In 1874 John Tyndall, incoming President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, gave his inaugural address at the  annual meeting in Belfast and created a scandal in Britain with his remarks that:

All religious theories, schemes and systems, which embrace notions of cosmogony, or which otherwise reach into the domain of science, must, in so far as they do this, submit to the control of science, and relinquish all thought of controlling it.

He was roundly condemned by the clergy, but also by many fellow scientists who were religious. Two of them, Balfour Stewart and P. G. Tait, writing at lightning speed, dashed off a book length response called The Unseen Universe: Or Physical Speculations on a Future State. Their aim was to show that the likely existence of an unseen world answered all the the apparent conflicts between science and religion and fully supported Christian theology.

Their argument is that conservation of energy overall—in the seen and unseen universes taken together—accounts for all the puzzles in science and religion. The creation was accomplished not ex nihilo as theologians believed, but by a transfer of energy from the unseen universe into the visible world. Life as a form of energy was also the result of such a transfer. When the visible universe finally expires, its energy will go back into the unseen universe, and finally, the unseen universe is the resting place of the soul after death. The quality of their thought is not unfairly represented by this excerpt:

198. Now, is it not natural to imagine that a universe of this nature, which we have reason to think exists, and is connected by bonds of energy with the visible universe, is also capable of receiving energy from it? Whether is it more likely that by far the larger portion of the high-class energy of the universe is travelling outward into space with immense velocity, or that it is gradually transferred into an invisible order of things? May we not regard ether or the medium as not merely a bridge between one portion of the visible universe and another, but also as a bridge between one order of things and another, forming as it were a species of cement, in virtue of which the various orders of the universe are welded together and made one? In fine, what we generally call ether may not be a mere medium, but a medium plus the invisible order of things, so that when the motions of the visible universe are transferred into ether, part of them are conveyed as by a bridge into the invisible universe, and are then made use of or stored up. Nay, is it even necessary to retain the conception of a bridge? May we not at once say that when energy is carried from matter into ether it is carried from the visible into the invisible; and that when it is carried from ether to matter it is carried from the invisible into the visible?"

Balfour and Tait, The Unseen Universe, London, MacMillan & Co. 1875 (third edition), p. 158

The book was a runaway best-seller and went through four editions in its first year and ten within eight years. It was criticized by theologians and scientists alike, but it offered its readers a scientific support for their cherished religious notions at a time when Darwinism and other ideas were challenging them.

The ether which served as the means of transfer between the visible and the invisible was itself invisible and undetectable. The famous experiments of Michelson and Morley in 1887 coupled with Einstein's 1905 paper on special relativity put it out of existence permanently.

Balfour and Tait are forgotten today, but Tyndall's speech is not and his principle—that religion must give way to science in scientific questions—is largely accepted today. George Bernard Shaw had Mrs. Whitefield in Man and Superman complain that “Nothing has been right since that speech that Professor Tyndall made at Belfast.” It should be the other way round: things began to go right with Tyndall's speech.


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I agree with you, Dr. Clark, that things began to go right after Tyndall's speech. Or should we say, he put things in a right perspective. Many might believe the ideas in The Unseen Universe, but here I'm seeing words like "ether", "medium," "visible and invisible," and then we have that "bridge" between the two worlds. This smacks strongly of the woo that existed in the 1920's called spiritualism. (Somehow there isn't much of that going on today.) It rings a little louder into another realm as well -- they made it all up! Yes, they made it up because they wanted to believe that "guidebook form god himself", the Bible.

As a child and later a teen, I wondered why my parents believed it all and went to church all the time, taking me along also. They decided that I should be a minister, and that "god had called me." Certainly this had to be right for everyone to believe it. All this god stuff. Later as I fell away from it and "wasn't living right" it caused me much grief and guilt. Why would people believe this if it all was not true, I wondered? Maybe because nobody wants to die or suffer, and we all want our problems taken care of with our family remaining together forever. The ultimate fairey tale here.

Now let's go back to 1874 when John Tyndall upset everybody so much. What part of our universe was visible to mankind at that time? Today because of the Hubbell telescope we see so much of the universe that we know things could not possibly have been created as it says in the Bible. For the Bible to be true, then everything that we see now would not have all been created yet! That's a powerful statement taking the Genesis "creations" as a model.

But, along will come yet another "christian apologist" who will solve the issue simply by saying that "god blinked" everything into existence. (In Genesis he spoke.) Why do they do this? Nobody wants to die. The problem is, there is no evidence of god. There never was.

Tyndall's speech is available online in several places. Here's one:

Tyndall traces the history of science up to his time and makes a strong case for evolution and the Darwinian point of view. He also mentions prominently Epicurus and Lucretius. It is a thoroughly modern effort despite a few points on which he might be criticized. It was a brave effort for the times.

For the first three editions of their book Balfour and Tait did not put their names to it. Only on the fourth edition, when it was already well known that they were the authors, did they allow their names on the title page.

To say that science can prove everything about everything is nonsense.
Observation is restricted to the universe. There is no way you can disprove something that lies outside of the universe with evidence restricted to the universe! You can never prove that God does not exist.

Science is open to modifications, science can never know be sure if it knows everything about the universe. To say so deserves criticism as a lack of understanding of what science is.

You can never prove that God does not exist.

Of course not, but you can question whether the statement God exists actually has any  meaning if the reality and the concept of God are beyond our conception.

I can say that "God has blue eyes" and you cannot possibly prove me wrong. If on the other hand I say that "God is omnipresent," you can quite legitimately ask me what that statement means and how I can claim to know it. And after I try to answer, you might correctly conclude that the statement is without any meaning.

If the term universe means everything that exists, then it makes no sense to talk of anything outside it— that would be saying "there exists something separate from and in addition to everything that exists."

That's good, Dr. Clark. What you can prove is that the god of the scriptures (that we call the bible) does not exist. Beyond that you can prove that the book of Genesis is not an accurate record of everything coming into being. With that much said, you come to the part where god did not want mankind to have knowledge. A talking snake wanted us to have knowledge, and god did not like the idea. Consequently this was the "fall of man" that required him to have "salvation" to get back to god. Therefore mankind has to have a "savior" to avoid the "sin" of wanting knowledge so that he can spend eternity with god. I think it's about as clear as mud! There's no need to be "saved" or "redeemed." Genesis is bogus. The baby has been thrown out with the bath water.

Would the church world acknowledge this? Of course not. With no need of salvation there is no need of god.

Does any of this mean that without a doubt no god exists? No. It simply means that in all records of mankind there is no evidence for god. No evidence that god helps you, reveals himself to you, or demands anything of you. Zero evidence of deity in our universe.

Wrong John,

To Scientists, life and the universe are truly a great wonder and gives us all a zest for learning about it and to find out more.

There is no evidence of anything outside the universe nor time.

Until there is such evidence, we can consider your comments null and void.

The more we discover, the more we realize how little we know, but the universe has it's limitations and science is really not falsifiable, as that is a Karl Popper delusion.

We are discovering more about the human mind almost daily and soon we will have an extremely good and likely correct idea of why and how it creates such delusions as religion.

Physical science may never be able to prove god does not exist.

But, neurology may very well prove that god and religion is just a brain based delusion, which is good enough for most of us as proof it doesn't exist.

I think you should watch some Robert Sapolsky youtube clips on what it means to be human, you will certainly learn about the many myths we humans have about ourselves.

The universe is a natural occurrence. The supernatural does not exist. It is only in our lifetimes has our species possessed the knowledge to understand this fact. There are definitely no gods.

...god blinked everything into existence.

A wonderful metaphor for LeMaitre's vision: everything from nothing.

His vision of what we, a shrinking number of us, call the Big Bang.

What did LeMaitre not "see" that we do "see" now?

The infrared and ultraviolet universe! The radio-frequency universe.

The universe outside the miniscule part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we say is visible.

It's another blow to theistic man's ego.

If reason doesn't clear your mind, read The Electric Sky by Donald E. Scott.

The Big Bang, to which only theists could have given life, is dead.

As every atheist has to conclude.




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