Page images
PDF
EPUB

be reduced to extremities when it is dependent on the vagaries of the scientific imagination.

In the second place, even though such scientific concepts were converted into spiritual substances, they would still yield no profit to religion. Hylozoism, or even panpsychism, as a theory of the ultimate matter, is for religious purposes no better than atomism, and no worse. Religion is indifferent to the question of substance. For religion is made of hope and fear; it is a solicitude for certain values. Its justification requires that the cosmos, whatever it be made of, shall in the end yield to desires and ideals — shall in short, be good. And this requirement the new science satisfies no better than the old. For science does not deal with value, but with the quantitative constancies exhibited in natural processes. Whether these processes take place for better or for worse, it does not inquire.' The explanation by ends, the reference of events to purposes, it seeks to dispense with altogether. A philosophy of religion must itself add the judgment of value. If faith is to be justified, it must be shown that the good determines events and is not a mere phosphorescent glimmer on their surface.? Science does not deny any such conclusions; but neither will science be led to any such conclusion - for the reason that its subject-matter and its methods do not permit. The intensive cultivation of science has led, and will always lead, to the rejection of religious hypotheses as irrelevant. In terms of its ‘facts,' and its experimental technique, such hypotheses are unwarranted and unverifiable.

The philosophical justification of optimistic religion involves, then, a critique of science; not a refutation of science, but a delimitation of science-a proof that science, strictly construed, is not all. The critique of science thus constitutes the religious sequel to science; and we shall pass in review the several contentions upon which such a critique is at present based. § 2. Before dealing with the criticisms of science that are 1 Cf. above, pp. 25–28.

• Cf. below, pp. 341-342.

peculiarly characteristic of contemporary philosophy, I desire briefly to allude to a method of criticism that was once Naturalism and common, but is now obsolescent. I refer to the Supernaturalism argument for miracles. A miracle is a breach of scientific law; that is, the failure of a scientific law to obtain within its proper field. Thus a motion that did not obey the laws of motion would be a miracle; as would a Euclidean triangle that did not conform to the theorems of Euclidean geometry. But the notion of a miracle in this sense reflects an antiquated conception of natural law. When laws were thought of as divorced from their subject-matter, and imposed upon it from without, it was possible to think of their being obeyed or disobeyed without ceasing to 'hold.'' But scientific laws are now understood to be descriptions of their subjectmatter. And there can be no such thing as a breach of the law, in this sense. For if things do not behave as the law stipulates, it follows that the law is incorrect. Were a Euclidean triangle found whose interior angles were not equal to 180°, it would be necessary to retract the corresponding theorem; and were there empirical evidence of a word's converting water into wine, it would be necessary to amend the laws of chemistry to meet the case. For when an event falls under the terms of the law, it constitutes one of the data which the law purports to describe, and which it must describe if it is to be a law at all.

The disputes between science and religion in the age that has just passed have turned largely upon this issue. The successive defeats of religion have been due to the fact that its defenders have put it in a false position. The validity of religion has been made to turn upon the failure of science within its own field. And naturally enough, the apologists of religion have, within that field, been no match for their scientific opponents. The Copernican hypothesis of the motion of the earth, the nebular hypothesis of its origin, and the geological hypothesis of its age and history, were arrived at by regarding the earth as a natural body like other natural bodies. Religion, starting from the unique place of the earth in the historical drama of salvation, was led to assert its uniqueness in other respects also. There resulted the ambiguous and untenable position of acknowledging the earth's bodily character, and at the same time declining to apply to it the conclusions of those who, without ulterior motive, and with the maximum of skill and information, devoted themselves to the study of bodies.

1 Cf. K. Pearson's Grammar of Science, Ch. III, passim.

The same thing happened in the case of man. His bodily functions come within the range of statics, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, and chemistry; while as an animal organism, he belongs to the subject matter of biology and physiological psychology. And similarly the Scriptures, as historical documents, must necessarily be submitted to the methods of historical, archæological, and philological research. The apologists of religion made the mistake of disputing the findings of these several sciences, and undertook an unequal contest with experts in their own fields of study. The result was inevitable. Science, because free from ulterior motives, and superior in technique, prevailed; and religion, regarded as an ineffectual protest against advancing enlightenment, lost prestige.?

§ 3. It is characteristic of the contemporary critique of science to accept science as a whole. The philosophy of

religion no longer attempts to meet science The General Character of

on its own grounds, and to dispute questions Contemporary of detail that lie within its province. It is Criticism of

admitted that, relatively to its method and

subject-matter, the verdict of science is final and unimpeachable. Science must be dealt with as a system which is complete in its own terms. The difference between science and religion no longer turns upon questions of fact, but upon a fundamental question of point of view or method.

· Cf. Andrew D. White's A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, passim.

Science

Religion must accept, once for all, "the concatenation of phenomena"; and abandon the "self-contradictory religious supernaturalism" that "attempts self-satisfaction by transfiguring a fragment torn from the temporal series of history." Religion and true philosophy do not abide here but in the "eternal." We must concede the scientist's claim of the universal ramification of "causal connections"; but the hope of deliverance lies in the immediate qualification-"so far as the scientific interest is concerned." For the scientist forgets "that all this causal explanation has no meaning whatsoever, and his statements no truth, and his universe no reality, if he and we are not presupposing an idealistic belief in those absolute standards of eternal values by which we can discriminate the true and untrue, the good and the bad, the real and the unreal."2 "The deepest and most thorough reconciliation of Science and Religion which it is possible to conceive," says another philosopher, "puts an end in principle to the unworthy bickerings between them about the territories of each, and the futile attempts at the delimitation of their borders," permitting "each to claim the whole of experience — in its own fashion." "Science may justly deal with all things so may Religion." But there is a deeper ground for both, since "both are means of transmuting the crude 'matter' of 'appearance' into forms better, truer, more beautiful and more real."3

...

Thus it may be said that the religio-philosophical critique of science has on the whole abandoned the old supernaturalistic ground. In other words, it no longer attempts to make exceptions, and to dispute the rule of natural law in specific localities of nature. The integrity of science is acknowledged, and whatever criticism is urged against science is urged against it as a system.

1R. M. Wenley: Modern Thought and the Crisis in Belief, pp. 78, 229,

228.

H. Münsterberg: Science and Idealism, p. 70 (italics mine).

F. C. S. Schiller: Riddles of the Sphinx, third edition, pp. 463-464 (last italics mine).

$ 4. But the old warfare between science and religion has not wholly ceased. There is a lingering spirit of hosThe Fallibility tility that still stands in the way of mutual of Science sympathy and understanding. It appears on the side of science, in the 'anti-metaphysical' polemics of such writers as Pearson, and in the irreverent animus of such writers as Haeckel. On the side of religious philosophy it appears in a disposition to disparage science, to belittle its achievements, and exploit its failures and shortcomings.

This disposition pervades what is perhaps the most monumental critique of science that has recently appeared in the English language - James Ward's Naturalism and

Agnosticism. While this book aims to refute naturalism rather than science, the author nevertheless repeatedly argues from the incomplete success of science. He points out the “lacunæ” of science, such as the gap between the organic and the inorganic realms. He reminds us, in other words, that there are scientific problems that the scientist has not yet solved! He suggests contradictions within the body of scientific truth; and dwells upon the uncertainty of scientific hypotheses that are not as yet completely verified. As if all human knowledge did not, at any historical moment, have its residual ignorance, its outstanding difficulties, its transitive phrases, and its haunting doubts! Indeed, the frankness with which science has avowed these limitations — these penalties of human

frailty, and risks of human temerity — merits confidence and not distrust.

Professor Ward finds evidence of the unreliability of science above all in the fact that its theories must perpetually submit to correction. He quotes Boltzmann: “Today the battle of opinion rages tempestuously.

What 1 The reader may be interested in referring to the replies of J. E. Creighton, and of Professor Ward himself, to this criticism. Cf. Journal of Phil., Psych., and Scientific Methods, Vol. I (1904), Nos. 10, 12. The present writer's rejoinder, from which parts of the present text are drawn, appeared in the same Journal, Vol. I, No. 13.

« PreviousContinue »