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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Science in the Pulpit

Science in the Pulpit.

Sir,—Something like a stir has recently been created in our usually dull little town (Liverpool) by the delivery of a lecture in the Presbyterian Church, on "The Origin and Destiny of Man." The lecturer, the Rev. E. Holland, may be known to some of your readers by his contributions to the Herald and other journals on sugar growing. On this subject the Rev. gentleman is doubtless au fait, but as much cannot be said of his acquaintance with the speculations of Lyell and Darwin, as I shall presently aim to show.

Being one of those poor demented individuals who are continually clamouring for More Light, it struck me that I might get from Mr. Holland's lecture a ray or two of the much coveted article. Accordingly, I found myself, at the appointed hour, within the precincts of the Kirk—for the first time.

After the usual devotional preliminaries, the lecturer dashed with some vigour into his subject. He commented on the researches of eminent scientific men, appearing, as it seemed to me, to agree with them. But this was not to last. For the lecturer, warming to his work, wished his audience to believe that there was ample space of time between the date of the creation of Adam and Eve and the present era—i.e. during the old traditional six thousand years—for all the changes that had taken place in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. And this was followed by the like audacious assertion that none of the discoveries of the geologist or paleontologist tended to show that human beings were in existence at a remoter period than six thousand years. Now, if these statements are correct, then there is nothing for it but to scout the teachers whose text-books on these subjects are considered authoritative as a set of ignoramuses, or, worse than this, as a set of deliberate liars. Professor Agassiz has shown—to take a single instance—that the Florida reefs must, at their present rate of formation, be at least 135,000 years old; and in respect of the antiquity of the human race, the deltas of such rivers as the Nile and the Mississippi, and the flint weapons that are occasionally brought to light, indisputably prove that human beings subject to a certain degree of civilisation existed at least ten thousand years antecedent to the date when God, as the popular theory teaches, formed the first man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Either Mr. Holland is not familiar with his subject, or, being so, he counts it no breach of modesty to oppose his comparatively worthless opinion to that of the greatest scientific authorities of the age.

Waxing still warmer, the lecturer sternly rebuked the infidel and atheistic writers who, adopting the principle of natural selection, traced back man's origin to some such ancestor as the Crab, or, still worse, the Cabbage. Who are these writers? It is quite clear that Darwin does not teach this doctrine, nor is he an atheist, except indeed in Mr. Holland's abusive sense of the term. To be an atheist in the eyes of the majority of professing Christians, one has only to announce his dissent from their particular dogmas.

The lecturer next referred to the Arabs of the present day as being nearest in colour, features and habits to the first human sojourners on this earth. It may be so; but, granting the truth of the popular theory as to man's origin, it does seem strange that these dark gentlemen of the long and respectable pedigree, instead of occupying their proper position among civilised peoples should be the lazy, marauding set of cut-throats they notoriously are.

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To sum up, it affords me regret to say that I can only speak of Mr. Holland's lecture as what the vulgar would term—a sell. His theological bias and incapacity for looking at his subject from an independent standpoint were apparent from the onset, nor am I the only one in Liverpool who returned from the Kirk with the conviction that such pulpit performances are a very serious detriment to the cause of true religion.

A Searcher after Truth.