Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/771

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749
EDITOR'S TABLE.

whole; which may all he true, though the birth strikes me as hardly worthy of so long and so tremendous a parturition."

Mr. Godwin declares that the doctrine of Evolution, of which he seems to have a very tortuous conception, is an instance of illegitimate science. The nebular hypothesis is its first and remotest "twist," and so Kant, Laplace, Herschel, Huggins, and a multitude of other astronomers who have contributed to its establishment are to be pitched over the enclosure as pseudo-scientists! If the reader will glance at the excellent paper of Prof. Leconte in the preceding pages, on the Nebular Hypothesis, he will quickly see what Mr. Godwin's opinion in this matter is worth.

But the foregoing passage has a further significance; it gives an interesting clew to Mr. Godwin's estimate of the value of the universe. It is not worth production by so tedious a process as that of Evolution; but, if got up in six days—indefinite periods being excluded—Mr. Godwin would probably allow that it is worth cost. Estimates of the natural world will of course vary with the knowledge of it. The first valuation was made in times of blank ignorance of Nature, and still harmonizes with that state of mind. Yet Mr. Godwin's position evinces progress, because in the pre-scientific ages Nature was not only despised as worthless, but hated as worse than worthless. The whole scheme was regarded as under a divine curse, and its students were put into prison and punished in various ways. We are past all that now, and Nature is considered as of some interest and fit enough to be studied by those who like it—if they will consent to have bits in their mouths and be kept within suitable bounds. There has been progress, because the dispensation of hate has been succeeded by that of indifference; but still the devotion of men of science to the study of Nature is a popular puzzle. It is not yet looked upon as the highest occupation of the human mind to extend our knowledge of the order of things around us. On the part of classes still called educated, there survives an ill-concealed contempt for the mental pursuits of mere collectors, observers, and experimenters. It is not now so bad as when in England Lady Glanville's will was attempted to be set aside on the ground of lunacy, evinced by no other evidence than a fondness for collecting insects; yet enthusiastic naturalists who ransack field and forest, mountain and sea, are still regarded as a class apart—as eccentric objects of curiosity, not to be compared in dignity with the students of art, literature, and metaphysics. So much of the old spirit continues that, as objects of thought and in the education of to-day, the works of man are ranked as superior to the works of God. Nor is it by any means considered so very desirable to know all about Nature. Large numbers of the cultivators of sentimental literature still protest that, if the world were once understood, it would no longer be worth living in. The heads of college-bred people are still filled with old childish fictions which are fondly cherished, and science, because it would clear away the mountains of this rubbish, in which the seekers after a liberal education are still made to delve, is dreaded as a desolating agency that would bereave us of all that is most refining and ennobling in culture. In his speech, Mr. Godwin goes off with double objurgation, as follows: "'Great God!" as Wordsworth says—

. . . . "'Great God! I'd rather be

A pagan suckled on a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn.
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.'"

Now, this may be all very well for callow sophomores; but when old fel-