Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)

Luther, Martin, D.D. (1483-1546)

J. McCabe, Science and Religion from Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Science and Religion. The word "science" is the Latin for "knowledge" and the reason why it became restricted to a particular class of knowledge was chiefly the convenience of this in the days when three types of knowledge apart from history and technics, were recognized: that derived from revelation that which is reached directly by the mind (a priori or intuitional knowledge) and that gathered empirically from nature. The prestige of the third class has now risen so high, partly because the work of research is understood to give a finer sense of discrimination between reality and illusion or verbiage and partly because the validity of scientific knowledge has been vindicated by monumental service in its practical application, that even theology and philosophy claim to be sciences, while the apologist is never happier than when he discovers a basis for his arguments in science. Its extension has already discredited the attempt to limit its sphere to material things - unless it be admitted that the realities studied in psychology ethics, and aesthetics are material - the new and more critical history is said to be scientific, and the cry is raised that all the problems of life ought to be brought into its field. Since inaccurate knowledge or verbiage is not knowledge and our age increasingly rejects the idea that truth can be attained either by revelation or intuition, the word "science" tends to become synonymous with knowledge. Meantime it denotes a knowledge of nature acquired by sensory observation and intellectual or mathematical reasoning on the data and for more than a hundred years it has been a matter of acute controversy whether this conflicts with religion The issue is often evaded by a fallacy. It is said that "the greater scientific men" do not contradict religious statements, or, if they do, they are not using the language of science. But the question is not whether scientific men do or do not contradict such statements; it is whether what they put before us as the received teaching of science is inconsistent with some point or points of religious belief and teaching. Hence all talk about "camp-followers of science" or "skirmishes in No Man's Land" is mere rhetoric. To what extent men of science explicitly recognize such a conflict, and reject religion, will be considered in the next article. Clarity of thought requires that we first inquire whether in any respects scientific truth conflicts with religion.
&nsp;     It is obvious that in order to decide such a question a man must have a large and reliable knowledge of both science (in so far as it is relevant to the issue) and religion. The great majority of, indeed practically all, religious writers on the subject have no command of science, and they either select points which they do not understand from scientific manuals or - this is the usual practice - copy from each other in an endless and wearisome series. Even Bishop Barnes, the best qualified of apologists in this respect, has a thorough knowledge only of mathematics, which is irrelevant to this issue, and one must conclude that it is from ignorance on a vital point that he represents as the teaching of science the theory, for instance, of Emergent Evolution [see], which was never held by more than a handful of scientific men of religious views (and for religious reasons) and is now fully discredited. Catholic and Fundamentalist writers, who do not expect to be read outside their own Churches, have the further and graver defect that they quote from outdated works of science and, suppressing details, represent each other or any favourable writer as "scientists" or "great scientists." For the same reasons even a scientific man writing on this subject must either be an authority on, or have a competent knowledge of the branch of science from which he draws his facts; and, since scientific work is necessarily very specialized, it is very exceptional for a professor in one branch to have even a fair knowledge of other branches. This is particularly important because the inorganic sciences (physics, etc.) and mathematics have now almost no relevance to religious controversy, and the few men of science of our (or recent) time who defend religion (Kelvin, Lodge, Jeans, Eddington, Whetham, Pupin, Millikan, etc.) are for the far greater part authorities on the inorganic sciences only, yet they discourse glibly, and inaccurately, on biological, anthropological, or psychological matters. It is also a plain fact of experience that the small minority of men of science who are, or were, authorities on the biological sciences, yet defend religion (Osborn, Thomson, MacBride, Morgan, Conklin, etc.), allow their Theism, as in the case of Emergent Evolution, to influence their science. On the other hand, the scientific man or the Rationalist require an accurate knowledge of the religious position. The requirement is here less drastic because for serious students conflict of science and religion is now virtually confined to two points: God and the soul or mind. The mediaeval conflict is exhaustively described in A. D. White's History of the Warfare of Science With Theology (2 vols., 1896), to which the chief Catholic apologist on the scientific side, Dr. J. J. Walsh, makes a very feeble and inaccurate reply in The Popes and Science (1912). [See Age of the Earth; Anatomy; Antiquity of Man; Medicine; etc.] Apart from this historical and not very important controversy, to say that science may conflict with theology, but not with religion, is pointless. The serious conflict to-day is with the fundamental principles of all religion; and even if the word "religion" is taken in the ethical sense, the conflict between intuitional and scientific ethics [see] is very material. There is next what we may call the nineteenth-century conflict, still pathetically sustained by Fundamentalists and Catholics, about the stories of Genesis, evolution, archaeology and the Bible, etc. [See articles on each item.] The substantial issue is whether the teaching of science does or does not conflict, expressly or implicitly, with the fundamental doctrines of all religion, Modernist or Fundamentalist, Christian or Moslem: the beliefs in God and immortality. Even here a sound acquaintance with the literature on both sides is necessary, and one must decline to pay serious attention to scientific men who, having no such knowledge, assure the public that there must be a Great Power, a First Cause, a Source of Love and Beauty, and so on. Equally unintelligible are scientific men who profess a high admiration of Christ or the beauty or superiority of Christian teaching when they have no knowledge of Biblical study or of non-Christian ethical and religious systems of the first century.
&nsp;     When we clear away these fallacies and misunderstandings we see science and religion as two rival interpretations of reality which are and always must be in conflict. The superficial plea that the one deals with material and the other with immaterial realities affords no escape from this situation. It is from a study of nature, and of the human mind as part of nature, that the existence of such immaterial realities is inferred; and nature and man are precisely the subject-matter of science. For the overwhelming majority of Theists the belief in the existence of God is based upon features of nature: its existence, order, design, purpose, beauty, and movements. We saw how futile is the attempt of a minority to avoid the clash with science and philosophy (which disdains such inferences) by appealing to an inner consciousness [see Psychological Argument for Religion]. For the overwhelming majority of believers in immortality the conviction is based upon the nature of thought or the mind, and that is the proper subject of psychology. Basic religion consists of these two inferences from realities which science studies, and what it teaches about them has already discredited the religious inferences. As regards Theism, see that title and God, and the subsidiary articles (Design; First Cause; etc.) there quoted. Even the subterfuge that, instead of building on "gaps" in the scientific scheme of interpretation, we must see a purpose in nature, or its evolution "as a whole," is inconsistent with the facts of science and history. [See Design Argument.] The conflict is even more deadly in regard to the second religious assertion. [See Immortality; Prehistoric Man; and Psychology.] Large numbers of Christian writers acknowledge this and frankly confess that there is no ground for belief in immortality except in the New Testament, which gives equal ground for believing in devils, hell, original sin, self-torture, etc. Science is in its very nature materialistic. It deals with measurable realities only. It aspires to bring the whole of reality within its province, and that means, in the words of Tyndall's famous Belfast Address in 1874: "We claim, and we shall wrest from theology, the entire domain of cosmological theory." Modern science adds, "the entire domain of life." The conflict continues, whether or no it is formulated in words by scientific men, as long as the rival religious interpretation of reality survives. For detailed study of the present-day conflict see McCabe's Riddle of the Universe To-day (1934).


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