(3) Science vs. Theology

nord at mail.atw.earthreach.com nord at mail.atw.earthreach.com
Thu Mar 5 10:03:41 EST 1998





# 3



The reasons for the new foundation seemed to us, then, so cogent
that we expected the co-operation of all good citizens, and
anticipated no opposition from any source.

As I look back across the intervening years, I know not whether
to be more astonished or amused at our simplicity.

Opposition began at once.  In the State Legislature it confronted
us at every turn, and it was soon in full blaze throughout the
State--from the good Protestant bishop who proclaimed that all
professors should be in holy orders, since to the Church alone
was given the command, "Go, teach all nations," to the zealous
priest who published a charge that Goldwin Smith--a profoundly
Christian scholar --had come to Cornell in order to inculcate the
"infidelity of the Westminster Review"; and from the eminent
divine who went from city to city, denouncing the "atheistic and
pantheistic tendencies" of the proposed education, to the
perfervid minister who informed a denominational synod that
Agassiz, the last great opponent of Darwin, and a devout theist,
was "preaching Darwinism and atheism" in the new institution.

As the struggle deepened, as hostile resolutions were introduced
into various ecclesiastical bodies, as honored clergymen solemnly
warned their flocks first against the "atheism," then against the
"infidelity," and finally against the "indifferentism" of the
university, as devoted pastors endeavoured to dissuade young men
from matriculation, I took the defensive, and, in answer to
various attacks from pulpits and religious newspapers, attempted
to allay the fears of the public.  "Sweet reasonableness" was
fully tried.  There was established and endowed in the university
perhaps the most effective Christian pulpit, and one of the most
vigorous branches of the Christian Association, then in the
United States; but all this did nothing to ward off the attack.
The clause in the charter of the university forbidding it to give
predominance to the doctrines of any sect, and above all the fact
that much prominence was given to instruction in various branches
of science, seemed to prevent all compromise, and it soon became
clear that to stand on the defensive only made matters worse.
Then it was that there was borne in upon me a sense of the real
difficulty-- the antagonism between the theological and
scientific view of the universe and of education in relation to
it; therefore it was that, having been invited to deliver a
lecture in the great hall of the Cooper Institute at New York, I
took as my subject The Battlefields of Science, maintaining this
thesis which follows:

In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed
interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such
interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both
to religion and science, and invariably; and, on the other hand,
all untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous
to religion some of its stages may have seemed for the time to
be, has invariably resulted in the highest good both of religion
and science.

The lecture was next day published in the New York Tribune at the
request of Horace Greeley, its editor, who was also one of the
Cornell University trustees.  As a result of this widespread
publication and of sundry attacks which it elicited, I was asked
to maintain my thesis before various university associations and
literary clubs; and I shall always remember with gratitude that
among those who stood by me and presented me on the lecture
platform with words of approval and cheer was my revered
instructor, the Rev. Dr. Theodore Dwight Woolsey, at that time
President of Yale College.


Posted by Robert E. Nordlander
nord at mail.atw.earthreach.com
March 5, 1998

-----== Posted via Deja News, The Leader in Internet Discussion ==-----
http://www.dejanews.com/   Now offering spam-free web-based newsreading

More information about the Plant-ed mailing list