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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 9:40 pm 
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Just downloaded it on my Kindle.

Problems with auto-correct:
In Helaman 6:39, we see the Badmintons, so similar to Skousenite Mormons, taking over the government and abusing the rights of many.

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:10 am 
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Among the Mohammedans we have a curious example of
the same tendency toward a kindly interpretation of stars
and meteors, in the belief of certain Mohammedan teachers
that meteoric showers are caused by good angels hurling
missiles to drive evil angels out of the sky.

Eclipses were regarded in a very different light, being
supposed to express the distress of Nature at earthly calami-
ties. The Greeks believed that darkness overshadowed the
earth at the deaths of Prometheus, Atreus, Hercules, AEscu-
lapius, and Alexander the Great. The Roman legends held
that at the death of Romulus there was darkness for six
hours. In the history of the Caesars occur portents of all
three kinds ; for at the death of Julius the earth was shrouded
in darkness, the birth of Augustus was heralded by a star,
and the downfall of Nero by a comet. So, too, in one of the
Christian legends clustering about the crucifixion, darkness
overspread the earth from the sixth to the ninth hour. Nei-
ther the silence regarding it of the only evangelist who
claims to have been present, nor the fact that observers like
Seneca and Pliny, who, though they carefully described
much less striking occurrences of the same sort and in more
remote regions, failed to note any such darkness even in
Judea, have availed to shake faith in an account so true to
the highest poetic instincts of humanity.

This view of the relations between Nature and man con-
tinued among both Jews and Christians. According to Jew-
ish tradition, darkness overspread the earth for three days
when the books of the Law were profaned by translation
into Greek. Tertullian thought an eclipse an evidence of
God's wrath against unbelievers. Nor has this mode of
thinking ceased in modern times. A similar claim was made
at the execution of Charles I ; and Increase Mather thought
an eclipse in Massachusetts an evidence of the grief of Nature
at the death of President Chauncey, of Harvard College.
Archbishop Sandys expected eclipses to be the final tokens
of woe at the destruction of the world, and traces of this
feeling have come down to our own time. The quaint story
of the Connecticut statesman who, when his associates in the
General Assembly were alarmed by an eclipse of the sun,
and thought it the beginning of the Day of Judgment, quietly
ordered in candles, that he might in any case be found doing
his duty, marks probably the last noteworthy appearance of
the old belief in any civilized nation.

In these beliefs regarding meteors and eclipses there was
little calculated to do harm by arousing that superstitious
terror which is the worst breeding-bed of cruelty. Far
otherwise was it with the belief regarding comets. During
many centuries it gave rise to the direst superstition and
fanaticism. The Chaldeans alone among the ancient peoples
generally regarded comets without fear, and thought them
bodies wandering as harmless as fishes in the sea ; the
Pythagoreans alone among philosophers seem to have had
a vague idea of them as bodies returning at fixed periods of
time ; and in all antiquity, so far as is known, one man alone,
Seneca, had the scientific instinct and prophetic inspira-
tion to give this idea definite shape, and to declare that the
time would come when comets would be found to move in
accordance with natural law. Here and there a few strong
men rose above the prevailing superstition. The Emperor
Vespasian tried to laugh it down, and insisted that a certain
comet in his time could not betoken his death, because it
was hairy, and he bald ; but such scoffing produced little
permanent effect, and the prophecy of Seneca was soon for-
gotten. These and similar isolated utterances could not stand
against the mass of opinion which upheld the doctrine that
comets are " signs and wonders."

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2017 9:30 am 
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The belief that every comet is a ball of fire flung from
the right hand of an angry God to warn the grovelling
dwellers of earth was received into the early Church, trans-
mitted through the Middle Ages to the Reformation period,
and in its transmission was made all the more precious by
supposed textual proofs from Scripture. The great fathers
of the Church committed themselves unreservedly to it. In
the third century Origen, perhaps the most influential of the
earlier fathers of the universal Church in all questions be-
tween science and faith, insisted that comets indicate catas-
trophes and the downfall of empires and worlds. Bede, so
justly revered by the English Church, declared in the eighth
century that " comets portend revolutions of kingdoms, pes-
tilence, war, winds, or heat " ; and John of Damascus, his
eminent contemporary in the Eastern Church, took the same
view. Rabanus Maurus, the great teacher of Europe in
the ninth century, an authority throughout the Middle Ages,
adopted Bede's opinion fully. St. Thomas Aquinas, the great
light of the universal Church in the thirteenth century, whose
works the Pope now reigning commends as the centre and
source of all university instruction, accepted and handed
down the same opinion. The sainted Albert the Great, the
most noted genius of the mediaeval Church in natural science,
received and developed this theory. These men and those
who followed them founded upon scriptural texts and the-
ological reasonings a system that for seventeen centuries
defied every advance of thought.*

The main evils thence arising were three : the paralysis
of self-help, the arousing of fanaticism, and the strengthen-
ing of ecclesiastical and political tyranny. The first two of
these evils — the paralysis of self-help and the arousing of
fanaticism — are evident throughout all these ages. At the
appearance of a comet we constantly see all Christendom,
from pope to peasant, instead of striving to avert war by
wise statesmanship, instead of striving to avert pestilence by
observation and reason, instead of striving to avert famine
by skilful economy, whining before fetiches, trying to bribe
them to remove these signs of God's wrath, and planning to
wreak this supposed wrath of God upon misbelievers.

As to the third of these evils — the strenofthenino: of eccle-
siastical and civil despotism — examples appear on every side.
It was natural that hierarchs and monarchs whose births
were announced by stars, or whose deaths were announced
by comets, should regard themselves as far above the com-
mon herd, and should be so regarded by mankind ; passive
obedience was thus strengthened, and the most monstrous
assumptions of authority were considered simply as mani-
festations of the Divine will. Shakespeare makes Calphurnia
say to Caesar:

" When beggars die, there are no comets seen ;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes."

Galeazzo, the tyrant of Milan, expressing satisfaction on
his deathbed that his approaching end was of such impor-
tance as to be heralded by a comet, is but a type of many
thus encouraged to prey upon mankind ; and Charles V, one
of the most powerful monarchs the world has known, ab-
dicating under fear of the comet of 1556, taking refuge in
the monastery of San Yuste, and giving up the best of his
vast realms to such a scribbling bigot as Philip II, furnishes
an example even more striking.

But for the retention of this belief there was a moral
cause. Myriads of good men in the Christian Church down
to a recent period saw in the appearance of comets not
merely an exhibition of ''signs in the heavens" foretold in
Scripture, but also Divine warnings of vast value to human-
ity as incentives to repentance and improvement of life —
warnings, indeed, so precious that they could not be spared
without danger to the moral government of the world. And
this belief in the portentous character of comets as an essen-
tial part of the Divine government, being, as it was thought,
in full accord with Scripture, was made for centuries a
source of terror to humanity. To say nothing of examples
in the earlier periods, comets in the tenth century especially
increased the distress of all Europe. In the middle of the
eleventh century a comet was thought to accompany the
death of Edward the Confessor and to presage the Norman
conquest; the traveller in France to-day may see this belief
as it was then wrought into the Bayeux tapestry

Nearly every decade of years throughout the Middle
Ages saw Europe plunged into alarm by appearances of
this sort, but the culmination seems to have been reached in
1456. At that time the Turks, after a long effort, had made
good their footing in Europe. A large statesmanship or
generalship might have kept them out; but, while different
religious factions were disputing over petty shades of dogma,
they had advanced, had taken Constantinople, and were evi-
dently securing their foothold. Now came the full bloom
of this superstition. A comet appeared. The Pope of that
period, Calixtus III, though a man of more than ordinary
ability, was saturated with the ideas of his time. Alarmed
at this monster, if we are to believe the contemporary his-
torian, this infallible head of the Church solemnly decreed
several days of prayer for the averting of the wrath of God,
that whatever calamity impended might be turned from the
Christians and against the Turks." And, that all might join
daily in this petition there was then established that midday
Angelus which has ever since called good Catholics to prayer
against the powers of evil. Then, too, was incorporated
into a litany the plea, " From the Turk and the comet, good
Lord, deliver us." Never was papal intercession less effect-
I've ; for the Turk has held Constantinople from that day to
this, while the obstinate comet, being that now known un-
der the name of Halley, has returned imperturbably at short
periods ever since.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 9:00 am 
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But the superstition went still further. It became more
and more incorporated into what was considered '' scriptural
science" and "sound learning." The encyclopedic summa-
ries, in which the science of the Middle Ages and the Ref-
ormation period took form, furnish abundant proofs of this.

Yet scientific observation was slowly undermining this
structure. The inspired prophecy of Seneca had not been
forgotten. Even as far back as the ninth century, in the
midst of the sacred learning so abundant at the court of
Charlemagne and his successors, we find a scholar protest-
ing against the accepted doctrine. In the thirteenth cen-
tury we have a mild question by Albert the Great as to the
supposed influence of comets upon individuals; but the pre-
vailing theological current was too strong, and he finally
yielded to it in this as in so many other things.

So, too, in the sixteenth century, we have Copernicus
refusing to accept the usual theory, Paracelsus writing to
ZwingH against it, and Julius Cassar Scaliger denouncing it
as " ridiculous folly."

At first this scepticism only aroused the horror of theo-
logians and increased the vigour of ecclesiastics ; both as-
serted the theological theory of comets all the more strenu-
ously as based on scriptural truth. During the sixteenth
century France felt the influence of one of her greatest
men on the side of this superstition. Jean Bodin, so far
before his time in political theories, was only thoroughly
abreast of it in religious theories : the same reverence for
that establishing the Angelus (as given by Raynaldus in the Annales Eccl.)
contains no mention of the comet. But the authority of Platina (in his Vitce
Pontijicum, Venice, 1479, sub Calistus III), who was not only in Rome at the time,
but, when he wrote his history, archivist of the Vatican, is final as to the Pope's
attitude. Platina's authority was never questioned until modern science had
changed the ideas of the world. The recent attempt of Pastor (in his Geschichte
der Pdpste) to pooh-pooh down the whole matter is too evident an evasion to carry
weight with those who know how even the most careful histories have to be modi-
fied to suit the views of the censorship at Rome.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:28 am 
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computers have become amazing, why I found a YouTube image which sees back in time. We have the very words and face of a medieval know it all from a thousand years ago.

I was impressed by the purity of the opening statements. I really am unable to proceed through it all so do not know what revelations are found beyond the first few minutes.

It is too bad he didn't grasp the wisdom of his daughters comment early on.

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 8:11 am 
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In 1532, just at the transition period from the old Church
to the new, Cranmer, paving the way to his archbishopric,
writes from Germany to Henry VIII, and says of the comet
then visible : " What strange things these tokens do signify
to come hereafter, God knoweth ; for they do not lightly
app)ear but against some great matter."

Twenty years later Bishop Latimer, in an Advent ser-
mon, speaks of eclipses, rings about the sun, and the like, as
signs of the approaching end of the world.

In 1580, under Queen Elizabeth, there was set forth an
''order of prayer to avert God's wrath from us, threatened
by the late terrible earthquake, to be used in all parish
churches." In connection with this there was also com-
mended to the faithful "a godly admonition for the time
present " ; and among the things referred to as evidence of
God's wrath are comets, eclipses, and falls of snow.

This view held sway in the Church of England during
Elizabeth's whole reign and far into the Stuart period :
Strype, the ecclesiastical annalist, gives ample evidence of
this, and among the more curious examples is the surmise
that the comet of 1572 was a token of Divine wrath pro-
voked by the St. Bartholomew massacre.

As to the Stuart period, Archbishop Spottiswoode seems
to have been active in carrying the superstition from the
sixteenth century to the seventeenth, and Archbishop Bram-
hall cites Scripture in support of it. Rather curiously, while
the diary of Archbishop Laud shows so much superstition
regarding dreams as portents, it shows little or none regard-
ing comets ; but Bishop Jeremy Taylor, strong as he was,
evidently favoured the usual view. John Howe, the emi-
nent Nonconformist divine in the latter part of the century,
seems to have regarded the comet superstition as almost a
fundamental article of belief ; he laments the total neglect
of comets and portents generally, declaring that this neg-
lect betokens want of reverence for the Ruler of the world ;
he expresses contempt for scientific inquiry regarding com-
ets, insists that they may be natural bodies and yet super-
natural portents, and ends by saying, " I conceive it very
safe to suppose that some very considerable thing, either
in the way of judgment or mercy, may ensue, according as
the cry of persevering wickedness or of penitential prayer
is more or less loud at that time."

The Reformed Church of Scotland supported the super-
stition just as strongly. John Knox saw in comets tokens of
the wrath of Heaven ; other authorities considered them " a
warning to the king to extirpate the Papists"; and as late as
1680, after Halley had won his victory, comets were an-
nounced on high authority in the Scottish Church to be
''prodigies of great judgment on these lands for our sins,
for never was the Lord more provoked by a people."

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:13 am 
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While such was the view of the clergy during the six-
teenth and seventeenth centuries, the laity generally ac-
cepted it as a matter of course. Among the great leaders
in literature there was at least general acquiescence in it.
Both Shakespeare and Milton recognise it, whether they
fully accept it or not. Shakespeare makes the Duke of
Bedford, lamenting at the bier of Henry V, say :

" Comets, importing change of time and states.
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky ;
And with them scourge the bad revoking stars.
That have consented unto Henry's death."

Milton, speaking of Satan preparing for combat, says :

" On the other side.
Incensed with indignation, Satan stood
Unterrified, and like a comet burned,
That fires the length of Ophiuchus huge
In the arctic sky, and from its horrid hair
Shakes pestilence and war."

We do indeed find that in some minds the discoveries of
Tycho Brahe and Kepler begin to take effect, for, in 162 1,
Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy alludes to them as
changing public opinion somewhat regarding comets; and,
just before the middle of the century, Sir Thomas Browne
expresses a doubt whether comets produce such terrible
effects, " since it is found that many of them are above the
moon." Yet even as late as the last years of the seven-
teenth century we have English authors of much power
battling for this supposed scriptural view ; and among the
natural and typical results we find, in 1682, Ralph Thoresby,
a Fellow of the Royal Society, terrified at the comet of that
year, and writing in his diary the following passage : ' Lord,
fit us for whatever changes it may portend ; for, though I
am not ignorant that such meteors proceed from natural
causes, yet are they frequently also the presages of immi-
nent calamities." Interesting is it to note here that this was
Halley's comet, and that Halley was at this very moment
making those scientific studies upon it which were to free
the civilized world forever from such terrors as distressed

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:25 am 
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The belief in comets as warnings against sin was. espe-
cially one of those held " always, every where, and by all,"
and by Eastern Christians as well as by Western. One of the
most striking scenes in the history of the Eastern Church is
that which took place at the condemnation of Nikon, the
great Patriarch of Moscow. Turning toward his judges,
he pointed to a comet then blazing in the sky, and said,
"God's besom shall sweep you all away!"

Of all countries in western Europe, it was in Germany
and German Switzerland that this superstition took strong-
est hold. That same depth of religious feeling which pro-
duced in those countries the most terrible growth of witch-
craft persecution, brought superstition to its highest devel-
opment regarding comets. No country suffered more from
it in the Middle Ages. At the Reformation Luther declared
strongly in favour of it. In one of his Advent sermons he
said, " The heathen write that the comet may arise from
natural causes, but God creates not one that does not fore-
token a sure calamity." Again he said, " Whatever moves
in the heaven in an unusual way is certainly a sign of God's
wrath." And sometimes, yielding to another phase of his
belief, he declared them works' of the devil, and declaimed
against them as " harlot stars."

Melanchthon, too, in various letters refers to comets as
heralds of Heaven's wrath, classing them, with evil conjunc-
tions of the planets and abortive births, among the "signs "
referred to in Scripture. Zwingli, boldest of the greater
Reformers in shaking off traditional beliefs, could not shake
off this, and insisted that the comet of 1531 betokened calam.
ity. Arietus, a leading Protestant theologian, declared, '' The
heavens are given us not merely for our pleasure, but also
as a warning of the wrath of God for the correction of our
lives." Lavater insisted that comets are signs of death or
calamity, and cited proofs from Scripture.

Catholic and Protestant strove together for the glory of
this doctrine. It was maintained with especial vigour by
Fromundus, the eminent professor and Doctor of Theology
at the Catholic University of Louvain, who so strongly op-
posed the Copernican system ; at the beginning of the
seventeenth century, even so gifted an astronomer as Kepler
yielded somewhat to the belief; and near the end of that
century Voigt declared that the comet of 161 8 clearly pre-
saged the downfall of the Turkish Empire, and he stigma-
tized as '* atheists and Epicureans" all w^ho did not believe
comets to be God's warnings.*

Out of this belief was developed a great series of efforts
to maintain the theological view of comets, and to put down
forever the scientific view. These efforts may be divided
into two classes: those directed toward learned men and
scholars, through the universities, and those directed to-
ward the people at large, through the pulpits. As to the
first of these, that learned men and scholars might be kept
in the paths of " sacred science" and ''sound learning," es-
pecial pains was taken to keep all knowledge of the scien-
tific view of comets as far as possible from students in the
universities. Even to the end of the seventeenth century
the oath generally required of professors of astronomy over
a large part of Europe prevented their teaching that comets
are heavenly bodies obedient to law. Efforts just as earnest
were made to fasten into students' minds the theological
theory. Two or three examples out of many may serve as
types. First of these may be named the teaching of Jacob
Heerbrand, professor at the University of Tubingen, who in
1577 illustrated the moral value of comets by comparing the
Almighty sending a comet, to the judge laying the execu-
tioner's sword on the table between himself and the criminal
in a court of justice ; and, again, to the father or schoolmaster
displaying the rod before naughty children. A little later
we have another churchman of great importance in that
region, Schickhart, head pastor and superintendent at Gop-
pingen, preaching and publishing a comet sermon, in which
he denounces those who stare at such warnings of God with-
out heeding them, and compares them to " calves gaping at
a new barn door." Still later, at the end of the seventeenth
century, we find Conrad Dieterich, director of studies at the
University of Marburg, denouncing all scientific investiga-
tion of comets as impious, and insisting that they are only
to be regarded as "signs and wonders."

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:15 pm 
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The results of this ecclesiastical pressure upon science
in the universities were painfully shown during generation
after generation, as regards both professors and students ;
and examples may be given typical of its effects upon each
of these two classes.

The first of these is the case of Michael Maestlin. He
was by birth a Swabian Protestant, was educated at Tu-
bingen as a pupil of Apian, and, after a period of travel, was
settled as deacon in the little parish of Backnang, when the
comet of 1577 gave him an occasion to apply his astronom-
ical studies. His minute and accurate observation of it is to
this day one of the wonders of science. . It seems almost im-
possible that so much could be accomplished by the naked
eye. His observations agreed with those of Tycho Brahe,
and won for Maestlin the professorship of astronomy in the
University of Heidelberg. No man had so clearly proved
the supralunar position of a comet, or shown so conclusively
that its motion was not erratic, but regular. The young as-
tronomer, though Apian's pupil, was an avowed Copernican
and the destined master and friend of Kepler. Yet, in the
treatise embodying his observations, he felt it necessary to
save his reputation for orthodoxy by calling the comet a
*' new and horrible prodigy," and by giving a chapter of
'' conjectures on the signification of the present comet," in
which he proves from history that this variety of comet be-
tokens peace, but peace purchased by a bloody victory.
That he really believed in this theological theory seems im-
possible ; the very fact that his observations had settled
the supralunar character and regular motion of comets
proves this. It was a humiliation only to be compared to
that of Osiander when he wrote his grovelling preface to the
great book of Copernicus. Maestlin had his reward : when,
a few years later, his old teacher. Apian, was driven from his
chair at Tubingen for refusing to sign the Lutheran Concord-
Book, Maestlin was elected to his place.

Not less striking was the effect of this theological pres-
sure upon the minds of students. Noteworthy as an ex-
ample of this is the book of the Leipsic lawyer, Buttner.
From no less than eighty-six biblical texts he proves the Al-
mighty's purpose of using the heavenly bodies for the in-
struction of men as to future events, and then proceeds to
frame exhaustive tables, from which, the time and place of
the comet's first appearance being known, its signification
can be deduced. This manual he gave forth as a triumph
of religious science, under the name of the Comet Hour-Bookr

The same devotion to the portent theory is found in the
universities of Protestant Holland. Striking is it to see in
the sixteenth century, after Tycho Brahe's discovery, the
Dutch theologian, Gerard Vossius, Professor of Theology and
Eloquence at Leyden, lending his great weight to the super-
stition. '' The history of all times," he says, " shows comets
to be the messengers of misfortune. It does not follow that
they are endowed with intelligence, but that there is a
deity who makes use of them to call the human race to
repentance." Though familiar with the works of Tycho
Brahe, he finds it 'hard to believe " that all comets are
ethereal, and adduces several historical examples of sublu-
nary ones.

Nor was this attempt to hold back university teaching to
the old view of comets confined to Protestants. The Roman
Church was, if possible, more strenuous in the same effort.
A few examples will serve as types, representing the ortho-
dox teaching at the great centres of Catholic theology.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 9:38 am 
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One of these is seen in Spain. The eminent jurist Torre-
blanca was recognised as a controlling authority in all the
universities of Spain, and from these he swayed in the sev-
enteenth century the thought of Catholic Europe, especially
as to witchcraft and the occult powers in Nature. He lays
down the old cometary superstition as one of the founda-
tions of orthodox teaching. Begging the question, after the
fashion of his time, he argues that comets can not be stars,
because new stars always betoken good, while comets be-
token evil.

The same teaching was given in the Catholic universities
of the Netherlands. Fromundus, at Louvain, the enemy of
Galileo, steadily continued his crusade against all cometary

But a still more striking case is seen in Italy. The rev-
erend Father Augustin de Angelis, rector of the Clementine
College at Rome, as late as 1673, after the new cometary
theory had been placed beyond reasonable doubt, and even
while Newton was working out its final demonstration, pub-
lished a third edition of his Lectures on Meteorology. It was
dedicated to the Cardinal of Hesse, and bore the express
sanction of the Master of the Sacred Palace at Rome and of
the head of the religious order to which De Angelis be-
longed. This work deserves careful analysis, not only as
representing the highest and most approved university
teaching of the time at the centre of Roman Catholic Chris-
tendom, but still more because it represents that attempt to
make a compromise between theology and science, or rather
the attempt to confiscate science to the uses of theology,
which we so constantly find whenever the triumph of sci-
ence in any field has become inevitable.

As to the scientific element in this compromise, De Ange-
lis holds, in his general introduction regarding meteorology,
that the main material cause of comets is " exhalation," and
says, *' If this exhalation is thick and sticky, it blazes into a
comet." And again he returns to the same view, saying
that ''one form of exhalation is dense, hence easily inflam-
mable and long retentive of fire, from which sort are espe-
cially generated comets." But it is in his third lecture that
he takes up comets specially, and his discussion of them is
extended through the fourth, fifth, and sixth lectures. Hav-
ing given in detail the opinions of various theologians and
philosophers, he declares his own in the form of two conclu-
sions. The first of these is that '* comets are not heavenly
bodies, but originate in the earth's atmosphere below the
moon ; for everything heavenly is eternal and incorruptible,
but comets have a beginning and ending — ergo, comets can
not be heavenly bodies." This, we may observe, is levelled
at the observations and reasonings of Tycho Brahe and Kep-
ler, and is a very good illustration of the scholastic and me-
diaeval method — the method which blots out an ascertained
fact by means of a metaphysical formula. His second con-
clusion is that " comets are of elemental and sublunary na-
ture ; for they are an exhalation- hot and dry, fatty and well
condensed, inflammable and kindled in the uppermost regions
of the air." He then goes on to answer sundry objections
to this mixture of metaphysics and science, and among other
things declares that " the fatty, sticky material of a comet
may be kindled from sparks falling from fiery heavenly
bodies or from a thunderbolt"; and, again, that the thick,
fatty, sticky quality of the comet holds its tail in shape, and
that, so far are comets from having their paths beyond the
moon's orbit, as Tycho Brahe and Kepler thought, he him-
self in 1618 saw '' a bearded comet so near the summit of
Vesuvius that it almost seemed to touch it." As to sorts
and qualities of comets, he accepts Aristotle's view, and
divides them into bearded and tailed.* He goes on into
long disquisitions upon their colours, forms, and motions.
Under this latter head he again plunges deep into a sea of
metaphysical considerations, and does not reappear until he
brings up his compromise in the opinion that their move-
ment is as yet uncertain and not understood, but that, if we
must account definitely for it, we must say that it is effect-
ed by angels especially assigned to this service by Divine
Providence. But, while proposing this compromise be-
tween science and theology as to the origin and movement
of comets, he will hear to none as regards their mission as
" signs and wonders " and presages of evil. He draws up a
careful table of these evils, arranging them in the following
order: Drought, wind, earthquake, tempest, famine, pesti-
lence, war, and, to clinch the matter, declares that the comet
observed by him in 1618 brought not only war, famine, pes-
tilence, and earthquake, but also a general volcanic eruption,
'' which would have destroyed Naples, had not the blood of
the invincible martyr Januarius withstood it."

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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It will be observed, even from this sketch, that, while the
learned Father Augustin thus comes infallibly to the mediae-
val conclusion, he does so very largely by scientific and es-
sentially modern processes, giving unwonted prominence to
observation, and at times twisting scientific observation into
the strand with his metaphysics. The observations and
methods of his science are sometimes shrewd, sometimes
comical. Good examples of the latter sort are such as his
observing that the comet stood very near the summit of
Vesuvius, and his reasoning that its tail was kept in place by
its stickiness. But observations and reasonings of this sort
are always the first homage paid by theology to science as
the end of their struggle approaches.

Equally striking is an example seen a little later in an-
other part of Europe ; and it is the more noteworthy because
Halley and Newton had already fully established the mod-
ern scientific theory. Just at the close of the seventeenth
century the Jesuit Reinzer, professor at Linz, put forth his
Meteorologia PhilosopJiico-Politica, in which all natural phe-
nomena received both a physical and a moral interpretation.

It was profusely and elaborately illustrated, and on account
of its instructive contents was in 1712 translated into Ger-
man for the unlearned reader. The comet receives, of course,
great attention. " It appears," says Reinzer, " only then in
the heavens when the latter punish the earth, and through
it [the comet] not only predict but bring to pass all sorts of
calamity. . . . And, to that end, its tail serves for a rod, its
hair for weapons and arrows, its light for a threat, and its
heat for a sign of anger and vengeance." Its warnings are
threefold: (i) "Comets, generated in the air, betoken natu-
rally drought, wind, earthquake, famine, and pestilence."
(2) " Comets can indirectly, in view of their material, be-
token wars, tumults, and the death of princes ; for, being hot
and dry, they bring the moistnesses in the
human body to an extraordinary heat and dryness, increasing
the gall; and, since the emotions depend on the tempera-
ment and condition of the body, men are through this change
driven to violent deeds, quarrels, disputes, and finally to
arms : especially is this the result with princes, who are
more delicate and also more arrogant than other men, and
whose moistnesses are more liable to inflammation of this
sort, inasmuch as they live in luxury and seldom restrain
themselves from those things which in such a dry state of
the heavens are especially injurious." (3) *' All comets, what-
ever prophetic significance they may have naturally in and
of themselves, are yet principally, according to the Divine
pleasure, heralds of the death of great princes, of war, and
of other such great calamities ; and this is known and proved,
first of all, from the words of Christ himself: ' Nation shall
rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ; and
great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and
pestilences ; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be
from heaven.'

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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While such pains was taken to keep the more highly
educated classes in the paths of scriptural science and
sound learning" at the universities, equal efforts were made
to preserve the cometary orthodoxy of the people at large
by means of the pulpits. Out of the mass of sermons for
this purpose which were widely circulated I will select just
two as typical, and they are worthy of careful study as show-
ing some special dangers of applying theological methods to
scientific facts. In the second half of the sixteenth century
the recognised capital of orthodox Lutheranism was Magde-
burg, and in the region tributary to this metropolis no
Church official held a more prominent station than the " Su-
perintendent," or Lutheran bishop, of the neighbouring Alt-
mark. It was this dignitary, Andreas Celichius by name,
who at Magdeburg, in 1578, gave to the press his Theological
Reminder of the Nezv Comet. After deprecating as blasphe-
mous the attempt of Aristotle to explain the phenomenon
otherwise than as a supernatural warning from God to sinful
man, he assures his hearers that " whoever would know the
comet's real source and nature must not merely gape and
stare at the scientific theory that it is an earthy, greasy,
tough, and sticky vapour and mist, rising into the upper air
and set ablaze by the celestial heat." Far more important
for them is it to know what this vapour is. It is really, in
the opinion of Celichius, nothing more or less than *' the
thick smoke of human sins, rising, every day, every hour,
every moment, full of stench and horror, before the face of
God, and becoming gradually so thick as to form a comet,
with curled and plaited tresses, which at last is kindled by
the hot and fiery anger of the Supreme Heavenly Judge."
He adds that it is probably only through the prayers and
tears of Christ that this blazing monument of human deprav-
ity becomes visible to mortals. In support of this theory,
he urges the " coming up before God " of the wickedness of
Sodom and Gomorrah and of Nineveh, and especially the
words of the prophet regarding Babylon, '' Her stench and
rottenness is come up before me." That the anger of God
can produce the conflagration without any intervention of
Nature is proved from the Psalms, '' He sendeth out his
word and melteth them." From the position of the comet,
its course, and the direction of its tail he augurs especially
the near approach of the judgment day, though it may also
betoken, as usual, famine, pestilence, and war. '' Yet even
in these days," he mourns, '' there are people reckless and
giddy enough to pay no heed to such celestial warnings, and
these even cite in their own defence the injunction of Jere-
miah not to fear signs in the heavens." This idea he ex-
plodes, and shows that good and orthodox Christians, while
not superstitious like the heathen, know well " that God is
not bound to his creation and the ordinary course of Nature,
but must often, especially in these last dregs of the world,
resort to irregular means to display his anger at human

The other typical case occurred in the following century
and in another part of Germany. Conrad Dieterich was,
during the first half of the seventeenth century, a Lutheran
ecclesiastic of the highest authority. His ability as a theo-
logian had made him Archdeacon of Marburg, Professor of
Philosophy and Director of Studies at the University of
Giessen, and " Superintendent," or Lutheran bishop, in south-
western Germany. In the year 1620, on the second Sunday
in Advent, in the great Cathedral of Ulm, he developed the
orthodox doctrine of comets in a sermon, taking up the ques-
tions : I. What are comets? 2. What do they indicate ? 3.
What have we to do with their significance? This sermon
marks an epoch. Delivered in that stronghold of German
Protestantism and by a prelate of the highest standing, it
was immediately printed, prefaced by three laudatory poems
from different men of note, and sent forth to drive back the
scientific, or, as it was called, the "godless," view of comets.
The preface shows that Dieterich was sincerely alarmed by
the tendency to regard comets as natural appearances. His
text was taken from the twenty-fifth verse of the twenty-first
chapter of St. Luke : *' And there shall be signs in the sun,
and in the moon, and in the stars ; and upon the earth dis-
tress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves
roaring." As to what comets are, he cites a multitude of
philosophers, and, finding that they differ among themselves,
he uses a form of argument not uncommon from that day to
this, declaring that this difference of opinion proves that
there is no solution of the problem save in revelation, and
insisting that comets are " signs especially sent by the Al-
mighty to warn the earth." An additional proof of this he
finds in the forms of comets. One, he says, took the form of
a trumpet; another, of a spear; another, of a goat; another,
of a torch ; another, of a sword ; another, of an arrow ; an-
other, of a sabre ; still another, of a bare arm. From these
forms of comets he infers that we may divine their purpose.

As to their creation, he quotes John of Damascus and other
early Church authorities in behalf of the idea that each
comet is a star newly created at the Divine command, out of
nothing, and that it indicates the wrath of God. As to their
purpose, having quoted largely from the Bible and from
Luther, he winds up by insisting that, as God can make
nothing in vain, comets must have some distinct object ; then,
from Isaiah and Joel among the prophets, from Matthew,
Mark, and Luke among the evangelists, from Origen and
John Chrysostom among the fathers, from Luther and Me-
lanchthon among the Reformers, he draws various texts more
or less conclusive to prove that comets indicate evil and
only evil ; and he cites Luther's Advent sermon to the effect
that, though comets may arise in the course of Nature, they
are still signs of evil to mankind. In answer to the theory
of sundry naturalists that comets are made up of "a certain
fiery, warm, sulphurous, saltpetery, sticky fog," he declaims :
"Our sins, our sins: they are the fiery heated vapours, the
thick, sticky, sulphurous clouds which rise from the earth
toward heaven before God." Throughout the sermon Die-
terich pours contempt over all men who simpl}^ investigate
comets as natural objects, calls special attention to a comet
then in the heavens resembling a long broom or bundle of
rods, and declares that he and his hearers can only con-
sider it rightly " when we see standing before us our Lord
God in heaven as an angry father with a rod for his chil-
dren." In answer to the question what comets signify,
he commits himself entirely to the idea that they indicate
the wrath of God, and therefore calamities of every sort.

Page after page is filled with the records of evils following
comets. Beginning with the creation of the world, he in-
sists that the first comet brought on the deluge of Noah, and
cites a mass of authorities, ranging from Moses and Isaiah
to Albert the Great and Melanchthon, in support of the
view that comets precede earthquakes, famines, wars, pesti-
lences, and every form of evil. He makes some parade of
astronomical knowledge as to the greatness of the sun and
moon, but relapses soon into his old line of argument. Im-
ploring his audience not to be led away from the well-estab-
lished belief of Christendom and the principles of their
fathers, he comes back to his old assertion, insists that "our
sins are the inflammable material of which comets are made,"
and winds up with a most earnest appeal to the Almighty to
spare his people.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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Similar efforts from the pulpit were provoked by the
great comet of 1680. Typical among these was the effort
in Switzerland of Pastor Heinrich Erni, who, from the Cathe-
dral of Zurich, sent a circular letter to the clergy of that
region showing the connection of the eleventh and twelfth
verses of the first chapter of Jeremiah with the comet,
giving notice that at his suggestion the authorities had pro-
claimed a solemn fast, and exhorting the clergy to preach
earnestly on the subject of this warning.

Nor were the interpreters of the comet's message con-
tent with simple prose. At the appearance of the comet of
1618, Grasser and Gross, pastors and doctors of theology at
Basle, put forth a collection of doggerel rhymes to fasten
the orthodox theory into the minds of school-children and
peasants. One of these may be translated :

"I am a Rod in God's right hand
Threatening the German and foreign land."

Others for a similar purpose taught :

"Eight things there be a Comet brings,
When it on high doth horrid range :
Wind, Famine, Plague, and Death to Kings,

War, Earthquakes, Floods, and Direful Change."

Great ingenuity was shown in meeting the advance of
science, in the universities and schools, with new texts of
Scripture ; and Stephen Spleiss, Rector of the Gymnasium
at Schaffhausen, got great credit by teaching that in the
vision of Jeremiah the *' almond rod " was a tailed comet,
and the ' seething pot " a bearded one.

It can be easily understood that such authoritative utter-
ances as that of Dieterich must have produced a great effect
throughout Protestant Christendom ; and in due time we
see their working in New England. That same tendency to
provincialism, which, save at rare intervals, has been the
bane of Massachusetts thought from that day to this, ap-
peared; and in 1664 we find Samuel Danforth arguing from
the Bible that " comets are portentous signals of great and
notable changes," and arguing from history that they " have
been many times heralds of wrath to a secure and impenitent
world." He cites especially the comet of 1652, which ap-
peared just before Mr. Cotton's sickness and disappeared
after his death. Morton also, in his Memorial recording the
death of John Putnam, alludes to the comet of 1662 as "a
very signal testimony that God had then removed a bright
star and a shining light out of the heaven of his Church here
into celestial glory above." Again he speaks of another
comet, insisting that " it was no fiery meteor caused by ex-
halation, but it was sent immediately by God to awaken the
secure world," and goes on to show how in that year " it
pleased God to smite the fruits of the earth — namely, the
wheat in special — with blasting and mildew, whereby much
of it was spoiled and became profitable for nothing, and
much of it worth little, being light and empty. This was
looked upon by the judicious and conscientious of the land
as a speaking providence against the unthankfulness of many,
... as also against voluptuousness and abuse of the good
creatures of God by licentiousness in drinking and fashions
in apparel, for the obtaining whereof a great part of the
principal grain was oftentimes unnecessarily expended."

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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But in 1680 a stronger than either of these seized upon
the doctrine and wielded it with power. Increase Mather,
so open always to ideas from Europe, and always so power-
ful for good or evil in the colonies, preached his sermon on
" Heaven's i\larm to the World, . . . wherein is shown that
fearful sights and signs in the heavens are the presages of
o-reat calamities at hand." The texts were taken from the
book of Revelation: "And the third angel sounded, and
there fell a great star from heaven, burning, as it were a
lamp," and " Behold, the third woe cometh quickly." In
this, as in various other sermons, he supports the theolog-
ical cometary theory fully. He insists that " we are fallen
into the dregs of time," and that the day of judgment is evi-
dently approaching. He explains away the words of Jere-
miah — " Be not dismayed at signs in the heavens " — and
shows that comets have been forerunners of nearly every
form of evil. Having done full justice to evils thus presaged
in scriptural times, he begins a similar display in modern
history by citing blazing stars which foretold the invasions
of Goths, Huns, Saracens, and Turks, and warns gainsayers
by citing the example of Vespasian, who, after ridiculing a
comet, soon died. The general shape and appearance of
comets, he thinks, betoken their purpose, and he cites Ter-
tullian to prove them " God's sharp razors on mankind,
whereby he doth poll, and his scythe whereby he doth shear
down multitudes of sinful creatures." At last, rising to a
fearful height, he declares : " For the Lord hath fired his
beacon in the heavens among the stars of God there ; the
fearful sight is not yet out of sight. The warning piece of
heaven is going off. Now, then, if the Lord discharge his
murdering pieces from on high, and men be found in their
sins unfit for death, their blood shall be upon them." And
again, in an agony of supplication, he cries out : " Do we see
the sword blazing over us? Let it put us upon crying to
God, that the judgment be diverted and not return upon us
again so speedily. . . . Doth God threaten our very heavens?
I pray unto him, that he would not take away stars and
send comets to succeed them."

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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Two years later, in August, 1682, he followed this with
another sermon on " The Latter Sign," " wherein is showed
that the voice of God in signal providences, especially when
repeated and iterated, ought to be hearkened unto." Here,
too, of course, the comet comes in for a large share of atten-
tion. But his tone is less sure : even in the midst of all his
arguments appears an evident misgiving. The thoughts of
Newton in science and Bayle in philosophy were evidently
tending to accomplish the prophecy of Seneca. Mather's
alarm at this is clear. His natural tendency is to uphold the
idea that a comet is simply a fire-ball flung from the hand of
an avenging God at a guilty world, but he evidently feels
obliged to yield something to the scientific spirit ; hence,
in the Discourse concerning Comets, published in 1683, he de-
clares : '' There are those who think that, inasmuch as com-
ets may be supposed to proceed from natural causes, there
is no speaking voice of Heaven in them beyond what is to
be said of all other works of God. But certain it is that
many things which may happen according to the course of
Nature are portentous signs of Divine anger and prognostics
of great evils hastening upon the world." He then notices
the eclipse of August, 1672, and adds : " That year the col-
lege was eclipsed by the death of the learned president
there, worthy Mr. Chauncey ; and two colonies — namely,
Massachusetts and Plymouth — by the death of two gov-
ernors, who died within a twelvemonth after. . . . Shall,
then, such mighty works of God as comets are be insignifi-
can't things?"

Vigorous as Mather's argument is, we see scepticism re-
garding *' signs " continuing to invade the public mind ; and,
in spite of his threatenings, about twenty years after we find
a remarkable evidence of this progress in the fact that this
scepticism has seized upon no less a personage than that
colossus of orthodoxy, his thrice illustrious son, Cotton
Mather himself.

Curiously enough, for this scientific scepticism in Cotton
Mather there was a cause identical with that which had
developed superstition in the mind of his father. The same
provincial tendency to receive implicitly any new Euro-
pean fashion in thinking or speech wrought upon both,
plunging one into superstition and drawing the other out
of it.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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European thought, which New England followed, had at
last broken away in great measure from the theological view
of comets as signs and wonders. The germ of this emanci-
pating influence was mainly in the great utterance of Seneca ;
and we find in nearly every century some evidence that this
germ was still alive. This life became more and more evi-
dent after the Reformation period, even though theologians
in every Church did their best to destroy it. The first series
of attacks on the old theological doctrine were mainly
founded in philosophic reasoning. As early as the first
half of the sixteenth century we hear Julius Caesar Scaliger
protesting against the cometary superstition as '' ridiculous
folly." Of more real importance was the treatise of Blaise
de Vigenere, published at Paris in 1578. In this little book
various statements regarding comets as signs of wrath or
causes of evils are given, and then followed by a very gentle
and quiet discussion, usually tending to develop that health-
ful scepticism which is the parent of investigation. A fair
example of his mode of treating the subject is seen in his
dealing with a bit of *' sacred science." This was simply
that " comets menace princes and kings with death because
they live more delicately than other people ; and, therefore,
the air thickened and corrupted by a comet would be natu-
rally more injurious to them than to common folk who live
on coarser food." To this De Vigenere answers that there
are very many persons who live on food as delicate as that
enjoyed by princes and kings, and yet receive no harm from
comets. He then goes on to show that many of the greatest
monarchs in history have met death without any comet to
herald it.

In the same year thoughtful scepticism of a similar sort
found an advocate in another part of Europe. Thomas
Erastus, the learned and devout professor of medicine at
Heidelberg, put forth a letter dealing in the plainest terms
with the superstition. He argued especially that there could
be no natural connection between the comet and pestilence,
since the burning of an exhalation must tend to purify rather
than to infect the air. In the following year the eloquent
Hungarian divine Dudith published a letter in which the
theological theory was handled even more shrewdly ; for he
argued that, if comets were caused by the sins of mortals,
they would never be absent from the sky. But these utter-
ances were for the time brushed aside by the theological
leaders of thought as shallow or impious.

In the seventeenth century able arguments against the
superstition, on general grounds, began to be multiplied. In
Holland, Balthasar Bekker opposed this, as he opposed the
witchcraft delusion, on general philosophic grounds ; and
Lubienitzky wrote in a compromising spirit to prove that
comets were aS often followed by good as by evil events.
In France, Pierre Petit, formerly geographer of Louis XIII,
and an intimate friend of Descartes, addressed to the young
Louis XIV a vehement protest against the superstition,
basing his arguments not on astronomy, but on common
sense. A very effective part of the little treatise was
devoted to answering the authority of the fathers of the
early Church. To do this, he simply reminded his readers
that St. Augustine and St. John Damascenus had also op-
posed the doctrine of the antipodes. The book did good
service in France, and was translated in Germany a few
years later.

All these were denounced as infidels and heretics, yet
none the less did they set men at thinking, and prepare the
way for a far greater genius ; for toward the end of the
same century the philosophic attack was taken up by. Pierre
Bayle, and in the whole series of philosophic champions he
is chief. While professor at the University of Sedan he had
observed the alarm caused by the comet of 1680, and he now
brought all his reasoning powers to bear upon it. Thoughts
deep and witty he poured out in volume after volume.
Catholics and Protestants were alike scandalized. Catholic
France spurned him, and Jurieu, the great Reformed divine,
called his cometary views '' atheism," and tried hard to have
Protestant Holland condemn him. Though Bayle did not
touch immediately the mass of mankind, he wrought with
power upon men who gave themselves the trouble of think-
ing. It was indeed unfortunate for the Church that theolo-
gians, instead of taking the initiative in this matter, left it
to Bayle ; for, in tearing down the pretended scriptural doc-
trine of comets, he tore down much else : of all men in his
time, no one so thoroughly prepared the way for Voltaire.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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Bayle's whole argument is rooted in the prophecy of
Seneca. He declares: ''Comets are bodies subject to the
ordinary law of Nature, and not prodigies amenable to no
law." He shows historically that there is no reason to re-
gard comets as portents of earthly evils. As to the fact that
such evils occur after the passage of comets across the sky,
he compares the person believing that comets cause these
evils to a woman looking out of a window into a Paris street
and believing that the carriages pass because she looks out.
As to the accomplishment of some predictions, he cites the
shrewd saying of Henry IV, to the effect that ' the public
will remember one prediction that comes true better than
all the rest that have proved false." Finally, he sums up by
saying : The more we study man, the more does it appear
that pride is his ruling passion, and that he affects grandeur
even in his misery. Mean and perishable creature that he
is, he has been able to persuade men that he can not die with-
out disturbing the whole course of Nature and obliging the
heavens to put themselves to fresh expense in order to light
his funeral pomp. Foolish and ridiculous vanity ! If we
had a just idea of the universe, we should soon comprehend
that the death or birth of a prince is too insignificant a mat-
ter to stir the heavens."

This great philosophic champion of right reason was fol-
lowed by a literary champion hardly less famous ; for Fonte-
nelle now gave to the French theatre his play of The Comet,
and a point of capital importance in France was made by
rendering the army of ignorance ridiculous.

Such was the line of philosophic and literary attack, as
developed from Scaliger to Fontenelle. But beneath and
in the midst of all of it, from first to last, giving firmness,
strength, and new sources of vitality to it, was the steady
development of scientific effort ; and to the series of great
men who patiently wrought and thought out the truth by
scientific methods through all these centuries belong the
honours of the victory.

For generations men in various parts of the world had
been making careful observations on these strange bodies.
As far back as the time when Luther and Melanchthon and
Zwingli were plunged into alarm by various comets from
1531 to 1539, Peter Apian kept his head sufficiently cool to
make scientific notes of their paths through the heavens.
A little later, when the great comet of 1556 scared popes,
emperors, and reformers alike, such men as Fabricius at Vi-
enna and Heller at Nuremberg quietly observed its path.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:00 am 
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In vain did men like Dieterich and Heerbrand and Celich
from various parts of Germany denounce such observations
and investigations as impious ; they were steadily continued,
and in 1577 came the first which led to the distinct founda-
tion of the modern doctrine. In that year appeared a comet
which again plunged Europe into alarm. In every European
country this alarm was strong, but in Germany strongest of
all. The churches were filled with terror-stricken multi-
tudes. Celich preaching at Magdeburg was echoed by
Heerbrand preaching at Tubingen, and both these from
thousands of other pulpits. Catholic and Protestant, through-
out Europe. In the midst of all this din and outcry a few
men quietly but steadily observed the monster; and Tycho
Brahe announced, as the result, that its path lay farther from
the earth than the orbit of the moon. Another great astro-
nomical genius, Kepler, confirmed this. This distinct be-
ginning of the new doctrine was bitterly opposed by theo-
logians ; they denounced it as one of the evil results of that
scientific meddling with the designs of Providence against
which they had so long declaimed in pulpits and professors'
chairs ; they even brought forward some astronomers am-
bitious or wrong-headed enough to testify that Tycho and
Kepler were in error.

Nothing could be more natural than such opposition ;
for this simple announcement by Tycho Brahe began a new
era. It shook the very foundation of cometary superstition.
The Aristotelian view, developed by the theologians, was
that what lies within the moon's orbit appertains to the earth
and is essentially transitory and evil, while what lies beyond
it belongs to the heavens and is permanent, regular, and
pure. Tycho Brahe and Kepler, therefore, having by means
of scientific observation and thought taken comets out of the
category of meteors and appearances in the neighbourhood
of the earth, and placed them among the heavenly bodies,
dealt a blow at the very foundations of the theological argu-
ment, and gave a great impulse to the idea that comets are
themselves heavenly bodies moving regularly and in obedi-
ence to law.


Attempts were now made to compromise. It was de-
clared that, while some comets were doubtless supralunar,
some must be sublunar. But this admission was no less
fatal on another account. During many centuries the theory
favoured by the Church had been, as we have seen, that the
earth was surrounded by hollow spheres, concentric and
transparent, forming a number of glassy strata incasing one
another " like the different coatings of an onion," and that
each of these in its movement about the earth carries one or
more of the heavenly bodies. Some maintained that these
spheres were crystal ; but Lactantius, and with him various
fathers of the Church, spoke of the heavenly vault as made
of ice. Now, the admission that comets could move be-
yond the moon was fatal to this theory, for it sent them
crashing through these spheres of ice or crystal, and there-
fore through the whole sacred fabric of the Ptolemaic

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:42 pm 
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Here we may pause for a moment to note one of the
chief differences between scientific and theological reasoning
considered in themselves. Kepler's main reasoning as to
the existence of a law for cometary movement was right ;
but his secondary reasoning, that comets move nearly in
straight lines, was wrong. His right reasoning was devel-
oped by Gassendi in France, by Borelli in Italy, by Hevel
and Doerfel in Germany, by Eysat and Bernouilli in Switz-
erland, by Percy and — most important of all, as regards
mathematical demonstration — by Newton in England. The
general theory, which was true, they accepted and devel-
oped ; the secondary theory, which was found untrue, they
rejected ; and, as a result, both of what they thus accepted
and of what they rejected, was evolved the basis of the
whole modern cometary theory. '

Very different was this from the theological method. As
a rule, when there arises a thinker as great in theology as
Kepler in science, the whole mass of his conclusions ripens
into a dogma. His disciples labour not to test it, but to es-
tablish it ; and while, in the Catholic Church, it becomes a
dogma to be believed or disbelieved under the penalty of
damnation, it becomes in the Protestant Church the basis
for one more sect.

Various astronomers laboured to develop the truth dis-
covered by Tycho and strengthened by Kepler. Cassini
seemed likely to win for Italy the glory of completing the
great structure ; but he was sadly fettered by Church influ-
ences, and was obliged to leave most of the work to others.
Early among these was Hevel. He gave reasons for be-
lieving that comets move in parabolic curves toward the
sun. Then came a man who developed this truth further —
Samuel Doerfel ; and it is a pleasure to note that he was a
clergyman. The comet of 1680, which set Erni in Switzer-
land, Mather in New England, and so many others in all
parts of the world at declaiming, set Doerfel at thinking.
Undismayed by the authority of Origen and St. John Chrys-
ostom, the arguments of Luther, Melanchthon, and Zwingli,
the outcries of Celich, Heerbrand, and Dieterich, he pon-
dered over the problem in his little Saxon parsonage, until
in 1681 he set forth his proofs that comets are heavenly
bodies moving in parabolas of which the sun is the focus.
Bernouilli arrived at the same conclusion ; and, finally, this
great series of men and works was closed by the greatest of
all, when Newton, in 1686, having taken the data furnished
by the comet of 1680, demonstrated that comets are guided
in their movements by the same principle that controls the
planets in their orbits. Thus was completed the evolution
of this new truth in science.

Yet we are not to suppose that these two great series of
philosophical and scientific victories cleared the field of all
opponents. Declamation and pretended demonstration of
the old theologic view were still heard ; but the day of com-
plete victory dawned when Halley, after most thorough ob-
servation and calculation, recognised the comet of 1682 as
one which had already appeared at stated periods, and fore-
told its return in about seventy-five years ; and the battle
was fully won when Clairaut, seconded by Lalande and Mme.
Lepaute, predicted distinctly the time when the comet would
arrive at its perihelion, and this prediction was verified *
Then it was that a Roman heathen philosopher was proved
more infallible and more directly under Divine inspiration
than a Roman Christian pontiff; for the very comet which
the traveller finds to-day depicted on the Bayeux tapestry
as portending destruction to Harold and the Saxons at the
Norman invasion of England, and which was regarded by
Pope Calixtus as portending evil to Christendom, was found
six centuries later to be, as Seneca had prophesied, a heav-
enly body obeying the great laws of the universe, and com-
ing at regular periods. Thenceforth the whole ponderous
enginery of this superstition, with its proof-texts regarding
" signs in the heavens," its theological reasoning to show the
moral necessity of cometary warnings, and its ecclesiastical
fulminations against the ' atheism, godlessness, and infidel-
ity " of scientific investigation, was seen by all thinking
men to be as weak against the scientific method as Indian
arrows against needle guns. Copernicus, Galileo, Cassini,
Doerfel, Newton, Halley, and Clairaut had gained the

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:29 pm 
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It is instructive to note, even after the main battle was
lost, a renewal of the attempt, always seen under like circum-
stances, to effect a compromise, to establish a ''safe science "
on grounds pseudo-scientific and pseudo-theologic. Luther,
with his strong common sense, had foreshadowed this ; Kep-
ler had expressed a willingness to accept it. It was insisted
that comets might be heavenly bodies moving in regular
orbits, and even obedient to law, and yet be sent as " signs in
the heavens." Many good men clung longingly to this phase
of the old belief, and in 1770 Semler, professor at Halle, tried
to satisfy both sides. He insisted that, while from a scien-
tific point of view comets could not exercise any physical
influence upon the world, yet from a religious point of view
they could exercise a moral influence as reminders of the
Just Judge of the Universe.

So hard was it for good men to give up the doctrine of
" signs in the heavens," seemingly based upon Scripture and
exercising such a healthful moral tendency ! As is always
the case after such a defeat, these votaries of " sacred sci-
ence " exerted the greatest ingenuity in devising statements
and arguments to avert the new doctrine. Within our own
century the great Catholic champion, Joseph de Maistre,
echoed these in declaring his belief that comets are special
warnings of evil. So, too, in Protestant England, in 1818,
the Gentleman s Magazine stated that under the malign influ-
ence of a recent comet " flies became blind and died early in
the season," and '' the wife of a London shoemaker had four
children at a birth." And even as late as 1829 Mr. Forster,
an English physician, published a work to prove that comets
produce hot summers, cold winters, epidemics, earthquakes,
clouds of midges and locusts, and nearly every calamity
conceivable. He bore especially upon the fact that the
comet of 1665 was coincident with the plague in London,
apparently forgetting that the other great cities of England
and the Continent were not thus visited ; and, in a climax,
announces the fact that the comet of 1663 "made all the cats
in Westphalia sick."

There still lingered one little cloud-patch of superstition,
arising mainly from the supposed fact that comets had really
been followed by a marked rise in temperature. Even this
poor basis for the belief that they might, after all, affect
earthly affairs was swept away, and science won here an-
other victory ; for Arago, by thermometric records carefully
kept at Paris from 1735 to 1781, proved that comets had pro-
duced no effect upon temperature. Among multitudes of
similar examples he showed that, in some years when several
comets appeared, the temperature was lower than in other
years when few or none appeared. In 1737 there were two
comets, and the weather was cool; in 1785 there was no
comet, and the weather was hot ; through the whole fifty
years it was shown that comets were sometimes followed
by hot weather, sometimes by cool, and that no rule was
deducible. The victory of science was complete at every

But in this history there was one little exhibition so curi-
ous as to be worthy of notice, though its permanent effect
upon thought was small. Whiston and Burnet, so devoted
to what they considered sacred science, had determined that
in some way comets must be instruments of Divine wrath.
One of them maintained that the deluge was caused by the
tail of a comet striking the earth ; the other put forth the
theory that comets are places of punishment for the damned
— in fact, " frying hells." The theories of Whiston and Bur-
net found wide acceptance also in Germany, mainly through
the all-powerful mediation of Gottsched, so long, from his
professor's chair at Leipsic, the dictator of orthodox thought,
who not only wrote a brief tractate of his own upon the
subject, but furnished a voluminous historical introduction
to the more elaborate treatise of Heyn. In this book,
which appeared at Leipsic in 1742, the agency of comets in
the creation, the flood, and the final destruction of the world
is fully proved. Both these theories were, however, soon

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 9:07 pm 
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Perhaps the more interesting of them can best be met by
another, which, if not fully established, appears much better
based — namely, that in 1868 the earth passed directly through
the tail of a comet, with no deluge, no sound of any wailings
of the damned, with but slight appearances here and there,
only to be detected by the keen sight of the meteorological
or astronomical observer.

In our own country superstitious ideas regarding comets
continued to have some little currency ; but their life was
short. The tendency shown by Cotton Mather, at the be-
ginning- of the eighteenth century, toward acknowledging
the victory of science, was completed by the utterances of
Winthrop, professor at Harvard, who in 1759 published two
lectures on comets, in which he simply and clearly revealed
the truth, never scofhng, but reasoning quietly and rever-
ently. In one passage he says : " To be thrown into a panic
whenever a comet appears, on account of the ill effects which
some few of them might possibly produce, if they were not
under proper direction, betrays a weakness unbecoming a
reasonable being."

A happy influence in this respect was exercised on both
continents by John Wesley. Tenaciously as he had held to
the supposed scriptural view in so many other matters of
science, in this he allowed his reason to prevail, accepted
the demonstrations of Halley, and gloried in them.'"

The victory was indeed complete. Happily, none of the
fears expressed by Conrad Dieterich and Increase Mather
were realized. No catastrophe has ensued either to religion
or to morals. In the realm of religion the Psalms of David
remain no less beautiful, the great utterances of the Hebrew
prophets no less powerful ; the Sermon on the Mount, " the
first commandment, and the second, which is like unto it,"
the definition of " pure religion and undefiled " by St. James,
appeal no less to the deepest things in the human heart. In
the realm of morals, too, serviceable as the idea of firebrands
thrown by the right hand of an avenging God to scare a
naughty world might seem, any competent historian must
find that the destruction of the old theological cometary
theory was followed by moral improvement rather than by
deterioration. We have but to compare the general moral
tone of society to-day, wretchedly imperfect as it is, with
that existing in the time when this superstition had its
Strongest hold. We have only to compare the court of
Henry VIII with the court of Victoria, the reign of the
later Valois and earlier Bourbon princes with the present
French Republic, the period of the Medici and Sforzas and
Borgias with the period of Leo XIII and Humbert, the
monstrous wickedness of the Thirty Years' War with the
ennobling patriotism of the Franco-Prussian struggle, and
the despotism of the miserable German princelings of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the reign of the
Emperor William.

The gain is not simply that mankind has arrived at a
clearer conception of law in the universe ; not merely that
thinking men see more clearly that we are part of a system
not requiring constant patching and arbitrary interference ;
but perhaps best of all is the fact that science has cleared
away one more series of those dogmas which tend to debase
rather than to develop man's whole moral and religious
nature. In this emancipation from terror and fanaticism, as
in so many other results of scientific thinking, we have a
proof of the inspiration of those great words, " The truth



Among the philosophers of Greece we find, even at an
early period, germs of geological truth, and, what is of vast
importance, an atmosphere in which such germs could grow.
These germs were transmitted to Roman thought ; an at-
mosphere of tolerance continued ; there was nothing which
forbade unfettered reasoning regarding either the earth's
strata or the remains of former life found in them, and
under the Roman Empire a period of fruitful observation
seemed sure to begin.

But, as Christianity took control of the world, there came
a great change. The earliest attitude of the Church toward
geology and its kindred sciences was indifferent, and even
contemptuous. According to the prevailing belief, the earth
was a '' fallen world," and was soon to be destroyed. Why,
then, should it be studied ? Why, indeed, give a thought to
it? The scorn which Lactantius and St. Augustine had cast
upon the study of astronomy was extended largely to other

But the germs of scientific knowledge and thought de-
veloped in the ancient world could be entirely smothered
neither by eloquence nor by logic ; some little scientific ob-
servation must be allowed, though all close reasoning upon
it was fettered by theology. Thus it was that St. Jerome
insisted that the broken and twisted crust of the earth ex-
hibits the wrath of God against sin, and Tertullian asserted
that fossils resulted from the Ifood of Noah.

To keep all such observation and reasoning wuthin ortho-
dox limits, St. Augustine, about the begirming of the fifth
century, began an effort to develop from these germs a
growth in science which should be sacred and safe. With
this intent he prepared his great commentary on the work
of creation, as depicted in Genesis, besides dwelling upon
the subject in other writings. Once engaged in this work,
he gave himself to it more earnestly than any other of the
earlier fathers ever did ; but his vast powers of research
and thought were not directed to actual observation or rea-
soning upon observation. The keynote of his whole method
is seen in his famous phrase, " Nothing is to be accepted save
on the authority of Scripture, since greater is that authority
than all the powers of the human mind." All his thought
was given to studying the letter of the sacred text, and to
making it explain natural phenomena by methods purely

Among the many questions he then raised and discussed
may be mentioned such as these : " What caused the crea-
tion of the stars on the fourth day ? " '' Were beasts of prey
and venomous animals created before, or after, the fall of
Adam ? If before, how can their creation be reconciled
with God's goodness ; if afterward, how can their creation
be reconciled to the letter of God's Word?" ''Why were
only beasts and birds brought before Adam to be named,
and not fishes and marine animals?" ' Why did the Creator
not say, ' Be fruitful and multiply,' to plants as well as to
animals ? "

Sundry answers to these and similar questions formed
the main contributions of the greatest of the Latin fathers to
the scientific knowledge of the world, after a most thorough
study of the biblical text and a most profound application
of theological reasoning. The results of these contributions
were most important. In this, as in so many other fields,
Augustine gave direction to the main current of thought in
western Europe, Catholic and Protestant, for nearly thirteen

In the ages that succeeded, the vast majority of promi-
nent scholars followed him implicitly. Even so strong
a man as Pope Gregory the Great yielded to his influ-
ence, and such leaders of thought as St. Isidore, in the
seventh century, and the Venerable Bede, in the eighth,
planting themselves upon Augustine's premises, only ven-
tured timidly to extend their conclusions upon lines he had
laid down.

"I'm threatened and terrified by the tendency of people to abandon themselves to the mystical when for centuries those tendencies did nothing but tighten the rack and hurl the stones." --Gemli

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