Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/12

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

ence has undoubtedly finally settled; the great facts of astronomy and geology are not to be reversed or set aside. It is only in the details, the filling in of the picture, that errors are still likely to occur. No, what theology has to fear, and what is working such mischief with it, is not the "infallibility" of science, but it is the scientific spirit, the spirit that demands complete verification, that applies past experience to new problems, that sees that immutable laws lie at the bottom of all phenomena, and that is skeptical of all exceptions to the logical course of events until they are irrefragably proved.

Science is ignorant enough, without doubt, about many things. After it has done its best, the mystery of creation is as deep as before. But what it has taught the race, and what the race can never unlearn, is, that the sequence of cause and effect is inviolable, that the order of the physical universe is rational, that creation is not an historical event but a perpetual process, that there is no failure and no disorder in Nature, and that to approximate to anything like a right understanding of things the personal, or, if I may coin the word, the anthrocentric, point of view must be abandoned.

Dr. Jenkins is unfortunate in confronting the kind of "exceptions" which I aver science can not recognize with the fact that water, in opposition to all other material substances, expands under a certain degree of cold. But is there any known exception to this law of water? Has water ever been known to reverse this process in freezing? If so, the exception would indeed stagger science; it would be a miracle. A child born of a woman, but without an earthly father, and of a superhuman species, is the kind of exception which I averred science can not recognize; but does this bear any analogy to the exceptional behavior of water while freezing, when compared with other substances? It used to be believed that in every animal that possessed a circulation the blood always took one definite and invariable direction, but, in 1824, Huxley says, it was discovered that a class of animals called Ascidians furnished an exception; the heart of these animals, after beating a certain number of times, stops, and then begins to beat in the opposite way, so as to reverse the course of the blood, which returns by-and-by to its original direction. Such an exception does not disturb the man of science; it only teaches him greater caution in making his deductions. But if one Ascidian, and but one, could be found whose heart beat like that of other animals, that would be a puzzle to him. Or if one comet, and only one, should appear carrying its tail toward the sun instead of from it, cometary astronomy would be reduced to chaos. A floating feather is no exception to the law of gravitation, but a floating stone and a falling feather would be an exception. Science as well as experience finds exceptions to general rules everywhere, but these exceptions are constant and as strictly the result of natural law as anything else. Faith in the continuity of Nature, upon which the scientist builds, no less than every man in the conduct