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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 4:56 pm 
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In his great work on Etymologies, Isidore took up Augus-
tine's attempt to bring the creation into satisfactory rela-
tions with the book of Genesis, and, as to fossil remains, he,
like Tertullian, thought that they resulted from the Flood of
Noah. In the following century Bede developed the same
orthodox traditions.

The best guess, in a geological sense, among the followers
of St. Augustine was made by an Irish monkish scholar,
who, in order to diminish the difficulty arising from the dis-
tribution of animals, especially in view of the fact that the
same animals are found in Ireland as in England, held that
various lands now separated were once connected. But,
alas! the exigencies of theology forced him to place their
separation later than the Flood. Happily for him, such facts
were not yet known as that the kangaroo is found only on an
island in the South Pacific, and must therefore, according
to his theory, have migrated thither with all his progeny,
and along a causeway so curiously constructed that none of
the beasts of prey, who were his fellow-voyagers in the ark,
could follow him.

These general lines of thought upon geology and its kin-
dred science of zoology were followed by St. Thomas Aqui-
nas and by the whole body of mediaeval theologians, so far
as they gave any attention to such subjects.

The next development of geology, mainly under Church
guidance, was by means of the scholastic theology. Phrase-
making was substituted for investigation. Without the
Church and within it wonderful contributions were thus
made. In the eleventh century Avicenna accounted for the
fossils by suggesting a " stone-making force " ; in the thir-
teenth, Albert the Great attributed them to a "formative
quality ; the following centuries some philosophers
ventured the idea that they grew from seed ; and the Aris-
totelian doctrine of spontaneous generation was constantly
used to prove that these stony fossils possessed powers of
reproduction like plants and animals.

Still, at various times and places, germs implanted by
Greek and Roman thought were warmed into life. The
Arabian schools seem to have been less fettered by the letter
of the Koran than the contemporary Christian scholars by
the letter of the Bible; and to Avicenna belongs the credit of
first announcing substantially the modern geological theory
of changes in the earth's surface.

The direct influence of the Reformation was at first un-
favourable to scientific progress, for nothing could be more
at variance with any scientific theory of the development of
the universe than the ideas of the Protestant leaders. That
strict adherence to the text of Scripture which made Luther
and Melanchthon denounce the idea that the planets revolve
about the sun, was naturally extended to every other scien-
tific statement at variance with the sacred text. There is
much reason to believe that the fetters upon scientific
thought were closer under the strict interpretation of Scrip-
ture by the early Protestants than they had been under
the older Church. The dominant spirit among the Reform-
ers is shown by the declaration of Peter Martyr to the effect
that, if a wrong opinion should obtain regarding the crea-
tion as described in Genesis, "all the promises of Christ
fall into nothing, and all the life of our religion would be

In the times immediately succeeding the Reformation
matters went from bad to worse. Under Luther and Me-
lanchthon there was some little freedom of speculation, but
under their successors there was none ; to question any in-
terpretation of Luther came to be thought almost as wicked
as to question the literal interpretation of the Scriptures
themselves. Examples of this are seen in the struggles be-
tween those who held that birds were created entirely from
water and those who held that they were created out of water
and mud. Li the city of Lubeck, the ancient centre of the
Hanseatic League, close at the beginning of the seven-
teenth century, Pfeiffer, '' General Superintendent " or bishop
in those parts, published his Pansophia Mosaica, calculated, as
he believed, to beat back science forever. In a long series
of declamations he insisted that in the strict text of Genesis
alone is safety ; that it contains all wisdom and knowledge,
human and divine. This being the case, who could care to
waste time on the study of material things and give thought
to the structure of the world ? Above all, who, after such a
proclamation by such a ruler in the Lutheran Israel, would
dare to talk of the '' days " mentioned in Genesis as " periods
of time"; or of the "firmament" as not meaning a solid
vault over the universe ; or of the '' waters above the heav-
ens " as not contained in a vast cistern supported by the
heavenly vault ; or of the " windows of heaven " as a figure
of speech?

In England the same spirit was shown even as late as
the time of Sir Matthew Hale. We find in his book on the
Origination of Mankind, published in 1685, the strictest devo-
tion to a theory of creation based upon the mere letter of
Scripture, and a complete inability to draw knowledge re-
garding the earth's origin and structure from any other

While the Lutheran, Calvinistic, and Anglican Reformers
clung to literal interpretations of the sacred books, and
turned their faces away from scientific investigation, it was
among their contemporaries at the revival of learning that
there began to arise fruitful thought in this field. Then it
was, about the beginning of the sixteenth century, that
Leonardo da Vinci, as great a genius in science as in art,
broached the true idea as to the origin of fossil remains ;
and his compatriot, Fracastoro, developed this on the modern
lines of thought. Others in other parts of Europe took up
the idea, and, while mixing with it many crudities, drew
from it more and more truth. Toward the end of the six-
teenth century Bernard Palissy, in France, took hold of it
with the same genius which he showed in artistic creation ;
but, remarkable as were his assertions of scientific realities,
they could gain little hearing. Theologians, philosophers,
and even some scientific men of value, under the sway of
scholastic phrases, continued to insist upon such explanations
as that fossils were the product of *' fatty matter set into a
fermentation by heat " ; or of a " lapidific juice " ; or of a
''seminal air "; t or of a "tumultuous movement of terres-
trial exhalations " ; and there was a prevailing belief that fos-
sil remains, in general, might be brought under the head of
" sports of Nature," a pious turn being given to this phrase
by the suggestion that these "sports" indicated some in-
scrutable purpose of the Almighty.

This remained a leading orthodox mode of explanation
in the Church, Catholic and Protestant, for centuries.

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:40 pm 
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But the scientific method could not be entirely hidden ;
and, near the beginning of the seventeenth century, De
Clave, Bitaud, and De Villon revived it in France. Straight-
way the theological faculty of Paris protested against the
scientific doctrine as unscriptural, destroyed the offending
treatises, banished their authors from Paris, and forbade
them to live in towns or enter places of public resort.

The champions of science, though repressed for a time,
quietly laboured on, especially in Italy. Half a century later,
Steno, a Dane, and Scilla, an Italian, went still further in the
right direction ; and, though they and their disciples took
o-reat pains to throw a tub to the whale, in the shape of sun-
dry vague concessions to the Genesis legends, they developed
geological truth more and more.

In' France, the old theological spirit remained exceed-
ingly powerful. About the middle of the eighteenth cen-
tury Buffon made another attempt to state simple geological
truths; but the theological faculty of the Sorbonne dragged
him at once from his high position, forced him to recant
ignominiously, and to print his recantation. It runs as fol-
lows: "I declare that I had no intention to contradict the
text of Scripture ; that I believe most firmly all therein re-
lated about the creation, both as to order of time and matter
of fact. I abandon everything in my book respecting the
formation of the earth, and generally all which may be con-
trary to the narrative of Moses." This humiliating docu-
ment reminds us painfully of that forced upon Galileo a
hundred years before.

It has been well observed by one of the greatest of mod-
ern authorities that the doctrine which Buffon thus ''aban-
doned " is as firmly established as that of the earth's rota-
tion upon its axis. Yet one hundred and fifty years were
required to secure for it even a fair hearing ; the prevailing
doctrine of the Church continued to be that "all things
were made at the beginning of the world," and that to say
that stones and fossils were made before or since *' the begin-
ning " is contrary to Scripture. Again we find theological
substitutes for scientific explanation ripening into phrases
more and more hollow — making fossils ' sports of Nature,"
or " mineral concretions," or " creations of plastic force," or
"models" made by the Creator before he had fully decided
upon the best manner of creating various beings.

Of this period, when theological substitutes for science
were carrying all before them, there still exists a monument
commemorating at the same time a farce and a tragedy.
This is the work of Johann Beringer, professor in the Uni-
versity of Wlirzburg and private physician to the Prince-
Bishop — the treatise bearing the title Litwgraphic Wirce-
biirgensis Specimen Priimini, " illustrated with the marvellous
likenesses of two hundred figured or rather insectiform
stones." Beringer, for the greater glory of God, had pre-
viously committed himself so completely to the theory that
fossils are simply '' stones of a peculiar sort, hidden by the
Author of Nature for his own pleasure,"^ that some of his
students determined to give his faith in that pious doctrine
a thorough trial. They therefore prepared a collection of
sham fossils in baked clay, imitating not only plants, reptiles,
and fishes of every sort that their knowledge or imagination
could suggest, but even Hebrew and Syriac inscriptions,
one of them the name of the Almighty ; and these they buried
in a place where the professor was wont to search for speci-
mens. The joy of Beringer on unearthing these proofs of
the immediate agency of the finger of God in creating fossils
knew no bounds. At great cost he prepared this book, w^hose
twenty-two elaborate plates of facsimiles were forever to
settle the question in favour of theology and against science,
and prefixed to the w^ork an allegorical title page, wherein
not only the glory of his own sovereign, but that of heaven
itself, was pictured as based upon a pyramid of these mirac-
ulous fossils. So robust was his faith that not even a pre-
mature exposure of the fraud could dissuade him from the
publication of his book. Dismissing in one contemptuous
chapter this exposure as a slander by his rivals, he appealed
to the learned world. But the shout of laughter that wel-
comed the work soon convinced even its author. In vain
did he try to suppress it ; and, according to tradition, hav-
ing wasted his fortune in vain attempts to buy up all the
copies of it, and being taunted by the rivals whom he had
thought to overwhelm, he died of chagrin. Even death did
not end his misfortunes. The copies of the first edition hav-
ing been sold by a graceless descendant to a Leipsic book-
seller, a second edition was brought out under a new title,
and this, too, is now much sought as a precious memorial of
human credulity.

But even this discomfiture did not end the idea which
had caused it, for, although some latitude was allowed
among the various theologico-scientific explanations, it was
still held meritorious to believe that all fossils were placed
in the strata on one of the creative days by the hand of the
Almighty, and that this was done for some mysterious pur-
pose, probably for the trial of human faith.

Strange as it may at first seem, the theological war
against a scientific method in geology was waged more
fiercely in Protestant countries than in Catholic. The older
Church had learned by her costly mistakes, especially in
the cases of Copernicus and Galileo, what dangers to her
claim of infallibility lay in meddling with a growing science.
In Italy, therefore, comparatively little opposition was made,
while England furnished the most bitter opponents to ge-
ology so long as the controversy could be maintained, and
the most active negotiators in patching up a truce on the
basis of a sham science afterward. The Church of England
did, indeed, produce some noble men, like Bishop Clayton
and John Mitchell, who stood firmly by the scientific meth-
od ; but these appear generally to have been overwhelmed
by a chorus of churchmen and dissenters, whose mixtures of
theology and science, sometimes tragic in their results and
sometimes comic, are among the most instructive things in
modern history.


We have 'already noted that there are generally three
periods or phases in a theological attack upon any science.
The first of these is marked by the general use of scriptural
texts and statements against the new scientific doctrine; the
third by attempts at compromise by means of far-fetched rec-
onciliations of textual statements with ascertained fact ; but
the second or intermediate period between these two is fre-
quently marked by the pitting against science of some great
doctrine in theology. We saw this in astronomy, when Bel-
larmin and his followers insisted that the scientific doctrine
of the earth revolving about the sun is contrary to the theo-
logical doctrine of the incarnation. So now against geology
it was urged that the scientific doctrine that fossils represent
animals which died before Adam contradicts the theological
doctrine of Adam's fall and the statement that "death en-
tered the world by sin."

In this second stage of the theological struggle with geol-
ogy, England was especially fruitful in champions of ortho-
doxy, first among whom may be named Thomas Burnet.
In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, just at the
time when Newton's great discovery was given to the world
Burnet issued his Sacred Theory of tJie EartJi. His position
was commanding ; he was a royal chaplain and a cabinet
officer. Planting himself upon the famous text in the second
epistle of Peter, he declares that the flood had destroyed
the old and created a new world. The Newtonian theory
he refuses to accept. In his theory of the deluge he lays
less stress upon the '' opening of the windows of heaven "
than upon the '' breaking up of the fountains of the great
deep." On this latter point he comes forth with great
strength. His theory is that the earth is hollow, and filled
with fluid like an egg. Mixing together sundry texts from
Genesis and from the second epistle of Peter, the theological
doctrine of the '' Fall," an astronomical theory regarding the
ecliptic, and various notions adapted from Descartes, he in-
sisted that, before sin brought on the Deluge, the earth was
of perfect mathematical form, smooth and beautiful, " like
an Egg,'' with neither seas nor islands nor valleys nor rocks,
" with not a wrinkle, scar, or fracture," and that all creation
was equally perfect.

In the second book of his great work Burnet went still
further. As in his first book he had mixed his texts of Gene-
sis and St. Peter with Descartes, he now mixed the account
of the Garden of Eden in Genesis with heathen legends of
the golden age, and concluded that before the flood there
was over the whole earth perpetual spring, disturbed by
no rain more severe than the falling of the dew.

In addition to his other grounds for denying the earlier
existence of the sea, he assigned the reason that, if there
had been a sea before the Deluge, sinners would have learned
to build ships, and so, when the Deluge set in, could have
saved themselves.

The work was written with much power, and attracted
universal attention. It was translated into various lan-
guages, and called forth a multitude of supporters and oppo-
nents in all parts of Europe. Strong men rose against it,
especially in England, and among them a few dignitaries of
the Church ; but the Church generally hailed the work with
joy. Addison praised it in a Latin ode, and for nearly
a century it exercised a strong influence upon European
feeling, and aided to plant more deeply than ever the theo-
logical opinion that the earth as now existing is merely
a ruin ; whereas, before sin brought on the Flood, it was
beautiful in its '' egg-shaped form," and free from every

A few years later came another writer of the highest
standing — William Whiston, professor at Cambridge, who
in 1696 published his Nt-zu Theory of the Earth. Unlike Bur-
net, he endeavoured to avail himself of the Newtonian idea,
and brought in, to aid the geological catastrophe caused by
human sin, a comet, which broke open '' the fountains of the
great deep."

But, far more important than cither of these champions,
there arose in the eighteenth century to aid in the subjec=
tion of science to theology, three men of extraordinary power
— John Wesley, Adam Clarke, and Richard Watson. All
three were men of striking intellectual gifts, lofty character,
and noble purpose, and the first-named one of the greatest
men in English history ; yet we find them in geology hope-
lessly fettered by the mere letter of Scripture, and by a tem-
porary phase in theology. As in regard to witchcraft and
the doctrine of comets, so in regard to geology, this theo-
logical view drew Wesley into enormous error. The great
doctrine which Wesley, Watson, Clarke, and their compeers,
following St. Augustine, Bede, Peter Lombard, and a long
line of the greatest minds in the universal Church, thought
it especially necessary to uphold against geologists was, that
death entered the world by sin— by the first transgression of
Adam and Eve. The extent to which the supposed neces-
sity of upholding this doctrine carried Wesley seems now
almost beyond belief. Basing his theology on the declara-
tion that the Almighty after creation found the earth and all
created things ' very good," he declares, in his sermon on
the Cause and Cure of Earthquakes, that no one who believes
the Scriptures can deny that " sin is the moral cause of earth-
quakes, whatever their natural cause may be." Again, he
declares that earthquakes are the " effect of that curse which
was brought upon the earth by the original transgression."
Bringing into connection with Genesis the declaration of St.
Paul that '* the whole creation groaneth and travaileth to-
gether in pain until now," he finds additional scriptural proof
that the earthquakes were the result of Adam's fall. He de-
clares, in his sermon on God's Approbation of His Works, that
" before the sin of Adam there were no acritations within
the bowels of the earth, no violent convulsions, no concus-
sions of the earth, no earthquakes, but all was unmoved as
the pillars of heaven. There were then no such things as
eruptions of fires ; no volcanoes or burning mountains." Of
course, a science which showed that earthquakes had been
in operation for ages before the appearance of man on the
planet, and which showed, also, that those very earthquakes
which he considered as curses resultant upon the Fall were
really blessings, producing the fissures in which we find to-
day those mineral veins so essential to modern civilization,
was entirely beyond his comprehension. He insists that
earthquakes are " God's strange works of judgment, the
proper effect and punishment of sin."

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:55 pm 
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So, too, as to death and pain. In his sermon on the Fall
of Man he took the ground that death and pain entered the
world by Adam's transgression, insisting that the carnage
now going on among animals is the result of Adam's sin.
Speaking of the birds, beasts, and insects, he says that, be-
fore sin entered the world by Adam's fall, '' none of these
attempted to devour or in any way hurt one another " ; that
" the spider was then as harmless as the fly and did not then
lie in wait for blood." Here, again, Wesley arrayed his
early followers against geology, which reveals, in the fossil
remains of carnivorous animals, pain and death countless
ages before the appearance of man. The half-digested frag-
ments of weaker animals within the fossilized bodies of the
stronger have destroyed all Wesley's arguments in behalf of
his great theory.

Dr. Adam Clarke held similar views. He insisted that
thorns and thistles were given as a curse to human labour,
on account of Adam's sin, and appeared upon the earth for
the first time after Adam's fall. So, too, Richard Watson,
the most prolific writer of the great evangelical reform
period, and the author of the Institutes, the standard theo-
logical treatise on the evangelical side, says, in a chapter
treating of the Fall, and especially of the serpent w^hich
tempted Eve: " We have no reason at all to believe that the
animal had a serpentine form in any mode or degree until
his transformation. That he was then degraded to a reptile,
to go upon his belly, imports, on the contrary, an entire
alteration and loss of the original form." All that admirable
adjustment of the serpent to its environment which delights
naturalists was to the Wesleyan divine simply an evil result
of the sin of Adam and Eve.

The immediate results of such teaching by such men was
to throw many who would otherwise have resorted to ob-
servation and investigation back upon scholastic methods.
Again reappears the old system of solving the riddle by
phrases. In 1733, Dr. Theodore Arnold urged the theory
of " models," and insisted that fossils result from " infinitesi-
mal particles brought together in the creation to form the
outline of all the creatures and objects upon and within the
earth"; and Arnold's work gained wide acceptance.

Such was the influence of this succession of great men
that toward the close of the last century the English oppo-
nents of geology on biblical grounds seemed likely to sweep
all before them. Cramping our whole inheritance of sacred
literature within the rules of a historical compend, they
showed the terrible dangers arising from the revelations of
geology, which make the earth older than the six thousand
years required by Archbishop Usher's interpretation of the
Old Testament. Nor was this feeling confined to ecclesias-
tics. Williams, a thoughtful layman, declared that such re-
searches led to infidelity and atheism, and are "nothing less
than to depose the Almighty Creator of the universe from
his office." The poet Cowper, one of the mildest of men,
was also roused by these dangers, and in his most elaborate
poem wrote :

" Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn
That He who made it, and revealed its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age ! "

John Howard summoned England to oppose ''those sci-
entific systems which are calculated to tear up in the public
mind every remaining attachment to Christianity."

With this special attack upon geological science by means
of the dogma of Adam's fall, the more general attack by the lit-
eral interpretation of the text was continued. The legendary
husks and rinds of our sacred books were insisted upon as
equally precious and nutritious with the great moral and
religious truths which they envelop. Especially precious
were the six days — each " the evening and the morning " —
and the exact statements as to the time when each part of
creation came into being. To save these, the struggle be-
came more and more desperate.

Difficult as it is to realize it now, within the memory of
many now living the battle was still raging most fiercely in
England, and both kinds of artillery usually brought against
a new science were in full play, and filling the civilized world
with their roar.

About half a century since, the Rev. J. Mellor Brown, the
Rev. Henry Cole, and others were hurling at all geologists
alike, and especially at such Christian scholars as Dr. Buck-
land and Dean Conybeare and Pye Smith and Prof. Sedg-
wick, the epithets of " infidel," " impugner of the sacred
record," and "assailant of the volume of God."*

The favourite weapon of the orthodox party was the
charge that the geologists were " attacking the truth of
God." They declared geology *' not a subject of lawful in-
quiry," denouncing it as " a dark art," as " dangerous and
disreputable," as "a forbidden province," as "infernal ar-
tillery," and as "an awful evasion of the testimony of reve-

This attempt to scare men from the science having failed,
various other means were taken. To say nothing about
England, it is humiliatino;- to human nature to remember the
annoyances, and even trials, to which the pettiest and nar-
rowest of men subjected such Christian scholars in our own
country as Benjamin Silliman and Edward Hitchcock and
Louis Agassiz.

But it is a duty and a pleasure to state here that one
great Christian scholar did honour to religion and to him-
self by quietly accepting the claims of science and making
the best of them, despite all these clamours. This man was
Nicholas Wiseman, better known afterward as Cardinal
Wiseman. The conduct of this pillar of the Roman Cath-
olic Church contrasts admirably with that of timid Protes-
tants, who were filling England with shrieks and denuncia-

And here let it be noted that one of the most interestins:
skirmishes in this war occurred in New England. Prof.
Stuart, of Andover, justly honoured as a Hebrew scholar,
declared that to speak of six periods of time for the creation
was flying in the face of Scripture ; that Genesis expressly
speaks of six days, each made up of " the evening and the
morning," and not six periods of time.

To him replied a professor in Yale College, James Kings-
ley. In an article admirable for keen wit and kindly temper,
he showed that Genesis speaks just as clearly of a solid fir-
mament as of six ordinary days, and that, if Prof. Stuart had
surmounted one difficulty and accepted the Copernican the-
ory, he might as well get over another and accept the reve-
lations of geology. The encounter was quick and decisive,
and the victory was with science and the broader scholar-
ship of Yale.

Perhaps the most singular attempt against geology was
made by a fine survival of the eighteenth century Don —
Dean Cockburn, of York— to scold its champions off the
field. Having no adequate knowledge of the new science,
he opened a battery of abuse, giving it to the world at large
from the pulpit and through the press, and even through
private letters. From his pulpit in York Minster he de-
nounced Mary Somerville by name for those studies in
physical geography which have made her name honoured
throughout the world.

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 4:21 pm 
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Makes sense.

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 Post subject: Re: The Warfare of Science with Theology by A. D. White
PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:08 pm 
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But the special object of his antipathy was the British
Association for the Advancement of Science. He issued a
pamphlet against it which went through five editions in two
years, sent solemn warnings to its president, and in various
ways made life a burden to Sedgwick, Buckland, and other
eminent investigators who ventured to state geological facts
as they found them.

These weapons were soon seen to be ineffective ; they
were like Chinese gongs and dragon lanterns against rified
cannon ; the work of science went steadily on.


Long before the end of the struggle already described,
even at a very early period, the futility of the usual scholastic
weapons had been seen by the more keen-sighted champions
of orthodoxy; and, as the difficulties of the ordinary attack
upon science became more and more evident, many of these
champions endeavoured to patch up a truce. So began the
third stage in the war — the period of attempts at compromise.

The position which the compromise party took was that
the fossils were produced by the Deluge of Noah.

This position was strong, for it was apparently based
upon Scripture. Moreover, it had high ecclesiastical sanc-
tion, some of the fathers having held that fossil remains, even
on the highest mountains, represented animals destroyed at
the Deluge. Tertullian was especially firm on this point,
and St. Augustine thought that a fossil tooth discovered in
North Africa must have belonged to one of the giants men-
tioned in Scripture.

In the sixteenth century especially, weight began to be
attached to this idea by those who felt the worthlessness of
various scholastic explanations. Strong men in both the
Catholic and the Protestant camps accepted it ; but the man
who did most to give it an impulse into modern theology
was Martin Luther. He easily saw that scholastic phrase-
making could not meet the difficulties raised by fossils, and
he naturally urged the doctrine of their origin at Noah's

With such support, it soon became the dominant theory
in Christendom: nothing seemed able to stand against it;
but before the end of the same sixteenth century it met
some serious obstacles. Bernard Palissy, one of the most
keen-sighted of scientific thinkers in France, as well as
one of the most devoted of Christians, showed that it was
utterly untenable. Conscientious investigators in other
parts of Europe, and especially in Italy, showed the same
thing; all in vain.f In vain did good men protest against
the injury sure to be brought upon religion by tying it
to a scientific theory sure to be exploded ; the doctrine
that fossils are the remains of animals drowned at the
Flood continued to be upheld by the great majority of
theological leaders for nearly three centuries as " sound
doctrine," and as a blessed means of reconciling science
with Scripture. To sustain this scriptural view, efforts
energetic and persistent were put forth both by Catholics
and Protestants.

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