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Dr. Draper gives often a misleading view of the relative positions of religion and science. A reference to Chapter VI. will afford illustration. The subject is, " Conflict Respecting the Nature of the World." The two prominent contrasts placed at the head of this chapter are these:—" Scriptural view of the world; the earth a flat surface: scientific view; the earth a globe." These are, indeed, complete contrasts; but the question is, Are they accurately stated? Is there any warrant for saying that Scripture teaches that the earth is a flat surface? Most Bible readers of the present day will take this as quite a discovery. That there was long and earnest discussion of the question whether the earth was flat or a globe, is certain. But it is erroneous to refer to Scripture as the source of the former position. The opening of the chapter sufficiently disposes of the suggestion. Dr. Draper says, —"An uncritical observation of the aspect of nature persuades us that the earth is an extended level surface which sustains the dome of the sky, a firmament dividing the waters above from the waters beneath; that the heavenly bodies—the sun, the moon, the stars— pursue their way moving from east to west, their insignificant size, and motion round the motionless earth, proclaiming their inferiority. Of the various organic forms surrounding man none rival him in dignity, and hence he seems justified in concluding that every thing has been created for his use—the sun for the purpose of giving him light by day, the moon and stars by night. Comparative theology shows that this is the conception of nature universally adopted in the early phase of intellectual life. It is the belief of all nations in all parts of the world in the beginning of their civilization." *
In determining the relations of religion and science it is impossible to accept a passage so general, and full of mixed references as this. There is, indeed, no reason to complain of statements as to the general impressions resulting from "an uncritical observation" of nature, and of the testimony which may'be drawn from "comparative theology." Such references are to be valued, as belonging to an important branch of inquiry; but tbey are not to be mixed up with statements concern
* History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, by J. W. Draper, M.D., LL.D., Professor in the University of New York, 12 ed., p. 162.
ing Scripture teaching. Such commingling leads to confusion, and deprives a discussion of historical accuracy and scientific precision. In view of the immense practical, as well as scientific interests involved, it is needful to guard against loose statements encouraging a belief in conflict between religion and science, where no such conflict exists. The passage here selected is taken as an example, and its criticism will indicate what claims religion has a right to make upon scientific men in their management of such discussions. It may be that with equal reason a similar claim can be turned upon defenders of religion in view of their criticisms of scientific discussions. But the real value of such investigations, from whatever side they come, depends upon accurate and guarded statement. It is to be feared, however, that Dr. Draper's theory that "extremists determine the issue," may tempt him to favor a different rule.
To state that the scriptural view of the world is, that "the earth is a flat surface," is misrepresentation. And the variety of form into which this statement is thrown throughout the chapter makes it greatly worse. Thus our author speaks of " the flat figure of the earth, as revealed in the Scriptures,"* as if this quasi-scientific statement were part of Bible revelation. Again he speaks of'' the theological doctrine of the flatness of the earth" being irretrievably overthrown, f Once more, where speaking of the Copernican system of astronomy, he speaks of Copernicus not only as influenced by his exposure to punishment from the Roman Church, but as being "aware that his doctrines were totally opposed to revealed truth."| These successive statements involve additional exaggeration.
Our author gives no references which the reader may examine for himself. There can be little doubt that he points to the exceedingly grand and impressive passage at the opening of the book of Genesis. But in that passage there is nothing to support the statement that "the flat figure of the earth" is part of Bible revelation. That the earth has been supposed flat, and that this is really taught in Scripture, are two very different things. The Bible which says, that "the earth was without form and void, and dark
• History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, p. 163. t lb. p. 165. t lb. p. 167.
ness was upon the face of the deep," and records the will of the Supreme Ruler at a later stage in these words, "And God said let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear," * does something quite the opposite of teaching that "the earth is a flat surface."
Nor do the Scriptures teach that "the earth sustains the dome of the sky." In remote times such an opinion as to the restingplace for the great dome had its supporters. But there is no pretext for attributing the teaching of this to the Bible. The scriptural statement is " God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven." There is no reader iof these words, even if he have only "an uncritical observation of the aspect of nature," who can suppose that the "firmament" here means "the dome of the sky." This statement places certain waters '' above the firmament," and there is no one who is at once a reader of the Bible, and an observer of nature, who thinks of the clouds as above the
• Genesis i. 2, 9.