Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/532

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514
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

revolve about other bodies, and chemical affinity unites the atoms into compounds. Henceforth there will be no cessation of activity till the mature condition, it may be of eternal desolation, has been attained.

Fig. 1.
PSM V04 D532 Earth size comparisons.png
A—Size of Earth when in the Nebulous Period, compared with its Present Diameter, as shown by B.

Bernard von Cotta styles these successive phases of development stadia, and reduces their number to seven. He conceives that during the first stadium only one agency—gravitation—acted upon matter, the results being a spherical aggregation of the particles and the production of an intense degree of heat. The second stadium adds to gravitation the agency of heat and other physical forces. In the third, chemical affinities are developed, and a cooling globe is the sphere of their action. The fourth stadium brings to view water, with its ability to accumulate formations by deposition of detritus. In the fifth, life and the power of organization are introduced. In the sixth, ice first appears. Last of all comes Mind, the other activities being present also with it.

This theory is beautifully elaborated in his interesting memoir; but its consistency with the following statement is not readily perceived: "Since the history of the development of matter is for us absolutely an infinite series, it is impossible to recognize, or even to conceive, a real beginning of things. We must enter arbitrarily into the infinite series of events, and follow it from that point down to the present time." The organic cycle commencing with the kernel of corn may repeat itself endlessly; but we demand, eventually, whence came the first seed? So we can follow back the grand cosmical series of mutations to a point antecedent to which there is nothing rational but the presence of the Infinite Mind, the same that sustains all Nature in its present activity. Progress implies a beginning. Following out the argument to its legitimate extent, we are forced to the conclusion that the Almighty actually created the material of the solar system out of nothing. Matter could not have existed from eternity, else the