Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/60

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50
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

causation. Presently we arrive at a stage at which, even after long trial, we do not see our way to going further. Yet we are not able to demonstrate that further progress in the same direction—that is, along the chain of secondary causation—is impossible. Science conducts us to a void which she can not fill.

It is on other grounds that we are led to believe in a Being who is the Author of Nature. A conclusion so important to mankind in general is not left to be established as the result of investigations which few have the leisure and ability to carry out. Doubtless, where it is accepted, the study of science enlarges our ideas respecting the greatness of that Being, and tends to keep in check notions of too anthropomorphic a character which we might form concerning him. Still, the subject-matter of scientific study is not, at least directly, theistic, and there have not been wanting a few instances of eminent scientists who not merely rejected Christianity, but apparently did not even believe in the being of a God.

The religious man, on the other hand, who knows little or nothing of science, is in the habit of contemplating the order of Nature not merely as the work of God, but in very great measure as his direct work. Of course, the concerns of every-day life present innumerable instances of the sequence of cause and effect; and few are now so ignorant of the very elements of science as not to allow that the sequence of day and night, of summer and winter, is proximately due to the rotation of the earth about its axis, and the oblique position of that axis with reference to the plane of the earth's orbit. But when we get beyond the region of what is familiarly known, still more when we get outside the limits of well-ascertained scientific conclusions, and enter a region which is still debatable ground, where men of science are attempting to push forward, and are framing hypotheses with a view to the ultimate establishment of a theory in case those hypotheses should stand the test of thorough examination—when, I say, we get into this region, a man such as I have supposed may feel as if the scientists who were attempting to explore it were treading on holy ground; he may mentally charge them with irreverence; perhaps he may openly speak of them in a manner which implies that he attributes to them an intention to oppose revealed religion.

To take a particular example. I can imagine that a man such as I have supposed may have always been in the habit of regarding each one of the thousands and tens of thousands of species into which naturalists have divided the animal and vegetable kingdoms as having originated in an independent creative act; that the supposition may have become entwined among his religious beliefs. Such a man would be apprehensive of any attempt to introduce second causes in explanation of the observed fact of the great multiplicity of species.

Akin to the feeling which I have attempted to describe is another, against which we must be on our guard. The religious man is strong-