The Spiritual Interpretation of Nature. James Y. Simpson

1913 The Biblical World  
Alarmed at the advances of science into its objective domain, religion retreated and surrendered. It sought refuge in mystery, emotion, sense of dependence, etc.-regions where knowledge, science, system do not enter. Yet it continued to claim experience. But one cannot help asking whether experience is not in a very real sense knowledge, and whether knowledge is not experience. They surely have very much in common and either without the other is nil. Science is only less mysterious than
more » ... erious than religion, and if thought of in any large sense is quite as mysterious as religion. Moreover, to the mind that is capable of being devout the astounding revelations of science kindle the profoundest emotions and awaken the keenest feeling of dependence. But the rather prevalent idea that religion is something apart from knowledge and system has never quite satisfied many people who claim nevertheless to be religious--even evangelical. They are so sure of the reality of religion that they are perfectly willing to subject it to the severest of scientific tests, and they believe that it will come out not only uninjured but better established than ever. "The sense of the unity of knowledge, i.e., the unity of truth, compels us to consider the relations of scientific and theological thought. There is, to say the least, a tendency toward ultimate unity and rationality in all experience." Different kinds of phenomena and facts undoubtedly there are, but there must be "identity of mental attitude and method." The possibly unrealizable ideal "to see things steadily and see them whole" must never be given up. But those who have separated knowledge and religion have never formed adequate conceptions, and the more thoughtful of them have never been consistent, but have been constantly shifting in all sorts of ways without getting much nearer the truth. But there are many indications that a new spirit is brooding over the chaos. Among these indications is the appearance of numerous strong books in which this spirit is finding expression. They approach the problem at various angles. One of the best of these books is Simpson's Spiritual Interpretation of Nature. It is a frontal attack. Simpson is a biologist. His science has not undermined his religion. Apparently it has never appeared to him that such a thing could occur. "It is no longer possible," says he, "to maintain a radical distinction between mental or natural science and theology, either in the nature of the facts with which they deal, or the human powers that are brought to bear upon these facts, or yet in the method of reasoning that may be applied to the facts." He is an evolutionist, and is well acquainted with modem views in sciences, in philosophy, and in religion. His first two chapters are on: "Knowledge and Faith" and "The Influence of Science on Religion." Then follow two chapters on "The Principles of Biology" in which he is especially at home. The succeeding chapters are: and Immortality." The prospective reader may be sure that these central and attractive subjects are handled by a master. Professor Simpson has possibly in no case spoken the final word. But have we any right to expect that he should ? It may be that some of his arguments are lame; it may be that some stronger arguments are overlooked; but it is enough if in the main he is on the right track. Between Eras: From Capitalism to Democracy. By Albion W. Small. Kansas City, Mo.: Inter-Collegiate Press, 1913. Pp. 431. $2.75. This volume is a notable addition to the goodly fellowship of books undertaking to inculcate truth by the use of fiction. It recalls Bellamy's Looking Backward, in spite of differences in fundamental plan and outlook. Where Bellamy was a mere socialistic visionary, leaping far ahead. of his own day, Small shows an intimate acquaintance with the technique of present society, and works in view of actual conditions. Instead of presenting a cut-anddried scheme to take the place of our existing social order, he analyzes the prevailing system and suggests the point of least resistance where the r6gime of the future will make its inroad. The book is frankly described on its title-page as "a cycle of conversations and discourses, with occasional side-lights upon the speakers." In and around these " conversations and discourses" is worked the thread of a story which revolves about an extraordinary strike against "The Avery Company," a great manufacturing concern in Chicago. The head of the company, David Lyon, is a typical, common-sense business man, who sees no reason to make any concession to the strikers' unusual demand for representation on the board of directors. His son, Logan Lyon, however, is more responsive to the claims '77
doi:10.1086/474883 fatcat:bh55ejibqje3fourn27kkucw3i