History of the Conflict Between
Religion and Science
By John William Draper, M.D., LL.D.
Late Professor in the University of New York
Author of a Treatise on Human Physiology
Kegan Paul, Trench, Thrübner & Co. Ltd.
Dryden House, Gerrard Street, W.
Whoever has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the mental condition of the intelligent classes in Europe and America, must have perceived that there is a great and rapidly-increasing departure from the public religious faith, and that, while among the more frank this divergence is not concealed, there is a far more extensive and far more dangerous secession, private and unacknowledged.
So wide-spread and so powerful is this secession, that it can neither be treated with contempt nor with punishment. It cannot be extinguished by derision, by vituperation, or by force. The time is rapidly approaching when it will give rise to serious political results.
Ecclesiastical spirit no longer inspires the policy of the world. Military fervor in behalf of faith has disappeared. Its only souvenirs are the marble effigies of crusading knights, reposing in the silent crypts of churches on their tombs.
That a crisis is impending is shown by the attitude of the great powers toward the papacy. The papacy represents the ideas and aspirations of two-thirds of the population of Europe. It insists on a political supremacy in accordance with its claims to a divine origin and mission, and a restoration of the mediæval order of things, loudly declaring that it will accept no reconciliation with modern civilization.
The antagonism we thus witness between Religion and Science is the continuation of a struggle that commenced when Christianity began to attain political power. A divine revelation must necessarily be intolerant of contradiction; it must repudiate all improvement in itself, and view with disdain that arising from the progressive intellectual development of man. But our opinions on every subject are continually liable to modification, from the irresistible advance of human knowledge.
Can we exaggerate the importance of a contention in which every thoughtful person must take part whether he will or not? In a matter so solemn as that of religion, all men, whose temporal interests are not involved in existing institutions, earnestly desire to find the truth. They seek information as to the subjects in dispute, and as to the conduct of the disputants.
The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.
No one has hitherto treated the subject from this point of view. Yet from this point it presents itself to us as a living issue -- in fact, as the most important of all living issues.
A few years ago, it was the politic and therefore the proper course to abstain from all allusion to this controversy, and to keep it as far as possible in the background. The tranquillity of society depends so much on the stability of its religious convictions, that no one can be justified in wantonly disturbing them. But faith is in its nature unchangeable, stationary; Science is in its nature progressive; and eventually a divergence between them, impossible to conceal, must take place. It then becomes the duty of those whose lives have made them familiar with both modes of thought, to present modestly, but firmly, their views; to compare the antagonistic pretensions calmly, impartially, philosophically. History shows that, if this be not done, social misfortunes, disastrous and enduring, will ensue. When the old mythological religion of Europe broke down under the weight of its own inconsistencies, neither the Roman emperors nor the philosophers of those times did any thing adequate for the guidance of public opinion. They left religious affairs to take their chance, and accordingly those affairs fell into the hands of ignorant and infuriated ecclesiastics, parasites, eunuchs, and slaves.
The intellectual night which settled on Europe, in consequence of that great neglect of duty, is passing away; we live in the daybreak of better things. Society is anxiously expecting light, to see in what direction it is drifting. It plainly discerns that the track along which the voyage of civilization has thus far been made, has been left; and that a new departure, on all unknown sea, has been taken.
Though deeply impressed with such thoughts, I should not have presumed to write this book, or to intrude on the public the ideas it presents, had I not made the facts with which it deals a subject of long and earnest meditation. And I have gathered a strong incentive to undertake this duty from the circumstance that a "History of the Intellectual Development of Europe," published by me several years ago, which has passed through many editions in America, and has been reprinted in numerous European languages, English, French, German, Russian, Polish, Servian, etc., is everywhere received with favor.
In collecting and arranging the materials for the volumes I published under the title of "A History of the American Civil War," a work of very great labor, I had become accustomed to the comparison of conflicting statements, the adjustment of conflicting claims. The approval with which that book has been received by the American public, a critical judge of the events considered, has inspired me with additional confidence. I had also devoted much attention to the experimental investigation of natural phenomena, and had published many well-known memoirs on such subjects. And perhaps no one can give himself to these pursuits, and spend a large part of his life in the public teaching of science, without partaking of that love of impartiality and truth which Philosophy incites. She inspires us with a desire to dedicate our days to the good of our race, so that in the fading light of life's evening we may not, on looking back, be forced to acknowledge how unsubstantial and useless are the objects that we have pursued.
Though I have spared no pains in the composition of this book, I am very sensible how unequal it is to the subject, to do justice to which a knowledge of science, history, theology, politics, is required; every page should be alive with intelligence and glistening with facts. But then I have remembered that this is only as it were the preface, or forerunner, of a body of literature, which the events and wants of our times will call forth. We have come to the brink of a great intellectual change. Much of the frivolous reading of the present will be supplanted by a thoughtful and austere literature, vivified by endangered interests, and made fervid by ecclesiastical passion.
What I have sought to do is, to present a clear and impartial statement of the views and acts of the two contending parties. In one sense I have tried to identify myself with each, so as to comprehend thoroughly their motives; but in another and higher sense I have endeavored to stand aloof, and relate with impartiality their actions.
I therefore trust that those, who may be disposed to criticise this book, will bear in mind that its object is not to advocate the views and pretensions of either party, but to explain clearly, and without shrinking, those of both. In the management of each chapter I have usually set forth the orthodox view first, and then followed it with that of its opponents.
In thus treating the subject it has not been necessary to pay much regard to more moderate or intermediate opinions, for, though they may be intrinsically of great value, in conflicts of this kind it is not with the moderates but with the extremists that the impartial reader is mainly concerned. Their movements determine the issue.
For this reason I have had little to say respecting the two great Christian confessions, the Protestant and Greek Churches. As to the latter, it has never, since the restoration of science, arrayed itself in opposition to the advancement of knowledge. On the contrary, it has always met it with welcome. It has observed a reverential attitude to truth, from whatever quarter it might come. Recognizing the apparent discrepancies between its interpretations of revealed truth and the discoveries of science, it has always expected that satisfactory explanations and reconciliations would ensue, and in this it has not been disappointed. It would have been well for modern civilization if the Roman Church had done the same.
In speaking of Christianity, reference is generally made to the Roman Church, partly because its adherents compose the majority of Christendom, partly because its demands are the most pretentious, and partly because it has commonly sought to enforce those demands by the civil power. None of the Protestant Churches has ever occupied a position so imperious -- none has ever had such wide-spread political influence. For the most part they have been averse to constraint, and except in very few instances their opposition has not passed beyond the exciting of theological odium.
As to Science, she has never sought to ally herself to civil power. She has never attempted to throw odium or inflict social ruin on any human being. She has never subjected any one to mental torment, physical torture, least of all to death, for the purpose of upholding or promoting her ideas. She presents herself unstained by cruelties and crimes. But in the Vatican -- we have only to recall the Inquisition -- the hands that are now raised in appeals to the Most Merciful are crimsoned. They have been steeped in blood!
There are two modes of historical composition, the artistic and the scientific. The former implies that men give origin to events; it therefore selects some prominent individual, pictures him under a fanciful form, and makes him the hero of a romance. The latter, insisting that human affairs present an unbroken chain, in which each fact is the offspring of some preceding fact, and the parent of some subsequent fact, declares that men do not control events, but that events control men. The former gives origin to compositions, which, however much they may interest or delight us, are but a grade above novels; the latter is austere, perhaps even repulsive, for it sternly impresses us with a conviction of the irresistible dominion of law, and the insignificance of human exertions. In a subject so solemn as that to which this book is devoted, the romantic and the popular are altogether out of place. He who presumes to treat of it must fix his eyes steadfastly on that chain of destiny which universal history displays; he must turn with disdain from the phantom impostures of pontiffs and statesmen and kings.
If any thing were needed to show us the untrustworthiness of artistic historical compositions, our personal experience would furnish it. How often do our most intimate friends fail to perceive the real motives of our every-day actions; how frequently they misinterpret our intentions! If this be the case in what is passing before our eyes, may we not be satisfied that it is impossible to comprehend justly the doings of persons who lived many years ago, and whom we have never seen.
In selecting and arranging the topics now to be presented, I have been guided in part by "the Confession" of the late Vatican Council, and in part by the order of events in history. Not without interest will the reader remark that the subjects offer themselves to us now as they did to the old philosophers of Greece. We still deal with the same questions about which they disputed. What is God? What is the soul? What is the world? How is it governed? Have we any standard or criterion of truth? And the thoughtful reader will earnestly ask, "Are our solutions of these problems any better than theirs?"
The general argument of this book, then, is as follows:
I first direct attention to the origin of modern science as distinguished from ancient, by depending on observation, experiment, and mathematical discussion, instead of mere speculation, and shall show that it was a consequence of the Macedonian campaigns, which brought Asia and Europe into contact. A brief sketch of those campaigns, and of the Museum of Alexandria, illustrates its character.
Then with brevity I recall the well-known origin of Christianity, and show its advance to the attainment of imperial power, the transformation it underwent by its incorporation with paganism, the existing religion of the Roman Empire. A clear conception of its incompatibility with science caused it to suppress forcibly the Schools of Alexandria. It was constrained to this by the political necessities of its position.
The parties to the conflict thus placed, I next relate the story of their first open struggle; it is the first or Southern Reformation. The point in dispute had respect to the nature of God. It involved the rise of Mohammedanism. Its result was, that much of Asia and Africa, with the historic cities Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage, were wrenched from Christendom, and the doctrine of the Unity of God established in the larger portion of what had been the Roman Empire.
This political event was followed by the restoration of science, the establishment of colleges, schools, libraries, throughout the dominions of the Arabians. Those conquerors, pressing forward rapidly in their intellectual development, rejected the anthropomorphic ideas of the nature of God remaining in their popular belief, and accepted other more philosophical ones, akin to those that had long previously been attained to in India. The result of this was a second conflict, that respecting the nature of the soul. Under the designation of Averroism, there came into prominence the theories of Emanation and Absorption. At the close of the middle ages the Inquisition succeeded in excluding those doctrines from Europe, and now the Vatican Council has formally and solemnly anathematized them.
Meantime, through the cultivation of astronomy, geography, and other sciences, correct views had been gained as to the position and relations of the earth, and as to the structure of the world; and since Religion, resting itself on what was assumed to be the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, insisted that the earth is the central and most important part of the universe, a third conflict broke out. In this Galileo led the way on the part of Science. Its issue was the overthrow of the Church on the question in dispute. Subsequently a subordinate controversy arose respecting the age of the world, the Church insisting that it is only about six thousand years old. In this she was again overthrown.
The light of history and of science had been gradually spreading over Europe. In the sixteenth century the prestige of Roman Christianity was greatly diminished by the intellectual reverses it had experienced, and also by its political and moral condition. It was clearly seen by many pious men that Religion was not accountable for the false position in which she was found, but that the misfortune was directly traceable to the alliance she had of old contracted with Roman paganism. The obvious remedy, therefore, was a return to primitive purity. Thus arose the fourth conflict, known to us as the Reformation -- the second or Northern Reformation. The special form it assumed was a contest respecting the standard or criterion of truth, whether it is to be found in the Church or in the Bible. The determination of this involved a settlement of the rights of reason, or intellectual freedom. Luther, who is the conspicuous man of the epoch, carried into effect his intention with no inconsiderable success; and at the close of the struggle it was found that Northern Europe was lost to Roman Christianity.
We are now in the midst of a controversy respecting the mode of government of the world, whether it be by incessant divine intervention, or by the operation of primordial and unchangeable law. The intellectual movement of Christendom has reached that point which Arabism had attained to in the tenth and eleventh centuries; and doctrines which were then discussed are presenting themselves again for review; such are those of Evolution, Creation, Development.
Offered under these general titles, I think it will be found that all the essential points of this great controversy are included. By grouping under these comprehensive heads the facts to be considered, and dealing with each group separately, we shall doubtless acquire clear views of their inter-connection and their historical succession.
I have treated of these conflicts as nearly as I conveniently could in their proper chronological order, and, for the sake of completeness, have added chapters on --
An examination of what Latin Christianity has done for modern civilization.
A corresponding examination of what Science has done.
The attitude of Roman Christianity in the impending conflict, as defined
by the Vatican Council.
The attention of many truth-seeking persons has been so exclusively given to the details of sectarian dissensions, that the long strife, to the history of which these pages are devoted, is popularly but little known. Having tried to keep steadfastly in view the determination to write this work in an impartial spirit, to speak with respect of the contending parties, but never to conceal the truth, I commit it to the considerate judgment of the thoughtful reader.
John William Draper
University, New York, December, 1873.
The Origin of Science.
Religious condition of the Greeks in the fourth century before Christ.
-- Their invasion of the Persian Empire brings them in contact with new
aspects of Nature, and familiarizes them with new religious systems. --
The military, engineering, and scientific activity, stimulated by the Macedonian
campaigns, leads to the establishment in Alexandria of an institute, the
Museum, for the cultivation of knowledge by experiment, observation, and
mathematical discussion. -- It is the origin of Science.
The Origin of Christianity. -- Its Transformation on Attaining Imperial Power. -- Its Relations to Science.
Religious condition of the Roman Republic. -- The adoption of imperialism
leads to monotheism. -- Christianity spreads over the Roman Empire. --
The circumstances under which it attained imperial power make its union
with Paganism a political necessity. -- Tertullian's description of its
doctrines and practices. -- Debasing effect of the policy of Constantine
on it. -- Its alliance with the civil power. -- Its incompatibility with
science. -- Destruction of the Alexandrian Library and prohibition of philosophy.
-- Exposition of the Augustinian philosophy and Patristic science generally.
-- The Scriptures made the standard of science.
Conflict Respecting the Doctrine of the Unity of God. -- The First or Southern Reformation.
The Egyptians insist on the introduction of the worship of the Virgin Mary -- They are resisted by Nestor, the Patriarch of Constantinople, but eventually, through their influence with the emperor, cause Nestor's exile and the dispersion of his followers.
Prelude to the Southern Reformation -- The Persian attack; its moral effects.
The Arabian Reformation. -- Mohammed is brought in contact with the Nestorians -- He adopts and extends their principles, rejecting the worship of the Virgin, the doctrine of the Trinity, and every thing in opposition to the unity of God. -- He extinguishes idolatry in Arabia, by force, and prepares to make war on the Roman Empire. -- His successors conquer Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, North Africa, Spain, and invade France.
As the result of this conflict, the doctrine of the unity of God
was established in the greater part of the Roman Empire -- The cultivation
of science was restored, and Christendom lost many of her most illustrious
capitals, as Alexandria, Carthage, and, above all, Jerusalem.
The Restoration of Science in the South.
By the influence of the Nestorians and Jews, the Arabians are turned
to the cultivation of Science. -- They modify their views as to the destiny
of man, and obtain true conceptions respecting the structure of the world.
-- They ascertain the size of the earth, and determine its shape. -- Their
khalifs collect great libraries, patronize every department of science
and literature, establish astronomical observatories. -- They develop the
mathematical sciences, invent algebra, and improve geometry and trigonometry.
-- They collect and translate the old Greek mathematical and astronomical
works, and adopt the inductive method of Aristotle. -- They establish many
colleges, and, with the aid of the Nestorians, organize a public-school
system. -- They introduce the Arabic numerals and arithmetic, and catalogue
and give names to the stars. -- They lay the foundation of modern astronomy,
chemistry, and physics, and introduce great improvements in agriculture
Conflict Respecting the Nature of the Soul. -- Doctrine of Emanation and Absorption.
European ideas respecting the soul. -- It resembles the form of the body.
Philosophical views of the Orientals. -- The Vedic theology and Buddhism assert the doctrine of emanation and absorption. -- It is advocated by Aristotle, who is followed by the Alexandrian school, and subsequently by the Jews and Arabians. -- It is found in the writings of Erigena.
Connection of this doctrine with the theory of conservation and correlation of force. -- Parallel between the origin and destiny of the body and the soul. -- The necessity of founding human on comparative psychology.
Averroism, which is based on these facts, is brought into Christendom through Spain and Sicily.
History of the repression of Averroism. -- Revolt of Islam against
it. -- Antagonism of the Jewish synagogues. -- Its destruction undertaken
by the papacy. -- Institution of the Inquisition in Spain. -- Frightful
persecutions and their results. -- Expulsion of the Jews and Moors. --
Overthrow of Averroism in Europe. -- Decisive action of the late Vatican
Conflict Respecting the Nature of the World.
Scriptural view of the world: the earth a flat surface; location of heaven and hell.
Scientific view: the earth a globe; its size determined; its position in and relations to the solar system. -- The three great voyages. -- Columbus, De Gama, Magellan. -- Circumnavigation of the earth. -- Determination of its curvature by the measurement of a degree and by the pendulum.
The discoveries of Copernicus. -- Invention of the telescope. -- Galileo brought before the Inquisition. -- His punishment. -- Victory over the Church.
Attempts to ascertain the dimensions of the solar system. -- Determination of the sun's parallax by the transits of Venus. -- Insignificance, of the earth and man.
Ideas respecting the dimensions of the universe. -- Parallax of the stars. -- The plurality of worlds asserted by Bruno. -- He is seized and murdered by the Inquisition. Page 153
Controversy Respecting the Age of the Earth.
Scriptural view that the Earth is only six thousand years old, and that it was made in a week. -- Patristic chronology founded on the ages of the patriarchs. -- Difficulties arising from different estimates in different versions of the Bible.
Legend of the Deluge. -- The repeopling. -- The Tower of Babel; the confusion of tongues. -- The primitive language.
Discovery by Cassini of the oblateness of the planet Jupiter. -- Discovery by Newton of the oblateness of the Earth. -- Deduction that she has been modeled by mechanical causes. -- Confirmation of this by geological discoveries respecting aqueous rocks; corroboration by organic remains. -- The necessity of admitting enormously long periods of time. -- Displacement of the doctrine of Creation by that of Evolution -- Discoveries respecting the Antiquity of Man.
The time-scale and space-scale of the world are infinite.
-- Moderation with which the discussion of the Age of the World has been
Conflict Respecting the Criterion of Truth.
Ancient philosophy declares that man has no means of ascertaining the truth.
Differences of belief arise among the early Christians -- An ineffectual attempt is made to remedy them by Councils. -- Miracle and ordeal proof introduced.
The papacy resorts to auricular confession and the Inquisition. -- It perpetrates frightful atrocities for the suppression of differences of opinion.
Effect of the discovery of the Pandects of Justinian and development of the canon law on the nature of evidence. -- It becomes more scientific.
The Reformation establishes the rights of individual reason. -- Catholicism asserts that the criterion of truth is in the Church. It restrains the reading of books by the Index Expurgatorius, and combats dissent by such means as the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve.
Examination of the authenticity of the Pentateuch as the Protestant criterion. -- Spurious character of those books.
For Science the criterion of truth is to be found in the revelations
of Nature: for the Protestant, it is in the Scriptures; for the Catholic,
in an infallible Pope.
Controversy Respecting the Government of the Universe.
There are two conceptions of the government of the world: 1. By Providence; 2. By Law. -- The former maintained by the priesthood. -- Sketch of the introduction of the latter.
Kepler discovers the laws that preside over the solar system. -- His works are denounced by papal authority. -- The foundations of mechanical philosophy are laid by Da Vinci. -- Galileo discovers the fundamental laws of Dynamics. -- Newton applies them to the movements of the celestial bodies, and shows that the solar system is governed by mathematical necessity. -- Herschel extends that conclusion to the universe. -- The nebular hypothesis. -- Theological exceptions to it.
Evidences of the control of law in the construction of the earth, and in the development of the animal and plant series. -- They arose by Evolution, not by Creation.
The reign of law is exhibited by the historic career of human societies, and in the case of individual man.
Partial adoption of this view by some of the Reformed Churches.
Latin Christianity in Relation to Modern Civilization.
For more than a thousand years Latin Christianity controlled the intelligence of Europe, and is responsible for the result.
That result is manifested by the condition of the city of Rome at the Reformation, and by the condition of the Continent of Europe in domestic and social life. -- European nations suffered under the coexistence of a dual government, a spiritual and a temporal. -- They were immersed in ignorance, superstition, discomfort. -- Explanation of the failure of Catholicism -- Political history of the papacy: it was transmuted from a spiritual confederacy into an absolute monarchy. -- Action of the College of Cardinals and the Curia -- Demoralization that ensued from the necessity of raising large revenues.
The advantages accruing to Europe during the Catholic rule arose not from direct intention, but were incidental.
The general result is, that the political influence of Catholicism
was prejudicial to modern civilization.
Science in Relation to Modern Civilization.
Illustration of the general influences of Science from the history of America.
The Introduction of Science into Europe. -- It passed from Moorish Spain to Upper Italy, and was favored by the absence of the popes at Avignon. -- The effects of printing, of maritime adventure, and of the Reformation -- Establishment of the Italian scientific societies.
The Intellectual Influence of Science. -- It changed the mode and the direction of thought in Europe. -- The transactions of the Royal Society of London, and other scientific societies, furnish an illustration of this.
The Economical Influence of Science is illustrated by the numerous mechanical and physical inventions, made since the fourteenth century. -- Their influence on health and domestic life, on the arts of peace and of war.
Answer to the question, What has Science done for humanity?
The Impending Crisis.
Indications of the approach of a religious crisis. -- The predominating Christian Church, the Roman, perceives this, and makes preparation for it. -- Pius IX convokes an Ścumenical Council -- Relations of the different European governments to the papacy. -- Relations of the Church to Science, as indicated by the Encyclical Letter and the Syllabus.
Acts of the Vatican Council in relation to the infallibility of the pope, and to Science. -- Abstract of decisions arrived at.
Controversy between the Prussian Government and the papacy. -- It is a contest between the State and the Church for supremacy -- Effect of dual government in Europe -- Declaration by the Vatican Council of its position as to Science -- The dogmatic constitution of the Catholic faith. -- Its definitions respecting God, Revelation, Faith, Reason. -- The anathemas it pronounces. -- Its denunciation of modern civilization.
The Protestant Evangelical Alliance and its acts.
General review of the foregoing definitions, and acts. -- Present
condition of the controversy, and its future prospects.