How unreasonable then is it to reject these facts, so sifted, so examined, and so attested, as no other facts in the world ever were; and yet to think it the most highly unreasonable, even to madness, to deny other facts, which have not the thousandth part of their evidence, and are of no consequence to us, whether true or false!Read More
In the summer and fall of 1873, George John Romanes lost his belief in God. Of itself, this was nothing unusual. For a young Englishman of the time—particularly one embarking on a career in the sciences—to abandon the faith of his fathers was, if not a universal rite of passage, at least a common trajectory, a well-beaten path traveled by distinguished Victorian intellectuals like Matthew Arnold, W. K. Clifford, Thomas Huxley, John Tyndall, and above all Charles Darwin. And yet Romanes’s case is distinctive both for the care he took to explain the reasons for his loss of faith and for his candid admission of what it cost him to follow, to the best of his ability, wherever the argument seemed to lead.
In the end, it led him where he never expected to arrive.Read More
Thomas Cooper (1805-92) was not a man to do things by halves. His unflagging energy and enormous appetite for knowledge matched his relentless determination to do what he felt was right, whatever it might cost. That energy and that determination propelled him into the pulpit, into a Stafford jail, into the freethinking movement, and ultimately into a most improbable career that kept him constantly busy for the last thirty years of his life.
Cooper’s father died when he was young, and like many poor boys he was apprenticed to a tradesman—in his case, to a cobbler. There cannot often have been a greater mismatch between abilities and opportunities. Cooper’s intellectual gifts drove him to read voraciously, and before long he obtained a position as a lay preacher among the Wesleyans. His unusual gift for public speaking made him immediately popular. It also attracted the unfavorable attention of a less gifted superintendent who, by Cooper’s account, did what he could to thwart the younger man’s career in the church. Some unpleasant ecclesiastical wrangling ensued that left Cooper without a pulpit.Read More