Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/736

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tion is hard to combat; for, even among scientific thinkers, the class of men who do not become attached to the cast-iron ways down which thought has traveled to them is small. A logician who sets his mental machinery in motion, and then steps to one side to scrutinize its defects and limitations, is rare. To hint that there may be higher processes of logic than those generally accepted, implies the possession of a scientific mind, to say the least, not of a quantitative cast. It has seemed to the writer that a discussion of the idea of the degradation of spiritual energy, so to speak, would not be an unprofitable or irreverent subject from the purely scientific point of view. A little thought will convince one that no transformation of energy can take place in Nature without degradation or dissipation of it. In order to generate steam we must expend the energy stored up in the coal; and in its turn the steam in doing work passes from a hotter state to a colder one. A fresh supply of energy is needed in order to enable the cold body to do work again. There is a tendency to a uniform diffusion of heat, or to a degradation of energy.

In the process of physical growth and decay, the doctrine of the conservation of force, and the degradation of energy, is clearly exemplified. What the body receives from the sun in the process of growth is given back, transformed, to the earth. At death the physical being undergoes a chemical change; and the earth and air recall to themselves their respective portions. Here there is an equivalent rendering of matter. If the soul and mind have been the result of a process of growth, the entire potential energy of the living unit has not been accounted for in the final dissolution. The song of a bird can be resolved into waves of motion which, although they cease after a moment, and the consequent vibrations of the human ear die away, are still exerting an influence upon matter. Babbage, in his "Bridgewater Treatise," has drawn a powerful picture of the possible permanence of the motion which has been communicated to the ether by the tones of a human voice, and shows that it may not be impossible to believe that the eloquence of Demosthenes still continues in some form of motion. So we can believe that the physical effects of a bird's song can remain forever impressing some form of motion upon matter. Besides the physical vibrations which the song communicated to the human ear, it has so impressed the mind that, after the lapse of years, the repetition of the same notes can call up innumerable memories of deeds and a thousand pictures of the past. In the mind of the poet it may be the one detached note from which he can construct a song of home which can serve to arouse the ardor of the Christian Slav against the Turk, and store up a fearful potential energy which by its fall can destroy entire nations. Here we have, in the transformation of the vibrations of sound to another form of energy, a continual degradation of energy; but we may have by the same means an exaltation of spiritual potential energy which is unexplained