Imagens das páginas



By James D. Dana, LL.D., Silliman Professor of Natural History, Yale College. "Is Religion, then, so false to God as to avert its face from science? Is the church willing to declare a divorce of this holy marriage tie? Can she afford to renounce the external proofs of a God having sympathy with man? Dare she excommunicate science, and answer, at the judgment, for the souls which are thus reluctantly compelled to infidelity? We reject the authority of the blind scribes and pharisecs who have hidden themselves from the light of Heaven under such a darkness of bigotry. We claim our just rights and our share in the church. The man of science is a man, and knows sin as much as other men, and equally with other men he needs the salvation of the gospel. We acknowledge that the revelations of the physical world are addressed to the head, and do not minister to the wants of the heart; we acknowledge that science has'no authority to interfere with the Scriptures and perplex the holy writ with forced and impossible constructions of language. This admission does not derogate from the dignity of science; and we claim that the sanctity of the Bible is equally undisturbed by the denial that it was endowed with authority over the truths of physical science. But we, nevertheless, as sons of men, claim our share in its messages of forgiveness, and will not be hindered of our inheritance by the unintelligible technicalities of sectarianism; as children, we kneel to the church and implore its sustenance, and entreat the constant aid and countenance of those great and good men who are its faithful servants and its surest support, whose presence and cheering 1 Along with the work already mentioned, we here include the letter in reply to our review published in the last number of this Journal, page 471.

sympathies are a perpetual benediction, and among whom shine the brightest lights of science as well as of religion. Moreover, as scientific men, we need the Bible to strengthen and confirm our faith in a supreme intellectual Power, to assure us that we are not imposing our forms of thought upon a fortuitous combination of dislocated atoms, but that we may study His works humbly, hopefully, and trusting that the treasury is not yet exhausted, but that there is still left an infinite vein of spiritual ore to be worked by American intellect."

Such are the words, rather the devout thoughts of Science, as expressed by Prof. Peirce of Cambridge, in his Address, in 1854, before the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and there were few among his hearers on that occasion, who did not cordially respond to them. He spoke with earnestness; for, if there is any charge against science, fitted to stir the soul to its depths, it is that asserting the hostility of science and the Bible. The student of nature, accustomed to search for knowledge with a scrutiny and precision that has hardly a parallel in other departments of study, so as even to incur, at times, by his untiring labors among the merest minims of existence, the contempt of many a haughty intellectualist, can but look with indignation upon those who pronounce him faithless to the truth, and his studies at war with the sacred word. With such an exhibition of the Bible thrust upon him, its enmity with science insisted upon, if he is not so grounded in faith as to be sure his opponent is wrong in this hostility, he will feel forced to stand by nature, God's acknowledged work, versus the Bible, "the Book."

Prof. Lewis, by his sneers at science, which commence on the first page of his " Scriptural Cosmology," and stream out, as from a bitter fountain, all through the volume, has thus done a lasting injury to the cause of the Bible. However sacred his intentions, or excellent his private character (which we believe to be irreproachable), this is one of the ways in which the influence of his work is infidel.

But the uncertainties of science seem, to many minds, to authorize skepticism with regard to its results; and upon this subject some explanations may be instructive.

There are two modes of arriving at the philosophy of nature; and, correspondingly, there are two kinds of philosophers. The one is ever breeding " elephants " and " tortoises;"1 the other, is "conceptionless," perhaps, but humble and believing. The one, in self-sufficiency, looks within for knowledge; the other, seeks to learn the true philosophy of nature from nature herself, God's appointed means. The one boldly assumes a position by the side of the Deity, and pronounces on the plans of the Creator, in the light of mind alone, as if sharing in the Divine omniscience; the other looks up reverently to the hand-writing of God in nature, and patiently endeavors to decipher the wondrous record. The one soars aloft, in dignified contempt of plodding science; and the other knows that to be the way of ignorance and folly.

In the remarks which follow, we propose to show, briefly, (1) how the finite mind of man is adapted to nature; (2) how nature is adapted to the finite mind; then to point out (3) the methods in which the mind studies nature, mentioning examples; (4) the certainty of error when mind ventures to theorize on matter, alone, without the guidance of nature; (5) the necessary limit to the excursions of the mind, and the consequences of attempting to pass that limit; and, finally (6), to consider the alleged infidel tendencies of science.

(1) The human mind, as has been often said, may mould material within its knowledge, or form new combinations; but it cannot rise even to a conception of a new principle in matter, or a new order of existences, or a new sense in the kingdom of life. Its appointed arena is the earth, and here alone can it gather strength for its upward flight. Being

1 Wc quote from Prof. Lewis to explain this allusion to such as may not have read our former review. "Wc mny smile," he says, "at the old quackish story of the enrth's standing on the back of the elephant, and the elephant standing on the head of a tortoise, etc.; but in our gravities, our magnetisms, our series of fluids, ever requiring other fluids to explain their motions, we have only intro duced a new set of modern equivalents." Vol. XIIL No. 51. 54

made in the Divine image, it is fitted to study and comprehend the Divine laws, whether physical or moral. Within the soul, as part of its nature or of this Divine image, there are certain principles which are a basis of all reasoning about nature: as that, leading to a recognition of a higher Power above, the infinite God, the Cause of causes; that, leading to a recognition of the relation of cause and effect in consecutive events; that, leading to a recognition of the truthfulness of the God of nature, demanding faith in return from his creatures; of the unity of nature, its oneness in plan as in Author, and thence the harmony of all laws, systems, or events in nature. And besides these, there is a recognition of the relations of units or numbers, from which has proceeded the whole fabric of mathematics; and an appreciation of harmonies in form, color, and sound, whence comes the sense of natural beauty in these several departments. These intuitions and decisions do not characterize all minds alike. They are but germs or principles, which are active only when developed, and are seldom truthful in their operation, without large accessions of knowledge and freedom from moral obliquity. In the natural differences as to the appreciation of harmonies of sound, we learn the diversity that may exist in minds as to other qualities; the diversity, in this case, ranging from just above zero, to a height of perfection that responds instantly to all the intricacies of musical harmony without study or thought. Only the most profound minds, or those of the highest grade, are so possessed with the idea of the unity of plan and profound harmonies in nature as thereby to be urged forward to a high range of philosophical discovery; and moreover, in these, the idea will be mainly a result of study and observation. Yet there are few that are not under the influence of this principle; few that do not recognize some system or relation in things and events around them. Lord Bacon, indeed, dwells upon the influence of this tendency to find harmonies or parallelisms among observed facts, under the name of" Idola Tribus" (Idols of the Tribe), remarking upon the "spirit of system" as one of the great sources of error; and this it undoubtedly is. But while often an occasion of error, it was the same principle that penetrated the soul of Kepler, and led him through his long calculations to the great laws which bear his name. (2) On the other side, nature is adapted to our finite minds, as we to nature. Her laws are expressed in simple, finite numbers, or ratios, and so are directly fitted to our comprehension, as observed by Professor Peirce in his address referred to above. In music, the succession of tones is made through the simplest possible ratios in the number of vibrations,—the ratios of 1 : 1, 1 : 2, 2 : 3, etc. In crystals, the modifications of form are based on similar simple ratios between the axes, and the axes have specific dimensions. In the vibrations on which the phenomena of light depend, there are definite measurable lengths. In chemistry, substances have their unvarying combining weights, which we may ascertain by a simple process of weighing; and their combinations with one another take place in simple multiples of 1 : 1, 1 : 2, 2 : 3, etc. Plants grow by a law of spiral development, defined, with the same precision, in numbers. In all beauty or harmony of form, there are simple ratios; the features of the human face having ratios of 1 : 1, 1 : 2, etc.; all true curves in nature admitting of mathematical expressions; and those of the same animal or plant being an outflow or evolution of a single system, so that, even in the most unwieldy of beasts, there is the beauty of harmony in all outlines and structure. Thus, whether we consider the kingdoms of life, the vibrations of air producing sound, or the vibrations evolving the colors of light, or regard the invisible constituents of matter, and, we might add, the spheres in space, there is everywhere a system of simple ratios and fixed dimensions; not merely a mathematical basis, but a simple mathematical basis. Nature is thus specially adapted to our finite minds. It is hence plain that Nature is an intelligible minister appointed to lead us up to God, being a revelation of him in one range of his attributes, his power and wisdom, brought

« AnteriorContinuar »