Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/49

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39
GOD AND NATURE.

been evolved out of its primitive elements without the exercise of that which, for want of a better word, I will call choice. Why should our hearts be on the left side rather than on the right? Why should we have five digits rather than seven? Why should we have one thumb rather than two? Why, to take a larger instance, should the planets be exactly such as they are in size and in other conditions, which apparently follow no law whatever? Why should the exact quantity of matter exist which does exist, for an infinite quantity is, I suppose, inconceivable? And what determines the precise pace at which all the bodies which constitute the universe move? To use the language of a mathematician, what determines all the arbitrary constants and arbitrary functions in the integrals of nature's equations? This string of questions might be lengthened indefinitely, but the reader will see what the force of them is. If the principle of symmetry could be asserted concerning the human body or concerning the solar system, that symmetry might answer many questions; it might be said, "This or that is so, because there is no reason why it should be otherwise." But there is an absence of symmetry from many parts of nature, and, when no geometrical or other cause can be assigned, you need the hypothesis of an independent will in order to render the irregular formation in any degree intelligible. A supreme will throws light upon the darkness; it may leave some difficulties unsolved, but we feel that in it we have got the key.

But my pen has run as far as perhaps my readers will care to follow me; and I conclude, therefore, by reminding them of the thesis which my essay has been intended to illustrate. It is the relation of God and nature, and the connection between the study of the latter and the knowledge of the former. I would say at the end what I said at the beginning, that physical science is properly and necessarily atheous, but not properly and not necessarily atheistic. Clerk Maxwell, that great intellect, whom Cambridge and the world have recently lost, was no atheist, but a devout believer in God; yet no man had penetrated more deeply and more successfully into the arcana of matter, and discussed more profoundly and more ingeniously the molecules of which the universe is made. Is this wonderful? I think not. It seems to me that, while it is the duty of a scientific inquirer, as such, to exclude from his inquiries anything that at all transcends the natural region, and therefore God can have no place in his inquiries, yet the moral effect of the discipline of investigation ought to be, in the case of a well-balanced mind, to compel it, if need be, to "cross the boundary of experimental evidence" and recognize the existence of Him "who hath created all things," in whom "we live, and move, and have our being."—Nineteenth Century.