IT is the desire of certain Junior members of the University, who are the persons immediately concerned, that I should print here what I said at the Pusey House, and not what, on reflection, I wish I had said. As nearly as possible that is what has been done, by means of a shorthand writer's report; but some paragraphs which seemed to me a little difficult have been written afresh.
P. N. W,
October 14th, 1901.
THE title which has been chosen for this lecture might seem to promise something like a technical examination of the present difficulties which exist, or are supposed to exist, between Religion and Science; but I have not proposed to myself so difficult a task. The title was chosen as being sufficiently general to admit any small piece of explanation which could be offered at a single sitting; and in the short time at our disposal this afternoon it would be unwise to attempt anything involving details. And, besides, a standing rule for non-academical lectures was disclosed to me yesterday in an invitation which ran to this effect: "You may make your lecture what you like, on one condition—it must not be useful for the Schools." Whatever else is in store this afternoon, I can assure you you will hear from me nothing that is useful for the Schools. Our reflections will run rather upon the duty of men with regard to the general situation of thought than upon the grounds in speculation by which our own position is determined. We are to ask what is the line which Christians ought to take, in view of the fact that Science and Religion seem for the time to lie apart along considerable stretches of their course. And I will try to divide what I have to say under these heads. First, I shall venture to assert that there is something like a conflict in the region which is common to Religion and Science; something like an actual conflict, at least, in some minds. Secondly, I shall attempt quite briefly to describe or to indicate some of the issues or moments of the conflict. Thirdly, I shall, if time allows, review various methods which may be proposed for practical dealing, not with the difficulties in themselves, but with the men who feel such difficulties. Lastly, I have a word to say about what I believe to be the actual nature of the difficulty, and therefore the actual nature of its cure. And, indeed, I may as well begin by saying what my belief is on that point. I believe the difficulty which has caused the conflict between Religion and Science is really one which lies altogether within the region of Theology. The conflict is really one between two kinds of religion; and that may be some reason for the fact that scientific teachers would probably for the most part say that they are not responsible for it. In the last resort I expect that they are not. It is in deep foundation a conflict between two ways of regarding Religion; ways which are not really mutually exclusive alternatives, but appear as such to certain minds. The one way is the way of expecting Religion to throw light on all kinds of external facts in detail; the other way is the possession or the coveting of an inward spring of force and light which is to be the cure of our intellectual nature as of other parts of our nature, so as to render possible a free and disinterested examination of all that is.
First, then, there really exists what has been described as a conflict between Science and Faith. This fact needs reassertion in a place like Oxford; because in the higher regions of thought and discussion the conflict, which used to be evident enough twenty years ago and less, has almost died out. In its place we find a kind of mutual respect existing between men who think in profoundly different manners about the world. We seem agreed to leave one another alone, and we are to a large extent immune, if I may say so, to each other's mental poisons.
Some of those who possess religious conviction are altogether unaffected by the difficulties which trouble their neighbours. They are immune, not because they have been inoculated with the virus, but because they have managed somehow to exclude alien schemes of thought from their mental organization. And in this and other ways there has arisen a state which is much more dangerous and lamentable than such a state of open conflict as existed twenty years ago: a state more lamentable because it leads to the separation into two camps of what is, at the best, but a very slender body of men—that is to say, the body of men who care for thought and knowledge. These men have to hold their own in the midst of a world which cares mainly for practical enterprise. Taking them in the aggregate, the men of speculation—the men who desire truth for truth's sake—are very few, and it is most lamentable that there should be in the world of thought so wide a schism that the opposed sides, far from coming to terms, cannot even come to blows. Here, to prevent misapprehension, I should like to interject a remark to the effect that when I speak of such a conflict, I do not at all suggest that the students of Natural History are more likely to be on the side opposed to Faith than others are. Not at all. What in fact leads people to suppose that Natural History is hostile to Faith, may be something like this. There are men whose requirements for certainty are much larger and more vivid than what most of us can make do with; and minds like this, looking upon regions which seem clear enough to unexacting minds, find a great deal yet to desire, and so they cry out in their trouble. They give evidence sometimes, mostly they are reticent; but sometimes they give evidence of their lack of satisfaction, and the world, and too often Christian people also, exclaim that here is an unfaithful spirit, whereas what we could more truly say is, "Here is a spirit which has a much higher estimate than common of what is meant by certainty and faith, and therefore complains of the absence of a faith which other men get on very well without." I will venture to read a few words which, perhaps, may express that better. "There are times in the lives, we suppose, of most men when the clue we follow seems reduced to a single thread—or, to speak otherwise, when the light which guides grows faint and hardly to be discerned. Such times come not to the few, but to the many. Only, of that many there are some who are careless of the clue, and do not regret the loss of light, but happy in little gains and distinctions, or buoyed up by a pleasant abundance of bodily vigour, continue to repeat with equanimity the words of faith. The men who are in earnest, the men who will gladly spend all and leave all behind them for the sake of the quest, and for whom the light is a daily need of hungry eyes, these are the men who may profess themselves unbelievers; that is, they declare and they lament a loss which some others never feel. It is the few only who go on step by step in ever broadening light, whose path is as a shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. For the most there are vicissitudes, dark places, wide wastes, and little guidance felt, and the night clasping the horizon." And in these dark times there are two courses open. We may make do with a light we kindle for ourselves or borrow from habit, or we may set our eyes against the gloom, and wait. I think that this last is the more faithful course, and that among the pilgrim souls who take it are some who, owning the darkness and not yet receiving signals from what Plotinus calls Yonder, are set down, and set themselves down, for hard-hearted deniers when, in fact, they are pierced by an infinite desire for light which is on the threshold of satisfaction. Their reticence or grim questionings discourage our simpler souls, and so they are hastily described as sceptics and unbelievers, while the real truth often is that they have a much more generous speculation, a much more exacting curiosity, than we have about those things of which we are content to repeat the names.
But to return; there is a real conflict, a real difficulty, although it may not appear in a place like this. In Oxford, on the high ground, in the light, in the air, we have learned to respect each other's feelings and opinions. We measure each other's strength too nearly for conflict to be actual. But it exists very certainly in the half-educated classes; it is abundantly vigorous among men brought up in primary and secondary schools. There are numbers of men, troops of men, kept back from the free enterprise of the spirit, so that they never recognize the spiritual realities which are waiting to be seen, because they cannot get through the preliminary difficulties which seem to face them when they are listeners in church.
What are the heads of the difficulty? First, there is the difficulty between Theism, abstract Theism, and Natural Selection. Note that there is no difficulty at all between Theism in the abstract and Development in the abstract. It is impossible to frame any issue between these two modes of thought. It is impossible to state an exact issue between abstract Theism and Development in general; but there does arise a difficulty between Theism in the abstract and the doctrine of Natural Selection, because that doctrine seems to be a rival explanation of the result to account for which the old Theists relied upon the doctrine of Special Creation as we know it. The argument from design (it is not the argument for design) seems to be shaken by the presence of an explanation which is an alternative for the doctrine of Creation as it is stated by some older Teleologists. That which was formerly attributed to design and supported by minute details, now meets with another explanation. This explanation, described in the largest outline, states that a thing comes to be what it is because, unless it were what it is, it could not be at all. That, in the broadest sense, is the scheme of thought indicated in the words "Natural Selection." If you find under a sieve a number of stones of fit size to pass the sieve, you may give two accounts of their presence. You may say they were put under the sieve on purpose of such a size as to fit its mesh; or you may say; that only stones below a certain size were found under the sieve because any that were larger remained of necessity above it. The right-sized stones are found below because, out of the mixed supply, they alone passed. They only reach their place in life because they fit it. They were not severally shaped in order to correspond with it. And so, if we find a number of organisms and organs meeting their proper functions in marvellous minuteness, we may say, either that they have been made to fit their actual places, or that they fit the place they fit because, if they fitted not, they would not be at all. They only survive by fitting, and those that survive therefore necessarily fit. When the argument from design is made to rest upon details, there is no doubt it may be shaken by such a rival explanation as this. The argument from design must shift its ground to the general consideration of the whole scene; it must ask why there should be any such matter as fittingness at all. It must advance from, the consideration of details such as were skilfully used by Paley, for whom the proof of design appears to be stronger in proportion as we fail to trace a mechanical cause for the result we see. From such a method we must depart and take the broader and surer ground. We believe that mind is the ultimate reality behind the world, not because A fits into B, as if B were a problem which the Supreme Mind had solved; but because, on the whole and in the whole, there is a rational correspondence of parts, and because the thing as a whole is a working whole, working in a way which we cannot but recognize as in its deepest meaning reasonable. There is, then, a conflict, not between Development and Theism, but between Theism and Natural Selection; and, in stating it, we can hardly avoid suggesting the escape from it.
In the second place, there is a conflict between Bible cosmogony and Development in the abstract. There can be raised an issue between Theism in the abstract and Natural Selection. There can be raised an issue between Genesis, considered as a Cosmogony, and Development as a generalized account of the origin of the world. Abstract Theism must limit Natural Selection. But Positive Theology, Revealed Theism, has a battle yet to fight with (what may be called) Abstract Development. It will not be a war of extermination, but it will be one in which sovereignty can belong to only one of the combatants. The two abstract views are at peace, but each is confronted by a particular and positive enemy; Abstract Theism by Natural Selection, so far as that claims to be universal; Abstract Development by positive Theology, so far again as that claims, as it must claim, to be of universal application.
In the third place, there is the difficulty about the origin and dignity of man, about which I will here say nothing.
In the fourth place, there is the new Psychology, a physiological psychology which attempts to displace the psychology which is more properly so called because it believes in the existence of a spiritual principle, a Psyche. There is a Psychology which advances from within, and from that point examines the operations of an assumed spiritual existence; and there is a new Psychology which advances from the point of view of physiology, and seeks to account for mental changes and states of consciousness from the point of view of physical law. That is a serious and difficult branch of the conflict.
Then, in the fifth place, certain parts of biological speculation seem to give a new force to the old-fashioned plea of determinism in the field of metaphysics, in the region of the generalized attack on the doctrine of Free Will. That I shall speak about later, because it falls under the head of the next lecture, which is concerned with Science and Conduct.
Last, and more practically important than any, there exists a tendency in natural studies in some way to obscure the authority, and in some degree to confuse the directing force which ought to belong to the knowledge which man has of himself; a knowledge derived most directly from a real attention to the inward facts of his life. I speak of these things in the most general terms, and lay myself open freely to misunderstanding, because I desire to reach what I have to say in the practical division of our subject. In other places I have tried to show how far, in my opinion, the conflict may be composed in some of the regions I have named. May I repeat the bare heads again? Even to distinguish the elements of debate is useful in some degree.
There is, then, first the debate which may be easily raised between Theism and Natural Selection, and about which a number of acute minds have been busy for many years. Contrasted with this, is the perpetually renewed effort to construct a serious debate between Positive Theology, especially Bible Doctrine, and development regarded in general. Thirdly, there is a serious difficulty surrounding the questions of the origin and dignity of man which shapes the prepossessions of some of us. Fourthly, there is the new Psychology, which seems to be able to dispense with Psyche. Further, there is a supposed fresh force given to philosophical determinism by the statements which have been so rapidly developed in the matter of heredity; and, lastly, there is a large and general tendency in natural studies, especially when they are newly undertaken, to throw the mind into what I should call a rigid attitude, which prevents those who are engaged in so stimulating and wonderful a new branch of knowledge from bearing along with them the old knowledge which they were almost born with—at any rate, which they have grown up with from the first, the sum of the knowledge of their own nature and needs, of their own heart and being. It follows that this study when it is undertaken, and especially while it is a new study, has a tendency to discount and put out of sight what are really the more important and practical parts of human knowledge. You remember how Socrates in the "Phaedo" says that the natural science he studied in his youth made him blind to things which he had once seemed, to himself and others, to know quite well.
And now my object is to speak very briefly of methods; not of methods by which any controversy on such matters may be approached, but methods by which you may attempt to help a man who has apparently lost the exercise and possession of faith, so that unseen things have become unreal to him. Or, to make the affair less personal, think of these methods as dealing with a Society which has reached some such state. First, there is the method, a favourite with a certain class of minds, which might be described as the method of segregation. This method seeks to emphasize a division of the camps, and I must be content here to say briefly that it is obviously absurd and hopeless. It constitutes, however, a serious danger, and does not cease to call for the watchfulness of serious men.
Of those methods which are more likely to attract you, there is first the method of detailed conciliation, the persevering attempt to make the Bible or the Creed come into line, or seem to express the same thing with the teaching of Science, as it happens to stand for the moment. This is somewhat—not exactly—the method followed to a large extent by the old apologists of the eighteenth century, and by Paley. His book on "Natural Religion" is a great and noble book, but weakened in part by the attempt to conciliate in details. I always feel that such a method must necessarily break down, because Science is not a still dead thing. It is neither a stick, as some men seem to suppose, to beat religion with, nor is it a set of pigeon-holes which students can master and fill; but it is a continually flowing, moving stream, and, while we are attempting to bring ourselves into line, it will probably have moved on: not falling into confusion, and denying and taking back its old certainties, but moving on into fresh adventures of discovery. We shall make very little progress in the practical work of bringing this conflict into a quiescent state, or of encouraging believers, by a method of detailed conciliation. There are plenty of books perpetually issuing from the Press on these lines. That kind of thing, the attempt to believe the Bible because it puts the lizard in the right place, or, on the contrary, to despair about the Bible, because Mr. Huxley shows that, after all, the lizard is not in the right place,—that kind of line of conciliation seems to me frankly hopeless.
Then there is the line of detailed criticism; the line which I might call, in the language of one of our statesmen, a policy of pin-pricks; the policy of trying to show here and there that Science is not sure of its ground, of drawing the line where the sea of ignorance lies around this province of light. It is a hopeless method, because it depends upon the failure of Science; and those who depend upon the failure of a vigorous body of thought, surely are putting their hopes in a very shaky place. It is like a policy which depends upon the weakness of other nations. A national policy which is to succeed must always not only take account of the advance and strength of other nations, it must positively depend for its prosperity upon the concomitant prosperity of its neighbours. Just as in true commerce, profit and extension do not depend upon robbing the neighbour, but precisely upon making your neighbour rich; so it is in politics, so it is in thought. We find the same mistake made in all three regions. Our commercial relations with France are grossly misunderstood by those who seem to think that it is our interest to injure their trade, for it is our real interest that their trade should increase, in order that they may buy our hideous fire-irons. Even so the true prosperity of Great Britain or of our Empire depends strictly upon the parallel prosperity of other civilized races. And as true commercial prosperity depends upon the wealth of neighbours, so the true advance of any department of thought cannot possibly be based on the prospect of failure in some department of thought which lies side by side with it. Just think of taking, for the encouragement of your faith, the impossibility of explaining the vestigial or rudimentary electrical organ in the tail of a skate! And yet there are not wanting men who would still lay the principal stress of their apologetic in criticism which is, after all, of this order.
The attempt to base our faith on the lacunas, on the gaps, of natural knowledge, as if the less Science there was the more room there would be for Faith, is a thing I can only describe in abusive terms. The state of the connection between natural knowledge and that knowledge which we call spiritual knowledge, sometimes seems to me to be typified in the revelation of the roll which was written within and without; that is to say, unlike most rolls, it had writing on both sides, as upon the red and the white side of this roll which I hold in my hand. If you have such a roll, and it is half unrolled, you get nonsense, broken sentences made up of parts from each side. But the more the one side is unrolled, the more complete becomes the reading, not of it only but of the other also. Now let us say the red side here is Science, and the white side is Faith. Our advance does not depend on rolling up tighter our red side. On the contrary, when that kind of knowledge becomes complete by the unrolling of the whole, at the same moment the other side will be unrolled completely also, and the sentences will run as wholes, and will, therefore, be intelligible. Meanwhile we must be patient, and place no great part of our hopes in the method of detailed criticism; in the attempt to base the pillars or the buttresses of faith upon the lacunae of natural knowledge; the attempt to find an exceptional ideal; to find the One in the interstices of the manifold; to make revelation an alternative for actuality; and to see the field for belief only in the darkness which lies outside explanation.
We have, then, the method of detailed conciliation; the method of detailed criticism. Apparently near to this last, but quite distinct from it in my mind, is the method of rival agnosticism. This is the method of meeting the scepticism of Science by a rival scepticism with which Religion shall fortify itself against Science. This method does not whittle away this or that proof from experience. It relies rather upon disparaging experience en bloc . One may meet with men, in society and in books, who frankly take up a position of absolute scepticism towards modern Science. It is a well-known philosophical attitude, of course, and has a great deal to be said for it; but what does it result in? It results not only in robbing yourself of any meaning for the world and shutting yourself out from the whole region of Science altogether, and therefore increasing that process of segregation which we agreed to be lamentable; but, from the point of view of Christians, it throws away calmly and frivolously the whole work of apologetics also. It nullifies all that costly labour of conciliation which occupied minds like Aubrey Moore's, and which has, in the course of time and work, arrived at important results. The religious sceptics see with indifference that our metaphysics and our religious thought have striven, and are striving, to reach better relations with Science by a constant widening of their and its scope and outlook. All this effort must be dismissed as worthless and insignificant by those who take refuge in mere scepticism. When the next time of difficulty comes, that will not be your way. You will not turn misologists because the tide of argument sets against you.
Then there is, after all these, the metaphysical criticism of Materialism as such, and this is of great and perpetual importance. There is no real learning of anything at all, no real learning how to cut a section, while the mind is astray on materialistic principles. There is, then, a real work for the metaphysical criticism of Materialism as such. Its object is to recall men to the true pivot of thought. But it is not the work which can help your man when he has crossed the bar and lost, as he supposes, his faith. It is meaningless to him. For him the pivot of thought is precisely this material object which you disparage. This is precisely where his thought fastens itself; and any attempt to shift for him the pivot of thought will only lead him to suspect your whole effort and design. It is no good, when a man is showing you that this or that experiment is fatal to your view, to suggest a revision of the scheme of experiment as such, to disparage or put in its proper place a whole region of information, a whole world of means of learning. And however valuable it is in itself and for the reassurance of faith—and it is the only road within the reach of the intelligence by which faith can be reassured—it is no sort of good to the man who has become buried in the opposite mode of thought. Nevertheless, it leads on to what I believe to be the true cure, the true method, which I call in my own mind the way of the key as against the way of the lock.
It is the key of thought which at this moment principally deserves our attention. We are told there is a deadlock in thought. There is no deadlock, but a dead key. It is the key that has gone out of use, and the very reason we make no progress is that we are all fumbling at the lock. It is not even that we have lost the key. The key is with us, and it is the right one. But, like one's latch key when it is partly choked with dust, our mental key does not go home. It stops short of the thing that is to be explained. It does not fit into the proper place in the lock.
The "lock" is the world, and the "key" is the mind or the nature as a whole with which we confront the world. I am very far from saying that there is nothing to be done with regard to the world, both in thought and in practice. It is possible even to clean and oil that lock a little. Our action is called for to complete even the problem of existence; our will goes into that sum. Something may be done towards making it yield a positive and rational answer. Still more in the affair of thought is the lock capable of investigation, simplification. If we listen to what the learned tell us of the natural science of the ancient world, or remember the laughing reference to that science made by Plato's Socrates in the "Phaedo," we see how much the native power of the mind is hampered by a false and confused imagination of the world—by a world-in-thought like that before Aristotle, tangled in strings of gratuitous theory, or a world-in-thought like that of our Middle Ages infested by a crowd of unmanageable bogies. What I am saying is that the good work of cleaning this world-in-thought has gone very far, and we need now to attend to the other side of the matter. The world has been actually opened up physically, by travel and history, by microscope and analysis, by telescope and the triumphs of sidereal mathematics; it is wonderfully cleared for us. There is no finality, but there is great advance. There are by-products of superstition, but, on the whole, with all its marvellous penetration and continual growth, our knowledge gives us a simpler world. And yet it does not yield the answer that we crave, the answer of Theism. Alone, it never can. And in our modern perplexities, I submit, what we now need is, without stopping or disparaging the great work of investigation, to attend again more closely to the health of the mind which has to do that work.
I had a friend who could and did cut down distant woods to improve the landscape from his lawn. What we need now is not to improve the landscape, but to clear the eye. Men are perplexed and harassed by teachings about the origin of life or of man which seem contrary to Christian truth; they are perplexed by teachings about the movement of force which seem fatal to freedom. They will get no satisfaction by searching for new facts about beasts, for new secrets about matter. It is not some great theory of species we need, some weird curiosity in the doings of gases at very low temperatures. It is not in between the molecules—our unseen world. No. What is wanted is the sane mind. The sane mind has found God and found peace in the worst days of Science. And still, in our enlightened age, only the sane mind will find the light. There must be a renewed attention to the mind's health, a care for its ways, a knowledge of its interest, an obedience, above all, to the laws which govern it and lead it to prosperity. The key has to be cleared of rubbish, and then the world-in-thought which we possess will be found not unmanageable. This way, I repeat, lies wisdom just now; not in an anxious search for facts favourable to our faith, but in the diligent preparation of the mind for faith itself, that power of insight which is God's most immediate gift, the light of all our light.
The key, if I may still keep that figure, being a good deal choked, has two faults. It will not go home, and therefore, secondly, it cannot be turned. That is to say, you have lack of penetration and lack of movement in the mental attitude of mankind. First, lack of penetration; failure to arrive. We have to get rid of that superstition, as I should like to call it, that the world which we see is not the real thing; that the real thing is the scheme of generalizations which Science has made. Mr. Balfour seemed to me the other day a little to favour that notion, that it is the laws which are real and the world that is sham. He spoke as if this great scene round about us, the summer, the sky, the people, the effects of the human mind, were some painted screen stretched on a framework which was the real thing—the framework of Scientific Laws. Now, we have continually to protest against any such view as that; we have persistently to say that the world is itself the real thing. It is experience we have to bring ourselves into tune with, not generalization. In saying this we do not in the least disparage the value of generalizations. For instance, the laws of Physics which Professor Ward has lately shown to be far from being in actual parallelism to the matters of fact which they ought to illuminate, nevertheless do serve to illuminate them, in spite of the lack of actual parallelism between the facts and the expressions which the Professor examines. We are not disparaging the generalisations. They are great, venerable, human things; they are the work of men, and valuable on that very account; but they are valuable precisely as leading to the actual scene which they refer to. We must not half unconsciously fall into the habit of thinking that summer and winter, tears and laughter, hunger and food, life and death, are the painted screen, while the Laws of Nature are the real framework. On the contrary, it is the "Laws "and the theoretical substances and structures, the molecules, the Ether—the strangely combined tenuity and rigidity of the unseen medium—these are the manufactured, the relatively uncertain product. It is precisely light and colour, substance and heat, the world we see and live in, which are real; and the manufactured conceptions are to be followed just so far as they serve to interpret and help us to use the real thing for ourselves. It is useless to know the name or theory of ether unless these bring us into real correspondence with things, so as to enlarge or define our knowledge of the actual sequence, say, for example, of electrical phenomena. The great generalisation of the theory of ether, all this is the mental product which has been added and which will be changed, while the world remains the same. We have to insist on reversing the position; we have to insist once again—old story as it is— that it is not the theories which are real, but the things we ordinarily see around us; and it is with this world as we know it that we have to bring our religion into tune, and not with the form of theory which is the best and most noble result which has yet come of the attempt to co-ordinate and secure our accumulated knowledge of the stage on which we live. The real cure is getting the key in order; it is attending to the health of the mind.
Now, we are not to-day engaged in any proof or defence of Christian truth. We are only, as Christians, considering practically what we can contribute towards the relief of modern difficulties. Accordingly I need not stop to urge here that this ordering of the observing nature, this curing and tuning of the mind in the largest sense of that word, is precisely the great work of religion. I need not, then, urge at length that religion and not new science is what we as Christians have especially to offer to the scientific doubter. But I will pause a little in order to urge that it is a scientific presentation of religion which we ought to seek. It is indeed in this that the two terms of our lecture, Science and Faith, find their relation.
What do we mean by a Scientific presentation of Religion? I do not mean, for my part, a religious teaching liberally peppered with Natural Science. There are preachers—and who can be sure even of himself?—who, in the course of a religious appeal, suddenly and quite unprovoked utter such words as "Morphology," "Atavism," "Metabolic," "Behaviour of matter at very low temperatures." Such cruelty is unpardonable. It is certainly useless. The most generous sprinkling of sacred subjects with natural history, the most profound knowledge of electrical theory will never make your religion a scientific religion, or your presentation of it what I have called a Scientific presentation of Religion. You might as well try to make a text-book of the French language into a morphological treatise, by having it illustrated with cuts out of the latest book on British birds. We do not, then, mean a presentation of the old thoughts and old facts of religion mixed with words, or names, or facts out of the new Science. Nor, on the other hand, do I here mean by a Scientific presentation of Religion what might rightly so be called—that is, its presentation in terms of theological science. That is in itself a great work. But what I mean by a Scientific presentation of Religion is a presentation which shall be in the same mental mode as Science, instead of being in the same mental mode as Literature.
There has too long been a notion that the real line of division is between believing minds and scientific minds. There could hardly be any greater mistake. There is, however, a real line of division between minds, a division of natural temperaments. Of course, there are men who bestride the line, and again men of mixed rather than comprehensive nature. But there is, on the whole, a real distinction between minds which are literary, or let me say without offence, academic, and minds which are scientific. But instead of the scientific mind being in any degree alienated from Religion, it is precisely with the scientific mind that the Christian is most easily in sympathy. The Christian is ordinarily a simple person who wants to know the things which will do him good, and he seeks to know them by experiment. He desires to find the forces of which he hears. He is not a person who is able to make very great researches into the sources of ancient knowledge. Nor does his principal interest lie in the form in which he should express his feelings, or convictions, or rules of conduct. He is not an archaeologist typically, nor typically a stylist. Religion is in its most generalised form precisely an effort of discovery, and Science also is a work of discovery. What we ought to do for the reconciliation of Religion and Science is to abandon the attempt to cure scientific distrust by means of academic reassurances. When you get an academic disbeliever, treat him with academic conciliation; when you have a scientific disbeliever, meet him with scientific conciliation. There is the academic estrangement and the scientific estrangement. And the reason we make so little progress is that we offer the academic invitation to the person scientifically estranged. The scientific man himself very often has the notion that what he wants is to pass into some entirely different department or mode of thought. He seeks for his cure in the regions of speculation, in which his mind does not show its principal strength, and, in consequence, he loses himself in the mazes of determinism. No doubt here and there is a mind which is equally at home on both sides; but a frequent result, when the scientific doubter turns to philosophy for consolation, is that all his scientific difficulties remain unsolved and he has a large parcel of new ones. What I plead for is that scientific troubles should be met by a scientific presentation of Religion, and academic troubles by an academic presentation of Religion. And I will lastly try to suggest, so far as one can without saying things one ought not to say, a little more of what I mean by a scientific presentation. Such a presentation has many modes. There is one which is very likely, for many men, the proper mode for our age. It has a terrible name, which will make you hold up your hands; it is called mysticism. The word is not spelt with an "i" to remember that is the great thing. I mean by this dreadful expression a religion which believes that there are channels of truth, methods of discovery, which lie beyond—not independent of them, but yet transcending—the operations of the discursive intelligence. This is the shortest way you can put it. Just as in the affairs of this life there is such a thing as having a bath as "well as knowing that water is spelt H2O in the chemistry-book, so in Religion there is such a thing as finding God as well as talking about Him. To think thus is mysticism, in one of the many meanings of that word. Here it means a belief that there are methods and possibilities of discovery which have a nature of immediateness about them. "Intuition" is another bad name used in the same connection; but we must not be frightened by bad names. Let us call our method experimental religion. Now, just as there is experimental religion, so there is experimental knowledge of the world, and no one calls that mysticism, yet it is on exactly the same line. Looking through a microscope is physical mysticism. I do not mean that in science the word is accepted in that sense. In Biology we mean by mysticism the proposal to fill the place of real physical causes by phrases or generalisations about the Divine Power. That is a wicked and mischievous thing in Science; that is mysticism in a new and very bad sense: but the word has not this meaning at all in Theology; or, rather, it would be safer to say—for the poor word has been made to mean exactly opposite conditions of thought—we shall mean by it the effort to know the very things about which Religion speaks. That is the scientific method in Religion, and to seek to present it would be a scientific presentation of Religion; to try to know the realities at which Religion aims; to try to explain how they can be found; to indicate the conditions of research. And because the conditions of research have to be indicated, therefore you see we are not quit of our academic mind. We are obliged to keep up communication with him. He comes into our scheme, we into his. Just as in Science, beside experience there has to be authority, although scientific people often think they have done with authority; just as there must be authority to guide a man where to make his next experiment, and if there were no authority there could be no beginning at all: so in Religion, there must be experimental advance, which is in turn directed by authority j and this authority is nothing else but the crystallized result of preceding experiment, of discoveries secured at an earlier stage of authority. So there is room for authority in Science and for experiment in Faith. For authority in Science. A man comes up to the Museum; he says he wants to know about what he has heard called Physiology. He says, "I don't know what it is, I don't believe there is such a thing, but show it to me, and I will come inside and find out something about it." We are many of us not very clear about the branches of Science. I remember, in my undergraduate days, in a certain winter of marvellous sunsets, a man bringing me a chunk of shell as we paused in a high field, and saying, "What's this? You know Chemistry, don't you?" Here were two difficulties. I did not know Chemistry, and Chemistry does not tell the names of fossils. But all sciences were the same for that academic mind, and probably the puzzle to him was that a man who knew anything of subjects so distressing knew also how to get upon a horse. Well, then, suppose a person came to the Museum, and said, "I believe there is 'in Science' a thing called Physiology; if there is, I am sure it is not worth knowing; and I refuse to come in until you show me there is such a thing, that you know it, that you can teach it; and until, besides, you can persuade me it is worth learning when it is learned." What are you to do in such a case? The man who comes up has to believe that there is a thing called Physiology; that it is worth knowing; that there are people who can teach it to him if he can submit to discipline. All this he takes on trust; and when he comes into the Museum he is not even taught Physiology at all at first, but is set to something else. He has to go through rudimentary classes, of the beginnings of Morphology perhaps, first. All kinds of discipline he goes through, and in time the thing dawns upon him; and if he goes through with it, he will one day be in a position not only to know for himself the things he was first taught by others, but also to go on to find out things that no one at all knows anything about at present. He is taught, but he is taught to see. Professor Moseley, whose pupil it was my happiness to be, always made us see everything for ourselves, even the things of which we were surest. We were so ready to take them on his word or out of the books, and leave some smaller things unexplored, some large and obvious things undescribed. But he insisted on things with which we were most familiar, and yet sometimes difficult to demonstrate, being demonstrated by every one of us to his satisfaction. He insisted on even large features being described and drawn. That is scientific teaching. It insists on a learner having knowledge for himself direct, but nevertheless it proceeds on the basis of authority. There is room, every one knows, for experiment in science, but there is room also for authority. Just one more example. There is an instrument called the ophthalmoscope; it shows the retina of a man's eye. You take this mirror and eye-piece and look through it, and see a bright light, and nothing more j and the man who has not been taught the trick might, possibly, look every day for a month, and see nothing more. The man who would see would be the man who knew the make of this optical instrument for himself, and had thus a kind of authority. What happens? One has to focus the eye upon a point some distance behind the patient's head. The natural instinct is to focus your eye on the patient's eye, and there is apparently nothing to be seen. But as you project your sight well beyond by a voluntary effort, there looms in view the retina. That always seems to me to be a striking figure of the experience of faith. You have to direct your eye as you are told, according to the law of discovery, without which you make no discovery at all. But the thing you see is really there. Some people think the result loses its significance and is totally invalidated, by the fact that it arrives after a course of instruction. But it does not follow that a thing is not true because you are taught it; it does not follow that a thing is not there because you are taught how to look for it. There is authority to teach you how to look; then the experiment follows and you see for yourself". The man does not see because he was taught simply that a thing is there; he sees it himself. But he would never have seen it at all if he had not been taught how to look; and what he sees is really there. And so in this matter of Religion there must be an investigation of the methods of discovery, the conditions of research; but although these are laid down by authority, yet this will not invalidate the experiment. If the things are not as stated, no following of methods, no effort of faith will make them appear. There is the place for experiment in Religion, and there is the place for authority in Science; and the cure of all our difficulties lies in this direction, in the promotion of this scientific presentation of Religion for the people who are scientifically troubled, and who ought to be our friends. The scientific workers ought indeed to be the greatest friends of us poor Christians, for we lie under exactly the same disgrace with them. May I read a few words written on this subject some years ago, which remind me, if I could need reminding, how this connection appeared in the life of a very dear friend?" Antecedently, it seemed likely that the faith of a scientific man would be simpler and stronger than that of others. We know little of the faith of those who have always believed, and in such matters the great Christian savans have often preserved a reticence which to the harassed and perplexed has seemed an ominous silence. But in Romanes the anticipation was verified. His faith showed a strength and simplicity which grew in proportion as he dealt with himself as a man of Science. He had appealed from Science to speculation, and speculation, even in showing its own insufficiency, had done a useful work. It had cleared the ground so that the scientific method of venture and verification might have room for trial and the man proceed in spiritual things in spite of outstanding speculative difficulties, just as in spite of speculative difficulties he proceeded in Natural Science. Indeed, Science and Religion labour, with regard to Metaphysics, under the same disadvantages. In both it is impossible to explain the fact of experience or to propose a criterion of reality. Both are based, metaphysically, on presumptions. Both, considered as inquiries, are examples of empirical inquiry. Both at the outset must accept guidance and for their security depend on obedience. In both each step must be taken from a fact already certified, and in both venture precedes arrival, and conviction is the end of a course of action. In both, the seekers may be content with the search itself, but in both what is personally acquired cannot satisfy, and only equips for new departures. Towards both the world is indifferent, if not hostile; in both it despises the inherent rewards and suspects undeclared gratifications—as in science, industrial advance, and in faith, social smoothness." It suspects, I meant, that Science only pushes on in order to make cotton cheaper, and that faith only cares for itself as a means of keeping men quiet. We lie with the scientific under the same disgrace in the eyes of an unbelieving world; we are brothers in adversity; and in proportion as religious people recognize the need of an experimentally real and personal knowledge of those great things of which they have been taught to speak, so, and in proportion, we may hope that Science will recognize how large a part authority has in its own method. And as we see more and more how much of faith there is in Science, so those on the other side who are at present alienated, may come to think that perhaps there is something which may really be called science in our faith.