Saturday, February 6, 2010

Relation of Science to Religion, Part 2 of 3

Excerpt from the concluding chapter of Charles Hodge's What Is Darwinism? published in 1874.

Second Cause
The failure to make the due distinction between facts and the explanation of those facts, or the theories deduced from them.

A second cause of the alienation between science and religion, is the failure to make the due distinction between facts and the explanation of those facts, or the theories deduced from them. No sound minded man disputes any scientific fact. Religious men believe with Agassiz that facts are sacred. They are revelations from God. Christians sacrifice to them, when duly authenticated, their most cherished convictions. That the earth moves, no religious man doubts. When Galileo made that great discovery, the Church was right in not yielding at once to the evidence of an experiment which it did not understand. But when the fact was clearly established, no man sets up his interpretation of the Bible in opposition to it. Religious men admit all the facts connected with our solar system; all the facts of geology, and of comparative anatomy, and of biology. Ought not this to satisfy scientific men? Must we also admit their explanations and inferences? If we admit that the human embryo passes through various phases, must we admit that man was once a fish, then a bird, then a dog, then an ape, and finally what he now is? If we admit the similarity of structure in all vertebrates, must we admit the evolution of one from another, and all from a primordial germ? It is to be remembered that the facts are from God, the explanation from men; and the two are often as far apart as Heaven and its antipode.

These human explanations are not only without authority, but they are very mutable. They change not only from generation to generation, but almost as often as the phases of the moon. It is a fact that the planets move. Once it was said that they were moved by spirits, then by vortexes, now by self-evolved forces. It is hard that we should be called upon to change our faith with every new moon. The same man sometimes propounds theories almost as rapidly as the changes of the kaleidoscope. The amiable Sir Charles Lyell, England's most distinguished geologist, has published ten editions of his "Principles of Geology," which so differ as to make it hard to believe that it is the work of the same mind. "In all the editions up to the tenth, he looked upon geological facts and geological phenomena as proving the fixity of species and their special creation in time. In the tenth edition, just published, he announces his change of opinion on this subject and his conversion to the doctrine of development by law."[43] "In the eighth edition of his work," says Dr. Bree, "Sir Charles Lyell, the Nestor of geologists, to whom the present generation is more indebted than to any other for all that is known of geology in its advanced stage, teaches that species have a real existence in nature, and that each was endowed at the time of its creation with the attributes and organization by which it is now distinguished." The change on the part of this eminent geologist, it is to be observed, is a mere change of opinion. There was no change of the facts of geology between the publication of the eighth and of the tenth edition of his work, neither was there any change in his knowledge of those facts. All the facts relied upon by evolutionists, have long been familiar to scientific men. The whole change is a subjective one. One year the veteran geologist thinks the facts teach one thing, another year he thinks they teach another. It is now the fact, and it is feared it will continue to be a fact, that scientific men give the name of science to their explanations as well as to the facts. Nay, they are often, and naturally, more zealous for their explanations than they are for the facts. The facts are God's, the explanations are their own.


[43] Fallacies in the Hypothesis of Mr. Darwin, by C. R. Bree, M. D., F. Z. S. London, 1872, p. 290.

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