So yesterday I (accidentally) posted some of what I’d been reading about Yeats, who claimed he was deprived of his childhood Christianity by Huxley and Tyndall, two scientific atheists who were very evangelistic about their atheism. I mentioned Tyndall’s speech in Ireland, addressed a community of scientists and:
gave a favorable account of the history of evolutionary theories, mentioning Darwin’s name favorably more than 20 times, and concluded by asserting that religious sentiment should not be permitted to “intrude on the region of knowledge, over which it holds no command”.
Wikipedia has more to say about this. Whoever edited the page explains that the Pope:.
in 1864 decreed that it was an error that “reason is the ultimate standard by which man can and ought to arrive at knowledge” and an error that “divine revelation is imperfect” in the Bible — and anyone maintaining those errors was to be “anathematized” — and in 1888 decreed as follows: “The fundamental doctrine of rationalism is the supremacy of the human reason, which, refusing due submission to the divine and eternal reason, proclaims its own independence…. A doctrine of such character is most hurtful both to individuals and to the State…. It follows that it is quite unlawful to demand, to defend, or to grant, unconditional [or promiscuous] freedom of thought, speech, writing, or religion.” Those principles and Tyndall’s principles were profound enemies.
Except those principles and Tyndall’s principles were not profound enemies after all. Tyndall was not will to grant those freedoms to Irish Catholics. He was vehemently opposed to Irish Home Rule (which is probably why Yeats, who was a soft Irish nationalist) hated him. He said it would be an unspeakable crime to allow the Irish Catholic majority the right to govern themselves. He also “tried unsuccessfully to get the UK’s premier scientific society to denounce the Irish Home Rule proposal as contrary to the interests of science.”
And this, obviously, to those who know, reminds me of Chratlotte Mason’s ‘way of the reason:’
We should teach children, also, not to lean (too confidently) unto their own understanding because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration of (a) mathematical truth and (b) of initial ideas accepted by the will. In the former case reason is, perhaps, an infallible guide but in the latter is not always a safe one, for whether the initial idea be right or wrong reason will confirm it by irrefragible proofs.
Therefore children should be taught as they become mature enough to understand such teaching that the chief responsibility which rests upon then: as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas presented to them. To help them in this choice we should afford them principles of conduct and a wide range of fitting knowledge.
Every child, every man, who comes to a sudden halt watching the action of his own reason, is another Columbus, the discoverer of a new world. Commonly we let reason do its work without attention on our part, but there come moments when we stand in startled admiration and watch the unfolding before us point by point of a score of arguments in favour of this carpet as against that, this route in preference to the other, our chosen chum as against Bob Brown; because every pro suggested by our reason is opposed to some con in the background. How else should it happen that there is no single point upon which two persons may reason,––food, dress, games, education, politics, religion,––but the two may take opposite sides, and each will bring forward infallible proofs which must convince the other were it not that he too is already convinced by stronger proofs to
vol 6 pg 140
strengthen his own argument. Every character in history or fiction supports this thesis; and probably we cannot give a better training in right reasoning than by letting children work out the arguments in favour of this or that conclusion.
And so two people so diametrically opposed to one another as Tyndall and the Pope, both concluded that the other guy’s rights needed to be curtailed, because he was so dangerously wrong.