Science and Religion in ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’
The Island of Dr. Moreau depicts the dueling concepts between science and religion. Throughout the Victorian Era within which H.G. Wells’ novel was written, turmoil between science and religion was at its peak. New scientific theories were proposed including Darwinism, which H.G. Wells strongly advocated as witnessed in his book. Many Christians opposed these findings as these new ideas often disproved what was written in the Bible. Therefore, a divide was created amongst Christians and scientists, the basis of the material introduced in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Due to opposing conflict between science and religion, Wells proposes the solution that rules separate humanity from animals. In, The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells expressed him opinions by agreeing with science’s disposition on life and afterlife rather than religion’s. One way he did this was by sympathizing towards anti-Christian characters. In a critique of Well’s writing, historian and writer Hillarie Belloc states, “…Perpetually do I find in [your book] marks of sympathetic or emotional attraction to that of which has given all its life to the anti-Catholic camp” (Belloc 491). One could assume the character Belloc is referring to is Dr. Moreau. It is clear that Dr. Moreau is anti-Catholic as he believes he can distort God’s work by transforming animals into humans. Also, Moreau may have achieved sympathetic from the readers by his feeble attempts of doing so despite his drive to never give up. Another way his preference for science was expressed was due to the lack of intervention from God. Writer Joyce Moss introduces this as she has written, “The lack of heavenly intervention illustrates Well’s contention that Christ is a ‘dressed up inconsistent effigy of amiability… making vague promises of helpful miracles for the cheating of simple souls in an ever absent help in times of trouble’ [As Wells proposed in his autobiography]” (Moss 405). Moss’ incorporation of an excerpt of Wells’ autobiography emphasizes his distaste for Christ. It can be assumed from this quote that one of Wells’ reasons for accepting science over religion is that science is more reliable.
Another expression for Wells’ favor for religion is because he prefers a new, modern outlook rather than the antiquated teachings of Christianity. Witness John Reed, mentions this idea as he states, “…Wells said that what modern civilization needs is ‘a revised and enlarged Bible… to restore a common ground of ideas and interpretations…’ Because science has invalidated the Bibles scheme [of giving humanity a sense of purpose and order], Wells argued modern man needed a new story of this order” (Reed 553). Wells does not find comfort in the tradition of Christianity after he believes that it has been disproved in the face of science. Therefore, he looks towards science as a modern outlook on life. H.G. Wells had strong opinions in agreeing with science rather than religion. Due to Wells’ influence, the public was also eager to follow science’s findings. With H.G. Wells’ ideas circulating throughout his popular books, it was only a matter of time before the public began to accept his ideas on the modern usage of science. The public was willing to accept these ideas as it still provided them with some of the comfort religion brought- it offered them story-like explanations. Witness Ford Maddox Ford displayed his personal acceptation of science through Wells as he has written, “And we welcomed science- Mr. Well’s brand of science- with acclamations. Fairy tales are a prime necessity of the word and he and science were going to provide us with a perfectly new brand. And he did” (Ford 533).
According to Ford, Wells’ attempts to revolutionize religion into a more modern sect, science, were successful. The public was willing to follow Wells’ ideas. However, much of the public remained skeptic of Wells’ ideas. Some even argued that others shouldn’t be allowed to know scientific facts that disprove religion. Among these skeptics was Leonard Woolf who states, “Certainly the facts with regard to natural selection… are in conflict with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church… The issue raised by this controversy and the publication of Mr. Wells’ articles… is whether ordinary people should be allowed to know the facts and should discuss their implications” (Woolf 498). This excerpt is a prime example of the division between science and religion that was occurring throughout the time period within this book was written. Many people began to support Wells in his beliefs of scientific principles such as Darwinism. However, there were those who strongly dejected it and even became hostile that those scientific ideas were available to the public. The reason the ideas were so easily accessible were because of literary interpretation in controversial books such as The Island of Dr. Moreau. One interpretation in The Island of Dr. Moreau was that Moreau is a scientific God. Dr. Moreau and God display many of the same characteristics when comparing the Bible to H.G. Wells’ novel.
They are both depicted as invisible, but still there watching. This is shown in The Island of Dr. Moreau as Wells has written, “You cannot see him. But he can see you. Fear the law,” (Wells 163). In the Bible a similar dialog is written, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” (The Holy Bible 378). Both texts also describe the two characters as healing and wounding. In Wells’ novel it is written, “His is the Hand that wounds. His is the Hand that heals,” (Wells 92). In the Bible it states, “For He maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole” (Wells 313). In addition to the parallels throughout the way the two are characterized, both writings also use capital letters when concerning Dr. Moreau or God. In The Island of Dr. Moreau, ‘Hands’ is capitalized. In the bible, ‘He’ is capitalized. Also, Dr. Moreau and God have similar jobs. They both create. While Dr. Moreau creates the Beast-Folk, God creates people as well as animals. However, I believe the Dr. Moreau and the Beast-Folk create an analogy to God and humans as those are the two works both creators spend most of their time on perfecting. However, unlike the God who Christian’s believe in, Moreau expresses no sympathy towards his creations. Critic Robert Philmus offers his opinion as he states, “As the deity presiding over evolution, Moreau dismisses the problem of why evil exists in the world… [remaining] deaf to the suffering of his creatures, Nor can the pain they must endure in the process of (artificial) evolution be explained theologically except by postulating an (at best) apathetic God,” (Philmus 512). Dr. Moreau is a harsh god to the animals. He is indifferent toward the pain they must endure. It seems as though Wells does this to convey the message that God lets his creations suffer many things such as disease and poverty.
The Laws that Moreau enforced were also similar to God’s Commandments. The Commandments of the Bible share many similarities to that of the Law in The Island of Dr. Moreau. They are both worded similarly. In his novel, Wells words the laws like, “Not to go on all Fours… Not to suck up Drink… Not to eat Flesh nor Fish; that is the law,” (Wells 91). In the Bible ideas are worded, “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal,” (The Holy Bible 46). Both texts first present words that say they shouldn’t do something followed by the action it is which they are prohibited to perform. They also both instill a sense of fear among those who abide by the rules. In The Island of Dr. Moreau the House of Pain, a place where Dr. Moreau conducted highly painful experiments on the Beast-Folk, is created to preserve fear among those who desired to break the Law. The Bible itself warns us that we should fear the Lord as is written, “…fear the Lord thy God, and serve him…Ye shall not go after other gods… For the Lord thy God is a jealous God…” (The Holy Bible 116). In addition to the comparisons made between Dr. Moreau and the Commandments to aspects in the Bible, a hint at a trinity within the novel is suggested. The Bible and the novel both express a trinity dealing with their most important characters. In the Bible, the holy trinity consists as the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
In The Island of Dr. Moreau, it is hinted that Moreau, Montgomery, and M’ling make up their own not so holy trinity. Evidence as to why it would be these three include the fact that their names all start with ‘M’, a characteristic that groups them all together. As previously claimed, Moreau is similar to God, or the father. Montgomery could also be compared to Jesus. As observed in the novel, Montgomery is the character that bonds the most with the Beast-Folk. This can be paralleled to the way that Jesus formed bonds with people on Earth such as the disciples. Also, author Margaret Atwood points out, “He’s [Montgomery] fist seen offering Prendick a red drink that tastes like blood, and some boiled mutton,” (Atwood 1).
This could be compared to the first communion, Jesus having bread and wine with his disciples. However, the fact that in the novel they were eating animals and drinking blood adds to the eerie carnivorous theme Wells creates. With Dr. Moreau compared God and Montgomery to Jesus, M’ling is left to be compared to the Holy Ghost which he does share qualities in common with. Just as the Holy Ghost helps carryout the tasks of Jesus, M’ling is Montgomery’s attendant. M’ Ling and Montgomery also share a very strong bond which also emphasizes the fact that they should be grouped somehow together, and in my theory they are, as sects of Moreau like Jesus and the Holy Ghost are sects of God. In addition, the Holy Spirit is often a dove.
It is God in the living, but nonhuman form. M’ling is not a human. However, he is living as we is one of the Beast Folk. The idea of Moreau, Montgomery, and M’ling making up, in a sense, an ‘unholy’ trinity, provoke the turmoil between science and religion Due to the opposing conflict between science and religion, Wells proposes the solution that rules separate humanity from animals. H.G. Wells implanted these suggestions against religion presumablyto suggest that science is the modern religion. This was a major controversy at the time as it is a major factor on how you live your life as well as your values and morals. While many advocated his ideas, many still opposed, sticking to the timeless tradition of their religion. This book caused the advocators of science to increase in interest of H. G Wells’ modern belief.
Science and Religion in ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’