A Scientific
Man and
The Bible
Howard A. Kelly
(The Sunday School Times Co.)
The author of this astounding book is emeritus professor of gynecological surgery at the Johns Hopkins, and one of the the most celebrated surgeons now alive in the the United States. This is what his own university says of him in an official document:

His contribution to the development of genito-urinary surgery for women has been unparalleled. Step by step he unravelled the diseases of the bladder, ureter and kidney....His methods of examination revolutionized gynecological diagnosis.

And much more to the same effect. In brief, a medical man of the first calibre: when he speaks of himself as a scientist, as he does very often in his book, he has every right to use the word. His life has been devoted to exact observation, and that observation has been made so competently and interpreted so logically that the result has been a series of immensely valuable improvements in the healing art and craft. And yet --- and yet --- But how am I to make you believe that such a man has actually written such a volume as this one? How am I to convince you that one of the men who laid the foundations of the Johns Hopkins Medical School --- the daily associate and peer of Osler, Welch and Halstead --- is here on exhibition as a Fundamentalist of the most extreme wing, compared to whom Judge Raulston, of Dayton, Tennessee, seems almost an atheist?

Yet it is so --- and I go, for the depressing proof, behind the book and to the man himself. I have known Dr. Kelly for twenty years, and at different times have seen a great deal of him. Hours on end I have discussed his theological ideas with him, and heard his reasons for cherishing them.

They seem to me now, as they seemed when I first heard them, to be completely insane --- yet Kelly himself is surely not insane. Nor is there the remotest suspicion of insincerity about him. It would be of vast benefit to him professionally to throw over his great cargo of supernatural rubbish, and trim his course as his colleagues trim theirs. If he did so, the Johns Hopkins would be illuminated with Roman candles, star shells and incandescent bock beer signs, and the very cadavers in the dead-house would have their backs slapped. But he will not budge.

He believes that God created the world in six calendar days, and rested on the seventh. He believes that God caused forty-two little children to be devoured by she-bears because they made fun of Elijah's bald head. He believes that Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale (Physeter macrocephalus), and then came out alive. Medicinæ doctor though he be, he believes that the hallucinations of John on the island of Patmos were real. An LL.D. of Aberdeen, he believes (Exodus XXII, 18) that witches exist and should be put to death. An honorary member of learned societies in Paris, Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Leipzig, Bucharest and Moscow, he believes in both the Virgin Birth (Matthew I, 18-35), and in the descent of Jesus from David through Joseph (Matthew I, 1-17). All this, and much more, he believes absolutely without reservation, as a Tennessee hind believes it. "I accept the whole Bible," he says, "as God's Word." And he adds something that even the hind balks at: he believes in the Second Coming --- "at any moment!"

In his book Dr. Kelly offers powerful argument for his amazing credo, but I can only report that, in cold type as vivo voce, he leaves me full of what the lawyers call reasonable doubt. His logic has a curious habit of going half way to a plausible conclusion, and then blowing up completely. For example, he starts off, in one place, by showing how the early criticism of the Gospel of John has broken down --- and then proceeds gaily to the assumption that proving an error in criticism is identical with proving the complete authenticity of the thing criticised. Again, he denounces the effort to raise up doubts of the Mosaic authorship and divine inspiration of the Pentateuch --- and then cinches his case by showing that the Bible itself "claims in all its parts" that it is "the very literal word of God." But the record of a personal experience exhibits the workings of man's mind even more beautifully.

Early in manhood he had to give up his medical studies on account of ill-health and went west to recuperate. In Colorado, during a blizzard, he was beset by snow blindness, and had to take to his bed. Suddenly there came upon him "an overwhelming sense of a great light in the room." How would an ordinary medical student interpret that bright light? How would any ordinary ice-wagon driver, or chiropractor, or Methodist bishop, or even catfish interpret it? Obviously, he would refer it to the violent conjunctivitis from which he was suffering --- in other words, to a purely physical sense. But not Kelly. After forty-four years of active medical practice he still believes that the glare was due to the presence of God! This divine visitation he speaks of simply as the "chief event" of his life. It surely was --- if it was real!

What I'd like to read is a scientific review, by a scientific psychologist --- if any exists --- of A Scientific Man and the Bible. By what route do otherwise sane men come to believe such palpable nonsense? How is it possible for a human brain to be divided into two insulated halves, one functioning normally, naturally, and, at times, brilliantly, and the other capable of the ghastly balderdash which issues from the minds of Baptist evangelists?

Such balderdash takes various forms, but it is at its worst when it is religious. Why should this be so? What is there in religion that completely flabbergasts the wits of those who believe in it? I see no logical necessity for that flabbergasting. Religion, after all, is nothing but an hypothesis framed to account for what is evidentially unaccounted for. In other fields such hypotheses are common, and yet they do no apparent damage to those who incline to them. But in the religious field they quickly rush the believer to the intellectual Bad Lands. He not only becomes anæsthetic to objective fact; he becomes a violent enemy of objective fact. It annoys and irritates him. He sweeps it away as something somehow evil.

This little book I commend to all persons interested in the mysteries of the so-called mind of man. It is a document full of fascination, especially to the infidel and damned. There is a frankness about it that is refreshing and commendable. The author does not apologize for his notions, nor does he try to bring them into grotesque and incredible harmony with scientific facts. He believes the Bible from cover to cover, fly-specks and all, and he says so (considering his station in life) with great courage.

H. L. Mencken
Fides Ante Intellectum
--- from "The American Mercury"
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