Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/15

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downwards, are well known to all my hearers, and to some of them much better than to myself, it may be worth while to recall to you, in bald and colourless language what science really tells us about the nature and destiny of our species. It is so different from the gay colours of the rhapsodists whom I have just quoted, that we must be amazed that such doctrines should ever have passed for scientific. Astronomy gives us a picture of a wilderness of space, probably boundless, sparsely sewn with aggregations of elemental particles in all stages of heat and cold. These heavenly bodies are in some cases growing hotter, in other cases growing colder; but the fate of every globe must be, sooner or later, to become cold and dead, like the moon. Our sun, from which we derive the warmth which makes our life possible, is, I believe, an elderly star, which has long outlived the turbulent heats of youth, and is on its way to join the most senile class of luminiferous bodies, in which the star Antares is placed. When a star has once become cold, it must apparently remain dead until some chance collision sets the whole cycle going again. From time to time a great conflagration in the heavens, which occurred perhaps in the seventeenth century, becomes visible from this earth; and we may imagine, if we will, that two great solar systems have been reduced in a moment to incandescent gas. But space is probably so empty that the most pugnacious of astral knights-errant might wander for billions of years without meeting an opponent worthy of its bulk. If time as well as space is infinite, worlds must be born and die innumerable times, however few and far between their periods of activity may be. Of progress, in such a system taken as a whole, there cannot be a trace. Nor can there be any doubt about the fate

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