« PreviousContinue »
SCIENCE AND RELIGION.
BY ALEXANDER WINCHELL, LL.D.,
AUTHOR OF “SKETCHES OF CREATION,” “THE DOCTRINE OF EVOLUTION," ETC.
N E W Y 0 Ꭱ Ꮶ :
FRANKLIN SQU A R E.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1877, by
HARPER & BROTHERS, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
What are the natural relations between science and religion? This is a question in which the public has recently manifested a profound interest. On this question a layman and scientific teacher here ventures to offer some thoughts. The discussions in which they are embodied aim to reach some of the groundprinciples on which the propositions of science and religion alike rest. They enunciate a substantial basis of harmony and mutual helpfulness, and disclose a promised synthesis of deepest scientific conviction and simplest religious faith.
The author has written as he felt profoundly moved to write. He has made a record of honest and earnest convictions; and he flatters himself that his record nowhere betrays the spirit of a partisan. . - The thoughts here presented, though lying generally beyond the peculiar domain of natural science, have mingled themselves, by a spontaneous interplay of the psychic powers, with the dry details and lofty generalizations of strict science. They have been to the author a source of enjoyment, consolation, and assurance; and he hopes they may serve to ballast the faith of others who have less opportunity for reflection, but who must, nevertheless, if they think at all, grapple with the inevitable and irrepressible questions which arise concerning the validity of their religious beliefs.
The author has always entertained an unshaken conviction of the unity of all truth; and the right of all our faculties to activity within limits prescribed or sanctioned by reason. He
holds that reason is the only criterion of truth, and must even arbitrate the claims of an assumed divine revelation. He holds that the religious faculties are not cognitive, but must be served by the cognitive faculties; and that, while religion is spontaneous, its grounds may be subjected to a rational authentication. He holds that though history has shown that ecclesiastical systems unavoidably incorporate more or less of secular beliefs, such beliefs are not thereby rendered sacred or essentially religious, and ought to be modified or rejected according to improved knowledge. He holds that the religious sentiments are co-ordinate with the knowing faculties, and demand from intellect the concession of a free field for exercise; and that the phenomena of their activity, in the history of our race, afford the data for an inductive philosophy of religion. He holds that systems of science and religion approved alike by rational tests must be found in complete harmony; and that the so-called conflict between science and religion is partly fictitious, and partly a conflict between science and religious or ecclesiastical systems; while the conflict with these systems reduces itself to a collision between the effete science which they embody and the results of more advanced science.
The author likewise maintains that natural science, while affording the data from which philosophy may reason to Deity, does not, in its proper character, reach a theistic issue; and that, as a corollary, exclusive physicists and biologists incur the danger of overlooking the importance of supramaterial and transcendental verities. He composes himself, nevertheless, in the conviction that no scientist, however exclusive, can possibly reach a firm datum which is not on one of the many lines of ratiocinative thought converging toward Deity and supramaterial realities. He holds that this position is confirmed by the bearing of the profoundest results of recent science and the declarations of its votaries. 'In these and other dominant ideas pervading the various
papers assembled in this volume is the disclosure of their essential unity and continuity. In reference to the much mooted scientific question of the derivative origin of species, the reader will detect indications of a growing faith. A certain class of proofs has been accumulating at a rapid rate; and the author's present conviction is that the doctrine of the derivation of species should be accepted; and that the most tenable theory of the causes, instrumentalities, and conditions of this derivation is that propounded, in 1868, by Professor Edward D. Cope.
These papers do not represent the author's conception of a complete and systematic discussion of the relations of science and religion. They are rather separate outcroppings of the results of much study and reflection, which have correlated and consolidated themselves in the author's mind in a broad underlying system of which no opportunity has presented itself, as yet, for a fuller exposition.
In the hope that the reasonings here presented may prove helpful to young persons engaged in the serious work of fashioning a system of belief; corrective or strengthening to those whose beliefs are matured; and admonitory to such as have left their beliefs to the control of circumstance—to student, theologian, and scientist—to all thoughtful persons, this essay toward a good understanding between religion and science is cordially and respectfully submitted.
THE AUTHOR. ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN, March, 1877.