Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Out Into the Light

Although very much a theist, our next mystery guest was also very much a scientist:

To such as look upon this question from the purely scientific point of view, any theological objection, even to Mr. Darwin's rather startling conclusion, much more to his very modest premises, seems simply absurd. We never heard of any body who thought that a religious question was involved in the inquiry whether our breeds of dog are derived from one or from several ancestral stocks; nor should we suppose that the stoutest believers in the Mosaic cosmogony would be much dismayed if it could be shown that the dog is really a derivation from the wolf. Orthodoxy (on this side of the Atlantic at least) is decidedly in favour of the abolition of the two-and-twenty species into which man has been divided by some zoologists, and of the reference of all the strongly-diversified races of man to the Adamic stock. We do not expect to see, even in our "most straitest" sectarian organs, any accusations brought against Mr. Bentham for impiety, because he affirms that three or four hundred of the reputed species of British plants are really descendants of others from which they have gradually diverged; and if he were led by the results of further inquiry to knock off as many more, we believe that he would be left to the criticism of his brother botanists, and that his British Flora would not run any risk of being put into the Index Expurgatorius, alongside of Lamarck's Philosophie Zoologigue and the Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.

Why, then, should Mr. Darwin be attacked (as he most assuredly will be) for venturing to carry the same method of inquiry a step further; and be accused (in terms which it needs no spirit of prophecy to anticipate) of superseding the functions of the Creator, of blotting out his Attributes from the page of Nature, and of reducing Him to the level of a mere Physical Agency? ... And we have no sympathy with those who, to use the admirable language of Professor Powell (whose Essay on the Philosophy of Creation contains a masterly refutation of the current theological arguments bearing on this question), maintain that we "behold the Deity more clearly in the dark than in the light, -- in confusion, interruption, and catastrophe, more than in order, continuity, and progress."


William Carpenter
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