Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/91

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79
SCIENCE AND RELIGION.

any meteorite, and, in particular, to determine the conditions under which its present constitution as a rock took its origin, we have only for our guide the actual record written on the meteoric mass itself; and it is in this direction that the mineralogist is now working.

But the progress is necessarily a gradual one. We may indeed assert that the meteorites we know have, probably all of them, been originally formed under conditions from which the presence of water or of free oxygen to the amount requisite to oxidize entirely the elements present were excluded; for this is proved by the nature of the minerals constituting the meteorites, and by the way in which the metallic iron is distributed through them.

And one suggestive and significant fact remains to be alluded to; the presence, namely, in some few meteorites of combinations of hydrogen and carbon, which if met with in a terrestrial mineral would with little hesitation be assigned to an organic origin. A few grains were exhibited to the audience of such a body, crystallized from ether, which solvent had extracted it to the amount of about 0.25 per cent, from six ounces of the Cold Bokkveldt meteorite.

Similar substances have been extracted by Wohler, Roscoe, and other chemists, from this and other meteorites. It was, however, observed, as pointing to the probability of the comparatively porous meteoric stone having in this case taken up the hydrocarbon as a substance extraneous to it (possibly when in the state of a vapor), that ether extracted it entirely from the solid lumps of the meteorite; pulverization not in any way adding to the amount obtained, or facilitating in any appreciable degree the separation of the substance.

 

SCIENCE AND RELIGION.

THE editor of the Contemporary Review is liberal enough to grant me space for a few brief reflections on a subject, a former reference to which in these pages has, I believe, brought down upon him and me a considerable amount of animadversion.

It may be interesting to some if I glance at a few cases illustrative of the history of the human mind in relation to this and kindred subjects. In the fourth century the belief in Antipodes was deemed un-scriptural and heretical. The pious Lactantius was as angry with the people who held this notion as my censors are with me, and quite as unsparing in his denunciations of their "Monstrosities." Lactantius was irritated because, in his mind, by education and habit, cosmogony and religion were indissolubly associated, and therefore simultaneously disturbed. In the early part of the seventeenth century the notion that