Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/212
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
cause it enabled men to rise above the selfishness and the sensuality which otherwise threatened to choke the higher impulses of our nature. But it was the existence of those impulses which gave it its strength, and not any of the metaphysical arguments which can only appeal to a very few exceptional minds. Religions thrive by a kind of natural selection; those which do not provide expression for our best feelings crush out their rivals, not those which are inferred by a process of abstract reasoning. To be permanent, they must bear the test of reason; but they do not owe to it their capacity for attracting the hearts of men. The inference, therefore, from the universality of any creed is not that it is true, for that would prove Buddhism or Mohammedanism as well as Christianity; but that it satisfies more or less completely the spiritual needs of its believers. And, therefore, we may be certain that, if the various tendencies which we have summed up in the name of Darwinism should ultimately become triumphant, they must find some means, though it is given to nobody as yet to define them, of reconciling those instincts of which the belief in immortality was a product. The form may change—we cannot say how widely—but the essence, as every progress in the scientific study of religions goes to show, must be indestructible. When a new doctrine cuts away some of our old dogmas, we fancy that it must destroy the vital beliefs to which they served as scaffolding. Doubtless it has that effect for a time in those minds with whom the association has become indissoluble. That is the penalty we pay for progress. But we may be sure that it will not take root till in some shape or other it has provided the necessary envelopes for the deepest instincts of our nature. If Darwinism demonstrates that men have been evolved out of brutes, the religion which takes it into account will also have to help men to bear in mind that they are now different from brutes.—Fraser's Magazine.
WE now enter upon another inquiry. We have to learn definitely what is the meaning of solar light and solar heat; in what way they make themselves known to our senses; by what means they get from the sun to the earth, and how, when there, they produce the clouds of our atmosphere, and thus originate our rivers and our glaciers.
If in a dark room you close your eyes and press the eyelid with your finger-nail, a circle of light will be seen opposite to the point pressed, while a sharp blow upon, the eye produces the impression of a