Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/452

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

believed to originate, it has only been developed from germs that were already present. Yet those who will not adhere to a wholly childish view may be logically compelled to concede a mechanical origin of life. Hardly any one can now be found to advocate the doctrine of periods of creation by which the Almighty was supposed to have repeatedly destroyed his work to do it over again for better or worse, in the face of geological facts and the theory of descent. The believer in a final cause must admit that such a proceeding is little worthy of a creative Almighty. It is most highly becoming to him once by supernatural interference with the world's mechanism to call the simplest germ of life into being, and let further organic creation proceed from that. If this is conceded, it is permissible to ask if it is not still more worthy of the creative Almighty to avoid even that single intervention by means of established laws, and to endow matter from the beginning with the power of originating life under suitable conditions. There is no reason for denying this view, but with its acceptance the possibility of a mechanical origin of life is conceded, and we have only to consider whether the matter which can thus mechanically compose itself into a living condition always existed, or whether, as Leibnitz thought, it was created by God.

I conclude that astronomical knowledge of the brain would not make consciousness more comprehensible on a mechanical basis because it must be indifferent to a number of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, etc., how they are situated or how they move, unless they already had individual consciousness; and this would not help to explain consciousness in general, or the aggregated consciousness of the brain.

I hold this conclusion to be fully convincing. Herr Haeckel, however, has advanced as a metaphysical axiom that every atom possesses an inherent quantity of force, and is in this sense "be-souled," and that without the acceptance of an "atom-soul" the commonest and most general phenomena of chemistry are inexplainable. "Pleasure and displeasure," he says, "desire and aversion, attraction and repulsion, must be common to all the atoms, for the movements of atoms that take place in the formation and decomposition of all chemical compounds are susceptible of explanation only if we ascribe feeling and will to them. . . . If the 'will' of man and the higher animals seems to be free in contrast with the 'fixed' will of the atoms, that is a delusion provoked by the contrast between the extremely complicated voluntary movements of the former and the extremely simple voluntary movements of the latter." Quite in the spirit of the false philosophy from the same source that has been so pernicious to German science, Herr Haeckel goes on with the construction upon "unconscious recollection" of a certain "vivified" atom-complex that he calls "plastidule."

Thus does he disdain the path of inductive research shown us by