Popular Science Monthly/Volume 4/February 1874/Literary Notices

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 4 February 1874  (1874) 
Literary Notices
 
LITERARY NOTICES.
 
INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC SERIES.
The New Chemistry. By J. P. Cooke, Professor of Chemistry in Harvard University. 326 pages. D. Appleton & Co. Price, $2.00.

It is well known that chemical science has been recently undergoing a great change in its theory of the constitution of bodies. The Lavoisierean chemistry, or the dual chemistry, by which all compounds were supposed to be simply paired, as metal with metalloid, acid with base, may be fairly said to have passed away. New ideas have been introduced which were but partially and reluctantly received at first, and were indeed sharply resisted by the masters of the old method, but which have at length forced their way and grown into a definite system. With the breaking up of the old method the old nomenclature has been shattered, and a new nomenclature has taken its place. In chemistry, therefore, the present is a time of transition and discomfort. What was long settled, and upon which we reposed in the confidence that it would never be disturbed, has proved an insecure result of imperfect knowledge, but which has served the important office of bringing us up to higher and more perfect views. There is a sadness in parting with old familiar ideas, as with old friends, but changes must come. In chemistry, the facts had outgrown the theories that expressed them. New facts were discovered for which the old system could find no place, and these accumulated until at length a new method of interpretation was attained, by which chemical philosophy has been placed upon a broader and it is hoped a more enduring basis. But, whatever may be its permanence, it is now fairly established, and so marked is its contrast with past theories, and so distinct are its features, that it has become fully recognized as "The New Chemistry."

The new chemistry has been fully adopted by various authors in their text-books, and partially adopted by others; but only with subdued satisfaction, as in the first cases students have been frightened by the formidable array of strange terms, definitions, and ideas, and in the latter case they have been confused by the intermixture of different systems. The great need, therefore, was for a new and compendious work that should be simply devoted to an explanation of the new system. Prof. Cooke, of Cambridge, has undertaken this task in the book before us, and most successfully and admirably has he accomplished it. He had already published a large collegiate textbook of "Chemical Philosophy," on the new method, which he has taught for years to the classes of Harvard University. But the demand was so urgent for a separate volume, that should present in a clear and popular manner the new aspects in which chemical facts and principles are now regarded, that he was induced to undertake it, in the interest of general education. He prepared his views first as a course of lectures, which were delivered at the Lowell Institute, in Boston. It was there shown that "The New Chemistry" may be made attractive to a general audience, as these lectures excited much interest, and were listened to with earnest attention throughout. After being thus tested, they were thoroughly revised by their author, and are now published, with illustrations, in a neat and convenient form. No book in the whole range of science was so greatly needed as this, and it is fortunate for the public that the want was supplied by such an able hand. Not only the chemical student, but all who are interested in this fascinating science, and all who are concerned with the advancement of scientific ideas, will find that this volume bridges over the gap between the old and the new, and will prove a most valuable introduction to the larger treatises which represent the present state of the science.

This is the first American volume contributed to the International Scientific Series, and, as it is unquestionably the best book in any language upon the subject, it will be sure to increase the already high reputation of these publications.

The International Review. Six Times a Year. January, 1874. 144 pages. Price, $5.00 a Year. A. S. Barnes & Co.

The first number of this periodical contains six articles as follows: I. Our Late Panic. II. Fires in American Cities, by Prof. A. P. Peabody, D. D., Cambridge, Mass. III. Deep-Sea Exploration, by Prof. Wm. B. Carpenter, M. D., LL. D., F. R. S., London. IV. Universal Education, by Ray Palmer, D. D., New York. V. The Prussian Church Law, by Baron Franz von Holtzendorff, LL. D., Munich. VI. International Arbitration, by Theodore D. Woolsey, D. D., LL. D., New Haven.

It is always unfair to judge a periodical enterprise like this by its first number; for, although, in the present case, there has been long preparation, nothing can compensate for want of experience and the advantages of public criticism. The present number contains much good reading, although it is rather the opposite of lively. Half its articles are by D. D.'s, which gives promise that it is to be safely and conservatively conducted. This is important, as we must have ratchet-gear to hold what the driving impulses of advancing thought have gained. Yet it is very easy to pass from conservation to obstruction; and the somewhat spiteful kick given to Prof. Bain for his little book on "Mind and Body," while it seems to indicate the whereabouts of the International, suggests also that its editor may be in danger of overlooking the above distinction. The position taken being important as a symptom of the future course of the Review, it is worthy of some remark.

The school of mental philosophy, of which Bain is a leading representative, diners from the old metaphysical school in considering mind and body together, in their connections, interactions, and dependencies; and in maintaining that there can be no true mental philosophy without taking both factors into account. The old metaphysicians attended to the one and neglected the other; and what was worse, they magnified the one and decried the other, drawing perpetual contrasts between spiritual mind and "mere brute matter." An undoubted and very important step forward has been made in the scientific study of both orders of phenomena, as we find them related in Nature and in fact. Modern psychology, indeed, differs from the old metaphysics simply in conquering its prejudices, in taking into account all the elements of the problem, and treating them by the scientific method. Very naturally, the special work to be done has been to bring forward and assign its proper place to the neglected element, matter; whereupon the partisans of the old view make an endless ado about the encroachments of Materialism. When Prof. Bain refers to the structure of the brain, in the albuminous tissues and corpuscles of which all our natural and acquired aptitudes are stored up, the writer in the International is offended at such a "gross form of expression," and sighs for the good old times of Reid and Stewart, who "seem like intellectual giants when compared with the Professor of Aberdeen."

The writer observes that "nothing is more certain than our ability to separate mental and physical phenomena," and he might have added that bullets, strychnine, and lightning, are the most effectual means of doing it. But, when the separation is effected, mental phenomena disappear, and there is, therefore, an end to the study of mind. Of mental phenomena dissociated from physical phenomena we know absolutely nothing. If the writer means that "nothing is more certain than our ability to separate mental and physical phenomena" for the purpose of inquiring into their nature and laws, then we say that nothing is more false than the statement. We know nothing of mind, except as limited and conditioned by association with matter. The mode of union is a mystery, but the fact of union and of unity is undeniable. The very essence of the mystery is the oneness of that which exhibits such widely-different effects. The animate organism manifests at the same time psychical and material properties. We may confine our attention to either, Or to parts of either, but we cannot separate them. Theory after theory has been offered for thousands of years to explain the relation. Science takes things as it finds them, and occupies itself in tracing the relations and dependencies among the phenomenal effects. This is Prof. Bain's method, and he has made it his great task to bring forward the long-neglected corporeal side of the inquiry, and to include the body in the study of the mind. Metaphysics does not require this, but science does require it, and the later psychology recognizes it. It is futile to talk of going back to Reid and Stewart, or to look for the coming genius who is to restore them; their period is gone by.

Religion and Science. A Series of Sunday Lectures, on the Relation of Natural and Revealed Religion; or, the Truths revealed in Nature and Scripture. By Joseph Le Conte, Professor of Geolology and Natural History in the University of California. 324 pages. D. Appleton & Co.

The rapid multiplication of works at the present time which aim to bring the views of modern science into harmony with religious doctrines, is at once an attestation of the increasing interest generally taken in scientific subjects, and of the growth of a catholic and more tolerant spirit in regard to scientific and theological diversities of opinion resulting in more earnest efforts to harmonize them. The necessity for such reconciliations has arisen from time to time from the fact that theology has lent its sanction to given interpretations of natural things, while it has been the general work of science to revise and often to set aside such interpretations in the course of its progress. The main difficulty in this work of reconciliation has been the want of minds great enough to grasp and to master both spheres of inquiry. The efforts at harmonization have generally come from partisans of opposing views, who aimed at agreement by demanding great concessions from the opposite side. The scientists often ask theologians to renounce the main pretensions of theology for the sake of peace, and the theologians request the scientists to eschew three-fourths of what they believe as mere pseudo-science, that concord of opinion may be reached. And so they have alternated between treating and fighting, until at last a peace is conquered. Mean time, as the battle subsides in one field, it breaks out in another. In the field of Astronomy, where once the conflict raged with the greatest fury, all is now serene, and the Geological struggle has also become a memory. In the field of Evolution, there is still a kind of warfare, much din and smoke, and some bruises, if little slaughter. But the conflict is now undoubtedly more mild and restrained, as it will probably be more brief. In reviewing the past epochs of the conflict, it would be unwise to forget that both parties to the strife have often cared more for the combat than the cause, and, as in street-brawls, have often turned upon the peace-maker, for human nature is pugnacious, and dislikes to be interrupted in a good fight. But it is one of the grand offices of science to substitute truth for victory in the mental conflicts of men, and therefore to reduce the virulence of polemics. This is one of the ways in which science exerts a liberalizing influence, and, as the acerbities of controversy abate, and the passions are less enlisted, the harsher points of disagreement may be expected gradually to drop away.

Prof. Le Conte's admirable little book is born of the best spirit of conciliation, and goes over the whole ground of conflict, in its latest aspects, between Religion and Science. In his preface he says: "The series of lectures contained in this little volume is the result of an earnest attempt to reconcile the truths revealed in Scripture with those revealed in Nature, by one who has, all his active life, been a reverent student of both;" and he adds: "I may not entirely please either the mere scientist on the one hand, or the mere theologian on the other, but I have no apology to make for this. Perhaps my views may be all the more rational on that very account."

Prof. Le Conte's book has the rare advantage of having been produced by a man not only of profoundly earnest convictions, but of thorough intellectual preparation. His high position in the world of science has been long assured through his original contributions to some of its highest questions. He was one of the pioneer expositors of the doctrine of the correlation of forces in its application to life and its organization, and shows a wide and clear understanding of the various bearings of recent scientific inquiry. On the other hand, he holds to the great fundamental tenets of orthodox Christianity, and is therefore thoroughly prepared to consider the mutual relations of these systems of thought. Holding that all truth is one, and ever consistent with itself, he points out the past grounds of misapprehension, and shows how they may be removed, and reconciliation attained. Of the success of his attempt there will be various estimates, but there can be but one opinion upon the point that he has greatly enriched the discussion by new and ingenious arguments for the removal of past antagonisms. We may add that, on its scientific side, the book abounds in clear and instructive statements of facts and laws that are now established, while the accompanying philosophical discussion brings them out in clearer light and more impressive aspects.

The Theory of Evolution of Living Things, and the Application of the Principles of Evolution to Religion. Considered as Illustrative of the "Wisdom and Beneficence of the Almighty." By the Rev. George Henslow, F. L. S. Macmillan & Co.

We noticed, last November, a book called the "Philosophy of Evolution," by B. Thompson Lowne, which we explained to be an Actonian Prize Essay. It was stated that Hannah Acton had left a lot of money to the Royal Institution, the income of which was to be spent as prizes for scientific essays, illustrating the wisdom and goodness of God. We stated that seven years ago the Solar Radiations were proposed for a prize, but that, no volume appearing to claim it, the money was left to accumulate, so that this year there were two prizes. But we were mistaken: the Solar Radiation man furnished his essay, and got his money. Nevertheless, such has been the good management of Widow Acton's funds, that there were two prizes this year; Lowne got one, and Henslow the other, for the book now before us. It is a volume of most excellent intentions, and not without some merit. It is, however, mainly significant from the evidence it affords that theologians are beginning to regard the situation calmly, and to adjust themselves to the new circumstances. Professor Henslow is not only a clergyman, but a man of science, a cultivated botanist, and son of the late eminent Professor of Botany in Cambridge. His opinions will, therefore, be entitled to weight from those of his own class. We published an interesting chapter from his book last month, under the title of "Genesis, Geology, and Evolution."

The Bible and the Doctrine of Evolution. Being a Complete Synthesis of their Truth, and giving a sure Scientific Basis for the Doctrine of Scripture. By William Woods Smythe. 390 pages. London: H. K. Lewis.

We have here another volume of the same scope as Prof. Henslow's, but a far abler book. The author's argument is close and searching, and the case he makes out is very strong. The point of view from which it is written is illustrated by the following passage from the Dean of Canterbury: "Possibly to our views of the nature of Christianity, and in our exegesis of Scripture, we have arrived only at partial truth; and do not distinguish with sufficient accuracy between what is certainly revealed and what is nothing more than a possible explanation of the divine word." The book exemplifies not only a thorough acquaintance with the doctrine of Evolution, and the extent and grounds of its proofs, but it exemplifies an equal mastery of biblical erudition. Nor is it offered as a mere ingenious attempt to ascertain the points of correspondence between Scripture statement and recent scientific speculations. The author is a profound believer in the principle of Evolution, which he maintains to be the fundamental law alike of Nature and Christianity, and he holds that "the plain and obvious interpretation of Scripture is the most congruous with the principles of Evolution." He recognizes his work as but the opening outline of an inquiry which must be carefully filled up, "the intention being to place stepping-stones, however unhewn, across a troublesome and heretofore impassable stream, which in the future may grow into a highway that the fool cannot err therein." The author acknowledges indebtedness for assistance and advice to a large number of clergymen whom he has consulted in the preparation of his work.

It is gratifying to observe that the author, who has thus far gone most thoroughly into the investigation he undertakes, shows also the most intelligent appreciation of the minds that have contributed to the working out of the great doctrine with which he is dealing. He says: "It does not seem to be sufficiently understood that Evolution owes much more to Mr. Spencer than to Mr. Darwin. The latter only developed part of the doctrine; never perceived its relation to the whole, nor its purely scientific interpretation. The works of the former are, therefore, most referred to here."

"The doctrine of Evolution, as developed by Mr. Herbert Spencer, is not an empty hypothesis excogitated as a plausible account of the phenomena of the universe, but a great philosophic system, founded solidly on carefully-corrected experience of the things and forces of the universe. And it becomes a subject of the deepest interest to compare the priori theory of the universe, contained in Scripture, with the postoriori doctrine formulated from the facts of our uniform experience."

We cordially recommend this volume to all who are interested in that aspect of the question to which it is devoted.

Descriptive Sociology. Part I. The Sociological History of England. By Herbert Spencer, assisted by James Collier. Price, $5. D. Appleton & Co.

It has been repeatedly explained in the columns of the Monthly that Herbert Spencer has been engaged for some years in the formidable undertaking of collecting and classifying the data required of the scientific study of human society. For this purpose he divided the races of mankind into three great groups, or divisions: I. The Savage Races; II. The Extinct, or Decayed Civilizations; and III. The Existing Civilized Races. The part now published belongs to the third division, and in it Mr. Spencer applies his method to the Social History of England. If it be asked why he did not begin with Division I., presenting the simpler phenomena of uncultivated societies first, the reply is, that, while the publication of the whole series is by no means certain, and will be contingent upon the reception of the earlier parts, it was desirable to begin with a branch of the subject on which there cannot fail to be the most general interest, while it, moreover, subjects Mr. Spencer's method to the severest test. Besides, it is quite immaterial at what point the exposition is commenced, as it is perfectly simple and complete in each case.

The present work is free from all hypothesis and speculative views. Only the facts are given, and the authorities for the facts. Mr. Spencer expresses no opinion, and draws no inferences; he only classifies his materials in such a way that at one view we can take in all the great social facts of any epoch, and compare them with the phenomena that precede them, and out of which they grew, and those which follow them, and to which they give rise. In the "Principles of Sociology," upon which Mr. Spencer has now entered, he will work out the inductions and generalizations from this vast body of social facts in his own way; but, meantime, they have an independent value for all students who choose to draw their own conclusions.

The work is in a folio form, which was made necessary by the structure of the tables, the very first condition of which is, to bring into convenient comparison many series of facts. For all his statements made in the tables the authorities are given in a corresponding classification, the text consisting of quotations and extracts, which constitute the chief portion of the work. The material here published would form a large octavo volume of eight or nine hundred pages.

We consider this work one of very great public importance, as it is undoubtedly a large step forward in the direction of that knowledge which is more needed than any other. The question, What are the natural laws by which human societies have originated, been developed to their present state, and must still further advance?—the laws, therefore, by which their destiny is governed—is supreme at the present time. Our ideas upon the subject have hitherto been chaotic, and, for want of any fixed principle, the social field has been given over to quacks, dreamers, and swindlers of every quality. If science has any light to shed upon this matter that can help in the practical guidance of affairs, the world is in deplorable want of it. The work before us is only preliminary, but we think no candid mind can examine it without being convinced that it opens a new dispensation of social study, and paves the way to a more scientific consideration of social phenomena than we have ever before had. If in this it may be thought that we are writing under a "bias," let us see what others say about it. The British Quarterly Review observes: "No words are needed to indicate the immense labor here bestowed, or the great sociological benefit which such a mass of tabulated matter, done under such competent direction, will confer. The work will constitute an epoch in the science of comparative sociology."

The able London correspondent of the Tribune says of the work: "The arrangement of the whole is so clear that the least scientific student in search of a fact will have no difficulty in putting his finger on what he wants.... The work is a gigantic one; its value, when complete, will be immeasurable; and its actual influence on the study of sociology, and help to that study, greater perhaps than any book yet published. It is a cyclopædia of Social Science, but a cyclopædia edited by the greatest of sociologists."

Mr. E. B. Tylor, author of "Primitive Culture," and one of the highest English authorities upon the study of the early development of society, writes, in Nature of October 30th: "So much information encumbered with so little rubbish, has never before been brought to bear on the development of English institutions. There is hardly a living student but will gain something by looking through the compilation which relates to his own special subject, whether this be law or morals, education or theology, the division of labor, or the rise of modern scientific ideas."

We can give no better general account of Spencer's work than to quote more fully from this review of it by Mr. Tylor:

"This first section is a methodical summary of the development of England, intellectual and moral, from the beginning of its history in Cæsar's time, to about a. d. 1850. At the first glance, it suggests a question which may disconcert not a few of the lecturers and tutors engaged in training students in history at our universities. This question is, whether the ethnological record of national life ought any longer to be treated as subordinate to the political record of the succession of rulers and the struggles for supremacy of ruling families, or whether the condition of society at its successive periods is for the future to be considered as the main subject, only marked out chronologically by reigns, battles, and treaties. This question has, it is true, been already raised. It is, in fact, the issue between historical chronicle and the philosophy of history as rival subjects of study. But Mr. Spencer's work brings it more clearly and practically into view than any previous one, as will be seen from the following outline of his scheme. It consists of two parts.

"The first part is a series of tables, arranged in thirty to thirty-five columns, each with a heading of some department of social life or history, which again are combined into groups. Thus the group of columns relating to the structure of society takes in political, ecclesiastical, and ceremonial departments, under which again we find separately given the laws of marriage and inheritance, the regulation of tribes and castes, the military and ecclesiastical organization, and the ceremonies and customs of daily life. Next, the group of columns devoted to the functions of society, regulative and operative, contains particulars of the morals, religion, and knowledge of each age, the state of language, and the details of industry, commerce, habitations, food, clothing, and artistic products. Three special columns at the beginning, middle, and end of this long colonnade, contain the skeleton of ordinary history: namely, the principal dates, names of rulers, and political events. Thus, by glancing across any one of the huge double pages, we see the whole condition of England at any selected period. Thus, in the century after the Norman Conquest, the influence of the invaders is observed in the growth of architecture, painting, music, poetry, the introduction of new food and more luxurious living, the importation of canonical law and of mathematics from the East, and so on through all the manifold elements which made up the life of noble and villain in our land. If the page be turned to the sixteenth century, the picture of English life is not less distinct. The scholastic philosophy is dying out, men's minds are newly set to work by the classical revival, by voyages into new regions, the growth of mercantile adventure and political speculation; chivalry ceases, archery declines; judicial torture is introduced, the 'Italian' crime of poisoning becomes frequent; the ancient belief in witchcraft and pervading demons holds its ground, as do the miracle-plays and local festivals; but a highway act is passed, new roads are being made, the new houses have chimneys, their furniture and fare become more luxurious; the power of the old feudal families is destroyed, the Star-Chamber is new-modeled; church-fasts are still observed under pain of imprisonment, and high offices of state are still in the hands of churchmen, but among the signs of momentous change come the dissolution of monasteries, and the distinct appearance of a sect of Protestants. Thus the tabulated record goes on till it ends near the present day, among such items as Trades-Unions, Divorce Courts, the Manchester School, County Courts, Free Thought, Railways, Rifled Cannon, Pre-Raphaelitism, Chartism, Papal Aggression, and the crowding events of modern manufacture and science.

"It is by following the several columns downward, that the principle of Evolution, the real key to Mr. Spencer's scheme, is brought out into the broadest light. It seems most strange, however, that he should not have placed in its proper niche the evidence of prehistoric archæology. Mr. Spencer can hardly doubt that the stone implements found in England prove the existence of one, or probably two, stone-age populations before the Celts, who, under the name of Ancient Britons, begin his series. If he acknowledges this, why should a first link so important in his chain of evolution have been dropped? Otherwise the chain is carefully stretched out so as to display it from end to end. In many matters, simple and direct progress is the rule. From the ancient Briton's bow with its bronze-tipped arrows, to the cross-bow, the matchlock-gun, and thence through successive stages to the rifled breech-loader; from the rude arithmetic before the introduction of the 'Arabic' numerals, through the long series of importations and discoveries which led to the infinitesimal calculus in its highest modern development; from the early English astronomy, where there was still a solid firmament studded with stars, and revolving on the poles about the central earth, to the period when the perturbations of planets are calculated on the theory of gravitation, and the constitution of the fixed stars examined by the spectroscope — these are among the multitude of cases illustrating the development of culture in its straightforward course. Harder problems come before us, where we see some institution arise, flourish, and decline within a limited period, as though resulting from a temporary combination of social forces, or answering only a temporary purpose in civilization.

"To take an instance from Mr. Spencer's table, English history has seen the judicial duel brought in at the Conquest, flourishing for centuries, declining for centuries more, till its last formal relic was abolished in 1820. Again, in the Old English period, marriage appears as a purely civil contract, on the basis of purchase of the wife; then with Christianity comes in the religious sanction, which by 1076 had become so absolute that secular marriages were prohibited: with a strong turn of the tide of public opinion, the English Marriage Act of 1653 treated marriage as a civil contract, to be solemnized before a justice of the peace; till, after a series of actions and reactions, in our own day the civil and ecclesiastical solemnization stand on an equal footing before the law. Closely similar has been the course of English society on the larger question of a National Church, which, soon after the introduction of Christianity, claimed an all but absolute conformity throughout the nation, practically maintained the claim for ages, and then was forced back to toleration, which has at last left it with a supremacy little more than nominal. This is not the place to discuss these subjects for themselves, but to show how the table before us, by its mere statement of classified events in chronological order, must force even the unwilling student to recognize processes of evolution in every department of social life. The writer of the present notice once asked an eminent English historian, a scholar to whom the records of mediæval politics are as familiar as our daily newspaper is to us, whether he believed in the existence of what is called the philosophy of history. The historian avowed his profound distrust of, and almost disbelief in, any such philosophy. Now, it may seem a simple matter to have tabulated the main phenomena of English social and political history in parallel columns, as Mr. Collier has here done under Mr. Spencer's direction, but his tables are a sufficient answer to all disbelievers in the possibility of a science of history. Where the chronicle of individual lives often perplexes and mystifies the scholar, the generalization of social principles from the chronicler's materials shows an order of human affairs where cause and effect take their inevitable course, as in Physics or Biology."