Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/137

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125
MISCELLANY.

cessity for a God, since Nature can do very well without one.

"4. That, if there be a God, he is limited in his action—just as man is—by the 'laws of matter,' which he can no more control than man can; and that he is, therefore, in his relation to Nature, only a higher kind of man.

"Now, my object was to show:

"1. That what we call 'laws of Nature' are simply our own expressions of the orderly sequence which we discern in the phenomena of the universe; and that, as all the history of science shows how erroneous these have been in the past, so we have no right to assume our present conceptions of that sequence to be either universally or necessarily true.

"2. That these so-called 'laws' are of two kinds, one set being mere generalizations of phenomena, of which Kepler's 'laws of planetary motion' or the 'laws of chemical combination' are examples, while another set express the conditions of the action of a force, of which the existence is, or may be, made known to us by the direct and immediate evidence of our own consciousness—our cognition of matter being indirectly formed through the medium of force.

"3. That 'laws' of the first kind (which we may for convenience term phenomenal) do not really explain or account for any thing whatever. Nothing is more common than to hear scientific men speaking of such laws as 'governing phenomena,' or of a phenomenon being 'explained' when it is found to be consistent with some one of such laws; though the fact is that the law is a law merely because it is a generalized expression of a certain group of phenomena; and to say that any new phenomenon is 'explained,' by its being shown to be in conformity to a 'law' is merely to say (as Prof. Clifford well put in his lecture) that a thing previously unknown is 'explained' by showing it to be like something previously known.

"4. That, on the other hand, every 'law 'of the second kind (which we may distinguish as dynamical) is based on the fundamental conception of a force or power; so that if the existence of such a force (as that of gravity or electricity) be admitted, and the conditions of its action can be accurately stated, then the law which expresses them may be said to 'govern' the phenomenon; and any phenomenon, which can be shown to be necessarily deducible from it, may be said to be 'explained,' so far as science can explain it. But the utmost that science can positively do, as I stated toward the conclusion of my address, is to demonstrate the unity of the power of which the phenomena of Nature are the diversified manifestations, and to trace the continuity of its action through the vast series of ages that have been occupied in the evolution of the universe.

"5. I expressed the opinion that science points to (though at present I should be far from saying that it demonstrates) the origination of all power in mind; and this is the only point in my whole address which has any direct theological bearing. When metaphysicians, shaking off the bugbear of materialism, will honestly and courageously study the phenomena of the mind of man in their relation to those of his body, I believe that they will find in that relation their best arguments for the presence of infinite mind in universal Nature.

"Now, the only expression I have ever met with, in our own language, of the philosophy which (as I have said) worships the order of Nature as itself a God, was uttered by Miss Martineau, in the book on 'Man's Nature and Development,' which she produced some twenty years ago in conjunction with Mr. Atkinson. Not having the book at hand, I cannot cite any passage from it; but I well remember the general drift of its argument (putting aside mesmerism, phrenology, etc.) to have been that, whereas mankind formerly believed the phenomena of Nature to.be expressions of the will of a Personal God, modern science, by reducing every thing to 'laws,' had given a sufficient 'explanation' of these phenomena, and made it quite unnecessary for man to seek any further account of them.

"This is precisely Dr. Buchner's position; and it seems to me a legitimate inference from the very prevalent assumption (which is sanctioned by the language of some of our ablest writers) that the so-