« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
THE ROUND TABLE.
TWO NOTABLE UTTERANCES.-We have never been led by conviction or a sense of sound policy, to take any share in the claim felt by some › respecting the inroads of science upon religious belief. We are in the habit of expecting the grounds of rational and sound belief ever and anon to vindicate themselves, or to show that they are too strong to need an agitated and panic-struck defence. Many tendencies of science just now lean in the direction of disturbing or infringing upon the well-established truths of religion, and the bearing of many new views is at least reckless of the interests of such truths. So are the expressions of many scientific men. It does not follow, however, that religion will take any permanent harm thereby. And occasionally the basty conclusions of eager enemies of religion and superficial paney grists of science" are dashed by the "sober second thought" of some scientific leader.
The notion of spontaneous generation has been, logically enough, considered at war with the belief in the sole and direct origin of life from the fiat of Creative Will. Of course those who greedily gulped at this notion, and halloed to the world that the experiments of Mr. Crosse, or something of the kind, had "demonstrated" it, hoped to see it accepted as a constituent part of "the reign of law," in the first of the five senses stated by the Duke of Argyll, the “observed order of facts." From this it would be but a step to the conclusion that the first life in the material universe originated of itself, and the agency of God in the matter would be voted out. Add the physical basis of life in the mental universe, and the idea of God would be altogether superfluous. Everything then is governed by selforiginating force, not by an Infinite Intelligence and Providence; the Moral System, Revelation, Immortality-all that makes religion would go by the board. Prof. Huxley has in a general way been regarded as sympathizing with this style of thinking. At the last meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Prof. H. as President, made an address, in which taking for an example, the maggots in putrefied meat, he recited the experiments of Francesco Reid for the prevention of the origin of the maggots by interposing gauze to keep away living particles in the air; those of Buffon and Needham respecting infusorial animalcules, which tended to sustain Buffon's theory of life as an indefeasible property of such animalcules; and those of the Abbe Spallauzani disproving this theory, with the subsequent experiments in the same direction of Schulze and Schwann, and the still further ones of Schröder, and Dusch and Tyndall. Prof. Huxley states his own conclusions and position as follows:
"I think it would be the height of presumption for any man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call "vital" may not some day be artificially brought together. All I feel justified in affirming is, that I see no reason for believing that the feat has been performed yet. And, looking back over the past, and finding no record of the commencement of life, I am devoid of any means of forming a definite conclusion as to the condition of its appearance. Belief, in the scientific sense, is a serious matter and needs strong foundations. To say that I have any belief as to the mode in which the existing forms of life have originated would be using words in a wrong sense."
The scientific and logical basis on which this stands is thus stated:
"From the whole chain of evidence it is demonstrable: That a fluid eminently fit for the development of the lowest forms of life, but which contains no germs, nor any protein compound, gives rise to living things in great abundance if it is exposed to ordinary air, while there is no such development if the air with which it is in contact is mechanically freed from the solid particles which usually float in it, and which may be made visible by appropriate means; that the great majority of the particles are destructible by heat, aud that some of these are germs or living particles capable of giving rise to the same forms of life as those which appear when the fluid is exposed to unpurified air; toat inoculation of the experimental fluid with a drop of liquid known to contain living particles gives rise to the same phenomena as exposure to unpurified air; and it is further certain that these living particles are so minute that the assumption of their suspension in ordinary air presents not the slightest difficulty. On the contrary, considering their lightness and the wide diffusion of the organisms which produce them, it is impossible to conceive that they should not be suspended in the atmosphere in myriads."
The proposition, therefore, that life may and does proceed from that which has no life, or, in other words, that dead matter can originate life, is confessed,-in perhaps an unexpected quarter,-to be without one scintilla of evidence Dr. Beale has demonstrated, in reply to Prof. Huxley's "Proto plasm," that movement and change are not the results of molecular and chemical agency. Carrying the war still further into Africa, Dr. Stirling* has shown triumphantly how utterly untenable is Prof. Huxley's whole position, "that all organisms consist alike of the same life-matter, which life-matter is, for its part, due only to chemistry." Stirling shows the ineffaceability of species against this new form of Darwin-ism. "The protoplasm of the gnat will no more grow into the fly than it will grow into an elephant." If the different sorts of protoplasm are (absolutely) all alike, and if the animal and vegetable functions are, in the last analysis, but molecular affections of the chemical constituents of the common protoplasm-diversifying themselves without any overruling will-then the Physical Bases theory has something in it. But Dr. Stirling shows "the infinite non-identity of protoplasm, and the dependence of its functions upon other factors than its molecular constituents." The power of matter, then, to impart life independent of God, or the Divine All-Sufficiency of Chemistry, would seem to have-so far as these scientific deponents know -not a peg to hang upon!
"As regards Protoplasm," University Series, No. 8.
The other utterance which we make note of is American. The orator before the Phi Beta Kappa at Cambridge last Commencement was Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and his topic was "The true and false mechanical relations of mental action," i. e., the true and the false views, etc. Dr. H. speaks of thought as “so far a result of mechanism," etc., of the great nervous center being "traversed by continuous lines of thought," uses such expressions as "the old brain thinks," "the retina thinks," maintains the notion of unconscious cerebration, in his own way, distributes certain forms of consciousness to certain departments of the nervous organism, and in general enlarges upon and illustrates the physical concomitants of thought. Of course the address is lively, picturesque, witty, touched here and there with sprightly and humorous quotations, and characteristically illiberal and intolerant of evangelical opinions. But he avoids carefully the confounding of mind with matter, which Herbert Spencer, Buckbee, Maudsley, and the rest strive so hard to get recognized as an advanced and profounder style of thinking. "The material or physiological co-efficient of thought," he asserts, is "indispensable to its exercise," and contents himself with that. As to what this ultimately is, he says:
"The mechanical co-efficient of mental action may be considered molecular movement in the nervous centers, attended with a waste of tissue, Lot a mere tremor like the quiver of a bell, but a process more like combustion, the blood carrying off the oxidated particles and bringing in fresh matter to take their place." "Numerous experiments have shown (see Flint, Hammond, and Lombard) that the brain is the seat of constant change of substance, which is greatly increased by mental exertion." "The brain must be fed or it can not work. As long as a sound brain is supplied with fresh blood it thinks, feels, wills." "The oxygen of the blood keeps the brain in a continual state of spontaneous combustion. The waste of the organ implies as constant a repair." "Every meal is a rescue from one death, and lays up for another," says Jeremy Taylor, "and while we think a thought we die." It is true of the brain as of other organs, it can only live by dying. We must all be born again atom by atom, hour by hour, or perish all at once beyond repair." According to the amount of waste of tissue will be that of the food required to repair losses. So much logic, so much beef; so much poetry, so much pudding," etc.
"But the intellectual product does not belong to the category of force at all, as defined by physicists. It does not answer their definition as "that which is expended in producing or resisting motion." It is not reconvertille into other forms of force. One can not lift a weight with a logical demonstration, or make a teakettle boil by writing an ode to it. A given amount of molecular action in two braias represents a certaiu equivalent of food, but by no means an equivalent of intellectual product. Bavius and Mœirus were very probably as good feeders as Virgil, or Horace, and wasted as much brain tissue in producing their carmina. It may be doubted whether the present Laureate of England consumed more oxidable material in the shape of nourishment for any page of "Maud," or of "Memoriam," than
his predecessor, Nahum Tate,-whose masterpiece gets no better eulogy than that it is "the least miserable of his productions,"-in eliminating an equal amount of verse."
Dr. Holmes adds some suggestions about the difference in the brains of individual men as to the changes in force which belong to them, a sort of individual brain-virtue, he considers it, like the "virtue in iron," which gathers magnetism from electricity passing through it. "Why may not a particular brain through which certain nutritious currents have flowed, fix a force derived from these currents in virtue of a vis Platonica or a vis Baconica, and thus become a magnet in the universe of thought, exercising and imparting an influence which is not expended, in addition to that accounted for by the series of molecular changes in the thinking organ" This is certainly treading very near the position abandoned in the former paragraph quoted. Thought is not a force, and magnetism is. The poetprofessor has confounded poetry and science. "A magnet in the universe of thought" is obviously figure of speech, and very good, but the "influence not expended," the "force derived" from "certain nutritious currents," does not appear, converted, (which Dr. Holmes denies) in thought, unless the brain, in addition to the power of fixing a physical force, has also the power of converting it into an intellectual product.
Dr. Holmes goes on: "We must not forget that force equivalent is one thing, and quality of force-product is quite a different thing. The same outlay of muscular force turns the winch of a coffee mill and (that) of a hand-organ. It has been said thought can not be a physical force because it can not be measured." [This position of President Barnard (Chicago meeting of Am. Assoc. Adv. Science) troubled all the physicists of a certain school. Professor Barker asks: “Can we longer doubt that the brain, too, is a machine for the conversion of energy, (force, Rankine.) Can we longer refuse to believe that even thought is, in some mysterious way, correlated to the other natural forces? and this even in face of the fact that it bas never yet been measured?"] "An attempt has been made,” says Dr. Holmes, " to measure thought as we measure force. I have two tables, one from the Annales Encyclopedique, and another, earlier and less minute, by the poet Akenside, in which the poets are classified according to their distinctive qualities, each quality and the total average being marked on a scale of twenty as a maximum. I am not sure the mental qualities are not as susceptible of measurement as the aurora borealis, or the changes of the weather. But," and here the Phi Beta Kappa recovers from the confusion of thought into which he seems drifting, as if mental qualities were phys ical phenomena physically measurable like these! "But even measurable quality has no more to do with the correlation of forces than the color of a horse with his power of draught, and it is with quality we deal in intellect and morals."
The Duke of Argyll, it will be remembered by his readers, inclines to the opinion, that the forces which we call material are, after all, but manifestations of mental energy and will." No sound thinker will hesitate
which to regard as the source of the other; but it is something to find an unbeliever like Dr. Holmes clear, at least, touching the distinction in kind between them.
AMUSEMENTS.-As a supplement to what was said in the Round Table two months since of English Congregationalism, we give its most recent utterances on Amusements. Rev. H. Simon and Rev. J. Hutcheson read papers upon personal religion and church life before the Congregational Union at Plymouth, which called out the English Independent after this fashion:
“One of the Plymouth papers seems to have gained the impression from the meetings (of the Union) that the Congregationalists might carry ali before them if they had but 'a more common sense view of public amusements,' and were not 'sadly enslaved with dramatic amusements.' This reservation appears to have been suggested by some inconsequent observations in the first day's desultory remarks upon the admirable papers of Mr. Simon and Mr. Hutcheson. The Bishop of Manchester the other day talked about the instructive power of the stage. When the managers and patrons of the British drama make it instructive, it will be quite time enough to discuss the question whether the Congregationalists should abate any of their objections to it. The first newspaper theatrical criticism that comes to hand will suffice to show the disgusting inanity and vulgarity of the stuff that is at present put upon the boards.' The people who go to the theatres do not go to be instructed—they go for the sake of the glare, the dress, the dissipation; and these things are not included in the 'liberty' of Congregational churches. Congregationalism is a little more than a protest on behalf of grand principles-it involves self-denial, and though an evening at a dancing party, or a visit to the theater may not bring loss of membership, no Congregational church can tolerate habitual indulgence in frivolity, and the attitude of Congregationalism to dramatic amusements as they are, must continue to be wholly hostile. We devoutly trust that the circulation of the paper read in the Union will increase the steadfastness of our testimony against the 'public amusements' meant by our censors, and make our young people more distinctly understand that between Congregationalism, in its religious sense, and these things there can be no sort of alliance or understanding."
UNIVERSITY TESTS.-The bill for abolishing religious University Tests still hangs fire in the British Parliament. Churchmen are trying to contrive for the ascendancy and perpetuity of Episcopalianism at the Universities, when it has passed, as every body knows pass it must. So it is fought at every step. It is thought that the bill for removing Clerical Disabilities is the only measure of Church Reform that will pass this session. All classes of Dissenters unite in urging the University Tests Bill, and Churchmen avow such obligations to Dissenters in respect to the Education Bill, that they can make slight headway against them or the abolition of Tests. The Congregationalists will stand in a new relation to the Higher