Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/721

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LITERARY NOTICES.

says that the theory of evolution which Mr. Spencer has elaborated with such ingenuity "will share the fate of other merely speculative fabrics," and "fade away in the advancing light of real knowledge." The implication of course is that Mr. Spencer's work lacks the character of "real knowledge," and this the writer confirms by speaking of "a certain color of science" which he has been enabled to give it. This is a strange deliverance. A system born of science, and constructed warp and woof out of the accredited facts and truths of the sciences, is not well described as having imparted to it a superficial coloring of science. Mr. Spencer's allegiance to facts, his comprehensive grasp of the results of science, and his command of the scientific method and fidelity to it, are unchallenged. His system, given out in fragments favorable for the most critical examination, has been under fire for twenty-five years, and has extended in influence and steadily risen in consideration in a scientific age because it was recognized to embody more "real knowledge" than any other such system ever before presented. The writer in the "Commercial" thinks he sees indications that it is already declining; he merely misinterprets the subsidence of opposition.

The simple fact of the case is, that Mr. Spencer was the first to deal with evolution as a strictly scientific problem, lie withdrew it from the field of fanciful speculation, and subjected its investigation to the rigorous conditions of analytic and synthetic science. The time had come when, by the laws of advancing intelligence, the subject had to be taken up from this point of view. Its fundamental datum was given by Huxley in a few words. "It is now established, and generally recognized," said he, "that this universe and all that it contains did not come into existence in the condition in which we now see it, nor in anything like that condition." It is therefore self-evident that changes have taken place by which one condition of things has led to another and a different condition of things. Mr. Spencer took up the inquiry at this point by asking, What are the laws of these changes? It was an inquiry into the order of the phenomenal world and therefore strictly scientific in its nature, as not a step could be taken toward its solution except by the inexorable application of scientific methods. Postulating those universal and fundamental laws of scientific inquiry, the indestructibility of matter and force, the changes that have taken place had to be investigated as transformations by which one thing is derived from another, and the present evolved out of the past under that inflexible principle of all scientific inquiry, the law of cause and effect. Beyond doubt, one of the great secrets of the rapid acceptance of the doctrine of evolution by the best trained minds of the age is the thoroughly scientific character of the exposition in Spencer's system. It has the stability of a great law of Nature, fortified by results from all the sciences, and can only pass away as it is further developed under the principle of evolution, which itself gives law to the progress of knowledge; and the attempt to kick it into the limbo of speculative vagaries implies, as we have said, some considerable misapprehension of the situation.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Gray's Botanical Text-Book. Sixth edition. Vol. II. Physiological Botany. 1. Outlines of the Histology of Phanerogamous Plants; 2. Vegetable Physiology. By George Lincoln Goodale, A.M., M.D., Professor of Botany in Harvard University. New York and Chicago: Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor k Co. Price, $2.

The first edition of Gray's "Botanical Text-Hook" was published forty-three years ago, and took the highest rank at once as an American exposition of the science, both for college uses and for students generally.