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Journal of No. 118

October 3rd, 2013

History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science, by John William Draper @ 05:30 pm

This is one of the two big cornerstones of the conflict thesis that science and religion are ineluctably bound for conflict. Unfortunately, this book is far inferior (in my opinion) to Andrew Dickson White's A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (not that it doesn't have problems of its own).

Anyway, despite the title, Draper's book does not actually deal with the conflict between religion and science all that much. Primarily, it bashes Roman Catholicism. An enjoyable pastime to be sure, but really... There's probably ten times as much ink spilt over papal infallibility as over the Galileo affair. But still some interesting things, especially some perspective from 1874. Check out those New Atheists!

WHOEVER has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the mental condition of the intelligent classes in Europe and America, must have perceived that there is a great and rapidly-increasing departure from the public religious faith, and that, while among the more frank this divergence is not concealed, there is a far more extensive and far more dangerous secession, private and unacknowledged. So wide-spread and so powerful is this secession, that it can neither be treated with contempt nor with punishment. It cannot be extinguished by derision, by vituperation, or by force. The time is rapidly approaching when it will give rise to serious political results.

I was unaware of the virgin birth of Plato.

He does have a way with words, betimes:

The portraits of our friends, or landscape views, may be hidden on the sensitive. surface from the eye, but they are ready to make their appearance as soon as proper developers are resorted to. A spectre is concealed on a silver or glassy surface until, by our necromancy, we make it come forth into the visible world.

I found it weird that Draper refers to Copernicus as a Prussian. Though it seems this comes from him having been born in Royal Prussia, a province of Poland. The connection between Royal Prussia and Prussia Prussia are complex enough that I gave up on untangling the tale.

Pale Blue Dot crossed with an indifferent universe: "Seen from the sun, the earth dwindles away to a mere speck, a mere dust-mote glistening in his beams. If the reader wishes a more precise valuation, let him hold a page of this book a couple of feet from his eye; then let him consider one of its dots or full stops; that dot is several hundred times larger in surface than is the earth as seen from the sun! Of what consequence, then, can such an almost imperceptible particle be? One might think that it could be removed or even annihilated, and yet never be missed. Of what consequence is one of those human monads, of whom more than a thousand millions swarm on the surface of this all but invisible speck, and of a million of whom scarcely one will leave a trace that he has ever existed? Of what consequence is man, his pleasures or his pains?"

"A horse, whose master had taught him many tricks, was tried at Lisbon in 1601, found guilty of being, possessed by the devil, and was burnt."

There must be more to that story. In a quick search, the only thing I've seen that doesn't clearly come from Draper is this from some Theosophist website: "Granger tells the story, describing it as having occurred in his time. The poor animal "had been taught to tell the spots upon cards, and the hour of the day by the watch. Horse and owner were both indicted by the sacred office for dealing with the Devil, and both were burned, with a great ceremony of auto-da-fe, at Lisbon, in 1601, as wizards!""

Draper bashes a papal encyclical from 1864, and with good reason:

From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an "insanity,"2 viz., that "liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way."

Talking about the fight between the Prussian government (back in the 19th century) and the Church: "The Bishop of Ermeland declared that he would not obey the laws of the state if they touched the Church. The government stopped the payment of his salary."

Ah, the good old days in America: "In America the temporal and the spiritual have been absolutely divorced--the latter is not permitted to have any thing to do with affairs of state, though in all other respects liberty is conceded to it."

And finally:
Then has it in truth come to this, that Roman Christianity and Science are recognized by their respective adherents as being absolutely incompatible; they cannot exist together; one must yield to the other; mankind must make its choice--it cannot have both. SCIENCE AND FAITH. While such is, perhaps, the issue as regards Catholicism, a reconciliation of the Reformation with Science is not only possible, but would easily take place, if the Protestant Churches would only live up to the maxim taught by Luther, and established by so many years of war. That maxim is, the right of private interpretation of the Scriptures. It was the foundation of intellectual liberty. But, if a personal interpretation of the book of Revelation is permissible, how can it be denied in the case of the book of Nature? In the misunderstandings that have taken place, we must ever bear in mind the infirmities of men. The generations that immediately followed the Reformation may perhaps be excused for not comprehending the full significance of their cardinal principle, and for not on all occasions carrying it into effect. When Calvin caused Servetus, to be burnt, he was animated, not by the principles of the Reformation, but by those of Catholicism, from which he had not been able to emancipate himself completely. And when the clergy of influential Protestant confessions have stigmatized the investigators of Nature as infidels and atheists, the same may be said.

See, it's all the Catholics' fault. And even when it isn't, it still is.
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Journal of No. 118