Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/820

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

the conditions on which weight is attached to evidence. The imagination which supposes that it does, simply does not "assume the air of scientific reason."

I repeat that, if imagination is used within the limits laid down by science, disorder is unimaginable. If a being endowed with perfect intellectual and æsthetic faculties, but devoid of the capacity for suffering pain, either physical or moral, were to devote his utmost powers to the investigation of Nature, the universe would seem to him to be a sort of kaleidoscope, in which, at every successive moment of time, a new arrangement of parts of exquisite beauty and symmetry would present itself; and each of them would show itself to be the logical consequence of the preceding arrangement, under the conditions which we call the laws of Nature. Such a spectator might well be filled with that Amor intellectualis Dei (intellectual love of God), the beatific vision of the vita contemplativa (contemplative life.), which some of the greatest thinkers of all ages, Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza, have regarded as the only conceivable eternal felicity; and the vision of illimitable suffering, as if sensitive beings were unregarded animalcules which had got between the bits of glass of the kaleidoscope, which mars the prospect to us poor mortals, in no wise alters the fact that order is lord of all, and disorder only a name for that part of the order which gives us pain.

The other fallacious employment of the names of scientific conceptions which pervades the preacher's utterance, brings me back to the proper topic of the present paper. It is the use of the word "law" as if it denoted a thing—as if a "law of Nature," as Science understands it, were a being endowed with certain powers, in virtue of which the phenomena expressed by that law are brought about. The preacher asks, "Might not there be a suspension of a lower law by the intervention of a higher?" He tells us that every time we lift our arms we defy the law of gravitation. He asks whether some day certain "royal and ultimate laws" may not come and "wreck" those laws which are at present, it would appear, acting as Nature's police. It is evident, from these expressions, that "laws," in the mind of the preacher, are entities having an objective existence in a graduated hierarchy. And it would appear that the "royal laws" are by no means to be regarded as constitutional royalties: at any moment, they may, like Eastern despots, descend in wrath among the middle-class and plebeian laws, which have hitherto done the drudgery of the world's work, and—to use phraseology not unknown in our seats of learning—"make hay" of their belongings. Or perhaps a still more familiar analogy has suggested this singular theory; and it is thought that high laws may "suspend" low laws, as a bishop may suspend a curate.

Far be it from me to controvert these views, if any one likes to hold them. All I wish to remark is that such a conception of the nature of "laws" has nothing: to do with modern science. It is scho-