Thomas Cooper's opening, which surveys what he takes to be the best and worst things about the Victorian era, prefaces his anti-Darwinian book with a fascinating set of statements of middle-brow Victorianism that include, for instance, great pride in "commercial, industrial, and scientific progress," fear of Roman Catholicism and the Anglican High Church, and a belief that modern science has written God out of history. Why does he open a theological approach to evolutionary thought that obviously accepts some form of development with political, economic, and technological matters?

If some of our honoured forefathers could awake from the dead, and tread again the soil of this dear old England that they loved so much, they would, doubtless, feel great amazement, mingled with exultant pride, when they beheld our commercial, industrial, and scientific progress. If the great men of the age of Elizabeth — Shakspere and Bacon, Cecil and Walsingham, her great ministers, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, the great adventurers and enterprisers of her time, — could be joined with the great men of our Commonwealth period — Milton and Cromwell, Hampden and Pym and Eliot, Seldell and Vane, Algernon Sydney and Andrew Marvel, — and look upon their native land as it exists now — perhaps, the sight of a railway train going at express speed, with the shriek of the steam-whistle, and the snort of the steam-horse, might startle them from their propriety; but, when they had regained selfpossession, and came to learn that the twenty millions of people who inhabit this little island of Great Britain have learned to perform the work of six hundred millions of pairs of human hands by steam-power; that we have become the first maritime, commercial, and manufacturing people in the world; that our ships visit every continent, and every isle of the sea, and are seen in every harbour of the world; that we have colonies in every quarter of the globe, and some of them are continents in size; that two hundred millions of human beings, in India alone, acknowledge the sovereignty of our Queen; that we have learned secrets in science of which the old Greeks, with all their restless curiosity and wondrous intelligence, never dreamed; and that now, at last, after long entreating and petitioning, and promising and deferring, and promising again and still deferring, the British Parliament had determined that every child shall be sent to school, and that, thus, all shall gradually be made partakers of our advancing civilisation, — one cannot help thinking that the illustrious band of our great forefathers, which we have named, would raise hand and heart towards heaven, and say, with one voice, "Thank God, for what He has done for Old England! and long may the dear old land prosper and flourish!"

But, we think, that there are others of our brave and revered forefathers who, if they could rise from their ashes, and look about them in this their native England, as it is at present, would feel sorrow, instead of joy, mingled with their surprise — nay, would be unable to suppress the utterance of their indignation and abhorrence If the grand old martyr whom they burned in the street of Oxford, and who cheered his younger fellow — sufferer at the stake with the immortal words "Play the man, Master Ridley ! we sllall this day light up a candle in England that shall never be put out!" — I say, if grand old Latimer could live again, and be joined by brave Rowland Taylor, and praying Bradford, and faithful Hooper, and others of the "noble army of martyrs," — and they could hear the boast of Cardinal Manning — I beg his pardon! — of His Eminence the Cardinal Lord Archbishop of Westminster — that "the dear old land is returning fast to the dear old faith" — by which he means the old persecuting and burning superstition; — and if the band of martyrs could also learn that we have, now, a long catalogue of titled Romish bishops in the land, — eighteen hundred Romish priests, — and two thousand Romish places of worship, besides several hundred nunneries and monasteries; — and then, if the brave band of sufferers for Protestant truth could look into some of our professedly Protestant churches, and see scores of candles lighted at noonday, and bannered processions trooping up and down the aisles, and could witness the bowings before the "altar" of professedly Protestant clergymen clad in bedizened dresses, and turning their backs upon the people — surely, they would lift up their hands towards heaven, and cry, as with one voice, "Surely, God has written Ichabod upon the Church that we loved, and for whose truths we died! Is the glory for ever departed? Shall the simple gospel we preached be exchanged for tlle persecuting old superstition which burnt us at the stake? Lord, we never thought that this would come to pass, in free and noble old England!"

But, again, we think that there are others of the great departed dead who, if they could live again, and behold the doings and listen to the sayings of the men who profess to be wise — the men of science -- in this human world, at this time, would not only express their amazement and their heartfelt sorrow, but their heartfelt shame. If the founders of the Royal Society — Sir Christopher Wren, who not only built that magnificent St Paul's, but who was a man of vast and extensive knowledge, — and Ray, the author of that good old book "The Wisdom of God in the Creation," and the Honour — able Robert Boyle, that truly devout and noble man of science, — and, above all, The immortal Newton himself, that grand but humble inteliigence who trod the loftiest fields of inquiry and discovery, and yet walked so humbly with his God, — I say, if these great labourers for the increase of human knowledge and the advancement of their race, could live again in England, and listen to the scoffing and lightness and godless theorising of the men of science of this our boasted nineteenth century, — one feels sure they would hide their heads in sorrow and shame.

It is not that our living men of science question Newton's science, or doubt the verity and grandeur of his discoveries, that I thus express myself. It is because they either call in question the existence of the glorious Creator whom Newton so reverently worshipped, or speak so lightly of God's existence, as to show us plainly that they do not deem the Creator worth any acknowledgment at all. For, they make it no secret that they throw the Design Argument, or Doctrine of Final Causes, to the winds. They tell us, without concealment, that they have done with teleology — for they can discern no proof of design, or contrivance, or purpose, either in the living or inorganic world. They maintain that what we deem to be evidences of design and contrivance and purpose in Nature — and, therefore, proofs of the existence of the Creator — are, simply, the outcome and result of the action of the unconscious and eternal forces of matter. It is, they affirm, by the unconscious action of these forces, that the molecules and atoms of matter came to take their present forms. It may be very agreeable employment for our emotional nature, Professor Tyndall thinks, to be religious; but science, he assures us, teaches him no religion, and reveals to him no personal God. A personal God is unthinkable, says Herbert Spencer. And other scientific men do not conceal from us that they have similar convictions. "But, tell us what this Evolution Theory is" — you will say — "and what it is that the champions of this theory maintain." And it will be my duty to go back a few years into the history of science, and trace the rise and progress, or, rather, the revival, of two speculations; and, then, to relate to you how it is now the fashion to combine them into one, and to maintain that we have now discovered the true science — the veritable philosophy of the universe. In doing this, I must be brief, and, at the same time, as explicit as possible.


Cooper, Thomas. The Stone Book: The Mosaic Record of Creation. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1878. pp. 1-7.

Victorianism Victorian Science Charles Darwin Victorian Religion

Last modified 3 December 2008