Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/282
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
who are so anxious to subordinate, if not wholly lay down, the gentle functions of maternity in order that they may engage in the sterner work of the world!
When, marking their size, we consider the mighty character of the works which they complete; when we reflect upon the infinitesimal ganglion which is the seat of the intelligence they display, we may well be filled with surprise, and almost wonder if man, or any other order of the vertebrata, is destined to remain forever the higher animal!
I PROPOSE in this lecture to consider speculations of quite recent days about the beginning and the end of the world. The world is a very interesting thing, and I suppose that from the earliest times that men began to form any coherent idea of it at all, they began to guess in some way or other how it was that it all began, and how it was all going to end. But there is one peculiarity about these speculations which I wish now to consider, that makes them quite different from the early guesses of which we read in many ancient books. These modern speculations are attempts to find out how things began, and how they are to end, by consideration of the way in which they are going on now. And it is just that character of these speculations that gives them their interest for you and for me; for we have only to consider these questions from the scientific point of view. By the scientific point of view, I mean one which attempts to apply past experience to new circumstances according to an observed order of Nature. So that we shall only consider the way in which things began, and the way in which they are to end, in so far as we seem able to draw inferences about those questions from facts which we know about the way in which things are going on now. And, in fact, the great interest of the subject to me lies in the amount of illustration which it offers of the degree of knowledge which we have now attained of the way in which the universe is going on.
The first of these speculations is one set forth by Prof. Clerk Maxwell, in a lecture on "Molecules," delivered before the British Association at Bradford. By a coincidence, which to me is a happy one, at this moment Prof. Maxwell is lecturing to the Chemical Society of London upon the evidences of the molecular constitution of matter. Now, this argument of his, which he put before the British Association at Bradford, depends entirely upon the modern theory of the molecular constitution of matter. I think this the more important,