Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/559

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545
EDITOR'S TABLE.

The predominance of pugilism and athletic sports, which depend upon 11 muscle," have favored the idea that the chief influence and benefit of exercise is upon the muscular system; but Professor Reymond shows that this is an error. An important effect is, of course, produced in the development of the muscles, which is very fully and interestingly traced out; but by far the most important and valuable influence of physical exercise is shown to be upon the nervous centers. "It is easy to show the error of the common view, and demonstrate that such bodily exercises as gymnastics, fencing, swimming, riding, dancing, and skating are much more exercises of the central nervous system, of the brain and spinal marrow. Every action of our body as a motive apparatus depends not less but more upon the proper co-operation of the muscles than upon the force of their contraction. In order to execute a composite motion, like a leap, the muscles must begin to work in the proper order, and the energy of each one of them must increase, halt, and diminish, according to a certain law, so that the result shall be the proper position of the limbs, and the proper velocity of the center of gravity in the proper direction."

But when it is established that the Central nervous system is not only amenable to the law of exercise, but is the chief object of its influence, we then begin to see how the highest mental effects are involved in the question. Improvement by means of exercise and deterioration from non-exercise apply to the gray matter of the brain as well as to the muscles. From this point of view, which is that of the philosophy of human educability, the subject has a comprehensive interest, and we hope our readers will recognize that, in furnishing them articles that imply some effort in their mastery, we are conforming to the only law by which real mental improvement can be secured.

 

 

MORE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

That there has been going forward within the last few years a rapid liberalization of public opinion on the subjects that are in issue between science and theology, everybody now admits; and, having done what little we could to promote this salutary result, we are naturally interested in all the striking indications of the growth of toleration in quarters where it has been previously but little looked for. We called attention a few months ago to the significance of a declaration made by an eminent English doctor of divinity that the appreciation of Herbert Spencer's system of philosophy is "an education to an age," and we have now to take note of another liberal concession of perhaps greater interest.

The Victoria Institute, a vigorous English society of nearly a thousand members, consisting chiefly of lords, bishops, and clergymen, was founded a few years ago for the broad purpose of reconciling orthodox Christianity with the revelations of science. It is a kind of British standing committee on the relations of science and theology, the duty of which is to consider and report on all the alleged cases of their conflict.

It has been long expected that the Institute would take up the question of the religious relations of Spencer's philosophy, and that has now been done. The last report of its proceedings, just published, contains an elaborate paper, attacking this system and claiming to demolish it, which was written by the Rev. W. D. Ground, and its reading was followed by an unusually full discussion of the subject by the members of the Institute. We have no room to reproduce at length either the essay or the comments that were made upon it; but there are certain features of both to which it seems desirable to call attention, because we here get weighty theological confirmation of positions that