Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/241

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227
"COWARDLY AGNOSTICISM."

is made is the same everywhere and follows the same laws—whether at Clapham Common or in the farthest system of stars—and that this has always been so to the remotest of the penetrable abysses of time. It is established yet further that the universe in its present condition has evolved itself out of simpler conditions, solely in virtue of the qualities which still inhere in its elements, and make to-day what it is, just as they have made all yesterdays.

Lastly, in this physical universe science has included man—not alone his body, but his life and his mind also. Every operation of thought, every fact of consciousness, it has shown to be associated in a constant and definite way with the presence and with certain conditions of certain particles of matter, which are shown, in their turn, to be in their last analysis absolutely similar to the matter of gases, plants, or minerals. The demonstration has every appearance of being morally complete. The interval between mud and mind, seemingly so impassable, has been traversed by a series of closely consecutive steps. Mind, which was once thought to have descended into matter, is shown forming itself, and slowly emerging out of it. From forms of life so low that naturalists can hardly decide whether it is right to class them as plants or animals, up to the life that is manifested in saints, heroes, or philosophers, there is no break to be detected in the long process of development. There is no step in the process where science finds any excuse for postulating or even suspecting the presence of any new factor.

And the same holds good of the lowest forms of life, and what Prof. Huxley calls "the common matter of the universe." It is true that experimentalists have been thus far unable to observe the generation of the former out of the latter, but this failure may be accounted for in many ways, and does nothing to weaken the overwhelming evidence of analogy that such generation really does take place or has taken place at some earlier period. "Carbonic acid, water, and ammonia," says Prof. Huxley, "certainly possess no properties but those of ordinary matter. . . . But when they are brought together under certain conditions they give rise to protoplasm; and this protoplasm exhibits the phenomenon of life. I see no breach in this series of steps in molecular complication, and I am unable to understand why the language which is applicable to any one form of the series may not be used to any of the others."[1]

So much, then, for what modern science teaches us as to the universe and the evolution of man. We will presently consider the ways, sufficiently obvious as they are, in which this seems to conflict with the ideas of all theism and theology. But first for a

  1. "Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews," pp. 114, 117.