Gladstone’s Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science

Author: John Hall Gladstone was a British chemist born in 1827. He was privately educated at home and went on to attend University College, London where he received a gold medal for original research, and publishing a paper on guncotton and xyloidine. In1847 he attended Giessen University, where he studied under Liebig and graduated with a Ph.D. in philosophy. In 1848 he lost his wife along with his eldest daughter and only son, ostensibly only pausing his endeavors in science and social life. From 1850 to 1852 he was lecturer on chemistry at St. Thomas’s Hospital. He served as President of the Physical Society (which he founded) from 1874-76, and then as President of the Chemical Society from 1877-1879. Gladstone published work on bromination of rubber and commenced innovative efforts towards/in optics and spectroscopy. As an advocate and activist of education, he was an innovator in establishing practical and physical direction as well as the education of science to elementary school students. Gladstone was also involved  in Christian efforts, arranging religious meetings and bible classes among educated men and women. He was a member of the Royal Society. He died in 1902.

Context: Published in 1872, Gladstone initially gave this work as a lecture at the request of the Christian Evidence Society in order to defend Christianity and the influence of the bible from the incursion of New Science.

Language: The tone Gladstone uses is informative, he uses reasoning and scientific fact to prove his points. He gives his lecture from an educated point of view.

Audience: Christians and those who had doubts due to the increase of scientific knowledge. (the Christian Evidence Society)

Intent: Gladstone’s intent in this lecture was to convince his audience that science could explain and even verify religious beliefs and Christian sentiments. Gladstone addresses the skeptics view of controversy between science and religion. He also confronts Christian indignation and declaration of the irreligiousness of Darwin’s ideas.

Message: Gladstone’s message in this lecture was that science could support and maintain the historical beliefs of Christianity. He gave examples of earth structure change as well as fossils from beings that did not appear in the modern era, and related this to the Biblical story of Noah and the flood. He addressed the belief that the six days of creation were demonstrative of six different periods in history and concluded that Scripture could be proved by geology to be true and therefore the controversy over Genesis was mute. Gladstone professed interest in Darwin’s work and that although he did not agree with Darwin on the exact point at which evolution began, he respected the ideas Darwin had. Gladstone understood that religious individuals felt Darwin’s ideas attacked their beliefs of God’s active presence in the universe and their ideas on creation stemming from the Bible. He offered a different view of the matter, using textual evidence from the bible to prove that the idea of evolution did not negate the comprehension of the bible’s story of creation.

Haeckel and the Importance of Monism

Author: Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was born in Prussia and was educated in several different fields including philosophy, biology, natural history, and medicine. He is credited with the discovery of thousands of new species and promoted the works of Charles Darwin in Germany.
Context: The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science was written in 1892, a period in which many biologists were rethinking their understanding of the relationship between God and nature.
Language: The language used in Haeckel’s Confession was forceful and persuasive. Haeckel seemed to be urging his audience to recognize the beauty in a monistic view toward God and nature.
Audience: Haeckel writes that he “crave[s] the permission of this assembly” to confess his faith, indicating that he was orating his Confession to a congregation of other scientists in his field.
Intent: Haeckel’s intent was to persuade his audience of the existence of a unity between God and nature.
Message: Haeckel implored his fellow scientists to embrace the monistic unity of all things. He emphasized the compatibility of God and the scientific knowledge of the time, as well as the presence of a divine spirit in nature. He also quoted the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who opined that “no body is so small that it does not contain a part of the divine substance whereby it is animated.” Haeckel concluded his speech with a representation of monism as “truly beatific union of religion and science”, stressing the influence monism will have on the ideas of the coming century.

Science and Religion’s Means to an End

Einstein’s writing on the contradictory nature of science and religion explains the limits of human knowledge and use of the scientific method. He believes that only religion can give us the sense of “ultimate and fundamental ends.” In addition, he adds that this is directly related to the democratic ideals and therefore with the discarding of religion, the democratic spirit is being set aside as well.

The part of this excerpt I found most intriguing was Einstein’s focus on ends and means. He states that while objective reasoning gives us “tools”, as individuals we need religion to get to goal or even long for a goal. He sees no way for an individual to develop to serve mankind without this higher power. It’s interesting because in a time where scientific progress was being made in such large strides to serve mankind, Einstein takes an opposite view explaining that only religion can serve this purpose.

In an era in such desperate need of moral guidance, why did so many flock to a scientific way of thinking?

Einstein’s Science and Religion

The reading “Science and Religion” consists of two articles written by Albert Einstein. They both argue science and religion are interdependent.  Einstein wrote that science could not exist without the questioning of one’s surroundings and pushing the boundaries of knowledge and fact, which are fundamental principles accompanying any religion. Likewise, religion could not exist without knowledge and fact, as knowledge lays the groundwork for ethics and rules.

Throughout the reading, Einstein made a couple of references to the Church. At the end of the second article segment, Einstein wrote why he believes a priest must become a teacher in order to get his message across. As Einstein was Jewish, I found it very interesting how he offered examples from the Catholic religion instead of Judaism. I thought of a reason this might be. My thought is that Einstein was a self-loathing Jew. He experienced the rise of Nazi Germany first hand, and was fortunately saved and allowed to immigrate to America because of his scientific work. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921, and moved to American in 1933. The Nazis burned his books and put out a hit on him in spite of all of his accomplishments. From the reading, it is obvious that Einstein believed that religion is important to incorporate into society and into one’s life, but is it possible he hated his own religion? Was he hiding his Judaism to be taken more seriously, as anti-Semetism was running rampant at this time? Or was he just appealing to the public and the majority?

Science and Religion

We are currently living in an era defined by a technological renaissance. Humanities machines, weapons, and access to knowledge have surpassed the imaginary limits of many 20th century novelists and—to be quite honest, elicit in me a curious sense of caution as to our limits. The Internet, genomics, Solar-Photovoltaics—these are instruments and ideas that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago. My generation has always been exposed to a world of knowledge that hadn’t existed a few years before our birth. The Internet can provide us with the answers to all of our non-transcendental questions almost instantly. To many, religion is regarded merely as the manifestation of the human unknown—meaning, it is the explanation of what we have yet to prove with science. As an atheist myself, I used to frequently dwell on God’s existence, or more appropriately, the disproof for God’s existence that I could piece together using logic into a vain philosophical argument which proved to me nothing. To many, ‘logic’ and religion are incompatible.

Einstein takes a very different standpoint. He argues that religion has the answers to our aspirations and nature—something which cannot be entirely explained using proof. Einstein claims that overzealous nationalism and totalitarianism are destroying the human spirit, by resting their crosshairs on destruction rather than creation. Objective knowledge, he argues, is extremely important and has been colossal in its achievements. But does not, however, come close to giving us the meaning of our existence.

Progression and Regression in “Things to Come”


What do years of war bring? What do years of peace bring? William Cameron Menzies’s film, Things to Come, based on a novel by H.G. Wells, shows these two extremes in a dystopian future. After extended war, the human race reverts back to barbarism and no longer know how to fly planes. After extended peacetime, humans make too much progress, and the object of life is not progress, it is living. Either way, too much regression or too much progression will cause humans to lose sight of what it means to live.

In Everytown, during the long war, they cannot fly planes because they have no oil or gasoline. If we are not careful about our resources and finding alternatives to fossil fuel, this could become reality in the twenty-first century. In this way, the film is warning us of the dangers of mass destruction and mass war. On the other hand, the film warns that two much progress can take away from life and actually make us less human. So what is the message that one is supposed to take away from the film? Everything in moderation? War is bad, but so is scientific and technological progress?

Ironically, both in the time of war and in the time of peace, authoritarian leaders rose to power. There was the barbaric “Chief”, and there was the forward-looking Oswald Cabal. These leaders also have similar mindsets. The chief wants to conquer the hill people, while Cabal wants to conquer the moon, then the universe.  Is this a comment on the nature of rulers, regardless of outside influences? What is the film attempting to get across to its audience?

Soviet Union ideologies in a post WWII era.

In post World War II Soviet society, the Party’s power seized the reigns on cultural movements including arts and sciences. Through his prior connections with Stalin, Zhdanov ascended to power in an autocratic, post war environment, where he would constrict ideological parameters. Zhdanov’s imposition in the scientific sphere ultimately led to the repression of Soviet genetics research, which remained postponed until the 1960’s. This was because Stalin and other Party officials saw Lysenkoism, a farming method in which the seed is conditioned with cold water in order to maximize production, as more important than genetics research, despite the method’s lack of evidence. This had a disastrous long-term effect on the progress of genetics research and the biological discipline as a whole. Zhdanov’s suppression of cultural progress manifested itself in the form of vehement anti-cosmopolitanism, which simultaneously pressured artists into creating more ideologically friendly pieces and in turn diminishing potential artistic transcendence. Another method Zhdanov used to perpetuate his strict ideologies was his creation of “Cominform”, a propaganda machine that used periodicals as the means to further the Party’s influence. Zhdanov’s abrupt death in 1948 led to instability in the political ring. The Leaders of Leningrad and Russian Federation executed a mass purge of thousands of Party officials as a result of the insecurity in the political atmosphere.

I imagine that this would create drag for the Soviet Union in the competition that emerged between the USSR and the United States after World War II, where they were the two remaining super powers, and ultimately had an impact on the Cold War down the stretch. It also portrays the lack of inner stability and further fear in the Soviet Union, which was most likely a residual effect, left by Stalin and mixed with Zhdanov’s fervor.



“Metropolis,” Capitalism, and Science

Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis provides a good balance between science fiction and social commentary on Weimar Germany.  It depicts a futuristic, dystopian city in which the upper and working classes are both literally and symbolically divided.  When Freder, the son of the city’s overlord discovers the disconnect between the classes, he realizes his role as a mediator between his father and the workers.  He is helped to discover this by his love interest, the prophetic Maria, who preaches for a peaceful solution for the class divide rather than the violent revolution which ends up occurring.

The film’s esthetics play a large role in emphasizing the distinction between the classes.  While the visible part of the city where the wealthy reside is bright and modern looking, the workers’ city is literally underground and characterized by darker colors.  The opening scenes further show the differences between the residents of each section of the city.  The wealthy are shown playing sports and dancing in elaborate gardens specially designed for their pleasure, while the workers are shown marching in a monotonous mob, downtrodden as they prepare for another long shift.  These scenes and esthetics show the two extreme social classes created by capitalism, rather than a large middle class.

The theme of scientific advancement and the troubles in brings reminded me of Bertrand Russell’s “Icarus, or the Future of Science.”  In Metropolis, scientific advancements do not equal better lives for everyone.  While the city is full of technological advancements that make the lives of the citizens of the surface easier, it comes with the price of the suffering of the underground workers.  The creation of the robot Maria is another example in the film of technology being used to harm others.  The robot’s role was reminiscent of that of the somnambulist in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, as both were used to carry out the plans of a madman.

Is the idea of there being some sort of mediator between the classes too idealistic to truly work?

“Metropolis” and Scientific Advancement

Humans are creatures of habit; we don’t like change. This dislike can morph into fear, especially when it comes to technology. In his film Metropolis, Fritz Lang explores the marvels and horrors that could come from technological advances. While Lang illustrates class inequality and warfare, the film focuses mainly on scientific advancement as a double-edged sword.

Metropolis is the story of a futuristic city, in which the wealthy live extravagantly while the poor work all day to keep the city running. A woman named Maria tells of a mediator that will close this gap between rich and poor. Freder, the son of the ruler of the city, fills this role of mediator by bringing his father and Grot, the leader of the workers, together.

This film displays the good that can come from scientific advancement, but also the evil. For example, science can bring remarkable things, such as the city of Metropolis, but it can also bring horrible things, such as the Maria robot.  In this way, both Metropolis and Bertrand Russell’s “Icarus or The Future of Science” advise people to be cautious with science because what can come of technological advances is uncertain.

The contract between the actions of the robot Maria and the real Maria show why science is not to be trusted. The robot Maria leads the workers out of their underground city, leaving the machines and their children behind. The real Maria goes to the workers’ city and saves the children. This scene shows the audience that scientific advancements are not always better for humanity. Humans need to be cautious and aware of their actions when using technology because it can be dangerous.

Metropolis shows the uneasy and fear of the 1920s. Science was advancing and changing how people thought and perceived reality.  This film shows the meeting of humanity with its creations.

Disillusionment and Fear Following WWI

Following the First World War, a sense of disillusionment fell over Europe, and Germany especially. In his 1920 film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene depicts the bewilderment of the German people after losing the war, as well as a general apprehension about change in the world. On the surface, Wiene’s film may seem like merely a horror movie, but it is, like all art, influenced by the ideas and events of the time, giving us a glimpse of interwar thinking.

In the early 19th century, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of science and attempting to play God. Bertrand Russell discusses the dangers of science, as well, in Icarus or The Future of Science, in 1924, a century after Shelley. At this point, technological advances are occurring in many fields, such as manufacturing and science. Russell warns, “physiology will in time find ways of controlling emotion, which it is scarcely possible to doubt.” He fears that someday people will be able to control others with hormone injections, and make them do their bidding. This fear is brought to life in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Dr. Caligari is a physiologist who controls one of his patients by keeping him asleep through hypnosis, then waking him and forcing him to murder people. Not only does this show the evil of playing God, in the end, the whole story was just the main character’s hallucination, who is himself an inmate at a mental institution. This represents the disenchantment of the time, especially in Germany. The German people thought that President Wilson’s Fourteen Points would be the basis of the peace treaty, but instead all of the guilt and economic burden of the war are placed on Germany’s shoulders, while at the same time, Germany is being stripped of her economic resources.

The time period after World War One was an awakening. The war had caused destruction and death of an unprecedented amount.  To express disillusionment with the world, many people turned to the arts. Why the arts? Why, especially, film? Why was and is film such a strong medium for conveying ideas? What is it about film that makes it so powerful? Or is film not powerful, and some other form of art is the best form of self and ideological expression? Why?