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IV.

THE TASK OF NATURAL SCIENCE.

In the third lecture I have shown how far we are justified in expecting teaching on scientific subjects from the Bible, and in this way I have prepared the ground for a general settlement of the relation between Biblical revelation and natural science; we must now consider the other side of the question, and ascertain how far profane knowledge, putting aside religion, is able to give us an explanation of natural facts. In .this discussion I am treading on strange ground, and I therefore do not feel myself so much at home as in theological questions. But this disadvantage will not, I hope, have any bad results. What we have now to do is to define the limits of each science, and on that point we shall, I trust, be able to agree. Those who are learned in natural science can tell us how much they claim for themselves; and we know how much we theologians may concede, and how far we may allow them to go. Considering the placable and yielding spirit which animates theology, as was shown in the last lecture, and the wide concessions which it can make without giving up any of its principles, the demands made by science must indeed be immoderate if an agreement is found to be impossible.

In deciding what things belong entirely to natural science, you will admit that I am warranted in quoting principally, although not exclusively, from those savants who either betray no wish to defend the Bible or revelation in their writings, or are hostile to them.

The aim of natural science, as Humboldt1 expresses it, is to comprehend the general relations of material phenomena, and to contemplate nature as a whole moved and animated by internal forces. It is therefore concerned with the visible world, with the phenomena which we see, hear, or perceive in any way, and with material things as they appear to us. These things and phenomena are verified, ordered, and, as it were, catalogued, by natural science; it compares them with one another, combines them, and then uses them in order to find out the laws by which they are governed and from which they come; and it is thus enabled to trace back the complicated phenomena to simple elements and principles.2 Humboldt describes the discovery of laws as "the final object of human inquiry in empirical science," and he defines the "physical description of the world" as "thought contem

1 Ko»mo», i. p. 81.

* "The method of induction consists of perception, i.e. the accidental apprehension of accidentally presented facts; observation, i.e. intentional apprehension of accidentally presented facts; experiment, i.e. observation of purposely produced facts; and lastly, experience, i.e. synthesis of the facts as they appear in regular forms (the simple fact is not yet an experience). By the help of these, the laws of nature which govern the facts may be deduced by arrangement, analysis, conclusion, and other logical means, by employing mathematics and the formula?, i.e. the metaphysical principles which have been laid down, mostly by Newton, as axioms of natural science."—Schleiden, Der Materialismus, p. 20. "Conscientiously to ascertain facts by observation is all-important to accurate scientific investigation. The true scientific investigator does not indeed hesitate to recognise the single facts in their connection; on the contrary, his endeavour is to bring individual phenomena under the law, and for this purpose he makes use of hypothesis, which,

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plating as a natural whole the phenomena given by experience." 1 There is no doubt that in our century natural science has made immense progress towards the solution of this problem. "It is a well-known fact that, from the days of Newton to our times, there have been more scientific discoveries, there has been produced, for mankind in general, a more accurate and extensive acquaintance with the system of nature, than centuries had before produced; nay, I may say, than had been obtained from the verv commencement of civilisation. Indeed, if we except his great discoveries, especially those that relate to astronomy and light, we may even see that in the course of little more than our lifetime there have been greater discoveries made, and the field of science has been more enlarged, than it had been—certainly since the revival of letters—perhaps even during many and many ages before."2 But no one who is well acquainted with the natural sciences would assert that they have as yet either reached their limit or attained their object. They have not yet been able entirely to solve their first problem, the investigation of the actual facts.

However wonderful are the discoveries which have

however, only signify for him a universal point of view under which many single cases of observation may be brought, and is valuable only as such. But he never adopts an explanation of the fact which is not founded on observation; he never makes a subjective hypothesis explain objective facts. This is much more the way of the so-called natural philosophy, which is as hostile as possible to strict natural science."— Michelis, Der Materialismus, p. 21. Cf. F. Bessell, Die Beiccise far die Bewegtmg der Erde. Berlin 1871. Pp. 6-15. 1 Kosmos, i. 31, 32; Eng. tr. p. 33.

* Sermons, Lectures, and Speeches delivered during his Tour in Ireland. Cardinal Wiseman. Dublin 1859. P. 247.

been made in astronomy by the help of the telescope, and lately by that of the spectrum analysis,1 we must still say with Burmeister, "The discoveries that have been made as to the nature of the separate heavenly bodies are unimportant; and as our power of observation is defective, being only possible at too great distances with insufficient means, it is hardly calculated to enlighten us in full even as to the physical condition of those bodies, much less can it give us a definite idea of their history, the stages of their development, or their inhabitants.2 As regards the earth, we have certainly—thanks to the untiring and careful examination of the strata which lie under the surface—obtained a mass of most important information; but it is both in a high degree possible and very desirable that this should be completed." Huxley says, "Water covers three-fifths of the whole surface of the globe, and has covered it in the same manner ever since man has kept any record of his own observations, to say nothing of the minute period during which he has cultivated geological inquiry. So that three-fifths of the surface of the earth is shut out from us, because it is under the sea. Let us look at the other two-fifths, and see what are the countries in which anything that may be termed searching geological inquiry has been carried out,—a good deal of France, Germany, Great Britain and Ireland, bits of Spain, of Italy, and of Russia have been examined; but of the whole great mass of Africa, except parts of the southern extremity, we

1 Cf. Natur und Of. 1868, p. 154. P-l.

1 Geschichie der Schopfung, p. 1.

Pfaff, Die neuesten Forschungen, etc., know next to nothing; little bits of India, but of the greater part of the Asiatic continent, nothing; bits of the Northern American States and of Canada, but of the greater part of the continent of North America, and in still larger proportion, South America, nothing. Under these circumstances, it follows that even with reference to that kind of imperfect information which we can possess, it is only about the ten-thousandth part of the accessible parts of the earth that have been examined properly." 1 The greatest depth to which the earth has been penetrated is about 4000 feet, not quite twotenths of a geographical mile,2 about the 4700th part therefore of the diameter of the earth. According to a striking saying of Noggerath's, the deepest mines and borings are only as the stings of a gnat in comparison to the diameter of the earth.* If you imagine the earth to be represented by a globe 16 inches in diameter, the thickness of the paper which is pasted over it will represent the portion of the earth's crust which has as yet been examined. The scratch made by a needle on the varnish of the globe is comparatively as deep as the deepest mine. Lyell estimates the extent of the ground which has been examined, and from which we may draw conclusions, to be about the 400tli part of

1 Huxley, On our Knowledge of the Causes of the Phenomena of Organic Nature, p. 37. Haeckel, Nat. Schopfiingsgesch., p. 345, "If, according to Sir John Herschel's latest calculations, the proportion of land to sea is as 57 :146, the proportion of that which has been geognoetically investigated is at most 12 :51. More than half of the twelfth part of the earth has been cursorily observed by one or two men of science. Detailed investigations, such as are described in English, German, and French books, exist at most in a twelfth part of the twelfth part." Fraas, Vor der Siindjluth, p. 42.

1 Pfaff, Schdpfungsgeschichte, 2nd ed. p. 213.

8 Get. Natunciss., iii. 138.

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