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RELIGIOUS DIFFICULTIES IN SCIENCE H. L. STEWART CONFLICT between religion and science is notorious. That there have been a great many eonfliats between the two, in certain fonns of their presentation, is a matter of plain record. Huxley summed it up in his remark about every new science having round its cradle the remains of slaughtered rtheologians, "like the strangled snakes round the infant Hercules.)) But 1t is not of theologians, it is of religion that I write in this article. My question is whether conflict belongs to the nature of religion as such and that of science as such. The blame is certainly not all on one side in this dispute, as the secularist press so glibly pretends. Scientists, like theologians, have sometimes made monstrous claims for an inquiry which was perfectly sound and valuable despirt:e their exaggera,tion of whaJt it meant. That the historic conflicts in this matter belong to the essential nature of the two, that the religious account means necessarily denial of 1:he scientific, and vice versa, needs to be shown otherwise than by enumeraJtion of particular cases of quarrel. R·eligion has been desoribed as arising in .the effort to make experience coherent and intelligible, with due regard to rt:hart aspect of it (as genuine as any ather) which is 'Concerned with the values raJther than wilh the facts of life. This view is very different from rthat of the Rationalist Press AssociaJtion, which constantly ascribes to science a monopoly of intellectual coherence and stigmart:izes religion as punting obstacles in ~ts way. My argument here is that the secularist claim comes from confusing several matters. It comes especially from identifying all religion with some special religious form .that happens to be familiar to the critic-also from a conception at once defective and exaggerated regarding the range of science. II Suppose a Hindu, brought up arrid the sanctities and prohibi-·tions of the caste system, .taught in childhood the need to preserve sacred wells and temples from defilement by the presence of "Untouchables ," warned against the awful sin of eating cow's flesh, and apprehensive lest he be doomed in his next incarnation to become some lowly animal (perhaps reptile) because he has failed in ritual exactness. To suah a person, having no access rto religion in any other. form, ilie.se impious and cruel superstitions would be what it essentially means. Suppose such a Hindu emancipated from them by Western !;~ '· 165 166 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY science, but never introduced to religion in any form other than that of his naive childhood. Would not a Western reader contemplate with amazement an article or a book by hi1n called ''The Conflict of Religion and Science," exposing with satiric wit the scruples and fears by whkh as a child he had been haunted, the rigour with which he had kept caste rules lest he should be so ceremonially polluted as Ito incur a -degrading reincarnaJtion, and the struggle he had felrt compelled to wage for clle vegetarianism essential to his salvatio~, against rthe example of influential foreigners? Grotesque as the pioture must seem to us, many a publication in :the Western world betrays a like provincialjsm of outlook. The articles, for example, once so familiar, about /the six days of twenty~four hours each in which it was represented as vital to the Christian faith that one should believe the world to have been created, or about the intellectual necessity .to become agnostic if one ·could not believe th~t devils had really entered into the swine of Gadara and driVen them over a precipicethese articles indicate a provincialism like our Hindu's. Disregarding, then, such 1nere follies of criticism, we have to ask whether religion as we have defined it, in its essence as contrasted with some accidental or local form of expression, is in conflict with science as also carefully defined. This effort so to conceive the universe and life as ~to hannonize ideals and facts-say by Kant's famous postulate of God, Freedom, and Inunortality:--is such effort forbidden by scientific principles? The impression tthaJt: it ]s so forbidden seems rto arise from its being judged...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 165-169
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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