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Professor Huxley’s Lectures
by [?]

We then said to ourselves, But ministers are modest, truthful men; they would not knowingly pass themselves off as competent on a subject with which they were unfitted to deal. They are no less candid and self-distrustful, for instance, than lawyers and doctors, and a lawyer or doctor who ventured to tackle a professed scientist on a scientific subject to which he had given no systematic study would be laughed at by his professional brethren, and would suffer from it even in his professional reputation, as it would be taken to indicate a dangerous want of self-knowledge. Perhaps, then, the training given in the divinity schools, though it does not touch special fields of science, is such as to prepare the mind for the work of induction by some course of intellectual gymnastics. Perhaps, though it does not familiarize a man with the facts of geology and biology and astronomy, it so disciplines him in the work of collecting and arranging facts of any kind, and reasoning from them, that he will be a master in the art of proof, and that, in short, though he may not have a scientific man’s knowledge, he will have his mental habits.

But we found this second supposition as far from the truth as the first one was. Moreover, the mental constitution of the young men who choose the ministry as a profession is not apt to be of a kind well fitted for scientific investigation. Reverence is one of their prominent characteristics, and reverence predisposes them to accept things on authority. They are inclined to seek truth rather as a means of repose than for its own sake, and to fancy that it is associated closely with spiritual comfort, and that they have secured the truth when they feel the comfort. Though, last not least, they enter the seminary with a strong bias in favor of one particular theory of the origin of life and of the history of the race, and their subsequent studies are marked out and pursued with the set purpose of strengthening this bias and of qualifying them to defend it and spread it, and of associating in their minds the doubt or rejection of it with moral evil. The consequence is that they go forth, trained not as investigators or inquirers, but as advocates, charged with the defence against all comers of a view of the universe which they have accepted ready-made from teachers. A worse preparation for scientific pursuits of any kind can hardly be imagined. The slightest trace of such a state of mind in a scientific man–that is, of a disposition to believe a thing on grounds of feeling or interest, or with reference to practical consequences, or to jump over gaps in proof in order to reach pleasant conclusions–discredits him with his fellows, and throws doubt on his statements.

We are not condemning this state of mind for all purposes. Indeed, we think the wide-spread prevalence of the philosophic way of looking at things would be in many respects a great misfortune for the race, and we acknowledge that a rigidly trained philosopher would be unfit for most of a minister’s functions; but we have only to describe a minister’s education in order to show his exceeding unreadiness for contentions such as some of his brethren are carrying on with geologists and physicists and biologists. In fact, there is no educated calling whose members are not, on the whole, better equipped for fighting in scientific fields over the hypothesis of evolution. Our surprise at seeing lawyers and doctors engaged in it would be very much less justifiable, for a portion at least of the training received in these professions is of a scientific cast, and concerns the selection and classification of facts, while a clergyman’s is almost wholly devoted to the study of the opinions and sayings of other men. In truth, theology, properly so called, is a collection of opinions. Nor do these objections to a clergyman’s mingling in scientific disputes arise out of his belief about the origin and government of the world per se, because one does not think of making them to trained religious philosophers; for instance, to Principal Dawson or Mr. St. George Mivart. Some may think or say that the religious prepossessions of these gentlemen lessen the weight of their opinions on a certain class of scientific questions, but no one would question their right to share in scientific discussions.