Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/216

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204
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ally existing Deity. That one, for instance, which has had the most numerous and by no means the least intelligent following of any on earth, teaches that the Divinity in his highest perfection is wrapped away from the world in a state of profound and eternal sleep, which really does not differ from non-existence, whether it be called by that name or not. No candid mind who has followed the writings of M. Vacherot can well deny that his religion is as earnest as can be. He worships the Perfect, the Supreme Ideal; but he conceives that the very notion of the Ideal is repugnant to its real existence. In fact, M. Vacherot finds it agreeable to his reason to assert that non-existence is an essential character of the perfect, just as St. Anselm and Descartes found it agreeable to theirs to assert the extreme opposite. I confess that there is one respect in which either of these positions seems to me more congruous with the religious attitude than that of a theology which stands upon evidences; for as soon as the Deity presents himself to either Anselm or Vacherot, and manifests his glorious attributes, whether it be in a vision of the night or day, either of them recognizes his adorable God, and sinks upon his knee's at once; whereas the theologian of evidences will first demand that the divine apparition shall identify himself, and only after having scrutinized his credentials and weighed the probabilities of his being found among the totality of existences, will he finally render his circumspect homage, thinking that no characters can be adorable but those which belong to a real thing.

If we could find out any general characteristic of the universe, any mannerism in the ways of Nature, any law everywhere applicable and universally valid, such a discovery would be of such singular assistance to us in all our future reasoning, that it would deserve a place almost at the head of the principles of logic. On the other hand, if it can be shown that there is nothing of the sort to find out, but that every discoverable regularity is of limited range, this again will be of logical importance. What sort of a conception we ought to have of the universe, how to think of the ensemble of things, is a fundamental problem in the theory of reasoning.

 
II.

It is the legitimate endeavor of scientific men now, as it was twenty-three hundred years ago, to account for the formation of the solar system and of the cluster of stars which forms the galaxy, by the fortuitous concourse of atoms. The greatest expounder of this theory, when asked how he could write an immense book on the system of the world without one mention of its author, replied, very logically, "Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là." But, in truth, there is nothing atheistical in the theory, any more than there was in this answer. Matter is supposed to be composed of molecules which obey the laws of mechanics and exert certain attractions upon one another; and it is to these regularities (which there is no attempt to account for) that