Thursday, February 11, 2010

Relation of Science to Religion, Part 3 of 3

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

Third Cause
The bearing of scientific men towards the men of culture who do not belong to their own class.

The third cause of the alienation between religion and science, is the bearing of scientific men towards the men of culture who do not belong to their own class. When we, in such connections, speak of scientific men, we do not mean men of science as such, but those only who avow or manifest their hostility to religion. There is an assumption of superiority, and often a manifestation of contempt. Those who call their logic or their conjectures into question, are stigmatized as narrow-minded, bigots, old women, Bible worshippers, etc.

Professor Huxley's advice to metaphysicians and theologians is, to let science alone. This is his Irenicum. But do he and his associates let metaphysics and religion alone? They tell the metaphysician that his vocation is gone; there is no such thing as mind, and of course no mental laws to be established. Metaphysics are merged into physics. Professor Huxley tells the religious world that there is over-whelming and crushing evidence (scientific evidence, of course) that no event has ever occurred on this earth which was not the effect of natural causes. Hence there have been no miracles, and Christ is not risen.[44] He says that the doctrine that belief in a personal God is necessary to any religion worthy of the name, is a mere matter of opinion. Tyndall, Carpenter, and Henry Thompson, teach that prayer is a superstitious absurdity; Herbert Spencer, whom they call their "great philosopher," i. e., the man who does their thinking, labors to prove that there cannot be a personal God, or human soul or self; that moral laws are mere "generalizations of utility," or, as Carl Vogt says, that self respect, and not the will of God, is the ground and rule of moral obligation. If any protest be made against such doctrines, we are told that scientific truth cannot be put down by denunciation (or as Vogt says, by barking). So doubtless the Pharisees, when our blessed Lord called them hypocrites and a generation of vipers, and said: "Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves," doubtless thought that that was a poor way to refute their theory, that holiness and salvation were to be secured by church-membership and church-rites. Nevertheless, as those words were the words of Christ, they were a thunderbolt which reverberates through all time and space, and still makes Pharisees of every name and nation tremble. Huxley's Irenicum will not do. Men who are assiduously poisoning the fountains of religion, morality, and social order, cannot be let alone.

Haeckel's Irenicum amounts to much the same as that of Professor Huxley. He forbids the right to speak on these vital subjects, to all who are not thoroughly versed in biology, and who are not entirely emancipated from the trammels of their long cherished traditional beliefs.[45] This, as the whole context shows, means that a man in order to be entitled to be heard on the evolution theory, must be willing to renounce his faith not only in the Bible, but in God, in the soul, in a future life, and become a monistic materialist.[46]

It is very reasonable that scientific men, in common with lawyers and physicians and other professional men, should feel themselves entitled to be heard with special deference on subjects belonging to their respective departments. This deference no one is disposed to deny to men of science. But it is to be remembered that no department of human knowledge is isolated. One runs into and overlaps another. We have abundant evidence that the devotees of natural science are not willing to confine themselves to the department of nature, in the common sense of that word. They not only speculate, but dogmatize, on the highest questions of philosophy, morality, and religion. And further, admitting the special claims to deference on the part of scientific men, other men have their rights. They have the right to judge of the consistency of the assertions of men of science and of the logic of their reasoning. They have the right to set off the testimony of one or more experts against the testimony of others; and especially, they have the right to reject all speculations, hypotheses, and theories, which come in conflict with well established truths. It is ground of profound gratitude to God that He has given to the human mind intuitions which are infallible, laws of belief which men cannot disregard any more than the laws of nature, and also convictions produced by the Spirit of God which no sophistry of man can weaken. These are barriers which no man can pass without plunging into the abyss of outer darkness.

If there be any truth in the preceding remarks, then it is obvious that there can be no harmony between science and religion until the evils referred to be removed. Scientific men must come to recognize practically, and not merely in words, that there are other kinds of evidence of truth than the testimony of the senses. They must come to give due weight to the testimony of consciousness, and to the intuitions of the reason and conscience. They must cease to require the deference due to established facts to be paid to their speculations and explanations. And they must treat their fellow-men with due respect. The Pharisees said to the man whose sight had been restored by Christ, "Thou wastome a fool, that he may be wise;" or these, "Be converted, and become as little children;" or these, "The Spirit of Truth shall guide you in all truth." We are willing to hear this called cant. Nevertheless, these latter words fell from the lips of Him who spake as never man spake.

Relation of Darwinism to Religion

So much, and it is very little, on the general question of the relation of science to religion. But what is to be thought of the special relation of Mr. Darwin's theory to the truths of natural and revealed religion? We have already seen that Darwinism includes the three elements, evolution, natural selection, and the denial of design in nature. These points, however, cannot now be considered separately.

It is conceded that a man may be an evolutionist and yet not be an atheist and may admit of design in nature. But we cannot see how the theory of evolution can be reconciled with the declarations of the Scriptures. Others may see it, and be able to reconcile their allegiance to science with their allegiance to the Bible. Professor Huxley, as we have seen, pronounces the thing impossible. As all error is antagonistic to truth, if the evolution theory be false, it must be opposed to the truths of religion so far as the two come into contact. Mr. Henslow, indeed, says Science and Religion are not antagonistic because they are in different spheres of thought. This is often said by men who do not admit that there is any thought at all in religion; that it is merely a matter of feeling. The fact, however, is that religion is a system of knowledge, as well as a state of feeling. The truths on which all religion is founded are drawn within the domain of science, the nature of the first cause, its relation to the world, the nature of second causes, the origin of life, anthropology, including the origin, nature, and destiny of man. Religion has to fight for its life against a large class of scientific men. All attempts to prevent her exercising her right to be heard are unreasonable and vain.


[44] When Professor Huxley says, as quoted above, that he does not deny the possibility of miracles, he must use the word miracle in a sense peculiar to himself.

[45] Jenaer Literaturzeitung, January 3, 1874. In this number there is a notice by Doctor Haeckel of two books,—Descendenzlehre und Darwinismus, von Oscar Schmidt, Leipzig, 1873; and Die Fortschritte des Darwinismus, von J. W. Spengel, Cöln and Leipzig, 1874; in which he says: "Erstens, um in Sachen der Descendenz-Theorie mitreden zu können, ein gewisser Grad von tieferer biologischer (sowohl morphologischer als physiologischer) Bildung unentbehrlich, den die meistzen von jenen Auctoren (the opposers of the theory) nicht besitzen. Zweitens ist für ein klares und zutreffendes Urtheil in diesem Sachen eine rücksichtslose Hingabe an vernunftgemässe Erkenntniss und eine dadurch bedingte Resignation auf uralte, liebgewordene und tief vererbte Vorurtheile erforderlich, zu welcher sich die wenigsten entschliesen können." (Laughing Boy translation:) First, in matters of descent theory, a certain degree of profound biological (both morphologically and physiologically) education is essential and which the leaders of those Auctore (the opposers of the theory) do not possess. Second, a clear and true judgement in these things requires a ruthless devotion to rational knowledge and a consequent resignation required to ancient, cherished and deeply inherited prejudices, to which few can resolve themselves.

[46] In his Natürlische Schöpfungsgeschichte, Haeckel is still more exclusive. When he comes to answer the objections to the evolution, or, as he commonly calls it, the descendence theory, he dismisses the objections derived from religion, as unworthy of notice, with the remark that all Glaube ist Aberglaube; all faith is superstition. The objections from a priori, or intuitive truths, are disposed of in an equally summary manner, by denying that there are any such truths, and asserting that all our knowledge is from the senses. The objection that so many distinguished naturalists reject the theory, he considers more at length. First, many have grown old in another way of thinking and cannot be expected to change. Second, many are collectors of facts, without studying their relations, or are destitute of the genius for generalization. No amount of material makes a building. Others, again, are specialists. It is not enough that a man should be versed in one department; he must be at home in all: in Botany, Zoölogy, Comparative Anatomy, Biology, Geology, and Palæontology. He must be able to survey the whole field. Fourthly, and mainly, naturalists are generally lamentably deficient in philosophical culture and in a philosophical spirit. "The immovable edifice of the true, monistic science, or what is the same thing, natural science, can only arise through the most intimate interaction and mutual interpenetration of philosophy and observation (Philosophie und Empirie)." pp. 638-641. It is only a select few, therefore, of learned and philosophical monistic materialists, who are entitled to be heard on questions of the highest moment to every individual man, and to human society.


CRL said...

"There is an assumption of superiority, and often a manifestation of contempt. Those who call their logic or their conjectures into question, are stigmatized as narrow-minded, bigots, old women, Bible worshipers, etc."

True. Most scientists could be a bit more courteous toward their opponents, if only as a matter of PR strategy.

"If any protest be made against such doctrines, we are told that scientific truth cannot be put down by denunciation (or as Vogt says, by barking)."

Science, by its very nature avoids doctrine and dogma, however Voght is correct in saying that scientific 'truth' cannot be put down by barking. It is not enough merely to 'bark' that your opponents are wrong, you must have evidence to support your claim.

Laughing Boy said...

...scientists could be a bit more courteous toward their opponents...

Because, of course their opponents are "narrow-minded, bigots, old women, Bible worshippers"? "Most scientists" don't need more (patronizing) courtesy, they need more perspective.

Science, by its very nature avoids doctrine and dogma...

This is covered in Part 2.

Laughing Boy said...

Vox posted something related yesterday. Scientists can "do science" badly.

And we are reminded that scientists can do life badly, too.

However, I give them all due respect.

オテモヤン said...


CRL said...

"Because, of course their opponents are 'narrow-minded, bigots, old women, Bible worshippers'?Most scientists" don't need more (patronizing) courtesy, they need more perspective."

No. Mistaken beliefs do not indicate stupidity or narrow mindedness. Any person who labels their opponents as bigots and idiots is a bigot and an idiot themselves, and certainly IS in need of perspective.

"Scientists can "do science" badly."


Mike The Mad Theologian said...

The real issue is whether there is an authority that cannot be questioned or be questioned by those outside of their immediate adherents. A privilege enjoyed by the pope and his supporters during the Middle Ages. Absolute power corrupts absolutely no matter who wields it.