Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/454

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come to meet them in considering the ascending development of nature.

The first difficulty is the existence of matter and force, and is in itself transcendental.

The second difficulty is the origin of motion. We see motion arise and cease; we can conceive matter at rest, and motion appears to be something casual to it. It does not satisfy our demand for a causal agency to think of matter evenly distributed in illimitable space and at rest for endless time. Unless we admit a supernatural impulse, a sufficient occasion for the first motion is lacking. Or, if we imagine matter as in motion from eternity, we give up the elucidation of the point. I regard the difficulty as transcendent.

The third difficulty is the origin of life. As I have often said, I see no ground for considering this difficulty transcendent. When matter has once begun to move, worlds may originate; under suitable conditions, which we can as little imitate as we can those under which a multitude of inorganic processes take place, the peculiar condition of the dynamic balance of matter which we call life may also be produced. If we admit a supernatural act, one such act, creating the animated matter, is enough.

The fourth difficulty is offered by the apparently teleological arrangement of nature. Organic laws of formation can not work adaptively unless matter was created with adaptive purpose in the beginning; and they are inconsistent with the mechanical view of nature. This difficulty is, however, not absolutely transcendent, for Mr. Darwin has pointed out in his doctrine of natural selection a possible way of overcoming it, and of explaining the inner suitableness of organic creation to its purposes and its adaptation to inorganic conditions through a concatenation of circumstances operating by a kind of mechanism in connection with natural necessity.

I have already, on a similar occasion to the present, considered in this place the degree of probability that belongs to the theory of selection. "We might always," I said, "while we hold to this theory, have the feeling of the otherwise helpless sinking man, who is cleaving to a plank that just bears him up even with the surface of the water. In the choice between the plank and destruction, the advantage is decidedly on the side of the plank." The fact that I compared the theory of selection to a plank on which a shipwrecked man seeks deliverance excited so much delight in the camp of the other side that they, in the pleasure of repeating it, made a straw of the plank. There is, however, a great difference between a plank and a straw. The man who is dependent on a straw sinks; a common plank has saved many a man's life. Thus the fourth difficulty is no longer transcendent when it is earnestly, thoughtfully met.

The fifth difficulty is the origin of simple sensations, and is quite transcendent.