Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/285

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"the predicate of reality can be ascribed only to energy."

Since it is generally admitted that, whatever the unknown reality may be, our conception of energy is a projection into the external world of the feeling of resistance and effort which accompanies our own voluntary actions, the question whether "the predicate of reality can be ascribed to energy" leads us at once to the preliminary question whether volition is real or phenomenal. If the interminable discussion on the freedom of the will, which has exercised the most acute intellects of our race for many centuries, teaches anything, it teaches that science is not yet able to answer the question whether the "predicate of reality" is or is not to be ascribed to volition; and that, in the present state of our knowledge of Nature, Ostwald's substitute for materialism is no better and no worse than the system which he seeks to displace and supplant.




We were quite prepared for it, as we mentioned last month; so it was no surprise to us to read the following in The Herald and Presbyter of a recent date, the reference therein being to Röntgen's discovery: "For one thing, it corroborates, so far as any material experiment can, Paul's doctrine of the spiritual body as now existing in man. It proves, as far as any experiment can prove, that a truer body, a body of which the phenomenal body is but the clothing, may now reside within us, and which (sic) awaits the moment of its unclothing, which we call death, to set it free." We are further told in the same article that the discovery in question "makes clear to the unscientific mind what Stuart (sic) and Tait announced, that matter in one state has no power to exclude matter in another and more refined state," and that we must therefore now be prepared to believe "that two particles of matter can and do occupy the same space at the same time."

A very few remarks on this piece of special pleading must suffice on the present occasion.

1. "Paul's doctrine of the spiritual body." Why this doctrine should be called Paul's it is hard to understand, seeing that it is encountered in every quarter of the globe among nations and tribes of almost every grade of civilization. In the Odyssey Ulysses talks to the "spiritual body" of Achilles in the nether world, a body which was "set free" when the natural body of the hero was slain. It is difficult, therefore, to see why Paul rather than Homer should be mentioned as having his "doctrine" confirmed by the discovery of the X rays.
2. Paul's doctrine, however, was not that there may be a spiritual body within—but, after all, why within more than without?—the natural body, but that there is such a body; whereas Röntgen. according even to the writer we are quoting, only proves that there may be one. A thousand proofs, however, that a thing may be does not advance us one whit toward proving that it is. Moreover, Röntgen's discovery does not point any more in the direction of a spiritual body within our bodies than it does in the direction of a spiritual body within cats, or dogs, or sheep, or trees, or stones.
3. Strictly speaking, Röntgen's discovery proves nothing about bodies in general that has not been known for centuries. That light can pass through solid bodies even of great thickness and density has been the common experience of mankind ever since the first transparent substance was discovered. Rontgen has merely discovered that substances which are not penetrable by ordinary