Science, Religion and Reality

Science, Religion and Reality

Science, Religion and Reality

Science, Religion and Reality

Excerpt

I have been honoured by a request to write a brief Introduction to the present volume of "Essays on Science and Religion." With some diffidence I accepted the responsibility--not because the essays themselves stand in need of either praise or commentary, but because I value the association with the distinguished essayists who are here contributing to this old and famous discussion.

It must, of course, be admitted that discussions may be old and famous without on that account having more than a historic interest. The issues they deal with may be dead and buried. Only students who delight in contemplating the mutations of human beliefs may think it worth while to give them decent sepulture with all the honours of a learned epitaph; the rest of the world forget that they have ever been. Such cases indeed are fewer than might have been supposed. Even where death seems to be complete, where no smallest trace of some once famous theory appears to survive, a fragment of it will reappear generations later as part of the living tissue of the most advanced speculation.1 But in the case of science and religion the main theme has never wholly lost its interest, and each generation insists on resurveying the subject from its own particular point of view.

When I was asked to contribute this Introduction I vaguely remembered a work published fifty-two years ago by Dr. Draper, entitled "The Conflict between Science and Religion." His volume, which went through many editions, was one of a very respectable series of scientific handbooks, called the International Science Series. It was composed in a most pessimistic vein. He supposed the Western world to be on the edge of an intellectual revolution, catastrophic in its suddenness, incalculable in its results. The collision between science and religion, rendered acute by the then recent Vatican Council, could end, he thought, only in one way. Educated mankind would suddenly awake and find . . .

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