An Essay On Man Criticism Of Christianity

Man and Matter - Essays Scientific & Christian is a 1951 book written by a British chemist, museum curator and historian of scienceFrank Sherwood Taylor.[1] The work presents a critical mind's account of the clash between religion and science. It provides insight into an intriguing perspective of a person, who has been received into the Catholic Church after forty years of struggling to find his way in a conflicted world of scientific and religious explanations.[2]

The book consists of a preface, personal introduction, and twelve essays, read to the followers of the Catholic Church. The essays reflect on various, more or less controversial issues dividing religion and science, such as materialism, pain, and morality.[3][4][5] They have been written at different times and therefore represent the shifting views of the author, as he searches for decisive arguments. All essays have been intended to fall in line with "the Christian doctrine and common sense".[6]

Book contents[edit]


In the preface, the author informs the reader of the position he has assumed when writing the essays - one of a formerly confused, but now reassured, believer.

Personal introduction[edit]

First chapter, adequately titled Personal Introduction, gives insightful information on why a scientifically inclined and critical person would choose to return to Church, after having been exposed to various religious and scientific influences throughout life.[7] This chapter provides rich insights into author's early experiences, such as growing up in an Anglican family, receiving Christian education, praying, learning the Bible, and partaking in various religious customs and traditions, all very typical of the times, place, and author's social class. However, despite these influences, Sherwood Taylor had great difficulties accepting faith and religion as they were presented to him. Realization that religion might lack rational foundation has severely swayed his views, and initiated an over 40-year long journey in quest of an ultimate verdict between religion and materialism. Along the way, the author has encountered themes such as mind and body, physical concepts of extension, mass, and motion, perception, superstitions, consciousness, spiritualism, qualia and many more, all having great influence on the author and contributing to his understanding of the world, but still not decisive. Sherwood Taylor's problem with materialism lied in its inability to account for mental experiences, and for the sense of "self" as a thinking entity. Additionally, scientific praise of determinism was hardly in line with Sherwood Taylor's belief in will and choice. Despite his great respect for science, the author started to find it increasingly difficult to believe that science could ever explain his life, thoughts, and experiences, his poetic, and mystic side, desperately searching for God.

A pivotal turn took place, when F. Sherwood Taylor accidentally received a letter meant for a member of the Rationalist Press Association, asking to give a lecture on Galileo. Despite a mistake, Sherwood Taylor offered his services, and soon found himself an expert on Galileo's case. While investigating the matter, he came to the conclusion, that Galileo's story was full of deliberate distortions implemented by anti-Catholic and "rational" writers. This made him realize that science is guilty of all the offences usually assigned to Church - it's ill-founded, wicked, deceitful, and superstitious. Following this and other events, including hearing a voice in his head say "Why are you wasting your life?", F. Sherwood Taylor started to see Christianity as the purest and most intelligible of religions, offering so long-sought solutions to many countless problems of life. Additionally, his career in chemistry begun to feel uncomfortable, as it was contributing to a materialist worldview.[8] He joined the Roman Catholic Church, and, although not without doubts, has made up his mind.

The remaining of the book presents 12 essays, which are F. Sherwood Taylor's attempt at progressive, but not final, integration of the religious and scientific methodologies and ways of considering and understanding the world.


  • The Deficiencies of Materialism
  • Science, Philosophy and Religion
  • Biology and Man
  • Evolution and Religion
  • The Problem of Pain in Nature
  • On the Excellence of Things
  • The Vocation of Science
  • The Place of Science in Christian Education
  • Some Moral Problems Raised by Science
  • The Church and Science
  • Mysticism, Christian and Pagan
  • The Catholic Layman and His Responsibilities


The book has been reviewed by Sister Francis Augustine Richey, who regards the author as "a distinguished scientist, a convert moreover from the fringes of scientism to catholicism, a writer with a singularly gifted mind, sensitive, imaginative, intuitive and logical".[9] She states, that as a chemist and historian of science, Sherwood Taylor relies on experience, and writes from a position that emphasizes the appreciation of science. However, he does so in a thoughtful and critical manner, raising "an inspiring call into the battle against materialism". He engages in a careful analysis of scientific method and knowledge, and does so from an easily approachable objective perspective, which Sister Francis Augustine Richey calls "impersonally personal". She describes the book as valuable and illuminating for "teacher and pupil whether of science, philosophy, or religion".


  1. ^Ralph E. Oesper, "Frank Sherwood Taylor", Journal of Chemical Education, 27(5), p 253, May 1950. ACS Publications. doi:10.1021/ed027p253
  2. ^Sherwood Taylor, F. Mind and Matter - Essays Scientific & Christian, 1951
  3. ^Sherwood Taylor, F. Mind and Matter - Essays Scientific & Christian, 1951, e.g. chapter 2
  4. ^Sherwood Taylor, F. Mind and Matter - Essays Scientific & Christian, 1951, e.g. chapter 6
  5. ^Sherwood Taylor, F. Mind and Matter - Essays Scientific & Christian, 1951, e.g. chapter 10
  6. ^Sherwood Taylor, F. Mind and Matter - Essays Scientific & Christian, 1951, preface
  7. ^Sherwood Taylor, F. Mind and Matter - Essays Scientific & Christian, 1951, chapter 1
  8. ^Bowler, P., J. Reconciling Science and Religion: The Debate in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain, 2001, p. 42
  9. ^Richey, F., A. Man and Matter, 1954, College of Saint Elizabeth, Convent, New Jersey


'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill;
But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' offence
To tire our patience, than mislead our sense.
Some few in that, but numbers err in this,
Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss;
A fool might once himself alone expose,
Now one in verse makes many more in prose.

       'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
In poets as true genius is but rare,
True taste as seldom is the critic's share;
Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let such teach others who themselves excel,
And censure freely who have written well.
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
But are not critics to their judgment too?

       Yet if we look more closely we shall find
Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind;
Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light;
The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right.
But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac'd,
Is by ill colouring but the more disgrac'd,
So by false learning is good sense defac'd;
Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn critics in their own defence:
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write,
Or with a rival's, or an eunuch's spite.
All fools have still an itching to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing side.
If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite,
There are, who judge still worse than he can write.

       Some have at first for wits, then poets pass'd,
Turn'd critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last;
Some neither can for wits nor critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our isle
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal:
To tell 'em, would a hundred tongues require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire.

       But you who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a critic's noble name,
Be sure your self and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.

Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
Whatever Nature has in worth denied,
She gives in large recruits of needful pride;
For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits, swell'd with wind;
Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense!
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless day;
Trust not yourself; but your defects to know,
Make use of ev'ry friend—and ev'ry foe.

       A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir'd at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise
New, distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleas'd at first, the tow'ring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
Th' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way,
Th' increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

       A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ,
Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find,
Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind;
Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight,
The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with wit.
But in such lays as neither ebb, nor flow,
Correctly cold, and regularly low,
That shunning faults, one quiet tenour keep;
We cannot blame indeed—but we may sleep.
In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts
Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts;
'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
But the joint force and full result of all.
Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome,
(The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome!'
No single parts unequally surprise;
All comes united to th' admiring eyes;
No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear;
The whole at once is bold, and regular.

       Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.
In ev'ry work regard the writer's end,
Since none can compass more than they intend;
And if the means be just, the conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due.
As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit,
T' avoid great errors, must the less commit:
Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays,
For not to know such trifles, is a praise.
Most critics, fond of some subservient art,
Still make the whole depend upon a part:
They talk of principles, but notions prize,
And all to one lov'd folly sacrifice.

Part 3

Learn then what morals critics ought to show,
For 'tis but half a judge's task, to know.
'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join;
In all you speak, let truth and candour shine:
That not alone what to your sense is due,
All may allow; but seek your friendship too.

       Be silent always when you doubt your sense;
And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence:
Some positive, persisting fops we know,
Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so;
But you, with pleasure own your errors past,
And make each day a critic on the last.

       'Tis not enough, your counsel still be true;
Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do;
Men must be taught as if you taught them not;
And things unknown proposed as things forgot.
Without good breeding, truth is disapprov'd;
That only makes superior sense belov'd.

       Be niggards of advice on no pretence;
For the worst avarice is that of sense.
With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust,
Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise.

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