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History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew Dickson White

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head, was shown turning and shaping the globe on a lathe, which
he keeps in motion with his foot. The emblems of the Passion are
about him, God the Father looking approvingly upon him from a
cloud, and the dove hovering between the two. The date upon the
banner was 1727.

But to these discussions was added yet another, which, beginning
in the early days of the Church, was handed down the ages until
it had died out among the theologians of our own time.

In the first of the biblical accounts light is created and the
distinction between day and night thereby made on the first day,
while the sun and moon are not created until the fourth day.
Masses of profound theological and pseudo-scientific reasoning
have been developed to account for this--masses so great that for
ages they have obscured the simple fact that the original text is
a precious revelation to us of one of the most ancient of
recorded beliefs--the belief that light and darkness are entities
independent of the heavenly bodies, and that the sun, moon, and
stars exist not merely to increase light but to "divide the day
from the night, to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and
for years," and "to rule the day and the night."

Of this belief we find survivals among the early fathers, and
especially in St. Ambrose. In his work on creation he tells us:
"We must remember that the light of day is one thing and the
light of the sun, moon, and stars another--the sun by his rays
appearing to add lustre to the daylight. For before sunrise the
day dawns, but is not in full refulgence, for the sun adds still
further to its splendour." This idea became one of the
"treasures of sacred knowledge committed to the Church," and was
faithfully received by the Middle Ages. The medieval mysteries
and miracle plays give curious evidences of this: In a
performance of the creation, when God separates light from
darkness, the stage direction is, "Now a painted cloth is to be
exhibited, one half black and the other half white." It was
also given more permanent form. In the mosaics of San Marco at
Venice, in the frescoes of the Baptistery at Florence and of the
Church of St. Francis at Assisi, and in the altar carving at
Salerno, we find a striking realization of it--the Creator
placing in the heavens two disks or living figures of equal size,
each suitably coloured or inscribed to show that one represents
light and the other darkness. This conception was without doubt
that of the person or persons who compiled from the Chaldean and
other earlier statements the accounts of the creation in the
first of our sacred books.[8]

[8] For scriptural indications of the independent existence of
light and darkness, compare with the first verses of the chapter
of Genesis such passages as Job xxxviii, 19,24; for the general
prevalence of this early view, see Lukas, Kosmogonie, pp. 31, 33,
41, 74, and passim; for the view of St. Ambrose regarding the
creation of light and of the sun, see his Hexameron, lib. 4, cap.
iii; for an excellent general statement, see Huxley, Mr.
Gladstone and Genesis, in the Nineteenth Century, 1886, reprinted
in his Essays on Controverted Questions, London, 1892, note, pp.
126 et seq.; for the acceptance in the miracle plays of the
scriptural idea of light and darkness as independent creations,
see Wright, Essays on Archeological Subjects, vol. ii, p.178; for
an account, with illustrations, of the mosaics, etc.,
representing this idea, see Tikkanen, Die Genesis-mosaiken von
San Marco, Helsingfors, 1889, p. 14 and 16 of the text and Plates
I and II. Very naively the Salerno carver, not wishing to colour
the ivory which he wrought, has inscribed on one disk the word
"LUX" and on the other "NOX." See also Didron, Iconographie, p.

Thus, down to a period almost within living memory, it was held,
virtually "always, everywhere, and by all," that the universe, as
we now see it, was created literally and directly by the voice or
hands of the Almighty, or by both--out of nothing--in an instant
or in six days, or in both--about four thousand years before the
Christian era--and for the convenience of the dwellers upon the
earth, which was at the base and foundation of the whole

But there had been implanted along through the ages germs of
another growth in human thinking, some of them even as early as
the Babylonian period. In the Assyrian inscriptions we find
recorded the Chaldeo-Babylonian idea of AN EVOLUTION of the
universe out of the primeval flood or "great deep," and of the
animal creation out of the earth and sea. This idea, recast,
partially at least, into monotheistic form, passed naturally into
the sacred books of the neighbours and pupils of the
Chaldeans--the Hebrews; but its growth in Christendom afterward
was checked, as we shall hereafter find, by the more powerful
influence of other inherited statements which appealed more
intelligibly to the mind of the Church.

Striking, also, was the effect of this idea as rewrought by the
early Ionian philosophers, to whom it was probably transmitted
from the Chaldeans through the Phoenicians. In the minds of
Ionians like Anaximander and Anaximenes it was most clearly
developed: the first of these conceiving of the visible universe
as the result of processes of evolution, and the latter pressing
further the same mode of reasoning, and dwelling on agencies in
cosmic development recognised in modern science.

This general idea of evolution in Nature thus took strong hold
upon Greek thought and was developed in many ways, some
ingenious, some perverse. Plato, indeed, withstood it; but
Aristotle sometimes developed it in a manner which reminds us of
modern views.

Among the Romans Lucretius caught much from it, extending the
evolutionary process virtually to all things.

In the early Church, as we have seen, the idea of a creation
direct, material, and by means like those used by man, was
all-powerful for the exclusion of conceptions based on evolution.
From the more simple and crude of the views of creation given in
the Babylonian legends, and thence incorporated into Genesis,
rose the stream of orthodox thought on the subject, which grew
into a flood and swept on through the Middle Ages and into modern
times. Yet here and there in the midst of this flood were high
grounds of thought held by strong men. Scotus Erigena and Duns
Scotus, among the schoolmen, bewildered though they were, had
caught some rays of this ancient light, and passed on to their
successors, in modified form, doctrines of an evolutionary
process in the universe.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century these evolutionary
theories seemed to take more definite form in the mind of
Giordano Bruno, who evidently divined the fundamental idea of
what is now known as the "nebular hypothesis"; but with his
murder by the Inquisition at Rome this idea seemed utterly to
disappear--dissipated by the flames which in 1600 consumed his
body on the Campo dei Fiori.

Yet within the two centuries divided by Bruno's death the world
was led into a new realm of thought in which an evolution theory
of the visible universe was sure to be rapidly developed. For
there came, one after the other, five of the greatest men our
race has produced--Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and
Newton--and when their work was done the old theological
conception of the universe was gone. "The spacious firmament on
high"--"the crystalline spheres"--the Almighty enthroned upon
"the circle of the heavens," and with his own lands, or with
angels as his agents, keeping sun, moon, and planets in motion
for the benefit of the earth, opening and closing the "windows of
heaven," letting down upon the earth the "waters above the
firmament," "setting his bow in the cloud," hanging out "signs
and wonders," hurling comets, "casting forth lightnings" to scare
the wicked, and "shaking the earth" in his wrath: all this had

These five men had given a new divine revelation to the world;
and through the last, Newton, had come a vast new conception,
destined to be fatal to the old theory of creation, for he had
shown throughout the universe, in place of almighty caprice,
all-pervading law. The bitter opposition of theology to the
first four of these men is well known; but the fact is not so
widely known that Newton, in spite of his deeply religious
spirit, was also strongly opposed. It was vigorously urged
against him that by his statement of the law of gravitation he
"took from God that direct action on his works so constantly
ascribed to him in Scripture and transferred it to material
mechanism," and that he "substituted gravitation for Providence."

But, more than this, these men gave a new basis for the theory of
evolution as distinguished from the theory of creation.

Especially worthy of note is it that the great work of Descartes,
erroneous as many of its deductions were, and, in view of the
lack of physical knowledge in his time, must be, had done much to
weaken the old conception. His theory of a universe brought out
of all-pervading matter, wrought into orderly arrangement by
movements in accordance with physical laws--though it was but a
provisional hypothesis--had done much to draw men's minds from
the old theological view of creation; it was an example of
intellectual honesty arriving at errors, but thereby aiding the
advent of truths. Crippled though Descartes was by his almost
morbid fear of the Church, this part of his work was no small
factor in bringing in that attitude of mind which led to a
reception of the thoughts of more unfettered thinkers.

Thirty years later came, in England, an effort of a different
sort, but with a similar result. In 1678 Ralph Cudworth
published his Intellectual System of the Universe. To this day
he remains, in breadth of scholarship, in strength of thought, in
tolerance, and in honesty, one of the greatest glories of the
English Church, and his work was worthy of him. He purposed to
build a fortress which should protect Christianity against all
dangerous theories of the universe, ancient or modern. The
foundations of the structure were laid with old thoughts thrown
often into new and striking forms; but, as the superstructure
arose more and more into view, while genius marked every part of
it, features appeared which gave the rigidly orthodox serious
misgivings. From the old theories of direct personal action on
the universe by the Almighty he broke utterly. He dwelt on the
action of law, rejected the continuous exercise of miraculous
intervention, pointed out the fact that in the natural world
there are "errors" and "bungles," and argued vigorously in favour
of the origin and maintenance of the universe as a slow and
gradual development of Nature in obedience to an inward
principle. The Balaks of seventeenth-century orthodoxy might
well condemn this honest Balaam.

Toward the end of the next century a still more profound genius,
Immanuel Kant, presented the nebular theory, giving it, in the
light of Newton's great utterances, a consistency which it never
before had; and about the same time Laplace gave it yet greater
strength by mathematical reasonings of wonderful power and
extent, thus implanting firmly in modern thought the idea that
our own solar system and others--suns, planets, satellites, and
their various movements, distances, and magnitudes--necessarily
result from the obedience of nebulous masses to natural laws.

Throughout the theological world there was an outcry at once
against "atheism," and war raged fiercely. Herschel and others
pointed out many nebulous patches apparently gaseous. They
showed by physical and mathematical demonstrations that the
hypothesis accounted for the great body of facts, and, despite
clamour, were gaining ground, when the improved telescopes
resolved some of the patches of nebulous matter into multitudes
of stars. The opponents of the nebular hypothesis were
overjoyed; they now sang paeans to astronomy, because, as they
said, it had proved the truth of Scripture. They had jumped to
the conclusion that all nebula must be alike; that, if SOME are
made up of systems of stars, ALL must be so made up; that none
can be masses of attenuated gaseous matter, because some are not.

Science halted for a time. The accepted doctrine became this:
that the only reason why all the nebula are not resolved into
distinct stars is that our telescopes are not sufficiently
powerful. But in time came the discovery of the spectroscope and
spectrum analysis, and thence Fraunhofer's discovery that the
spectrum of an ignited gaseous body is non-continuous, with
interrupting lines; and Draper's discovery that the spectrum of
an ignited solid is continuous, with no interrupting lines. And
now the spectroscope was turned upon the nebula, and many of them
were found to be gaseous. Here, then, was ground for the
inference that in these nebulous masses at different stages of
condensation--some apparently mere pitches of mist, some with
luminous centres--we have the process of development actually
going on, and observations like those of Lord Rosse and Arrest
gave yet further confirmation to this view. Then came the great
contribution of the nineteenth century to physics, aiding to
explain important parts of the vast process by the mechanical
theory of heat.

Again the nebular hypothesis came forth stronger than ever, and
about 1850 the beautiful experiment of Plateau on the rotation of
a fluid globe came in apparently to illustrate if not to confirm
it. Even so determined a defender of orthodoxy as Mr. Gladstone
at last acknowledged some form of a nebular hypothesis as
probably true.

Here, too, was exhibited that form of surrendering theological
views to science under the claim that science concurs with
theology, which we have seen in so many other fields; and, as
typical, an example may be given, which, however restricted in
its scope, throws light on the process by which such surrenders
are obtained. A few years since one of the most noted professors
of chemistry in the city of New York, under the auspices of one
of its most fashionable churches, gave a lecture which, as was
claimed in the public prints and in placards posted in the
streets, was to show that science supports the theory of creation
given in the sacred books ascribed to Moses. A large audience
assembled, and a brilliant series of elementary experiments with
oxygen, hydrogen, and carbonic acid was concluded by the Plateau
demonstration. It was beautifully made. As the coloured globule
of oil, representing the earth, was revolved in a transparent
medium of equal density, as it became flattened at the poles, as
rings then broke forth from it and revolved about it, and,
finally, as some of these rings broke into satellites, which for
a moment continued to circle about the central mass, the
audience, as well they might, rose and burst into rapturous

Thereupon a well-to-do citizen arose and moved the thanks of the
audience to the eminent professor for "this perfect demonstration
of the exact and literal conformity of the statements given in
Holy Scripture with the latest results of science." The motion
was carried unanimously and with applause, and the audience
dispersed, feeling that a great service had been rendered to
orthodoxy. Sancta simplicitas!

What this incident exhibited on a small scale has been seen
elsewhere with more distinguished actors and on a broader stage.
Scores of theologians, chief among whom of late, in zeal if not
in knowledge, has been Mr. Gladstone, have endeavoured to
"reconcile" the two accounts in Genesis with each other and with
the truths regarding the origin of the universe gained by
astronomy, geology, geography, physics, and chemistry. The
result has been recently stated by an eminent theologian, the
Hulsean Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He
declares, "No attempt at reconciling genesis with the exacting
requirements of modern sciences has ever been known to succeed
without entailing a degree of special pleading or forced
interpretation to which, in such a question, we should be wise to
have no recourse."[9]

[9] For an interesting reference to the outcry against Newton,
see McCosh, The Religious Aspect of Evolution, New York, 1890,
pp. 103, 104; for germs of an evolutionary view among the
Babylonians, see George Smith, Chaldean Account of Gensis, New
York, 1876, pp. 74, 75; for a germ of the same thought in
Lucretius, see his De Natura Rerum, lib. v,pp.187-194, 447-454;
for Bruno's conjecture (in 1591), see Jevons, Principles of
Science, London, 1874, vol. ii, p. 36; for Kant's statement, see
his Naturgeschichte des Himmels; for his part in the nebular
hypothesis, see Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus, vol. i,
p.266; for the value of Plateau's beautiful experiment, very
cautiously estimated, see Jevons, vol. ii, p. 36; also Elisee
Reclus, The Earth, translated by Woodward, vol. i, pp. 14-18, for
an estimate still more careful; for a general account of
discoveries of the nature of nebulae by spectroscope, see Draper,
Conflict between Religion and Science; for a careful discussion
regarding the spectra of solid, liquid, and gaseous bodies, see
Schellen, Spectrum Analysis, pp. 100 et seq.; for a very thorough
discussion of the bearings of discoveries made by spectrum
analysis upon the nebular hypothesis, ibid., pp. 532-537; for a
presentation of the difficulties yet unsolved, see an article by
Plummer in the London Popular Science Review for January, 1875;
for an excellent short summary of recent observations and
thoughts on this subject, see T. Sterry Hunt, Address at the
Priestley Centennial, pp. 7, 8; for an interesting modification
of this hypothesis, see Proctor's writings; for a still more
recent view see Lockyer's two articles on The Sun's Place in
Nature for February 14 and 25, 1895.

The revelations of another group of sciences, though sometimes
bitterly opposed and sometimes "reconciled" by theologians, have
finally set the whole question at rest. First, there have come
the biblical critics--earnest Christian scholars, working for the
sake of truth--and these have revealed beyond the shadow of a
reasonable doubt the existence of at least two distinct accounts
of creation in our book of Genesis, which can sometimes be forced
to agree, but which are generally absolutely at variance with
each other. These scholars have further shown the two accounts
to be not the cunningly devised fables of priestcraft, but
evidently fragments of earlier legends, myths, and theologies,
accepted in good faith and brought together for the noblest of
purposes by those who put in order the first of our sacred books.

Next have come the archaeologists and philologists, the devoted
students of ancient monuments and records; of these are such as
Rawlinson, George Smith, Sayce, Oppert, Jensen, Schrader,
Delitzsch, and a phalanx of similarly devoted scholars, who have
deciphered a multitude of ancient texts, especially the
inscriptions found in the great library of Assurbanipal at
Nineveh, and have discovered therein an account of the origin of
the world identical in its most important features with the later
accounts in our own book of Genesis.

These men have had the courage to point out these facts and to
connect them with the truth that these Chaldean and Babylonian
myths, legends, and theories were far earlier than those of the
Hebrews, which so strikingly resemble them, and which we have in
our sacred books; and they have also shown us how natural it was
that the Jewish accounts of the creation should have been
obtained at that remote period when the earliest Hebrews were
among the Chaldeans, and how the great Hebrew poetic accounts of
creation were drawn either from the sacred traditions of these
earlier peoples or from antecedent sources common to various
ancient nations.

In a summary which for profound thought and fearless integrity
does honour not only to himself but to the great position which
he holds, the Rev. Dr. Driver, Professor of Hebrew and Canon of
Christ Church at Oxford, has recently stated the case fully and
fairly. Having pointed out the fact that the Hebrews were one
people out of many who thought upon the origin of the universe,
he says that they "framed theories to account for the beginnings
of the earth and man"; that "they either did this for themselves
or borrowed those of their neighbours"; that "of the theories
current in Assyria and Phoenicia fragments have been preserved,
and these exhibit points of resemblance with the biblical
narrative sufficient to warrant the inference that both are
derived from the same cycle of tradition."

After giving some extracts from the Chaldean creation tablets he
says: "In the light of these facts it is difficult to resist the
conclusion that the biblical narrative is drawn from the same
source as these other records. The biblical historians, it is
plain, derived their materials from the best human sources
available....The materials which with other nations were
combined into the crudest physical theories or associated with a
grotesque polytheism were vivified and transformed by the
inspired genius of the Hebrew historians, and adapted to become
the vehicle of profound religious truth."

Not less honourable to the sister university and to himself is
the statement recently made by the Rev. Dr. Ryle, Hulsean
Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. He says that to suppose that
a Christian "must either renounce his confidence in the
achievements of scientific research or abandon his faith in
Scripture is a monstrous perversion of Christian freedom." He
declares: "The old position is no longer tenable; a new position
has to be taken up at once, prayerfully chosen, and hopefully
held." He then goes on to compare the Hebrew story of creation
with the earlier stories developed among kindred peoples, and
especially with the pre-existing Assyro-Babylonian cosmogony, and
shows that they are from the same source. He points out that any
attempt to explain particular features of the story into harmony
with the modern scientific ideas necessitates "a non-natural"
interpretation; but he says that, if we adopt a natural
interpretation, "we shall consider that the Hebrew description of
the visible universe is unscientific as judged by modern
standards, and that it shares the limitations of the imperfect
knowledge of the age at which it was committed to writing."
Regarding the account in Genesis of man's physical origin, he
says that it "is expressed in the simple terms of prehistoric
legend, of unscientific pictorial description."

In these statements and in a multitude of others made by eminent
Christian investigators in other countries is indicated what the
victory is which has now been fully won over the older theology.

Thus, from the Assyrian researches as well as from other sources,
it has come to be acknowledged by the most eminent scholars at
the leading seats of Christian learning that the accounts of
creation with which for nearly two thousand years all scientific
discoveries have had to be "reconciled"--the accounts which
blocked the way of Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and
Laplace--were simply transcribed or evolved from a mass of myths
and legends largely derived by the Hebrews from their ancient
relations with Chaldea, rewrought in a monotheistic sense,
imperfectly welded together, and then thrown into poetic forms in
the sacred books which we have inherited.

On one hand, then, we have the various groups of men devoted to
the physical sciences all converging toward the proofs that the
universe, as we at present know it, is the result of an
evolutionary process--that is, of the gradual working of physical
laws upon an early condition of matter; on the other hand, we
have other great groups of men devoted to historical,
philological, and archaeological science whose researches all
converge toward the conclusion that our sacred accounts of
creation were the result of an evolution from an early chaos of
rude opinion.

The great body of theologians who have so long resisted the
conclusions of the men of science have claimed to be fighting
especially for "the truth of Scripture," and their final answer
to the simple conclusions of science regarding the evolution of
the material universe has been the cry, "The Bible is true." And
they are right--though in a sense nobler than they have dreamed.
Science, while conquering them, has found in our Scriptures a far
nobler truth than that literal historical exactness for which
theologians have so long and so vainly contended. More and more
as we consider the results of the long struggle in this field we
are brought to the conclusion that the inestimable value of the
great sacred books of the world is found in their revelation of
the steady striving of our race after higher conceptions,
beliefs, and aspirations, both in morals and religion. Unfolding
and exhibiting this long-continued effort, each of the great
sacred books of the world is precious, and all, in the highest
sense, are true. Not one of them, indeed, conforms to the
measure of what mankind has now reached in historical and
scientific truth; to make a claim to such conformity is folly,
for it simply exposes those who make it and the books for which
it is made to loss of their just influence.

That to which the great sacred books of the world conform, and
our own most of all, is the evolution of the highest conceptions,
beliefs, and aspirations of our race from its childhood through
the great turning-points in its history. Herein lies the truth
of all bibles, and especially of our own. Of vast value they
indeed often are as a record of historical outward fact; recen
researches in the East are constantly increasing this value; but
it is not for this that we prize them most: they are eminently
precious, not as a record of outward fact, but as a mirror of the
evolving heart, mind, and soul of man. They are true because
they have been developed in accordance with the laws governing
the evolution of truth in human history, and because in poem,
chronicle, code, legend, myth, apologue, or parable they reflect
this development of what is best in the onward march of humanity.
To say that they are not true is as if one should say that a
flower or a tree or a planet is not true; to scoff at them is to
scoff at the law of the universe. In welding together into noble
form, whether in the book of Genesis, or in the Psalms, or in the
book of Job, or elsewhere, the great conceptions of men acting
under earlier inspiration, whether in Egypt, or Chaldea, or
India, or Persia, the compilers of our sacred books have given to
humanity a possession ever becoming more and more precious; and
modern science, in substituting a new heaven and a new earth for
the old--the reign of law for the reign of caprice, and the idea
of evolution for that of creation--has added and is steadily
adding a new revelation divinely inspired.

In the light of these two evolutions, then--one of the visible
universe, the other of a sacred creation-legend--science and
theology, if the master minds in both are wise, may at last be
reconciled. A great step in this reconciliation was recently
seen at the main centre of theological thought among
English-speaking people, when, in the collection of essays
entitled Lux Mundi, emanating from the college established in
these latter days as a fortress of orthodoxy at Oxford, the
legendary character of the creation accounts in our sacred books
was acknowledged, and when the Archbishop of Canterbury asked,
"May not the Holy Spirit at times have made use of myth and

[10] For the first citations above made, see The Cosmogony of
Genesis, by the Rev. S. R. Driver, D.D., Canon of Christ Church
and Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford , in the Expositor for
January, 1886; for the second series of citations, see the Early
Narratives of Genesis, by Herbert Edward Ryle, Hulsean Professor
of Divinity at Cambridge, London, 1892. For evidence that even
the stiffest of Scotch Presbyterians have come to discard the old
literal biblical narrative of creation and to regard the
declaration of the Westminster Confession thereon as a "disproved
theory of creation," see Principal John Tulloch, in Contemporary
Review, March, 1877, on Religious Thought in Scotland--especially
page 550.


In one of the windows of the cathedral at Ulm a mediaeval
glass-stainer has represented the Almighty as busily engaged in
creating the animals, and there has just left the divine hands an
elephant fully accoutred, with armour, harness, and housings,
ready-for war. Similar representations appear in illuminated
manuscripts and even in early printed books, and, as the
culmination of the whole, the Almighty is shown as fashioning the
first man from a hillock of clay and extracting from his side,
with evident effort, the first woman.

This view of the general process of creation had come from far,
appearing under varying forms in various ancient cosmogonies. In
the Egyptian temples at Philae and Denderah may still be seen
representations of the Nile gods modelling lumps of clay into
men, and a similar work is ascribed in the Assyrian tablets to
the gods of Babylonia. Passing into our own sacred books, these
ideas became the starting point of a vast new development of

[11] For representations of Egyptian gods creating men out of
lumps of clay, see Maspero and Sayce, The Dawn of History, p.
156; for the Chaldean legends of the creation of men and animals,
see ibid., p. 543; see also George Smith, Chaldean Accounts of
Genesis, Sayce's edition, pp. 36, 72, and 93; also for similar
legends in other ancient nations, Lenormant, Origines de
l'Histoire, pp. 17 et seq.; for mediaeval representations of the
creation of man and woman, see Didron, Iconographie, pp. 35, 178,
224, 537.

The fathers of the Church generally received each of the two
conflicting creation legends in Genesis literally, and then,
having done their best to reconcile them with each other and to
mould them together, made them the final test of thought upon the
universe and all things therein. At the beginning of the fourth
century Lactantius struck the key-note of this mode of
subordinating all other things in the study of creation to the
literal text of Scripture, and he enforces his view of the
creation of man by a bit of philology, saying the final being
created "is called man because he is made from the ground--homo
ex humo."

In the second half of the same century this view as to the
literal acceptance of the sacred text was reasserted by St.
Ambrose, who, in his work on the creation, declared that "Moses
opened his mouth and poured forth what God had said to him." But
a greater than either of them fastened this idea into the
Christian theologies. St. Augustine, preparing his Commentary
on the Book of Genesis, laid down in one famous sentence the law
which has lasted in the Church until our own time: "Nothing is to
be accepted save on the authority of Scripture, since greater is
that authority than all the powers of the human mind." The
vigour of the sentence in its original Latin carried it ringing
down the centuries: "Major est Scripturae auctoritas quam omnis
humani ingenii capacitas."

Through the mediaeval period, in spite of a revolt led by no
other than St. Augustine himself, and followed by a series of
influential churchmen, contending, as we shall hereafter see, for
a modification of the accepted view of creation, this phrase held
the minds of men firmly. The great Dominican encyclopaedist,
Vincent of Beauvais, in his Mirror of Nature, while mixing ideas
brought from Aristotle with a theory drawn from the Bible, stood
firmly by the first of the accounts given in Genesis, and
assigned the special virtue of the number six as a reason why all
things were created in six days; and in the later Middle Ages
that eminent authority, Cardinal d' Ailly, accepted everything
regarding creation in the sacred books literally. Only a faint
dissent is seen in Gregory Reisch, another authority of this
later period, who, while giving, in his book on the beginning of
things, a full length woodcut showing the Almighty in the act of
extracting Eve from Adam's side, with all the rest of new-formed
Nature in the background, leans in his writings, like St.
Augustine, toward a belief in the pre-existence of matter.

At the Reformation the vast authority of Luther was thrown in
favour of the literal acceptance of Scripture as the main source
of natural science. The allegorical and mystical interpretations
of earlier theologians he utterly rejected. "Why," he asks,
"should Moses use allegory when he is not speaking of allegorical
creatures or of an allegorical world, but of real creatures and
of a visible world, which can be seen, felt, and grasped? Moses
calls things by their right names, as we ought to do....I hold
that the animals took their being at once upon the word of God,
as did also the fishes in the sea."

Not less explicit in his adherence to the literal account of
creation given in Genesis was Calvin. He warns those who, by
taking another view than his own, "basely insult the Creator, to
expect a judge who will annihilate them." He insists that all
species of animals were created in six days, each made up of an
evening and a morning, and that no new species has ever appeared
since. He dwells on the production of birds from the water as
resting upon certain warrant of Scripture, but adds, "If the
question is to be argued on physical grounds, we know that water
is more akin to air than the earth is." As to difficulties in
the scriptural account of creation, he tells us that God "wished
by these to give proofs of his power which should fill us with

The controlling minds in the Roman Church steadfastly held this
view. In the seventeenth century Bossuet threw his vast
authority in its favour, and in his Discourse on Universal
History, which has remained the foundation not only of
theological but of general historical teaching in France down to
the present republic, we find him calling attention to what he
regards as the culminating act of creation, and asserting that,
literally, for the creation of man earth was used, and "the
finger of God applied to corruptible matter."

The Protestant world held this idea no less persistently. In the
seventeenth century Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the
University of Cambridge, the great rabbinical scholar of his
time, attempted to reconcile the two main legends in Genesis by
saying that of the "clean sort of beasts there were seven of
every kind created, three couples for breeding and the odd one
for Adam's sacrifice on his fall, which God foresaw"; and that
of unclean beasts only one couple was created.

So literal was this whole conception of the work of creation that
in these days it can scarcely be imagined. The Almighty was
represented in theological literature, in the pictured Bibles,
and in works of art generally, as a sort of enlarged and
venerable Nuremberg toymaker. At times the accounts in Genesis
were illustrated with even more literal exactness; thus, in
connection with a well-known passage in the sacred text, the
Creator was shown as a tailor, seated, needle in hand, diligently
sewing together skins of beasts into coats for Adam and Eve.
Such representations presented no difficulties to the docile
minds of the Middle Ages and the Reformation period; and in the
same spirit, when the discovery of fossils began to provoke
thought, these were declared to be "models of his works approved
or rejected by the great Artificer," "outlines of future
creations," "sports of Nature," or "objects placed in the strata
to bring to naught human curiosity"; and this kind of
explanation lingered on until in our own time an eminent
naturalist, in his anxiety to save the literal account in
Genesis, has urged that Jehovah tilted and twisted the strata,
scattered the fossils through them, scratched the glacial furrows
upon them, spread over them the marks of erosion by water, and
set Niagara pouring--all in an instant--thus mystifying the world
"for some inscrutable purpose, but for his own glory."[12]

[12] For the citation from Lactantius, see Divin. Instit., lib.
ii, cap. xi, in Migne, tome vi, pp. 311, 312; for St. Augustine's
great phrase, see the De Genes. ad litt., ii, 5; for St. Ambrose,
see lib. i, cap. ii; for Vincent of Beauvais, see the Speculum
Naturale, lib. i, cap. ii, and lib. ii, cap. xv and xxx; also
Bourgeat, Etudes sur Vincent de Beauvais, Paris, 1856, especially
chaps. vii, xii, and xvi; for Cardinal d"ailly, see the Imago
Mundi, and for Reisch, see the various editions of the Margarita
Philosophica; for Luther's statements, see Luther's Schriften,
ed. Walch, Halle, 1740, Commentary on Genesis, vol. i; for
Calvin's view of the creation of the animals, including the
immutability of Species, see the Comm. in Gen., tome i of his
Opera omnia, Amst., 1671, cap. i, v, xx, p. 5, also cap. ii, v,
ii, p. 8, and elsewhere; for Bossuet, see his Discours sur
l'Histoire universelle (in his Euvres, tome v, Paris, 1846); for
Lightfoot, see his works, edited by Pitman, London, 1822; for
Bede, see the Hexaemeron, lib. i, in Migne, tome xci, p.21; for
Mr. Gosse'smodern defence of the literal view, see his Omphalos,
London, 1857, passim.

The next important development of theological reasoning had
regard to the DIVISIONS of the animal kingdom.

Naturally, one of the first divisions which struck the inquiring
mind was that between useful and noxious creatures, and the
question therefore occurred, How could a good God create tigers
and serpents, thorns and thistles? The answer was found in
theological considerations upon SIN. To man's first
disobedience all woes were due. Great men for eighteen hundred
years developed the theory that before Adam's disobedience there
was no death, and therefore neither ferocity nor venom.

Some typical utterances in the evolution of this doctrine are
worthy of a passing glance. St. Augustine expressly confirmed
and emphasized the view that the vegetable as well as the animal
kingdom was cursed on account of man's sin. Two hundred years
later this utterance had been echoed on from father to father of
the Church until it was caught by Bede; he declared that before
man's fall animals were harmless, but were made poisonous or
hurtful by Adam's sin, and he said, "Thus fierce and poisonous
animals were created for terrifying man (because God foresaw that
he would sin), in order that he might be made aware of the final
punishment of hell."

In the twelfth century this view was incorporated by Peter
Lombard into his great theological work, the Sentences, which
became a text-book of theology through the middle ages. He
affirmed that "no created things would have been hurtful to man
had he not sinned; they became hurtful for the sake of
terrifying and punishing vice or of proving and perfecting
virtue; they were created harmless, and on account of sin became

This theological theory regarding animals was brought out in the
eighteenth century with great force by John Wesley. He declared
that before Adam's sin "none of these attempted to devour or in
any wise hurt one another"; "the spider was as harmless as the
fly, and did not lie in wait for blood." Not only Wesley, but
the eminent Dr. Adam Clarke and Dr. Richard Watson, whose ideas
had the very greatest weight among the English Dissenters, and
even among leading thinkers in the Established Church, held
firmly to this theory; so that not until, in our own time,
geology revealed the remains of vast multitudes of carnivorous
creatures, many of them with half-digested remains of other
animals in their stomachs, all extinct long ages before the
appearance of man upon earth, was a victory won by science over
theology in this field.

A curious development of this doctrine was seen in the belief
drawn by sundry old commentators from the condemnation of the
serpent in Genesis--a belief, indeed, perfectly natural, since it
was evidently that of the original writers of the account
preserved in the first of our sacred books. This belief was
that, until the tempting serpent was cursed by the Almighty, all
serpents stood erect, walked, and talked.

This belief was handed down the ages as part of "the sacred
deposit of the faith" until Watson, the most prolific writer of
the evangelical reform in the eighteenth century and the standard
theologian of the evangelical party, declared: "We have no
reason at all to believe that the animal had a serpentine form in
any mode or degree until its transformation; that he was then
degraded to a reptile to go upon his belly imports, on the
contrary, an entire loss and alteration of the original form."
Here, again, was a ripe result of the theologic method diligently
pursued by the strongest thinkers in the Church during nearly two
thousand years; but this "sacred deposit" also faded away when
the geologists found abundant remains of fossil serpents dating
from periods long before the appearance of man.

Troublesome questions also arose among theologians regarding
animals classed as "superfluous." St. Augustine was especially
exercised thereby. He says: "I confess I am ignorant why mice
and frogs were created, or flies and worms....All creatures are
either useful, hurtful, or superfluous to us....As for the
hurtful creatures, we are either punished, or disciplined, or
terrified by them, so that we may not cherish and love this
life." As to the "superfluous animals," he says, "Although they
are not necessary for our service, yet the whole design of the
universe is thereby completed and finished." Luther, who
followed St. Augustine in so many other matters, declined to
follow him fully in this. To him a fly was not merely
superfluous, it was noxious--sent by the devil to vex him when

Another subject which gave rise to much searching of Scripture
and long trains of theological reasoning was the difference
between the creation of man and that of other living beings.

Great stress was laid by theologians, from St. Basil and St.
Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas and Bossuet, and from Luther to
Wesley, on the radical distinction indicated in Genesis, God
having created man "in his own image." What this statement meant
was seen in the light of the later biblical statement that "Adam
begat Seth in his own likeness, after his image."

In view of this and of well-known texts incorporated from older
creation legends into the Hebrew sacred books it came to be
widely held that, while man was directly moulded and fashioned
separately by the Creator's hand, the animals generally were
evoked in numbers from the earth and sea by the Creator's voice.

A question now arose naturally as to the DISTINCTIONS OF SPECIES
among animals. The vast majority of theologians agreed in
representing all animals as created "in the beginning," and named
by Adam, preserved in the ark, and continued ever afterward under
exactly the same species. This belief ripened into a dogma.
Like so many other dogmas in the Church, Catholic and Protestant,
its real origins are to be found rather in pagan philosophy than
in the Christian Scriptures; it came far more from Plato and
Aristotle than from Moses and St. Paul. But this was not
considered: more and more it became necessary to believe that
each and every difference of species was impressed by the Creator
"in the beginning," and that no change had taken place or could
have taken place since.

Some difficulties arose here and there as zoology progressed and
revealed ever-increasing numbers of species; but through the
Middle Ages, and indeed long after the Reformation, these
difficulties were easily surmounted by making the ark of Noah
larger and larger, and especially by holding that there had been
a human error in regard to its measurement.[13]

[13] For St. Augustine, see De Genesis and De Trinitate, passim;
for Bede, see Hexaemeron, lib. i, in Migne, tome xci, pp. 21, 36-
38, 42; and De Sex Dierum Criatione, in Migne, tome xciii, p.
215; for Peter Lombard on "noxious animals," see his Sententiae,
lib. ii, dist. xv, 3, Migne, tome cxcii, p. 682; for Wesley,
Clarke, and Watson, see quotations from them and notes thereto in
my chapter on Geology; for St. Augustine on "superfluous
animals," see the De Genesi, lib. i, cap. xvi, 26; on Luther's
view of flies, see the Table Talk and his famous utterance, "Odio
muscas quia sunt imagines diaboli et hoereticorum"; for the
agency of Aristotle and Plato in fastening the belief in the
fixity of species into Christian theology, see Sachs, Geschichte
der Botanik, Munchen, 1875, p. 107 and note, also p. 113.

But naturally there was developed among both ecclesiastics and
laymen a human desire to go beyond these special points in the
history of animated beings--a desire to know what the creation
really IS.

Current legends, stories, and travellers' observations, poor as
they were, tended powerfully to stimulate curiosity in this

Three centuries before the Christian era Aristotle had made the
first really great attempt to satisfy this curiosity, and had
begun a development of studies in natural history which remains
one of the leading achievements in the story of our race.

But the feeling which we have already seen so strong in the early
Church--that all study of Nature was futile in view of the
approaching end of the world--indicated so clearly in the New
Testament and voiced so powerfully by Lactantius and St.
Augustine--held back this current of thought for many centuries.
Still, the better tendency in humanity continued to assert
itself. There was, indeed, an influence coming from the Hebrew
Scriptures themselves which wrought powerfully to this end; for,
in spite of all that Lactantius or St. Augustine might say as to
the futility of any study of Nature, the grand utterances in the
Psalms regarding the beauties and wonders of creation, in all the
glow of the truest poetry, ennobled the study even among those
whom logic drew away from it.

But, as a matter of course, in the early Church and throughout
the Middle Ages all such studies were cast in a theologic mould.
Without some purpose of biblical illustration or spiritual
edification they were considered futile too much prying into the
secrets of Nature was very generally held to be dangerous both to
body and soul; only for showing forth God's glory and his
purposes in the creation were such studies praiseworthy. The
great work of Aristotle was under eclipse. The early Christian
thinkers gave little attention to it, and that little was devoted
to transforming it into something absolutely opposed to his whole
spirit and method; in place of it they developed the Physiologus
and the Bestiaries, mingling scriptural statements, legends of
the saints, and fanciful inventions with pious intent and
childlike simplicity. In place of research came authority--the
authority of the Scriptures as interpreted by the Physio Cogus
and the Bestiaries--and these remained the principal source of
thought on animated Nature for over a thousand years.

Occasionally, indeed, fear was shown among the rulers in the
Church, even at such poor prying into the creation as this, and
in the fifth century a synod under Pope Gelasius administered a
rebuke to the Physiologus; but the interest in Nature was too
strong: the great work on Creation by St. Basil had drawn from
the Physiologus precious illustrations of Holy Writ, and the
strongest of the early popes, Gregory the Great, virtually
sanctioned it.

Thus was developed a sacred science of creation and of the divine
purpose in Nature, which went on developing from the fourth
century to the nineteenth--from St. Basil to St. Isidore of
Seville, from Isidore to Vincent of Beauvais, and from Vincent to
Archdeacon Paley and the Bridgewater Treatises.

Like all else in the Middle Ages, this sacred science was
developed purely by theological methods. Neglecting the wonders
which the dissection of the commonest animals would have afforded
them, these naturalists attempted to throw light into Nature by
ingenious use of scriptural texts, by research among the lives of
the saints, and by the plentiful application of metaphysics.
Hence even such strong men as St. Isidore of Seville treasured
up accounts of the unicorn and dragons mentioned in the
Scriptures and of the phoenix and basilisk in profane writings.
Hence such contributions to knowledge as that the basilisk kills
serpents by his breath and men by his glance, that the lion when
pursued effaces his tracks with the end of his tail, that the
pelican nourishes her young with her own blood, that serpents lay
aside their venom before drinking, that the salamander quenches
fire, that the hyena can talk with shepherds, that certain birds
are born of the fruit of a certain tree when it happens to fall
into the water, with other masses of science equally valuable.

As to the method of bringing science to bear on Scripture, the
Physiologus gives an example, illustrating the passage in the
book of Job which speaks of the old lion perishing for lack of
prey. Out of the attempt to explain an unusual Hebrew word in
the text there came a curious development of error, until we find
fully evolved an account of the "ant-lion," which, it gives us to
understand, was the lion mentioned by Job, and it says: "As to
the ant-lion, his father hath the shape of a lion, his mother
that of an ant; the father liveth upon flesh and the mother upon
herbs; these bring forth the ant-lion, a compound of both and in
part like to either; for his fore part is like that of a lion
and his hind part like that of an ant. Being thus composed, he
is neither able to eat flesh like his father nor herbs like his
mother, and so he perisheth."

In the middle of the thirteenth century we have a triumph of this
theological method in the great work of the English Franciscan
Bartholomew on The Properties of Things. The theological method
as applied to science consists largely in accepting tradition and
in spinning arguments to fit it. In this field Bartholomew was a
master. Having begun with the intent mainly to explain the
allusions in Scripture to natural objects, he soon rises
logically into a survey of all Nature. Discussing the
"cockatrice" of Scripture, he tells us: "He drieth and burneth
leaves with his touch, and he is of so great venom and perilous
that he slayeth and wasteth him that nigheth him without
tarrying; and yet the weasel overcometh him, for the biting of
the weasel is death to the cockatrice. Nevertheless the biting
of the cockatrice is death to the weasel if the weasel eat not
rue before. And though the cockatrice be venomous without remedy
while he is alive, yet he looseth all the malice when he is burnt
to ashes. His ashes be accounted profitable in working of
alchemy, and namely in turning and changing of metals."

Bartholomew also enlightens us on the animals of Egypt, and says,
"If the crocodile findeth a man by the water's brim he slayeth
him, and then he weepeth over him and swalloweth him."

Naturally this good Franciscan naturalist devotes much thought to
the "dragons" mentioned in Scripture. He says: "The dragon is
most greatest of all serpents, and oft he is drawn out of his den
and riseth up into the air, and the air is moved by him, and also
the sea swelleth against his venom, and he hath a crest, and
reareth his tongue, and hath teeth like a saw, and hath strength,
and not only in teeth but in tail, and grieveth with biting and
with stinging. Whom he findeth he slayeth. Oft four or five of
them fasten their tails together and rear up their heads, and
sail over the sea to get good meat. Between elephants and
dragons is everlasting fighting; for the dragon with his tail
spanneth the elephant, and the elephant with his nose throweth
down the dragon....The cause why the dragon desireth his blood is
the coldness thereof, by the which the dragon desireth to cool
himself. Jerome saith that the dragon is a full thirsty beast,
insomuch that he openeth his mouth against the wind to quench the
burning of his thirst in that wise. Therefore, when he seeth
ships in great wind he flieth against the sail to take the cold
wind, and overthroweth the ship."

These ideas of Friar Bartholomew spread far and struck deep into
the popular mind. His book was translated into the principal
languages of Europe, and was one of those most generally read
during the Ages of Faith. It maintained its position nearly
three hundred years; even after the invention of printing it
held its own, and in the fifteenth century there were issued no
less than ten editions of it in Latin, four in French, and
various versions of it in Dutch, Spanish, and English. Preachers
found it especially useful in illustrating the ways of God to
man. It was only when the great voyages of discovery substituted
ascertained fact for theological reasoning in this province that
its authority was broken.

The same sort of science flourished in the Bestiaries, which
were used everywhere, and especially in the pulpits, for the
edification of the faithful. In all of these, as in that
compiled early in the thirteenth century by an ecclesiastic,
William of Normandy, we have this lesson, borrowed from the
Physiologus: "The lioness giveth birth to cubs which remain
three days without life. Then cometh the lion, breatheth upon
them, and bringeth them to life....Thus it is that Jesus Christ
during three days was deprived of life, but God the Father raised
him gloriously."

Pious use was constantly made of this science, especially by
monkish preachers. The phoenix rising from his ashes proves the
doctrine of the resurrection; the structure and mischief of
monkeys proves the existence of demons; the fact that certain
monkeys have no tails proves that Satan has been shorn of his
glory; the weasel, which "constantly changes its place, is a
type of the man estranged from the word of God, who findeth no

The moral treatises of the time often took the form of works on
natural history, in order the more fully to exploit these
religious teachings of Nature. Thus from the book On Bees, the
Dominican Thomas of Cantimpre, we learn that "wasps persecute
bees and make war on them out of natural hatred"; and these, he
tells us, typify the demons who dwell in the air and with
lightning and tempest assail and vex mankind--whereupon he fills
a long chapter with anecdotes of such demonic warfare on mortals.
In like manner his fellow-Dominican, the inquisitor Nider, in his
book The Ant Hill, teaches us that the ants in Ethiopia, which
are said to have horns and to grow so large as to look like dogs,
are emblems of atrocious heretics, like Wyclif and the Hussites,
who bark and bite against the truth; while the ants of India,
which dig up gold out of the sand with their feet and hoard it,
though they make no use of it, symbolize the fruitless toil with
which the heretics dig out the gold of Holy Scripture and hoard
it in their books to no purpose.

This pious spirit not only pervaded science; it bloomed out in
art, and especially in the cathedrals. In the gargoyles
overhanging the walls, in the grotesques clambering about the
towers or perched upon pinnacles, in the dragons prowling under
archways or lurking in bosses of foliage, in the apocalyptic
beasts carved upon the stalls of the choir, stained into the
windows, wrought into the tapestries, illuminated in the letters
and borders of psalters and missals, these marvels of creation
suggested everywhere morals from the Physiologus, the Bestiaries,
and the Exempla.[14]

[14] For the Physiologus, Bestiaries, etc., see Berger de Xivrey,
Traditions Teratologiques; also Hippeau's edition of the Bestiare
de Guillaume de Normandie, Caen, 1852, and such medieaval books
of Exempla as the Lumen Naturae; also Hoefer, Histoire de la
Zoologie; also Rambaud, Histoire de la Civilisation Francaise,
Paris, 1885, vol i, pp. 368, 369; also Cardinal Pitra, preface to
the Spicilegium Solismense, Paris, 1885, passim; also Carus,
Geschichte der Zoologie; and for an admirable summary, the
article Physiologus in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the
illuminated manuscripts in the Library of Cornell University are
some very striking examples of grotesques. For admirably
illustrated articles on the Bestiaries, see Cahier and Martin,
Melanges d'Archeologie, Paris, 1851, 1852, and 1856, vol. ii of
the first series, pp. 85-232, and second series, volume on
Curiosities Mysterieuses, pp. 106-164; also J. R. Allen, Early
Christian Symbolism in Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1887),
lecture vi; for an exhaustive discussion of the subject, see Das
Thierbuch des normannischen Dichters Guillaume le Clerc,
herausgegeben von Reinisch, Leipsic, 1890; and for an Italian
examlpe, Goldstaub and Wendriner, Ein Tosco-Venezianischer
Bestiarius, Halle, 1892, where is given, on pp. 369-371, a very
pious but very comical tradition regarding the beaver, hardly
mentionable to ears polite. For Friar Bartholomew, see (besides
his book itself) Medieval Lore, edited by Robert Steele, London,
1893, pp. 118-138.

Here and there among men who were free from church control we
have work of a better sort. In the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries Abd Allatif made observations upon the natural history
of Egypt which showed a truly scientific spirit, and the Emperor
Frederick II attempted to promote a more fruitful study of
Nature; but one of these men was abhorred as a Mussulman and the
other as an infidel. Far more in accordance with the spirit of
the time was the ecclesiastic Giraldus Cambrensis, whose book on
the topography of Ireland bestows much attention upon the animals
of the island, and rarely fails to make each contribute an
appropriate moral. For example, he says that in Ireland "eagles
live for so many ages that they seem to contend with eternity
itself; so also the saints, having put off the old man and put
on the new, obtain the blessed fruit of everlasting life."
Again, he tells us: "Eagles often fly so high that their wings
are scorched by the sun; so those who in the Holy Scriptures
strive to unravel the deep and hidden secrets of the heavenly
mysteries, beyond what is allowed, fall below, as if the wings of
the presumptuous imaginations on which they are borne were

In one of the great men of the following century appeared a gleam
of healthful criticism: Albert the Great, in his work on the
animals, dissents from the widespread belief that certain birds
spring from trees and are nourished by the sap, and also from the
theory that some are generated in the sea from decaying wood.

But it required many generations for such scepticism to produce
much effect, and we find among the illustrations in an edition of
Mandeville published just before the Reformation not only careful
accounts but pictured representations both of birds and of beasts
produced in the fruit of trees.[15]

[15] For Giraldus Cambrensis, see the edition in the Bohn
Library, London, 1863, p. 30; for the Abd Allatif and Frederick
II, see Hoefer, as above; for Albertus Magnus, see the De
Animalibus, lib. xxiii; for the illustrations in Mandeville, see
the Strasburg edition, 1484; for the history of the myth of the
tree which produces birds, see Max Muller's lectures on the
Science of Language, second series, lect. xii.

This general employment of natural science for pious purposes
went on after the Reformation. Luther frequently made this use
of it, and his example controlled his followers. In 1612,
Wolfgang Franz, Professor of Theology at Luther's university,
gave to the world his sacred history of animals, which went
through many editions. It contained a very ingenious
classification, describing "natural dragons," which have three
rows of teeth to each jaw, and he piously adds, "the principal
dragon is the Devil."

Near the end of the same century, Father Kircher, the great
Jesuit professor at Rome, holds back the sceptical current,
insists upon the orthodox view, and represents among the animals
entering the ark sirens and griffins.

Yet even among theologians we note here and there a sceptical
spirit in natural science. Early in the same seventeenth century
Eugene Roger published his Travels in Palestine. As regards the
utterances of Scripture he is soundly orthodox: he prefaces his
work with a map showing, among other important points referred to
in biblical history, the place where Samson slew a thousand
Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, the cavern which Adam and
Eve inhabited after their expulsion from paradise, the spot where
Balaam's ass spoke, the place where Jacob wrestled with the
angel, the steep place down which the swine possessed of devils
plunged into the sea, the position of the salt statue which was
once Lot's wife, the place at sea where Jonah was swallowed by
the whale, and "the exact spot where St. Peter caught one
hundred and fifty-three fishes."

As to natural history, he describes and discusses with great
theological acuteness the basilisk. He tells us that the animal
is about a foot and a half long, is shaped like a crocodile, and
kills people with a single glance. The one which he saw was
dead, fortunately for him, since in the time of Pope Leo IV--as
he tells us--one appeared in Rome and killed many people by
merely looking at them; but the Pope destroyed it with his
prayers and the sign of the cross. He informs us that Providence
has wisely and mercifully protected man by requiring the monster
to cry aloud two or three times whenever it leaves its den, and
that the divine wisdom in creation is also shown by the fact that
the monster is obliged to look its victim in the eye, and at a
certain fixed distance, before its glance can penetrate the
victim's brain and so pass to his heart. He also gives a reason
for supposing that the same divine mercy has provided that the
crowing of a cock will kill the basilisk.

Yet even in this good and credulous missionary we see the
influence of Bacon and the dawn of experimental science; for,
having been told many stories regarding the salamander, he
secured one, placed it alive upon the burning coals, and reports
to us that the legends concerning its power to live in the fire
are untrue. He also tried experiments with the chameleon, and
found that the stories told of it were to be received with much
allowance: while, then, he locks up his judgment whenever he
discusses the letter of Scripture, he uses his mind in other
things much after the modern method.

In the second half of the same century Hottinger, in his
Theological Examination of the History of Creation, breaks from
the belief in the phoenix; but his scepticism is carefully kept
within the limits imposed by Scripture. He avows his doubts,
first, "because God created the animals in couples, while the
phoenix is represented as a single, unmated creature"; secondly,
"because Noah, when he entered the ark, brought the animals in by
sevens, while there were never so many individuals of the phoenix
species"; thirdly, because "no man is known who dares assert
that he has ever seen this bird"; fourthly, because "those who
assert there is a phoenix differ among themselves."

In view of these attacks on the salamander and the phoenix, we
are not surprised to find, before the end of the century,
scepticism regarding the basilisk: the eminent Prof.
Kirchmaier, at the University of Wittenberg, treats phoenix and
basilisk alike as old wives' fables. As to the phoenix, he
denies its existence, not only because Noah took no such bird
into the ark, but also because, as he pithily remarks, "birds
come from eggs, not from ashes." But the unicorn he can not
resign, nor will he even concede that the unicorn is a
rhinoceros; he appeals to Job and to Marco Polo to prove that
this animal, as usually conceived, really exists, and says, "Who
would not fear to deny the existence of the unicorn, since Holy
Scripture names him with distinct praises?" As to the other great
animals mentioned in Scripture, he is so rationalistic as to
admit that behemoth was an elephant and leviathan a whale.

But these germs of a fruitful scepticism grew, and we soon find
Dannhauer going a step further and declaring his disbelief even
in the unicorn, insisting that it was a rhinoceros--only that and
nothing more. Still, the main current continued strongly
theological. In 1712 Samuel Bochart published his great work
upon the animals of Holy Scripture. As showing its spirit we may
take the titles of the chapters on the horse:

"Chapter VI. Of the Hebrew Name of the Horse."

"Chapter VII. Of the Colours of the Six Horses in Zechariah."

"Chapter VIII. Of the Horses in Job."

"Chapter IX. Of Solomon's Horses, and of the Texts wherein the
Writers praise the Excellence of Horses."

"Chapter X. Of the Consecrated Horses of the Sun."

Among the other titles of chapters are such as: Of Balaam's Ass;
Of the Thousand Philistines slain by Samson with the Jawbone of
an Ass; Of the Golden Calves of Aaron and Jeroboam; Of the
Bleating, Milk, Wool, External and Internal Parts of Sheep
mentioned in Scripture; Of Notable Things told regarding Lions
in Scripture; Of Noah's Dove and of the Dove which appeared at
Christ's Baptism. Mixed up in the book, with the principal mass
drawn from Scripture, were many facts and reasonings taken from
investigations by naturalists; but all were permeated by the
theological spirit.[16]

[16] For Franz and Kircher, see Perrier, La Philosophie
Zoologique avant Darwin, 1884, p. 29; for Roger, see his La Terre
Saincte, Paris, 1664, pp. 89-92, 130, 218, etc.; for Hottinger,
see his Historiae Creatonis Examen theologico-philologicum,
Heidelberg, 1659, lib. vi, quaest.lxxxiii; for Kirchmaier, see
his Disputationes Zoologicae (published collectively after his
death), Jena, 1736; for Dannhauer, see his Disputationes
Theologicae, Leipsic, 1707, p. 14; for Bochart, see his
Hierozoikon, sive De Animalibus Sacre Scripturae, Leyden, 1712.

The inquiry into Nature having thus been pursued nearly two
thousand years theologically, we find by the middle of the
sixteenth century some promising beginnings of a different
method--the method of inquiry into Nature scientifically--the
method which seeks not plausibilities but facts. At that time
Edward Wotton led the way in England and Conrad Gesner on the
Continent, by observations widely extended, carefully noted, and
thoughtfully classified.

This better method of interrogating Nature soon led to the
formation of societies for the same purpose. In 1560 was founded
an Academy for the Study of Nature at Naples, but theologians,
becoming alarmed, suppressed it, and for nearly one hundred years
there was no new combined effort of that sort, until in 1645
began the meetings in London of what was afterward the Royal
Society. Then came the Academy of Sciences in France, and the
Accademia del Cimento in Italy; others followed in all parts of
the world, and a great new movement was begun.

Theologians soon saw a danger in this movement. In Italy, Prince
Leopold de' Medici, a protector of the Florentine Academy, was
bribed with a cardinal's hat to neglect it, and from the days of
Urban VIII to Pius IX a similar spirit was there shown. In
France, there were frequent ecclesiastical interferences, of
which Buffon's humiliation for stating a simple scientific truth
was a noted example. In England, Protestantism was at first
hardly more favourable toward the Royal Society, and the great
Dr. South denounced it in his sermons as irreligious.

Fortunately, one thing prevented an open breach between theology
and science: while new investigators had mainly given up the
medieval method so dear to the Church, they had very generally
retained the conception of direct creation and of design
throughout creation--a design having as its main purpose the
profit, instruction, enjoyment, and amusement of man.

On this the naturally opposing tendencies of theology and science
were compromised. Science, while somewhat freed from its old
limitations, became the handmaid of theology in illustrating the
doctrine of creative design, and always with apparent deference
to the Chaldean and other ancient myths and legends embodied in
the Hebrew sacred books.

About the middle of the seventeenth century came a great victory
of the scientific over the theologic method. At that time
Francesco Redi published the results of his inquiries into the
doctrine of spontaneous generation. For ages a widely accepted
doctrine had been that water, filth, and carrion had received
power from the Creator to generate worms, insects, and a
multitude of the smaller animals; and this doctrine had been
especially welcomed by St. Augustine and many of the fathers,
since it relieved the Almighty of making, Adam of naming, and
Noah of living in the ark with these innumerable despised
species. But to this fallacy Redi put an end. By researches
which could not be gainsaid, he showed that every one of these
animals came from an egg; each, therefore, must be the lineal
descendant of an animal created, named, and preserved from "the

Similar work went on in England, but under more distinctly
theological limitations. In the same seventeenth century a very
famous and popular English book was published by the naturalist
John Ray, a fellow of the Royal Society, who produced a number of
works on plants, fishes, and birds; but the most widely read of
all was entitled The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of
Creation. Between the years 1691 and 1827 it passed through
nearly twenty editions.

Ray argued the goodness and wisdom of God from the adaptation of
the animals not only to man's uses but to their own lives and

In the first years of the eighteenth century Dr. Nehemiah Grew,
of the Royal Society, published his Cosmologia Sacra to refute
anti-scriptural opinions by producing evidences of creative
design. Discussing "the ends of Providence," he says, "A crane,
which is scurvy meat, lays but two eggs in the year, but a
pheasant and partridge, both excellent meat, lay and hatch
fifteen or twenty." He points to the fact that "those of value
which lay few at a time sit the oftener, as the woodcock and the
dove." He breaks decidedly from the doctrine that noxious things
in Nature are caused by sin, and shows that they, too, are
useful; that, "if nettles sting, it is to secure an excellent
medicine for children and cattle"; that, "if the bramble hurts
man, it makes all the better hedge"; and that, "if it chances to
prick the owner, it tears the thief." "Weasels, kites, and other
hurtful animals induce us to watchfulness; thistles and moles,
to good husbandry; lice oblige us to cleanliness in our bodies,
spiders in our houses, and the moth in our clothes." This very
optimistic view, triumphing over the theological theory of
noxious animals and plants as effects of sin, which prevailed
with so much force from St. Augustine to Wesley, was developed
into nobler form during the century by various thinkers, and
especially by Archdeacon Paley, whose Natural Theology exercised
a powerful influence down to recent times. The same tendency
appeared in other countries, though various philosophers showed
weak points in the argument, and Goethe made sport of it in a
noted verse, praising the forethought of the Creator in
foreordaining the cork tree to furnish stoppers for wine-bottles.

Shortly before the middle of the nineteenth century the main
movement culminated in the Bridgewater Treatises. Pursuant to
the will of the eighth Earl of Bridgewater, the President of the
Royal Society selected eight persons, each to receive a thousand
pounds sterling for writing and publishing a treatise on the
"power, wisdom, and goodness of God, as manifested in the
creation." Of these, the leading essays in regard to animated
Nature were those of Thomas Chalmers, on The Adaptation of
External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Condition of Man;
of Sir Charles Bell, on The Hand as evincing Design; of Roget,
on Animal and Vegetable Physiology with reference to Natural
Theology; and of Kirby, on The Habits and Instincts of Animals
with reference to Natural Theology.

Besides these there were treatises by Whewell, Buckland, Kidd,
and Prout. The work was well done. It was a marked advance on
all that had appeared before, in matter, method, and spirit.
Looking back upon it now we can see that it was provisional, but
that it was none the less fruitful in truth, and we may well
remember Darwin's remark on the stimulating effect of mistaken
THEORIES, as compared with the sterilizing effect of mistaken
OBSERVATIONS: mistaken observations lead men astray, mistaken
theories suggest true theories.

An effort made in so noble a spirit certainly does not deserve
the ridicule that, in our own day, has sometimes been lavished
upon it. Curiously, indeed, one of the most contemptuous of
these criticisms has been recently made by one of the most
strenuous defenders of orthodoxy. No less eminent a
standard-bearer of the faith than the Rev. Prof. Zoeckler says of
this movement to demonstrate creative purpose and design, and of
the men who took part in it, "The earth appeared in their
representation of it like a great clothing shop and soup kitchen,
and God as a glorified rationalistic professor." Such a
statement as this is far from just to the conceptions of such men
as Butler, Paley, and Chalmers, no matter how fully the thinking
world has now outlived them.[17]

[17] For a very valuable and interesting study on the old idea of
the generation of insects from carrion, see Osten-Sacken, on the
Oxen-born Bees of the Ancients, Heidelberg, 1894; for Ray, see
the work cited, London, 1827, p. 153; for Grew, see Cosmologia
Sacra, or a Discourse on the Universe, as it is the Creature and
Kingdom of God; chiefly written to demonstrate the Truth and
Excellency of the Bible, by Dr. Nehemiah Grew, Fellow of the
College of Physicians and of the Royal Society of London, 1701;
for Paley and the Bridgewater Treatises, see the usual editions;
also Lange, History of Rationalism. Goethe's couplet ran as

"Welche Verehrung verdient der Weltenerschopfer, der Gnadig,
Als er den Korkbaum erschuf, gleich auch die Stopfel erfand."

For the quotation from Zoeckler, see his work already cited, vol.
ii, pp. 74, 440.

But, noble as the work of these men was, the foundation of fact
on which they reared it became evidently more and more insecure.
For as far back as the seventeenth century acute theologians had
begun to discern difficulties more serious than any that had
before confronted them. More and more it was seen that the
number of different species was far greater than the world had
hitherto imagined. Greater and greater had become the old
difficulty in conceiving that, of these innumerable species, each
had been specially created by the Almighty hand; that each had
been brought before Adam by the Almighty to be named; and that
each, in couples or in sevens, had been gathered by Noah into the
ark. But the difficulties thus suggested were as nothing
compared to those raised by the DISTRIBUTION of animals.

Even in the first days of the Church this had aroused serious
thought, and above all in the great mind of St. Augustine. In
his City of God he had stated the difficulty as follows: "But
there is a question about all these kinds of beasts, which are
neither tamed by man, nor spring from the earth like frogs, such
as wolves and others of that sort,....as to how they could find
their way to the islands after that flood which destroyed every
living thing not preserved in the ark....Some, indeed, might be
thought to reach islands by swimming, in case these were very
near; but some islands are so remote from continental lands that
it does not seem possible that any creature could reach them by
swimming. It is not an incredible thing, either, that some
animals may have been captured by men and taken with them to
those lands which they intended to inhabit, in order that they
might have the pleasure of hunting; and it can not be denied
that the transfer may have been accomplished through the agency
of angels, commanded or allowed to perform this labour by God."

But this difficulty had now assumed a magnitude of which St.
Augustine never dreamed. Most powerful of all agencies to
increase it were the voyages of Columbus, Vasco da Gama,
Magellan, Amerigo Vespucci, and other navigators of the period of
discovery. Still more serious did it become as the great islands
of the southern seas were explored. Every navigator brought home
tidings of new species of animals and of races of men living in
parts of the world where the theologians, relying on the
statement of St. Paul that the gospel had gone into all lands,
had for ages declared there could be none; until finally it
overtaxed even the theological imagination to conceive of angels,
in obedience to the divine command, distributing the various
animals over the earth, dropping the megatherium in South
America, the archeopteryx in Europe, the ornithorhynchus in
Australia, and the opossum in North America.

The first striking evidence of this new difficulty was shown by
the eminent Jesuit missionary, Joseph Acosta. In his Natural and
Moral History of the Indies, published in 1590, he proved
himself honest and lucid. Though entangled in most of the older
scriptural views, he broke away from many; but the distribution
of animals gave him great trouble. Having shown the futility of
St. Augustine's other explanations, he quaintly asks: "Who can
imagine that in so long a voyage men woulde take the paines to
carrie Foxes to Peru, especially that kinde they call `Acias,'
which is the filthiest I have seene? Who woulde likewise say
that they have carried Tygers and Lyons? Truly it were a thing
worthy the laughing at to thinke so. It was sufficient, yea,
very much, for men driven against their willes by tempest, in so
long and unknowne a voyage, to escape with their owne lives,
without busying themselves to carrie Woolves and Foxes, and to
nourish them at sea."

It was under the impression made by this new array of facts that
in 1667 Abraham Milius published at Geneva his book on The Origin
of Animals and the Migration of Peoples. This book shows, like
that of Acosta, the shock and strain to which the discovery of
America subjected the received theological scheme of things. It
was issued with the special approbation of the Bishop of
Salzburg, and it indicates the possibility that a solution of the
whole trouble may be found in the text, "Let the earth bring
forth the living creature after his kind." Milius goes on to
show that the ancient philosophers agree with Moses, and that
"the earth and the waters, and especially the heat of the sun and
of the genial sky, together with that slimy and putrid quality
which seems to be inherent in the soil, may furnish the origin
for fishes, terrestrial animals, and birds." On the other hand,
he is very severe against those who imagine that man can have had
the same origin with animals. But the subject with which Milius
especially grapples is the DISTRIBUTION of animals. He is
greatly exercised by the many species found in America and in
remote islands of the ocean--species entirely unknown in the
other continents--and of course he is especially troubled by the
fact that these species existing in those exceedingly remote
parts of the earth do not exist in the neighbourhood of Mount
Ararat. He confesses that to explain the distribution of animals
is the most difficult part of the problem. If it be urged that
birds could reach America by flying and fishes by swimming, he
asks, "What of the beasts which neither fly nor swim?" Yet even
as to the birds he asks, "Is there not an infinite variety of
winged creatures who fly so slowly and heavily, and have such a
horror of the water, that they would not even dare trust
themselves to fly over a wide river?" As to fishes, he says,
"They are very averse to wandering from their native waters," and
he shows that there are now reported many species of American and
East Indian fishes entirely unknown on the other continents,
whose presence, therefore, can not be explained by any theory of
natural dispersion.

Of those who suggest that land animals may have been dispersed
over the earth by the direct agency of man for his use or
pleasure he asks: "Who would like to get different sorts of
lions, bears, tigers, and other ferocious and noxious creatures
on board ship? who would trust himself with them? and who would
wish to plant colonies of such creatures in new, desirable

His conclusion is that plants and animals take their origin in
the lands wherein they are found; an opinion which he supports
by quoting from the two narrations in Genesis passages which
imply generative force in earth and water.

But in the eighteenth century matters had become even worse for
the theological view. To meet the difficulty the eminent
Benedictine, Dom Calmet, in his Commentary, expressed the belief
that all the species of a genus had originally formed one
species, and he dwelt on this view as one which enabled him to
explain the possibility of gathering all animals into the ark.
This idea, dangerous as it was to the fabric of orthodoxy, and
involving a profound separation from the general doctrine of the
Church, seems to have been abroad among thinking men, for we find
in the latter half of the same century even Linnaeus inclining to
consider it. It was time, indeed, that some new theological
theory be evolved; the great Linnaeus himself, in spite of his
famous declaration favouring the fixity of species, had dealt a
death-blow to the old theory. In his Systema Naturae, published
in the middle of the eighteenth century, he had enumerated four
thousand species of animals, and the difficulties involved in the
naming of each of them by Adam and in bringing them together in
the ark appeared to all thinking men more and more

What was more embarrassing, the number of distinct species went
on increasing rapidly, indeed enormously, until, as an eminent
zoological authority of our own time has declared, "for every one
of the species enumerated by Linnaeus, more than fifty kinds are
known to the naturalist of to-day, and the number of species
still unknown doubtless far exceeds the list of those recorded."

Already there were premonitions of the strain made upon Scripture
by requiring a hundred and sixty distinct miraculous
interventions of the Creator to produce the hundred and sixty
species of land shells found in the little island of Madeira
alone, and fourteen hundred distinct interventions to produce the
actual number of distinct species of a single well-known shell.

Ever more and more difficult, too, became the question of the
geographical distribution of animals. As new explorations were
made in various parts of the world, this danger to the
theological view went on increasing. The sloths in South America
suggested painful questions: How could animals so sluggish have
got away from the neighbourhood of Mount Ararat so completely and
have travelled so far?

The explorations in Australia and neighbouring islands made
matters still worse, for there was found in those regions a whole
realm of animals differing widely from those of other parts of
the earth.

The problem before the strict theologians became, for example,
how to explain the fact that the kangaroo can have been in the
ark and be now only found in Australia: his saltatory powers are
indeed great, but how could he by any series of leaps have sprung
across the intervening mountains, plains, and oceans to that
remote continent? and, if the theory were adopted that at some
period a causeway extended across the vast chasm separating
Australia from the nearest mainland, why did not lions, tigers,
camels, and camelopards force or find their way across it?

The theological theory, therefore, had by the end of the
eighteenth century gone to pieces. The wiser theologians waited;
the unwise indulged in exhortations to "root out the wicked heart
of unbelief," in denunciation of "science falsely so called," and
in frantic declarations that "the Bible is true"--by which they
meant that the limited understanding of it which they had
happened to inherit is true.

By the middle of the nineteenth century the whole theological
theory of creation--though still preached everywhere as a matter
of form--was clearly seen by all thinking men to be hopelessly
lost: such strong men as Cardinal Wiseman in the Roman Church,
Dean Buckland in the Anglican, and Hugh Miller in the Scottish
Church, made heroic efforts to save something from it, but all to
no purpose. That sturdy Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon honesty, which
is the best legacy of the Middle Ages to Christendom, asserted
itself in the old strongholds of theological thought, the
universities. Neither the powerful logic of Bishop Butler nor
the nimble reasoning of Archdeacon Paley availed. Just as the
line of astronomical thinkers from Copernicus to Newton had
destroyed the old astronomy, in which the earth was the centre,
and the Almighty sitting above the firmament the agent in moving
the heavenly bodies about it with his own hands, so now a race of
biological thinkers had destroyed the old idea of a Creator
minutely contriving and fashioning all animals to suit the needs
and purposes of man. They had developed a system of a very
different sort, and this we shall next consider.[18]

[18] For Acosta, see his Historia Natural y moral de las Indias,
Seville, 1590--the quaint English translation is of London, 1604;
for Abraham Milius, see his De Origine Animalium et Migratione
Popularum, Geneva, 1667; also Kosmos, 1877, H. I, S. 36; for
Linnaeus's declaration regarding species, see the Philosophia
Botanica, 99, 157; for Calmet and Linnaeus, see Zoeckler, vol.
ii, p. 237. As to the enormously increasing numbers of species
in zoology and botany, see President D. S. Jordan, Science
Sketches, pp. 176, 177; also for pithy statement, Laing's
Problems of the Future, chap. vi.


We have seen, thus far, how there came into the thinking of
mankind upon the visible universe and its inhabitants the idea of
a creation virtually instantaneous and complete, and of a Creator
in human form with human attributes, who spoke matter into
existence literally by the exercise of his throat and lips, or
shaped and placed it with his hands and fingers.

We have seen that this view came from far; that it existed in
the Chaldaeo-Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations, and probably
in others of the earliest date known to us; that its main
features passed thence into the sacred books of the Hebrews and
then into the early Christian Church, by whose theologians it was
developed through the Middle Ages and maintained during the
modern period.

But, while this idea was thus developed by a succession of noble
and thoughtful men through thousands of years, another
conception, to all appearance equally ancient, was developed,
sometimes in antagonism to it, sometimes mingled with it--the
conception of all living beings as wholly or in part the result
of a growth process--of an evolution.

This idea, in various forms, became a powerful factor in nearly
all the greater ancient theologies and philosophies. For very
widespread among the early peoples who attained to much thinking
power was a conception that, in obedience to the divine fiat, a
watery chaos produced the earth, and that the sea and land gave
birth to their inhabitants.

This is clearly seen in those records of Chaldaeo-Babylonian
thought deciphered in these latter years, to which reference has
already been made. In these we have a watery chaos which, under
divine action, brings forth the earth and its inhabitants; first
the sea animals and then the land animals--the latter being
separated into three kinds, substantially as recorded afterward
in the Hebrew accounts. At the various stages in the work the
Chaldean Creator pronounces it "beautiful," just as the Hebrew
Creator in our own later account pronounces it "good."

In both accounts there is placed over the whole creation a solid,
concave firmament; in both, light is created first, and the
heavenly bodies are afterward placed "for signs and for seasons";
in both, the number seven is especially sacred, giving rise to a
sacred division of time and to much else. It may be added that,
with many other features in the Hebrew legends evidently drawn
from the Chaldean, the account of the creation in each is
followed by a legend regarding "the fall of man" and a deluge,
many details of which clearly passed in slightly modified form
from the Chaldean into the Hebrew accounts.

It would have been a miracle indeed if these primitive
conceptions, wrought out with so much poetic vigour in that
earlier civilization on the Tigris and Euphrates, had failed to
influence the Hebrews, who during the most plastic periods of
their development were under the tutelage of their Chaldean
neighbours. Since the researches of Layard, George Smith,
Oppert, Schrader, Jensen, Sayce, and their compeers, there is no
longer a reasonable doubt that this ancient view of the world,
elaborated if not originated in that earlier civilization, came
thence as a legacy to the Hebrews, who wrought it in a somewhat
disjointed but mainly monotheistic form into the poetic whole
which forms one of the most precious treasures of ancient thought
preserved in the book of Genesis.

Thus it was that, while the idea of a simple material creation
literally by the hands and fingers or voice of the Creator
became, as we have seen, the starting-point of a powerful stream
of theological thought, and while this stream was swollen from
age to age by contributions from the fathers, doctors, and
learned divines of the Church, Catholic and Protestant, there was
poured into it this lesser current, always discernible and at
times clearly separated from it--a current of belief in a process
of evolution.

The Rev. Prof. Sayce, of Oxford, than whom no English-speaking
scholar carries more weight in a matter of this kind, has
recently declared his belief that the Chaldaeo-Babylonian theory
was the undoubted source of the similar theory propounded by the
Ionic philosopher Anaximander--the Greek thinkers deriving this
view from the Babylonians through the Phoenicians; he also
allows that from the same source its main features were adopted
into both the accounts given in the first of our sacred books,
and in this general view the most eminent Christian
Assyriologists concur.

It is true that these sacred accounts of ours contradict each
other. In that part of the first or Elohistic account given in
the first chapter of Genesis the WATERS bring forth fishes,
marine animals, and birds (Genesis, i, 20); but in that part of
the second or Jehovistic account given in the second chapter of
Genesis both the land animals and birds are declared to have been
created not out of the water, but "OUT OF THE GROUND" (Genesis,
ii, 19).

The dialectic skill of the fathers was easily equal to explaining
away this contradiction; but the old current of thought,
strengthened by both these legends, arrested their attention,
and, passing through the minds of a succession of the greatest
men of the Church, influenced theological opinion deeply, if not
widely, for ages, in favour of an evolution theory.

But there was still another ancient source of evolution ideas.
Thoughtful men of the early civilizations which were developed
along the great rivers in the warmer regions of the earth noted
how the sun-god as he rose in his fullest might caused the water
and the rich soil to teem with the lesser forms of life. In
Egypt, especially, men saw how under this divine power the Nile
slime brought forth "creeping things innumerable." Hence mainly
this ancient belief that the animals and man were produced by
lifeless matter at the divine command, "in the beginning," was
supplemented by the idea that some of the lesser animals,
especially the insects, were produced by a later evolution, being
evoked after the original creation from various sources, but
chiefly from matter in a state of decay.

This crude, early view aided doubtless in giving germs of a
better evolution theory to the early Greeks. Anaximander,
Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and, greatest of all, Aristotle, as we
have seen, developed them, making their way at times by guesses
toward truths since established by observation. Aristotle
especially, both by speculation and observation, arrived at some
results which, had Greek freedom of thought continued, might have
brought the world long since to its present plane of biological
knowledge; for he reached something like the modern idea of a
succession of higher organizations from lower, and made the
fruitful suggestion of "a perfecting principle" in Nature.

With the coming in of Christian theology this tendency toward a
yet truer theory of evolution was mainly stopped, but the old
crude view remained, and as a typical example of it we may note
the opinion of St. Basil the Great in the fourth century.
Discussing the work of creation, he declares that, at the command
of God, "the waters were gifted with productive power"; "from
slime and muddy places frogs, flies, and gnats came into being";
and he finally declares that the same voice which gave this
energy and quality of productiveness to earth and water shall be
similarly efficacious until the end of the world. St. Gregory
of Nyssa held a similar view.

This idea of these great fathers of the Eastern Church took even
stronger hold on the great father of the Western Church. For St.
Augustine, so fettered usually by the letter of the sacred text,
broke from his own famous doctrine as to the acceptance of
Scripture and spurned the generally received belief of a creative
process like that by which a toymaker brings into existence a box
of playthings. In his great treatise on Genesis he says: "To
suppose that God formed man from the dust with bodily hands is
very childish....God neither formed man with bodily hands nor
did he breathe upon him with throat and lips."

St. Augustine then suggests the adoption of the old emanation or
evolution theory, shows that "certain very small animals may not
have been created on the fifth and sixth days, but may have
originated later from putrefying matter," argues that, even if
this be so, God is still their creator, dwells upon such a
potential creation as involved in the actual creation, and speaks
of animals "whose numbers the after-time unfolded."

In his great treatise on the Trinity--the work to which he
devoted the best thirty years of his life--we find the full
growth of this opinion. He develops at length the view that in
the creation of living beings there was something like a
growth--that God is the ultimate author, but works through
secondary causes; and finally argues that certain substances are
endowed by God with the power of producing certain classes of
plants and animals.[19]

[19] For the Chaldean view of creation, see George Smith,
Chaldean Account of Genesis, New York, 1876, pp. 14,15, and 64-
86; also Lukas, as above; also Sayce, Religion of the Ancient
Babylonians, Hibbert Lectures for 1887, pp. 371 and elsewhere; as
to the fall of man, Tower of Babel, sacredness of the number
seven, etc., see also Delitzsch, appendix to the German
translation of Smith, pp. 305 et seq.; as to the almost exact
adoption of the Chaldean legends into the Hebrew sacred account,
see all these, as also Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte
Testament, Giessen, 1883, early chapters; also article Babylonia
in the Encyclopedia Britannica; as to simialr approval of
creation by the Creator in both accounts, see George Smith, p.
73; as to the migration of the Babylonian legends to the Hebrews,
see Schrader, Whitehouse's translation, pp. 44,45; as to the
Chaldaean belief ina solid firmament, while Schrader in 1883
thought it not proved, Jensen in 1890 has found it clearly
expresses--see his Kosmologie der Babylonier, pp.9 et seq., also
pp. 304-306, and elsewhere. Dr. Lukas in 1893 also fully accepts
this view of a Chaldean record of a "firmament"--see Kosmologie,
pp. 43, etc.; see also Maspero and Sayce, the Dawn of
Civilization, and for crude early ideas of evolution in Egypt,
see ibid., pp. 156 et seq.

For the seven-day week among the Chaldeans and rest on the
seventh day, and the proof that even the name "Sabbath" is of
Chaldean origin, see Delitzsch, Beiga-ben zu Smith's Chald.
Genesis, pp. 300 and 306; also Schrader; for St. Basil, see
Hexaemeron and Homilies vii-ix; but for the steadfastness of
Basil's view in regard to the immutability of species, see a
Catholic writer on evolution and Faith in the Dublin Review for
July, 1871, p. 13; for citations of St. Augustine on Genesis, see
the De Genesi contra Manichoeos, lib. ii, cap. 14, in Migne,
xxxiv, 188,--lib. v, cap. 5 and cap. 23,--and lib vii, cap I; for
the citations from his work on the Trinity, see his De Trinitate,
lib. iii, cap. 8 and 9, in Migne, xlii, 877, 878; for the general
subject very fully and adequately presented, see Osborn, From the
Greeks to Darwin, New York, 1894, chaps. ii and iii.

This idea of a development by secondary causes apart from the
original creation was helped in its growth by a theological
exigency. More and more, as the organic world was observed, the
vast multitude of petty animals, winged creatures, and "creeping
things" was felt to be a strain upon the sacred narrative. More
and more it became difficult to reconcile the dignity of the
Almighty with his work in bringing each of these creatures before
Adam to be named; or to reconcile the human limitations of Adam
with his work in naming "every living creature"; or to reconcile
the dimensions of Noah's ark with the space required for
preserving all of them, and the food of all sorts necessary for
their sustenance, whether they were admitted by twos, as stated
in one scriptural account, or by sevens, as stated in the other.

The inadequate size of the ark gave especial trouble. Origen had
dealt with it by suggesting that the cubit was six times greater
than had been supposed. Bede explained Noah's ability to
complete so large a vessel by supposing that he worked upon it
during a hundred years; and, as to the provision of food taken
into it, he declared that there was no need of a supply for more
than one day, since God could throw the animals into a deep sleep
or otherwise miraculously make one day's supply sufficient; he
also lessened the strain on faith still more by diminishing the
number of animals taken into the ark--supporting his view upon
Augustine's theory of the later development of insects out of

Doubtless this theological necessity was among the main reasons
which led St. Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, to
incorporate this theory, supported by St. Basil and St.
Augustine, into his great encyclopedic work which gave materials
for thought on God and Nature to so many generations. He
familiarized the theological world still further with the
doctrine of secondary creation, giving such examples of it as
that "bees are generated from decomposed veal, beetles from
horseflesh, grasshoppers from mules, scorpions from crabs," and,
in order to give still stronger force to the idea of such
transformations, he dwells on the biblical account of
Nebuchadnezzar, which appears to have taken strong hold upon
medieval thought in science, and he declares that other human
beings had been changed into animals, especially into swine,
wolves, and owls.

This doctrine of after-creations went on gathering strength
until, in the twelfth century, Peter Lombard, in his theological
summary, The Sentences, so powerful in moulding the thought of
the Church, emphasized the distinction between animals which
spring from carrion and those which are created from earth and
water; the former he holds to have been created "potentially"
the latter "actually."

In the century following, this idea was taken up by St. Thomas
Aquinas and virtually received from him its final form. In the
Summa, which remains the greatest work of medieval thought, he
accepts the idea that certain animals spring from the decaying
bodies of plants and animals, and declares that they are produced
by the creative word of God either actually or virtually. He
develops this view by saying, "Nothing was made by God, after the
six days of creation, absolutely new, but it was in some sense
included in the work of the six days"; and that "even new
species, if any appear, have existed before in certain native
properties, just as animals are produced from putrefaction."

The distinction thus developed between creation "causally" or
"potentially," and "materially" or "formally," was made much of
by commentators afterward. Cornelius a Lapide spread it by
saying that certain animals were created not "absolutely," but
only "derivatively," and this thought was still further developed
three centuries later by Augustinus Eugubinus, who tells us that,
after the first creative energy had called forth land and water,
light was made by the Almighty, the instrument of all future
creation, and that the light called everything into existence.

All this "science falsely so called," so sedulously developed by
the master minds of the Church, and yet so futile that we might
almost suppose that the great apostle, in a glow of prophetic
vision, had foreseen it in his famous condemnation, seems at this
distance very harmless indeed; yet, to many guardians of the
"sacred deposit of doctrine" in the Church, even so slight a
departure from the main current of thought seemed dangerous. It
appeared to them like pressing the doctrine of secondary causes
to a perilous extent; and about the beginning of the seventeenth
century we have the eminent Spanish Jesuit and theologian Suarez
denouncing it, and declaring St. Augustine a heretic for his
share in it.

But there was little danger to the older idea just then; the
main theological tendency was so strong that the world kept on as
of old. Biblical theology continued to spin its own webs out of
its own bowels, and all the lesser theological flies continued to
be entangled in them; yet here and there stronger thinkers broke
loose from this entanglement and helped somewhat to disentangle

[20] For Bede's view of the ark and the origin of insects, see
his Hexaemeron, i and ii; for Isidore, see the Etymologiae, xi,
4,and xiii, 22; for Peter Lombard, see Sent., lib. ii, dist. xv,
4 (in Migne, cxcii, 682); for St. Thomas Aquinas as to the laws
of Nature, see Summae Theologica, i, Quaest. lxvii, art. iv; for
his discussion on Avicenna's theory of the origin of animals, see
ibid., i Quaest. lxxi, vol. i, pp. 1184 and 1185, of Migne's
edit.; for his idea as to the word of God being the active
producing principle, see ibid., i, Quaest. lxxi, art. i; for his
remarks on species, see ibid, i, Quaest. lxxii, art. i; for his
ideas on the necessity of the procreation of man, see ibid, i,
Quaest. lxxii, art. i; for the origin of animals from
putrefaction, see ibid, i, Quaest. lxxix, art. i, 3; for
Cornelius a Lapide on the derivative creation of animals, see his
In Genesim Comment., cap. i, cited by Mivart, Genesis of Species,
p. 282; for a reference to Suarez's denunciation of the view of
St. Augustine, see Huxley's Essays.

At the close of the Middle Ages, in spite of the devotion of the
Reformed Church to the letter of Scripture, the revival of
learning and the great voyages gave an atmosphere in which better
thinking on the problems of Nature began to gain strength. On
all sides, in every field, men were making discoveries which
caused the general theological view to appear more and more

First of those who should be mentioned with reverence as
beginning to develop again that current of Greek thought which
the system drawn from our sacred books by the fathers and doctors
of the Church had interrupted for more than a thousand years, was
Giordano Bruno. His utterances were indeed vague and
enigmatical, but this fault may well be forgiven him, for he saw
but too clearly what must be his reward for any more open
statements. His reward indeed came--even for his faulty
utterances--when, toward the end of the nineteenth century,
thoughtful men from all parts of the world united in erecting his
statue on the spot where he had been burned by the Roman
Inquisition nearly three hundred years before.

After Bruno's death, during the first half of the seventeenth
century, Descartes seemed about to take the leadership of human
thought: his theories, however superseded now, gave a great
impulse to investigation then. His genius in promoting an
evolution doctrine as regards the mechanical formation of the
solar system was great, and his mode of thought strengthened the
current of evolutionary doctrine generally; but his constant
dread of persecution, both from Catholics and Protestants, led
him steadily to veil his thoughts and even to suppress them. The
execution of Bruno had occurred in his childhood, and in the
midst of his career he had watched the Galileo struggle in all
its stages. He had seen his own works condemned by university
after university under the direction of theologians, and placed
upon the Roman Index. Although he gave new and striking
arguments to prove the existence of God, and humbled himself
before the Jesuits, he was condemned by Catholics and Protestants
alike. Since Roger Bacon, perhaps, no great thinker had been so
completely abased and thwarted by theological oppression.

Near the close of the same century another great thinker,
Leibnitz, though not propounding any full doctrine on evolution,
gave it an impulse by suggesting a view contrary to the
sacrosanct belief in the immutability of species--that is, to the
pious doctrine that every species in the animal kingdom now
exists as it left the hands of the Creator, the naming process by
Adam, and the door of Noah's ark.

His punishment at the hands of the Church came a few years later,
when, in 1712, the Jesuits defeated his attempt to found an
Academy of Science at Vienna. The imperial authorities covered
him with honours, but the priests--ruling in the confessionals
and pulpits--would not allow him the privilege of aiding his
fellow-men to ascertain God's truths revealed in Nature.

Spinoza, Hume, and Kant may also be mentioned as among those
whose thinking, even when mistaken, might have done much to aid
in the development of a truer theory had not the theologic
atmosphere of their times been so unpropitious; but a few years
after Leibnitz's death came in France a thinker in natural
science of much less influence than any of these, who made a
decided step forward.

Early in the eighteenth century Benoist de Maillet, a man of the
world, but a wide observer and close thinker upon Nature, began
meditating especially upon the origin of animal forms, and was
led into the idea of the transformation of species and so into a
theory of evolution, which in some important respects anticipated
modern ideas. He definitely, though at times absurdly, conceived
the production of existing species by the modification of their
predecessors, and he plainly accepted one of the fundamental
maxims of modern geology--that the structure of the globe must be
studied in the light of the present course of Nature.

But he fell between two ranks of adversaries. On one side, the
Church authorities denounced him as a freethinker; on the other,
Voltaire ridiculed him as a devotee. Feeling that his greatest
danger was from the orthodox theologians, De Maillet endeavoured
to protect himself by disguising his name in the title of his
book, and by so wording its preface and dedication that, if
persecuted, he could declare it a mere sport of fancy; he
therefore announced it as the reverie of a Hindu sage imparted to
a Christian missionary. But this strategy availed nothing: he
had allowed his Hindu sage to suggest that the days of creation
named in Genesis might be long periods of time; and this, with
other ideas of equally fearful import, was fatal. Though the
book was in type in 1735, it was not published till 1748--three
years after his death.

On the other hand, the heterodox theology of Voltaire was also
aroused; and, as De Maillet had seen in the presence of fossils
on high mountains a proof that these mountains were once below
the sea, Voltaire, recognising in this an argument for the deluge
of Noah, ridiculed the new thinker without mercy. Unfortunately,
some of De Maillet's vagaries lent themselves admirably to
Voltaire's sarcasm; better material for it could hardly be

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