But while naturalism thus finds its principle of unification in the universality and interconnection of world-events, while it works inwards from external nature to the life and mind of man which it interprets as expressions of natural law, it meets with strenuous antagonism from the opposing school of thought. The attempt to depose this earth of ours, as the home of man, from its central position in the solar system not only showed an impious disregard of the teachings of the Bible, it was regarded as the first naturalistic attack on the system of interpretation therein set forth. It was resisted with all the force which ecclesiastical authority could summon to its aid. When Hutton and Lyell laid claim for naturalism on the physical features of the earth, and urged that the stratified deposits testify to a long-continued process of natural development and a progressive sequence of life-forms through a vast stretch of time reaching backwards for ages before the existence of man, the opposition again was decided and sincere. Apart from any contradiction of Holy Writ, how could such a view be reconciled with the creation of the world that it might be the abode of man, and that it might subserve his ends and purposes. And before the feelings of antagonism to uniformitarian geology had subsided, comes Darwin, as the prince of evolutionists, showing how a doctrine of transformation could be accepted on purely naturalistic grounds, and boldly asserting that man and ape were cousins by descent. Many still living remember well with what vehement opposition this further encroachment of naturalism was met in the sixties of the last century. But as organic evolution gradually won its way to general acceptance, the opponents of naturalism withdrew to their central citadel, the mind and spirit of man. That at any rate was theirs to hold and to keep against all attacks. Naturalism, however, having gained strength and confidence, does not hesitate to lay siege to this citadel, and already regards the whole position as won. Determinate evolution is victorious all along the line. It only remains for us either to accept the inevitable, or to take up a position as belated outsiders, living in dreamland away from the practical realties of science, rethinking the childish thoughts of primitive folk, and seeking in vain for purpose in the heaven from which it has long Ago been banished.
The much vaunted triumph of naturalism is founded upon the assured conquests of science. No one today is likely to deny to science an honourable position in the world of thought. It has brought the most varied phenomena within the scope of an orderly scheme. When we look out on the world in which we live we are at first bewildered with the multiplicity of diverse happenings which meet our wondering and admiring view. At night we see the firmament bespangled with glittering points of light sweeping majestically in well-ordered array across the heavens as the earth rolls onwards in her course; among them are wandering points, the planets, threading their way among the fixed stars, and that larger, but yet smaller wanderer, the moon, waxing and waning as we watch her night by night. The stars fade in the brightening east, and the sun rises to trace its larger or smaller arc in the sky. Clouds form and are banked in billowy masses; wind and rain, thunder and lightning, present to us fresh aspects of nature. The rugged or gently swelling earth with its mountain and valley, hill and dale, waterfalls and fretting streams; the coast-line with its bays and promontories, its bounding expanse of ocean with rising and falling tide, with wavelets lapping the sands or breakers beating on the beach, add to our store of observed facts. Tree and shrub, fern and flower, arrest our attention, while bird and beast and myriad insects speak to us of the wealth and variety of life. Men and women people the scene, living in complex communities, with strange customs, with experience, thought, and imagination, seeking to explain the varied phenomena of nature and how consciousness itself. has appeared in their midst. Such is but a bird's-eye view of the varied facts with which science has essayed to deal. That it has been able to group them, systematise them, exhibit their multiplex interconnections, bring them to some extent within a single related scheme, and show running through them all the grand sweep of a curve of evolution, all this should fill us with a sense of unqualified admiration. Science has undertaken a worthy task, which it prosecutes with splendid ability. But when it erects upon such foundations a philosophy of naturalism, when it asserts that nature is devoid of purpose, and that even in human life purpose may be so explained as to be practically explained away, it behooves us to re-examine its data, to submit its conclusions to critical study, and to make sure, before we surrender ourselves to its agnostic creed, that there are no realities for human thought other than the realities of phenomenal existence.