Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/121

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111
EDITOR'S TABLE.

ignorance, and notwithstanding our professed reverence for its Creator, have hitherto covered with opprobrium, the promise and potency of every form and quality of life."

Now, what does Prof. Tyndall here mean by prolonging the intellectual vision across the boundary of the experimental evidence? He has defined exactly what he means, and given an example of it in the case of the magnet, whose broken particles exhibit polarity, "and, when we can break no longer, we prolong the intellectual vision to the polar molecules." That is, molecules and atoms are not objects of sense, and therefore of experiment, but can be cognized only by the intellect. Prof. Tyndall must leave experiment before he can reach them, as they lie far beyond and below all possibility of ever being reached by that method; they are objects of inference, hypothetical creations, and belong to the world of thought. But can it be pretended that they do not also belong to science? All modern physics and chemistry have, for their foundation, conceptions of the molecular constitution of matter. Is the establishment of the great division of molecular physics—is the elaboration of that wonderful system of molecular constructions—the "new chemistry"—an illegitimate and unscientific mental procedure? Was the pious Quaker Dalton guilty of breaking the bounds of science and trespassing upon the territory of religion, when he passed the limits of experimental evidence and reconstructed the atomic theory in accordance with the newly-ascertained laws of chemical action? This must have been so if the charge now made against Prof. Tyndall is valid. And if scientific men are not to be allowed to cross the boundaries of experimental evidence, and reason upon the sub-sensible conditions, powers, and constitution of matter, then there is simply an end to science.

But this is not all. Prof. Tyndall claims that there is a great deal more, in this mysterious and unfathomable something which we call matter, than has been hitherto allowed; he sees in it "the promise and potency of every form and quality of life." Much horror has been expressed at this statement, but the expressions seem to us quite gratuitous. We should like to know what form or quality of life there is, that is not manifested in matter, and is not, therefore, to be ranked among its potentialities. All living things are material things; all organized creatures are constituted of material elements; and, throughout the scale of life, vital, chemical, and physical powers are correlated in inextricable complication, and displayed through a substratum of ponderable constituents. Of the sixty-odd chemical elements, four are chiefly concerned in the maintenance of life; they constitute the mass of all living things, and have long been classified as organogens—generators of organization. The mutations of these elements involve the cycles of life. Earth, sea, and air, are filled with myriads of vital forms, and through countless millions of years the earth has swarmed with them, while whole rocky systems are made up of their material remnants. When the microscope was invented, and the frontiers of old observation were crossed, a new world of life was discovered; and, as the powers of the instrument were improved, minuter creatures were disclosed, grade after grade, until organisms were found not the millionth of an inch in diameter. Those who deny spontaneous generation, or that living beings are directly engendered out of matter, are only able to do so by prolonging their vision beyond the sensible evidence, and assuming that Nature is pervaded by infinitely tenuous, inscrutable, though still material life-germs. But, whatever the processes by which Nature breaks into this multitudinous life, it is undoubtedly done through an inflexible system of law. There is no irregularity, caprice, or miracle, about it; it is a phase of