretching them to gather high-growing foliage, and of successive generations of kangaroos lengthening and strengthening their hind legs by the necessity of keeping themselves erect while jumping, provoked laughter, but the very comicality of these illustrations aided to fasten his main conclusion in men's memories.
In both these statements, imperfect as they were, great truths were embodied--truths which were sure to grow.
Lamarck's declaration, especially, that the development of organs is in ratio to their employment, and his indications of the reproduction in progeny of what is gained or lost in parents by the influence of circumstances, entered as a most effective force into the development of the evolution theory.
The next great successor in the apostolate of this idea of the universe was Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. As early as 1795 he had begun to form a theory that species are various modifications of the same type, and this theory he developed, testing it at various stages as Nature was more and more displayed to him. It fell to his lot to bear the brunt in a struggle against heavy odds which lasted many years.
For the man who now took up the warfare, avowedly for science but unconsciously for theology, was the foremost naturalist then living--Cuvier. His scientific eminence was deserved; the highest honours of his own and other countries were given him, and he bore them worthily. An Imperial Councillor under Napoleon; President of the Council of Public Instruction and Chancellor of the University under the restored Bourbons; Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, a Peer of France, Minister of the Interior, and President of the Council of State under Louis Philippe; he was eminent in all these capacities, and yet the dignity given by such high administrative positions was as nothing compared to his leadership in natural science. Science throughout the world acknowledged in him its chief contemporary ornament, and to this hour his fame rightly continues. But there was in him, as in Linnaeus, a survival of certain theological ways of looking at the universe and certain theological conceptions of a plan of creation; it must be said, too, that while his temperament made him distrust new hypotheses, of which he had seen so many born and die, his environment as a great functionary of state, honoured, admired, almost adored by the greatest, not only in the state but in the Church, his solicitude lest science should receive some detriment by openly resisting the Church, which had recaptured Europe after the French Revolution, and had made of its enemies its footstool--all these considerations led him to oppose the new theory. Amid the plaudits, then, of the foremost church-men he threw across the path of the evolution doctrines the whole mass of his authority in favour of the old theory of catastrophic changes and special creations.
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire stoutly withstood him, braving non-recognition, ill-treatment, and ridicule. Treviranus, afar off in his mathematical lecture-room at Bremen, seemed simply forgotten.
But the current of evolutionary thought could not thus be checked: dammed up for a time, it broke out in new channels and in ways and places least expected; turned away from France, it appeared especially in England, where great paleontologists and geologists arose whose work culminated in that of Lyell. Specialists throughout all the world now became more vigorous than ever, gathering facts and thinking upon them in a way which caused the special creation theory to shrink more and more. Broader and more full became these various rivulets, soon to unite in one great stream of thought.
In 1813 Dr. Wells developed a theory of evolution by natural selection to account for varieties in the human race. About 182O Dean Herbert, eminent as an authority in horticulture, avowed his conviction that species are but fixed varieties. In 1831 Patrick Matthews stumbled upon and stated the main doctrine of natural selection in evolution; and others here and there, in Europe and America, caught an inkling of it.
But no one outside of a circle apparently uninfluential cared for these things: the Church was serene: on the Continent it had obtained reactionary control of courts, cabinets, and universities; in England, Dean Cockburn was denouncing Mary Somerville and the geologists to the delight of churchmen; and the Rev. Mellor Brown was doing the same thing for the edification of dissenters.
In America the mild suggestions of Silliman and his compeers were met by the protestations of the Andover theologians headed by Moses Stuart. Neither of the great English universities, as a rule, took any notice of the innovators save by sneers.
To this current of thought there was joined a new element when, in 1844, Robert Chambers published his _Vestiges of Creation_. The book was attractive and was widely read. In Chambers's view the several series of animated beings, from the simplest and oldest up to the highest and most recent, were the result of two distinct impulses, each given once and for all time by the Creator. The first of these was an impulse imparted to forms of life, lifting them gradually through higher grades; the second was an impulse tending to modify organic substances in accordance with external circumstances; in fact, the doctrine of the book was evolution tempered by miracle--a stretching out of the creative act through all time--a pious version of Lamarck.
Two results followed, one mirth-provoking, the other leading to serious thought. The amusing result was that the theologians were greatly alarmed by the book: it was loudly insisted that it promoted atheism. Looking back along the line of thought which has since been developed, one feels that the older theologians ought to have put up thanksgivings for Chambers's theory, and prayers that it might prove true. The more serious result was that it accustomed men's minds to a belief in evolution as in some form possible or even probable. In this way it was provisionally of service.
Eight years later Herbert Spencer published an essay contrasting the theories of creation and evolution--reasoning with great force in favour of the latter, showing that species had undoubtedly been modified by circumstances; but still only few and chosen men saw the significance of all these lines of reasoning which had been converging during so many years toward one conclusion.
On July 1, 1858, there were read before the Linnaean Society at London two papers--one presented by Charles Darwin, the other by Alfred Russel Wallace--and with the reading of these papers the doctrine of evolution by natural selection was born. Then and there a fatal breach was made in the great theological barrier of the continued fixity of species since the creation.
The story of these papers the scientific world knows by heart: how Charles Darwin, having been sent to the University of Cambridge to fit him for the Anglican priesthood, left it in 1831 to go upon the scientific expedition of the Beagle; how for five years he studied with wonderful vigour and acuteness the problems of life as revealed on land and at sea--among volcanoes and coral reefs, in forests and on the sands, from the tropics to the arctic regions; how, in the Cape Verde and the Galapagos Islands, and in Brazil, Patagonia, and Australia he interrogated Nature with matchless persistency and skill; how he returned unheralded, quietly settled down to his work, and soon set the world thinking over its first published results, such as his book on _Coral Reefs,_ and the monograph on the _Cirripedia_; and, finally, how he presented his paper, and followed it up with treatises which made him one of the great leaders in the history of human thought.
The scientific world realizes, too, more and more, the power of character shown by Darwin in all this great career; the faculty of silence, the reserve of strength seen in keeping his great thought--his idea of evolution by natural selection--under silent study and meditation for nearly twenty years, giving no hint of it to the world at large, but working in every field to secure proofs or disproofs, and accumulating masses of precious material for the solution of the questions involved.
To one man only did he reveal his thought--to Dr. Joseph Hooker, to whom in 1844, under the seal of secrecy, he gave a summary of his conclusions. Not until fourteen years later occurred the event which showed him that the fulness of time had come--the letter from Alfred Russel Wallace, to whom, in brilliant researches during the decade from 1848 to 1858, in Brazil and in the Malay Archipelago, the same truth of evolution by natural selection had been revealed. Among the proofs that scientific study does no injury to the more delicate shades of sentiment is the well-known story of this letter. With it Wallace sent Darwin a memoir, asking him to present it to the Linnaean Society: on examining it, Darwin found that Wallace had independently arrived at conclusions similar to his own--possibly had deprived him of fame; but Darwin was loyal to his friend, and his friend remained ever loyal to him. He publicly presented the paper from Wallace, with his own conclusions; and the date of this presentation--July 1, 1858--separates two epochs in the history, not merely of natural science, but of human thought.
In the following year, 1859, came the first instalment of his work in its fuller development--his book on _The Origin of Species_. In this book one at least of the main secrets at the heart of the evolutionary process, which had baffled the long line of investigators and philosophers from the days of Aristotle, was more broadly revealed. The effective mechanism of evolution was shown at work in three ascertained facts: in the struggle for existence among organized beings; in the survival of the fittest; and in heredity. These facts were presented with such minute research, wide observation, patient collation, transparent honesty, and judicial fairness, that they at once commanded the world's attention. It was the outcome of thirty years' work and thought by a worker and thinker of genius, but it was yet more than that--it was the outcome, also, of the work and thought of another man of genius fifty years before. The book of Malthus on the _Principle of Population_, mainly founded on the fact that animals increase in a geometrical ratio, and therefore, if unchecked, must encumber the earth, had been generally forgotten, and was only recalled with a sneer. But the genius of Darwin recognised in it a deeper meaning, and now the thought of Malthus was joined to the new current. Meditating upon it in connection with his own observations of the luxuriance of Nature, Darwin had arrived at his doctrine of natural selection and survival of the fittest.
As the great dogmatic barrier between the old and new views of the universe was broken down, the flood of new thought pouring over the world stimulated and nourished strong growths in every field of research and reasoning: edition after edition of the book was called for; it was translated even into Japanese and Hindustani; the stagnation of scientific thought, which Buckle, only a few years before, had so deeply lamented, gave place to a widespread and fruitful activity; masses of accumulated observations, which had seemed stale and unprofitable, were made alive; facts formerly without meaning now found their interpretation. Under this new influence an army of young men took up every promising line of scientific investigation in every land. Epoch-making books appeared in all the great nations. Spencer, Wallace, Huxley, Galton, Tyndall, Tylor, Lubbock, Bagehot, Lewes, in England, and a phalanx of strong men in Germany, Italy, France, and America gave forth works which became authoritative in every department of biology. If some of the older men in France held back, overawed perhaps by the authority of Cuvier, the younger and more vigorous pressed on.
One source of opposition deserves to be especially mentioned--Louis Agassiz.
A great investigator, an inspired and inspiring teacher, a noble man, he had received and elaborated a theory of animated creation which he could not readily change. In his heart and mind still prevailed the atmosphere of the little Swiss parsonage in which he was born, and his religious and moral nature, so beautiful to all who knew him, was especially repelled by sundry evolutionists, who, in their zeal as neophytes, made proclamations seeming to have a decidedly irreligious if not immoral bearing. In addition to this was the direction his thinking had received from Cuvier. Both these influences combined to prevent his acceptance of the new view.
He was the third great man who had thrown his influence as a barrier across the current of evolutionary thought. Linnaeus in the second half of the eighteenth century, Cuvier in the first half, and Agassiz in the second half of the nineteenth--all made the same effort. Each remains great; but not all of them together could arrest the current. Agassiz's strong efforts throughout the United States, and indeed throughout Europe, to check it, really promoted it. From the great museum he had founded at Cambridge, from his summer school at Penikese, from his lecture rooms at Harvard and Cornell, his disciples went forth full of love and admiration for him, full of enthusiasm which he had stirred and into fields which he had indicated; but their powers, which he had aroused and strengthened, were devoted to developing the truth he failed to recognise; Shaler, Verrill, Packard, Hartt, Wilder, Jordan, with a multitude of others, and especially the son who bore his honoured name, did justice to his memory by applying what they had received from him to research under inspiration of the new revelation.
Still another man deserves especial gratitude and honour in this progress--Edward Livingston Youmans. He was perhaps the first in America to recognise the vast bearings of the truths presented by Darwin, Wallace, and Spencer. He became the apostle of these truths, sacrificing the brilliant career on which he had entered as a public lecturer, subordinating himself to the three leaders, and giving himself to editorial drudgery in the stimulation of research and the announcement of results.
In support of the new doctrine came a world of new proofs; those which Darwin himself added in regard to the cross-fertilization of plants, and which he had adopted from embryology, led the way, and these were followed by the discoveries of Wallace, Bates, Huxley, Marsh, Cope, Leidy, Haeckel, Muller, Gaudry, and a multitude of others in all lands.
DARWIN'S Origin of Species had come into the theological world like a plough into an ant-hill. Everywhere those thus rudely awakened from their old comfort and repose had swarmed forth angry and confused. Reviews, sermons, books light and heavy, came flying at the new thinker from all sides.
The keynote was struck at once in the _Quarterly Review_ by Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford. He declared that Darwin was guilty of "a tendency to limit God's glory in creation"; that "the principle of natural selection is absolutely incompatible with the word of God"; that it "contradicts the revealed relations of creation to its Creator"; that it is "inconsistent with the fulness of his glory"; that it is "a dishonouring view of Nature"; and that there is "a simpler explanation of the presence of these strange forms among the works of God": that explanation being--"the fall of Adam." Nor did the bishop's efforts end here; at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science he again disported himself in the tide of popular applause. Referring to the ideas of Darwin, who was absent on account of illness, he congratulated himself in a public speech that he was not descended from a monkey. The reply came from Huxley, who said in substance: "If I had to choose, I would prefer to be a descendant of a humble monkey rather than of a man who employs his knowledge and eloquence in misrepresenting those who are wearing out their lives in the search for truth."
This shot reverberated through England, and indeed through other countries.
The utterances of this the most brilliant prelate of the Anglican Church received a sort of antiphonal response from the leaders of the English Catholics. In an address before the "Academia," which had been organized to combat "science falsely so called," Cardinal Manning declared his abhorrence of the new view of Nature, and described it as "a brutal philosophy--to wit, there is no God, and the ape is our Adam."
These attacks from such eminent sources set the clerical fashion for several years. One distinguished clerical reviewer, in spite of Darwin's thirty years of quiet labour, and in spite of the powerful summing up of his book, prefaced a diatribe by saying that Darwin "might have been more modest had he given some slight reason for dissenting from the views generally entertained." Another distinguished clergyman, vice-president of a Protestant institute to combat "dangerous" science, declared Darwinism "an attempt to dethrone God." Another critic spoke of persons accepting the Darwinian views as "under the frenzied inspiration of the inhaler of mephitic gas," and of Darwin's argument as "a jungle of fanciful assumption." Another spoke of Darwin's views as suggesting that "God is dead," and declared that Darwin's work "does open violence to everything which the Creator himself has told us in the Scriptures of the methods and results of his work." Still another theological authority asserted: "If the Darwinian theory is true, Genesis is a lie, the whole framework of the book of life falls to pieces, and the revelation of God to man, as we Christians know it, is a delusion and a snare." Another, who had shown excellent qualities as an observing naturalist, declared the Darwinian view "a huge imposture from the beginning."
Echoes came from America. One review, the organ of the most widespread of American religious sects, declared that Darwin was "attempting to befog and to pettifog the whole question"; another denounced Darwin's views as "infidelity"; another, representing the American branch of the Anglican Church, poured contempt over Darwin as "sophistical and illogical," and then plunged into an exceedingly dangerous line of argument in the following words: "If this hypothesis be true, then is the Bible an unbearable fiction;... then have Christians for nearly two thousand years been duped by a monstrous lie.... Darwin requires us to disbelieve the authoritative word of the Creator" A leading journal representing the same church took pains to show the evolution theory to be as contrary to the explicit declarations of the New Testament as to those of the Old, and said: "If we have all, men and monkeys, oysters and eagles, developed from an original germ, then is St. Paul's grand deliverance--`All flesh is not the same flesh; there is one kind of flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds'--untrue."
Another echo came from Australia, where Dr. Perry, Lord Bishop of Melbourne, in a most bitter book on _Science and the Bible_, declared that the obvious object of Chambers, Darwin, and Huxley is "to produce in their readers a disbelief of the Bible."
Nor was the older branch of the Church to be left behind in this chorus. Bayma, in the _Catholic World_, declared, "Mr. Darwin is, we have reason to believe, the mouthpiece or chief trumpeter of that infidel clique whose well-known object is to do away with all idea of a God."
Worthy of especial note as showing the determination of the theological side at that period was the foundation of sacro-scientific organizations to combat the new ideas. First to be noted is the "Academia," planned by Cardinal Wiseman. In a circular letter the cardinal, usually so moderate and just, sounded an alarm and summed up by saying, "Now it is for the Church, which alone possesses divine certainty and divine discernment, to place itself at once in the front of a movement which threatens even the fragmentary remains of Christian belief in England." The necessary permission was obtained from Rome, the Academia was founded, and the "divine discernment" of the Church was seen in the utterances which came from it, such as those of Cardinal Manning, which every thoughtful Catholic would now desire to recall, and in the diatribes of Dr. Laing, which only aroused laughter on all sides. A similar effort was seen in Protestant quarters; the "Victoria institute" was created, and perhaps the most noted utterance which ever came from it was the declaration of its vice-president, the Rev. Walter Mitchell, that "Darwinism endeavours to dethrone God."
In France the attack was even more violent. Fabre d'Envieu brought out the heavy artillery of theology, and in a long series of elaborate propositions demonstrated that any other doctrine than that of the fixity and persistence of species is absolutely contrary to Scripture. The Abbe Desorges, a former Professor of Theology, stigmatized Darwin as a "pedant," and evolution as "gloomy". Monseigneur Segur, referring to Darwin and his followers, went into hysterics and shrieked: "These infamous doctrines have for their only support the most abject passions. Their father is pride, their mother impurity, their offspring revolutions. They come from hell and return thither, taking with them the gross creatures who blush not to proclaim and accept them."
In Germany the attack, if less declamatory, was no less severe. Catholic theologians vied with Protestants in bitterness. Prof. Michelis declared Darwin's theory "a caricature of creation." Dr. Hagermann asserted that it "turned the Creator out of doors." Dr. Schund insisted that "every idea of the Holy Scriptures, from the first to the last page, stands in diametrical opposition to the Darwinian theory"; and, "if Darwin be right in his view of the development of man out of a brutal condition, then the Bible teaching in regard to man is utterly annihilated." Rougemont in Switzerland called for a crusade against the obnoxious doctrine. Luthardt, Professor of Theology at Leipsic, declared: "The idea of creation belongs to religion and not to natural science; the whole superstructure of personal religion is built upon the doctrine of creation"; and he showed the evolution theory to be in direct contradiction to Holy Writ.
But in 1863 came an event which brought serious confusion to the theological camp: Sir Charles Lyell, the most eminent of living geologists, a man of deeply Christian feeling and of exceedingly cautious temper, who had opposed the evolution theory of Lamarck and declared his adherence to the idea of successive creations, then published his work on the _Antiquity of Man_, and in this and other utterances showed himself a complete though unwilling convert to the fundamental ideas of Darwin. The blow was serious in many ways, and especially so in two--first, as withdrawing all foundation in fact from the scriptural chronology, and secondly, as discrediting the creation theory. The blow was not unexpected; in various review articles against the Darwinian theory there had been appeals to Lyell, at times almost piteous, "not to flinch from the truths he had formerly proclaimed." But Lyell, like the honest man he was, yielded unreservedly to the mass of new proofs arrayed on the side of evolution against that of creation.
At the same time came Huxley's _Man's Place in Nature_, giving new and most cogent arguments in favour of evolution by natural selection.
In 1871 was published Darwin's _Descent of Man_. Its doctrine had been anticipated by critics of his previous books, but it made, none the less, a great stir; again the opposing army trooped forth, though evidently with much less heart than before. A few were very violent. _The Dublin University Magazine_, after the traditional Hibernian fashion, charged Mr. Darwin with seeking "to displace God by the unerring action of vagary," and with being "resolved to hunt God out of the world." But most notable from the side of the older Church was the elaborate answer to Darwin's book by the eminent French Catholic physician, Dr. Constantin James. In his work, _On Darwinism, or the Man-Ape_, published at Paris in 1877, Dr. James not only refuted Darwin scientifically but poured contempt on his book, calling it "a fairy tale," and insisted that a work "so fantastic and so burlesque" was, doubtless, only a huge joke, like Erasmus's _Praise of Folly_, or Montesquieu's _Persian Letters_. The princes of the Church were delighted. The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris assured the author that the book had become his "spiritual reading," and begged him to send a copy to the Pope himself. His Holiness, Pope Pius IX, acknowledged the gift in a remarkable letter. He thanked his dear son, the writer, for the book in which he "refutes so well the aberrations of Darwinism." "A system," His Holiness adds, "which is repugnant at once to history, to the tradition of all peoples, to exact science, to observed facts, and even to Reason herself, would seem to need no refutation, did not alienation from God and the leaning toward materialism, due to depravity, eagerly seek a support in all this tissue of fables.... And, in fact, pride, after rejecting the Creator of all things and proclaiming man independent, wishing him to be his own king, his own priest, and his own God--pride goes so far as to degrade man himself to the level of the unreasoning brutes, perhaps even of lifeless matter, thus unconsciously confirming the Divine declaration, _When pride cometh, then cometh shame_. But the corruption of this age, the machinations of the perverse, the danger of the simple, demand that such fancies, altogether absurd though they are, should--since they borrow the mask of science--be refuted by true science." Wherefore the Pope thanked Dr. James for his book, "so opportune and so perfectly appropriate to the exigencies of our time," and bestowed on him the apostolic benediction. Nor was this brief all. With it there came a second, creating the author an officer of the Papal Order of St. Sylvester. The cardinal archbishop assured the delighted physician that such a double honour of brief and brevet was perhaps unprecedented, and suggested only that in a new edition of his book he should "insist a little more on the relation existing between the narratives of Genesis and the discoveries of modern science, in such fashion as to convince the most incredulous of their perfect agreement." The prelate urged also a more dignified title. The proofs of this new edition were accordingly all submitted to His Eminence, and in 1882 it appeared as _Moses and Darwin: the Man of Genesis compared with the Man-Ape, or Religious Education opposed to Atheistic_. No wonder the cardinal embraced the author, thanking him in the name of science and religion. " We have at last," he declared, "a handbook which we can safely put into the hands of youth."
Scarcely less vigorous were the champions of English Protestant orthodoxy. In an address at Liverpool, Mr. Gladstone remarked: "Upon the grounds of what is termed evolution God is relieved of the labour of creation; in the name of unchangeable laws he is discharged from governing the world"; and, when Herbert Spencer called his attention to the fact that Newton with the doctrine of gravitation and with the science of physical astronomy is open to the same charge, Mr. Gladstone retreated in the _Contemporary Review_ under one of his characteristic clouds of words. The Rev. Dr. Coles, in the _British and Foreign Evangelical Review_, declared that the God of evolution is not the Christian's God. Burgon, Dean of Chichester, in a sermon preached before the University of Oxford, pathetically warned the students that "those who refuse to accept the history of the creation of our first parents according to its obvious literal intention, and are for substituting the modern dream of evolution in its place, cause the entire scheme of man's salvation to collapse." Dr. Pusey also came into the fray with most earnest appeals against the new doctrine, and the Rev. Gavin Carlyle was perfervid on the same side. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge published a book by the Rev. Mr. Birks, in which the evolution doctrine was declared to be "flatly opposed to the fundamental doctrine of creation." Even the _London Times_ admitted a review stigmatizing Darwin's _Descent of Man_ as an "utterly unsupported hypothesis," full of "unsubstantiated premises, cursory investigations, and disintegrating speculations," and Darwin himself as "reckless and unscientific."
But it was noted that this second series of attacks, on the _Descent of Man_, differed in one remarkable respect--so far as England was concerned--from those which had been made over ten years before on the _Origin of Species_. While everything was done to discredit Darwin, to pour contempt upon him, and even, of all things in the world, to make him--the gentlest of mankind, only occupied with the scientific side of the problem--"a persecutor of Christianity," while his followers were represented more and more as charlatans or dupes, there began to be in the most influential quarters careful avoidance of the old argument that evolution--even by natural selection--contradicts Scripture. It began to be felt that this was dangerous ground. The defection of Lyell had, perhaps, more than anything else, started the question among theologians who had preserved some equanimity, "_What if, after all, the Darwinian theory should prove to be true?_" Recollections of the position in which the Roman Church found itself after the establishment of the doctrines of Copernicus and Galileo naturally came into the minds of the more thoughtful. In Germany this consideration does not seem to have occurred at quite so early a day. One eminent Lutheran clergyman at Magdeburg called on his hearers to choose between Darwin and religion; Delitszch, in his new commentary on Genesis, attempted to bring science back to recognise human sin as an important factor in creation; Prof. Heinrich Ewald, while carefully avoiding any sharp conflict between the scriptural doctrine and evolution, comforted himself by covering Darwin and his followers with contempt; Christlieb, in his address before the Evangelical Alliance at New York in 1873, simply took the view that the tendencies of the Darwinian theory were "toward infidelity," but declined to make any serious battle on biblical grounds; the Jesuit, Father Pesch, in Holland, drew up in Latin, after the old scholastic manner, a sort of general indictment of evolution, of which one may say that it was interesting--as interesting as the display of a troop in chain armour and with cross-bows on a nineteenth-century battlefield.
From America there came new echoes. Among the myriad attacks on the Darwinian theory by Protestants and Catholics two should be especially mentioned. The first of these was by Dr. Noah Porter, President of Yale College, an excellent scholar, an interesting writer, a noble man, broadly tolerant, combining in his thinking a curious mixture of radicalism and conservatism. While giving great latitude to the evolutionary teaching in the university under his care, he felt it his duty upon one occasion to avow his disbelief in it; but he was too wise a man to suggest any necessary antagonism between it and the Scriptures. He confined himself mainly to pointing out the tendency of the evolution doctrine in this form toward agnosticism and pantheism. To those who knew and loved him, and had noted the genial way in which by wise neglect he had allowed scientific studies to flourish at Yale, there was an amusing side to all this. Within a stone's throw of his college rooms was the Museum of Paleontology, in which Prof. Marsh had laid side by side, among other evidences of the new truth, that wonderful series of specimens showing the evolution of the horse from the earliest form of the animal, "not larger than a fox, with five toes," through the whole series up to his present form and size--that series which Huxley declared an absolute proof of the existence of natural selection as an agent in evolution. In spite of the veneration and love which all Yale men felt for President Porter, it was hardly to be expected that these particular arguments of his would have much permanent effect upon them when there was constantly before their eyes so convincing a refutation.
But a far more determined opponent was the Rev. Dr. Hodge, of Princeton; his anger toward the evolution doctrine was bitter: he denounced it as thoroughly "atheistic"; he insisted that Christians "have a right to protest against the arraying of probabilities against the clear evidence of the Scriptures"; he even censured so orthodox a writer as the Duke of Argyll, and declared that the Darwinian theory of natural selection is "utterly inconsistent with the Scriptures," and that "an absent God, who does nothing, is to us no God"; that "to ignore design as manifested in God's creation is to dethrone God"; that "a denial of design in Nature is virtually a denial of God"; and that "no teleologist can be a Darwinian." Even more uncompromising was another of the leading authorities at the same university--the Rev. Dr. Duffield. He declared war not only against Darwin but even against men like Asa Gray, Le Conte, and others, who had attempted to reconcile the new theory with the Bible: he insisted that "evolutionism and the scriptural account of the origin of man are irreconcilable"--that the Darwinian theory is "in direct conflict with the teaching of the apostle, `All scripture is given by inspiration of God'"; he pointed out, in his opposition to Darwin's _Descent of Man_ and Lyell's _Antiquity of Man_, that in the Bible "the genealogical links which connect the Israelites in Egypt with Adam and Eve in Eden are explicitly given." These utterances of Prof. Duffield culminated in a declaration which deserves to be cited as showing that a Presbyterian minister can "deal damnation round the land" _ex cathedra_ in a fashion quite equal to that of popes and bishops. It is as follows: "If the development theory of the origin of man," wrote Dr. Duffield in the _Princeton Review_, "shall in a little while take its place--as doubtless it will--with other exploded scientific speculations, then they who accept it with its proper logical consequences will in the life to come have their portion with those who in this life `know not God and obey not the gospel of his Son.'"
Fortunately, at about the time when Darwin's _Descent of Man_ was published, there had come into Princeton University "_deus ex machina_" in the person of Dr. James McCosh. Called to the presidency, he at once took his stand against teachings so dangerous to Christianity as those of Drs. Hodge, Duffield, and their associates. In one of his personal confidences he has let us into the secret of this matter. With that hard Scotch sense which Thackeray had applauded in his well-known verses, he saw that the most dangerous thing which could be done to Christianity at Princeton was to reiterate in the university pulpit, week after week, solemn declarations that if evolution by natural selection, or indeed evolution at all, be true, the Scriptures are false. He tells us that he saw that this was the certain way to make the students unbelievers; he therefore not only checked this dangerous preaching but preached an opposite doctrine. With him began the inevitable compromise, and, in spite of mutterings against him as a Darwinian, he carried the day. Whatever may be thought of his general system of philosophy, no one can deny his great service in neutralizing the teachings of his predecessors and colleagues--so dangerous to all that is essential in Christianity.
Other divines of strong sense in other parts of the country began to take similar ground--namely, that men could be Christians and at the same time Darwinians. There appeared, indeed, here and there, curious discrepancies: thus in 1873 the _Monthly Religious Magazine_ of Boston congratulated its readers that the Rev. Mr. Burr had "demolished the evolution theory, knocking the breath of life out of it and throwing it to the dogs." This amazing performance by the Rev. Mr. Burr was repeated in a very striking way by Bishop Keener before the OEcumenical Council of Methodism at Washington in 1891. In what the newspapers described as an "admirable speech," he refuted evolution doctrines by saying that evolutionists had "only to make a journey of twelve hours from the place where he was then standing to find together the bones of the muskrat, the opossum, the coprolite, and the ichthyosaurus." He asserted that Agassiz--whom the good bishop, like so many others, seemed to think an evolutionist--when he visited these beds near Charleston, declared: "These old beds have set me crazy; they have destroyed the work of a lifetime." And the Methodist prelate ended by saying: "Now, gentlemen, brethren, take these facts home with you; get down and look at them. This is the watch that was under the steam hammer--the doctrine of evolution; and this steam hammer is the wonderful deposit of the Ashley beds." Exhibitions like these availed little. While the good bishop amid vociferous applause thus made comically evident his belief that Agassiz was a Darwinian and a coprolite an animal, scientific men were recording in all parts of the world facts confirming the dreaded theory of an evolution by natural selection. While the Rev. Mr. Burr was so loudly praised for "throwing Darwinism to the dogs," Marsh was completing his series leading from the five-toed ungulates to the horse. While Dr. Tayler Lewis at Union, and Drs. Hodge and Duffield at Princeton, were showing that if evolution be true the biblical accounts must be false, the indefatigable Yale professor was showing his cretaceous birds, and among them _Hesperornis_ and _Ichthyornis_ with teeth. While in Germany Luthardt, Schund, and their compeers were demonstrating that Scripture requires a belief in special and separate creations, the Archaepteryx, showing a most remarkable connection between birds and reptiles, was discovered. While in France Monseigneur Segur and others were indulging in diatribes against "a certain Darwin," Gaudry and Filhol were discovering a striking series of "missing links" among the carnivora.
In view of the proofs accumulating in favour of the new evolutionary hypothesis, the change in the tone of controlling theologians was now rapid. From all sides came evidences of desire to compromise with the theory. Strict adherents of the biblical text pointed significantly to the verses in Genesis in which the earth and sea were made to bring forth birds and fishes, and man was created out of the dust of the ground. Men of larger mind like Kingsley and Farrar, with English and American broad churchmen generally, took ground directly in Darwin's favour. Even Whewell took pains to show that there might be such a thing as a Darwinian argument for design in Nature; and the Rev. Samuel Houghton, of the Royal Society, gave interesting suggestions of a divine design in evolution.
Both the great English universities received the new teaching as a leaven: at Oxford, in the very front of the High Church party at Keble College, was elaborated a statement that the evolution doctrine is "an advance in our theological thinking." And Temple, Bishop of London, perhaps the most influential thinker then in the Anglican episcopate, accepted the new revelation in the following words: "It seems something more majestic, more befitting him to whom a thousand years are as one day, thus to impress his will once for all on his creation, and provide for all the countless varieties by this one original impress, than by special acts of creation to be perpetually modifying what he had previously made."
In Scotland the Duke of Argyll, head and front of the orthodox party, dissenting in many respects from Darwin's full conclusions, made concessions which badly shook the old position.
Curiously enough, from the Roman Catholic Church, bitter as some of its writers had been, now came argument to prove that the Catholic faith does not prevent any one from holding the Darwinian theory, and especially a declaration from an authority eminent among American Catholics--a declaration which has a very curious sound, but which it would be ungracious to find fault with--that "the doctrine of evolution is no more in opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church than is the Copernican theory or that of Galileo."
Here and there, indeed, men of science like Dawson, Mivart, and Wigand, in view of theological considerations, sought to make conditions; but the current was too strong, and eminent theologians in every country accepted natural selection as at least a very important part in the mechanism of evolution.
At the death of Darwin it was felt that there was but one place in England where his body should be laid, and that this place was next the grave of Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey. The noble address of Canon Farrar at his funeral was echoed from many pulpits in Europe and America, and theological opposition as such was ended. Occasionally appeared, it is true, a survival of the old feeling: the Rev. Dr. Laing referred to the burial of Darwin in Westminster Abbey as "a proof that England is no longer a Christian country," and added that this burial was a desecration--that this honour was given him because he had been "the chief promoter of the mock doctrrne of evolution of the species and the ape descent of man."
Still another of these belated prophets was, of all men, Thomas Carlyle. Soured and embittered, in the same spirit which led him to find more heroism in a marauding Viking or in one of Frederick the Great's generals than in Washington, or Lincoln, or Grant, and which caused him to see in the American civil war only the burning out of a foul chimney, he, with the petulance natural to a dyspeptic eunuch, railed at Darwin as an "apostle of dirt worship."
The last echoes of these utterances reverberated between Scotland and America. In the former country, in 1885, the Rev. Dr. Lee issued a volume declaring that, if the Darwinian view be true, "there is no place for God"; that "by no method of interpretation can the language of Holy Scripture be made wide enough to re-echo the orang-outang theory of man's natural history"; that "Darwinism reverses the revelation of God" and "implies utter blasphemy against the divine and human character of our Incarnate Lord"; and he was pleased to call Darwin and his followers "gospellers of the gutter." In one of the intellectual centres of America the editor of a periodical called _The Christian_ urged frantically that "the battle be set in array, and that men find out who is on the Lord's side and who is on the side of the devil and the monkeys."
To the honour of the Church of England it should be recorded that a considerable number of her truest men opposed such utterances as these, and that one of them--Farrar, Archdeacon of Westminster--made a protest worthy to be held in perpetual remembrance. While confessing his own inability to accept fully the new scientific belief, he said: "We should consider it disgraceful and humiliating to try to shake it by an _ad captandum_ argument, or by a clap-trap platform appeal to the unfathomable ignorance and unlimited arrogance of a prejudiced assembly. We should blush to meet it with an anathema or a sneer."
All opposition had availed nothing; Darwin's work and fame were secure. As men looked back over his beautiful life--simple, honest, tolerant, kindly--and thought upon his great labours in the search for truth, all the attacks faded into nothingness.
There were indeed some dark spots, which as time goes on appear darker. At Trinity College, Cambridge, Whewell, the "omniscient," author of the _History of the Inductive Sciences_, refused to allow a copy of the _Origin of Species_ to be placed in the library. At multitudes of institutions under theological control--Protestant as well as Catholic--attempts were made to stamp out or to stifle evolutionary teaching. Especially was this true for a time in America, and the case of the American College at Beyrout, where nearly all the younger professors were dismissed for adhering to Darwin's views, is worthy of remembrance. The treatment of Dr. Winchell at the Vanderbilt University in Tennessee showed the same spirit; one of the truest of men, devoted to science but of deeply Christian feeling, he was driven forth for views which centred in the Darwinian theory.
Still more striking was the case of Dr. Woodrow. He had, about 1857, been appointed to a professorship of Natural Science as connected with Revealed Religion, in the Presbyterian Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina. He was a devoted Christian man, and his training had led him to accept the Presbyterian standards of faith. With great gifts for scientific study he visited Europe, made a most conscientious examination of the main questions under discussion, and adopted the chief points in the doctrine of evolution by natural selection. A struggle soon began. A movement hostile to him grew more and more determined, and at last, in spite of the efforts made in his behalf by the directors of the seminary and by a large and broad-minded minority in the representative bodies controlling it, an orthodox storm, raised by the delegates from various Presbyterian bodies, drove him from his post. Fortunately, he was received into a professorship at the University of South Carolina, where he has since taught with more power than ever before.
This testimony to the faith by American provincial Protestantism was very properly echoed from Spanish provincial Catholicism. In the year 1878 a Spanish colonial man of science, Dr. Chil y Marango, published a work on the Canary Islands. But Dr. Chil had the imprudence to sketch, in his introduction, the modern hypothesis of evolution, and to exhibit some proofs, found in the Canary Islands, of the barbarism of primitive man. The ecclesiastical authorities, under the lead of Bishop Urquinaona y Bidot, at once grappled with this new idea. By a solemn act they declared it "_falsa, impia, scandalosa_"; all persons possessing copies of the work were ordered to surrender them at once to the proper ecclesiastics, and the author was placed under the major excommunication.
But all this opposition may be reckoned among the last expiring convulsions of the old theologic theory. Even from the new Catholic University at Washington has come an utterance in favour of the new doctrine, and in other universities in the Old World and in the New the doctrine of evolution by natural selection has asserted its right to full and honest consideration. More than this, it is clearly evident that the stronger men in the Church have, in these latter days, not only relinquished the struggle against science in this field, but have determined frankly and manfully to make an alliance with it. In two very remarkable lectures given in 1892 at the parish church of Rochdale, Wilson, Archdeacon of Manchester, not only accepted Darwinism as true, but wrought it with great argumentative power into a higher view of Christianity; and what is of great significance, these sermons were published by the same Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge which only a few years before had published the most bitter attacks against the Darwinian theory. So, too, during the year 1893, Prof. Henry Drummond, whose praise is in all the dissenting churches, developed a similar view most brilliantly in a series of lectures delivered before the American Chautauqua schools, and published in one of the most widespread of English orthodox newspapers.
Whatever additional factors may be added to natural selection--and Darwin himself fully admitted that there might be others--the theory of an evolution process in the formation of the universe and of animated nature is established, and the old theory of direct creation is gone forever. In place of it science has given us conceptions far more noble, and opened the way to an argument for design infinitely more beautiful than any ever developed by theology.