Having thus satisfied himself by indubitable facts that the organisation of an animal or of a plant (for precisely the same treatment applies to plants). is to some extent plastic, he passes from variation under domestication to variation under nature. Hitherto we have dealt with the adding together of small changes by the conscious selection of man. Can Nature thus select? Mr. Darwin's answer is, 'Assuredly she can.' The number of living things produced is far in excess of the number that can be supported; hence at some period or other of their lives there must be a struggle for existence. And what is the infallible result? If one organism were a perfect copy of the other in regard to strength, skill, and agility, external conditions would decide. But this is not the case. Here we have the fact of variety offering itself to nature, as in the former instance it offered itself to man; and those varieties which are least competent to cope with surrounding conditions will infallibly give way to those that are most competent. To use a familiar proverb, the weakest goes to the wall. But the triumphant fraction again breeds to over-production, transmitting the qualities which secured its maintenance, but transmitting them in different degrees. The struggle for food again supervenes, and those to whom the favourable quality has been transmitted in excess, will triumph as before.
It is easy to see that we have here the addition of increments favourable to the individual, still more rigorously carried out than in the case of domestication; for not only are unfavourable specimens not selected by nature, but they are destroyed. This is what Mr. Darwin calls 'Natural Selection,' which acts by the preservation and accumulation of small inherited modifications, each profitable to the preserved being. With this idea he interpenetrates and leavens the vast store of facts that he and others have collected. We cannot, without shutting our eyes through fear or prejudice, fail to see that Darwin is here dealing, not with imaginary, but with true causes; nor can we fail to discern what vast modifications may be produced by natural selection in periods sufficiently long. Each individual increment may resemble what mathematicians call a 'differential' (a quantity indefinitely small); but definite and great changes may obviously be produced by the integration of these infinitesimal quantities, through practically infinite time.
If Darwin, like Bruno, rejects the notion of creative power, acting after human fashion, it certainly is not because he is unacquainted with the numberless exquisite adaptations, on which this notion of a supernatural Artificer has been founded. His book is a repository of the most startling facts of this description. Take the marvellous observation which he cites from Dr. Krueger, where a bucket, with an aperture serving as a spout, is formed in an orchid. Bees visit the flower: in eager search of material for their combs, they push each other into the bucket, the drenched ones escaping from their involuntary bath by the spout. Here they rub their backs against the viscid stigma of the flower and obtain glue; then against the pollen masses, which are thus stuck to the back of the bee and carried away. 'When the bee, so provided, flies to another flower, or to the same flower a second time, and is pushed by its comrades into the bucket, and then crawls out by the passage, the pollen-mass upon its back necessarily comes first into contact with the viscid stigma,' which takes up the pollen; and this is how that orchid is fertilised. Or take this other case of the Catasetum 'Bees visit these flowers in order to gnaw the labellum; in doing this they inevitably touch a long, tapering, sensitive projection. This, when touched, transmits a sensation or vibration to a certain membrane, which is instantly ruptured, setting free a spring, by which the pollen-mass is shot forth like an arrow in the right direction, and adheres by its viscid extremity to the back of the bee.' In this way the fertilising pollen is spread abroad.
It is the mind thus stored with the choicest materials of the teleologist that rejects teleology, seeking to refer these wonders to natural causes. They illustrate, according to him, the method of nature, not the 'technic' of a manlike Artificer. The beauty of flowers is due to natural selection. Those that distinguish themselves by vividly contrasting colours from the surrounding green leaves are most readily seen, most frequently visited by insects, most often fertilised, and hence most favoured by natural selection. Coloured berries also readily attract the attention of birds and beasts, which feed upon them, spread their manured seeds abroad, thus giving trees and shrubs possessing such berries a greater chance in the struggle for existence.
With profound analytic and synthetic skill, Mr. Darwin investigates the cell-making instinct of the hive-bee. His method of dealing with it is representative. He falls back from the more perfectly to the less perfectly developed instinct—from the hive-bee to the humble bee, which uses its own cocoon as a comb, and to classes of bees of intermediate skill, endeavouring to show how the passage might be gradually made from the lowest to the highest. The saving of wax is the most important point in the economy of bees. Twelve to fifteen pounds of dry sugar are said to be needed for the secretion of a single pound of wax. The quantities of nectar necessary for the wax must therefore be vast; and every improvement of constructive instinct which results in the saving of wax is a direct profit to the insect's life. The time that would otherwise be devoted to the making of wax, is devoted to the gathering and storing of honey for winter food. Mr. Darwin passes from the humble bee with its rude cells, through the Melipona with its more artistic cells, to the hive-bee with its astonishing architecture. The bees place themselves at equal distances apart upon the wax, sweep and excavate equal spheres round the selected points. The spheres intersect, and the planes of intersection are built up with thin laminae. Hexagonal cells are thus formed. This mode of treating such questions is, as I have said, representative. The expositor habitually retires from the more perfect and complex, to the less perfect and simple, and carries you with him through stages of perfecting—adds increment to increment of infinitesimal change, and in this way gradually breaks down your reluctance to admit that the exquisite climax of the whole could be a result of natural selection.
Mr. Darwin shirks no difficulty; and, saturated as the subject was with his own thought, he must have known, better than his critics, the weakness as well as the strength of his theory. This of course would be of little avail were his object a temporary dialectic victory, instead of the establishment of a truth which he means to be everlasting. But he takes no pains to disguise the weakness he has discerned; nay, he takes every pains to bring it into the strongest light. His vast resources enable him to cope with objections started by himself and others, so as to leave the final impression upon the reader's mind that, if they be not completely answered, they certainly are not fatal. Their negative force being thus destroyed, you are free to be influenced by the vast positive mass of evidence he is able to bring before you. This largeness of knowledge, and readiness of resource, render Mr. Darwin the most terrible of antagonists. Accomplished naturalists have levelled heavy and sustained criticisms against him—not always with the view of fairly weighing his theory, but with the express intention of exposing its weak points only. This does not irritate him. He treats every objection with a soberness and thoroughness which even Bishop Butler might be proud to imitate, surrounding each fact with its appropriate detail, placing it in its proper relations, and usually giving it a significance which, as long as it was kept isolated, failed to appear. This is done without a trace of ill-temper. He moves over the subject with the passionless strength of a glacier; and the grinding of the rocks is not always without a counterpart in the logical pulverisation of the objector. But though in handling this mighty theme all passion has been stilled, there is an emotion of the intellect, incident to the discernment of new truth, which often colours and warms the pages of Mr. Darwin.
His success has been great; and this implies not only the solidity of his work, but the preparedness of the public mind for such a revelation. On this head, a remark of Agassiz impressed me more than anything else. Sprung from a race of theologians, this celebrated man combated to the last the theory of natural selection. One of the many times I had the pleasure of meeting him in the United States was at Mr. Winthrop's beautiful residence at Brookline, near Boston. Rising from luncheon, we all halted as if by common consent, in front of a window, and continued there a discussion which had been started at table. The maple was in its autumn glory, and the exquisite beauty of the scene outside seemed, in my case, to interpenetrate without disturbance the intellectual action. Earnestly, almost sadly, Agassiz turned, and said to the gentlemen standing round, 'I confess that I was not prepared to see this theory received as it has been by the best intellects of our time. Its success is greater than I could have thought possible.'
In our day grand generalisations have been reached. The theory of the origin of species is but one of them. Another, of still wider grasp and more radical significance, is the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy, the ultimate philosophical issues of which are as yet but dimly seen—that doctrine which 'binds nature fast in fate,' to an extent not hitherto recognised, exacting from every antecedent its equivalent consequent, from every consequent its equivalent antecedent, and bringing vital as well as physical phenomena under the dominion of that law of causal connection which, so far as the human understanding has yet pierced, asserts itself everywhere in nature. Long in advance of all definite experiment upon the subject, the constancy and indestructibility of matter had been affirmed; and all subsequent experience justified the affirmation. Mayer extended the attribute of indestructibility to energy, applying it in the first instance to inorganic, and afterwards with profound insight to organic nature. [Footnote: Dr. Berthold has shown that Leibnitz had sound views regarding the conservation of energy in inorganic nature.] The vegetable world, though drawing all its nutriment from invisible sources, was proved incompetent to generate anew either matter or force. Its matter is for the most part transmuted gas; its force transformed solar force. The animal world was proved to be equally uncreative, all its motive energies being referred to the combustion of its food. The activity of each animal, as a whole, was proved to be the transferred activity of its molecules. The muscles were shown to be stores of mechanical energy, potential until unlocked by the nerves, and then resulting in muscular contractions. The speed at which messages fly to and fro along the nerves was determined by Helmholtz, and found to be, not, as had been previously supposed, equal to that of light or electricity, but less than the speed of sound—less even than that of an eagle.
This was the work of the physicist: then came the conquests of the comparative anatomist and physiologist, revealing the structure of every animal, and the function of every organ in the whole biological series, from the lowest zoophyte up to man. The nervous system had been made the object of profound and continued study, the wonderful and, at bottom, entirely mysterious controlling power which it exercises over the whole organism, physical and mental, being recognised more and more. Thought could not be kept back from a subject so profoundly suggestive. Besides the physical life dealt with by Mr. Darwin, there is a psychical life presenting similar gradations, and asking equally for a solution. How are the different grades and orders of Mind to be accounted for? What is the principle of growth of that mysterious power which on our planet culminates in Reason? These are questions which, though not thrusting themselves so forcibly upon the attention of the general public, had not only occupied many reflecting minds, but had been formally broached by one of them before the 'Origin of Species' appeared.
With the mass of materials furnished by the physicist and physiologist in his hands, Mr. Herbert Spencer, twenty years ago, sought to graft upon this basis a system of psychology; and two years ago a second and greatly amplified edition of his work appeared. Those who have occupied themselves with the beautiful experiments of Plateau will remember that when two spherules of olive-oil suspended in a mixture of alcohol and water of the same density as the oil, are brought together, they do not immediately unite. Something like a pellicle appears to be formed around the drops, the rupture of which is immediately followed by the coalescence of the globules into one. There are organisms whose vital actions are almost as purely physical as the coalescence of such drops of oil. They come into contact and fuse themselves thus together. From such organisms to others a shade higher, from these to others a shade higher still, and on through an ever-ascending series, Mr. Spencer conducts his argument. There are two obvious factors to be here taken into account—the creature and the medium in which it lives, or, as it is often expressed, the organism and its environment. Mr. Spencer's fundamental principle is, that between these two factors there is incessant interaction. The organism is played upon by the environment, and is modified to meet the requirements of the environment. Life he defines to be 'a continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.
In the lowest organisms we have a kind of tactual sense diffused over the entire body; then, through impressions from without and their corresponding adjustments, special portions of the surface become more responsive to stimuli than others. The senses are nascent, the basis of all of them being that simple tactual sense which the sage Democritus recognised 2,300 years ago as their common progenitor. The action of light, in the first instance, appears to be a mere disturbance of the chemical processes in the animal organism, similar to that which occurs in the leaves of plants. By degrees the action becomes localised in a few pigment-cells, more sensitive to light than the surrounding tissue. The eye is incipient. At first it is merely capable of revealing differences of light and shade produced by bodies close at hand. Followed, as the interception of the light commonly is, by the contact of the closely adjacent opaque body, sight in this condition becomes a kind of 'anticipatory touch.' The adjustment continues; a slight bulging out of the epidermis over the pigment-granules supervenes. A lens is incipient, and, through the operation of infinite adjustments, at length reaches the perfection that it displays in the hawk and eagle. So of the other senses; they are special differentiations of a tissue which was originally vaguely sensitive all over.
With the development of the senses, the adjustments between the organism and its environment gradually extend in space, a multiplication of experiences and a corresponding modification of conduct being the result.
The adjustments also extend in time, covering continually greater intervals. Along with this extension in space and time the adjustments also increase in speciality and complexity, passing through the various grades of brute life, and prolonging themselves into the domain of reason. Very striking are Mr. Spencer's remarks regarding the influence of the sense of touch upon the development of intelligence. This is, so to say, the mother-tongue of all the senses, into which they must be translated to be of service to the organism. Hence its importance. The parrot is the most intelligent of birds, and its tactual power is also greatest. From this sense it gets knowledge, unattainable by birds which cannot employ their feet as hands. The elephant is the most sagacious of quadrupeds—its tactual range and skill, and the consequent multiplication of experiences, which it owes to its wonderfully adaptable trunk, being the basis of its sagacity. Feline animals, for a similar cause, are more sagacious than hoofed animals,—atonement being to some extent made in the case of the horse, by the possession of sensitive prehensile lips. In the Primates the evolution of intellect and the evolution of tactual appendages go hand in hand. In the most intelligent anthropoid apes we find the tactual range and delicacy greatly augmented, new avenues of knowledge being thus opened to the animal. Alan crowns the edifice here, not only in virtue of his own manipulatory power, but through the enormous extension of his range of experience, by the invention of instruments of precision, which serve as supplemental senses and supplemental limbs. The reciprocal action of these is finely described and illustrated That chastened intellectual emotion to which I have referred in connection with Mr. Darwin, is not absent in Mr. Spencer. His illustrations possess at times exceeding vividness and force; and from his style on such occasions it is to be inferred, that the ganglia of this Apostle of the Understanding are sometimes the seat of a nascent poetic thrill.
It is a fact of supreme importance that actions, the performance of which at first requires even painful effort and deliberation, may, by habit, be rendered automatic. Witness the slow learning of its letters by a child, and the subsequent facility of reading in a man, when each group of letters which forms a word is instantly, and without effort, fused to a single perception. Instance the billiard-player, whose muscles of hand and eye, when he reaches the perfection of his art, are unconsciously co-ordinated. Instance the musician, who, by practice, is enabled to fuse a multitude of arrangements, auditory, tactual, and muscular, into a process of automatic manipulation. Combining such facts with the doctrine of hereditary transmission, we reach a theory of Instinct. A chick, after coming out of the egg, balances itself correctly, runs about, picks up food, thus snowing that it possesses a power of directing its movements to definite ends. How did the chick learn this very complex co-ordination of eyes, muscles, and beak? It has not been individually taught; its personal experience is nit; but it has the benefit of ancestral experience. In its inherited organisation are registered the powers which it displays at birth. So also as regards the instinct of the hive-bee, already referred to. The distance at which the insects stand apart when they sweep their hemispheres and build their cells is 'organically remembered.' Man also carries with him the physical texture of his ancestry, as well as the inherited intellect bound up with it. The defects of intelligence during infancy and youth are probably less due to a lack of individual experience, than to the fact that in early life the cerebral organisation is still incomplete. The period necessary for completion varies with the race, and with the individual. As a round shot outstrips the rifled bolt on quitting the muzzle of the gun, so the lower race, in childhood, may outstrip the higher. But the higher eventually overtakes the lower, and surpasses it in range. As regards individuals, we do not always find the precocity of youth prolonged to mental power in maturity; while the dulness of boyhood is sometimes strikingly contrasted with the intellectual energy of after years. Newton, when a boy, was weakly, and he showed no particular aptitude at school; but in his eighteenth year he went to Cambridge, and soon afterwards astonished his teachers by his power of dealing with geometrical problems. During his quiet youth his brain was slowly preparing itself to be the organ of those energies which he subsequently displayed.
By myriad blows (to use a Lucretian phrase) the image and superscription of the external world are stamped as states of consciousness upon the organism, the depth of the impression depending on the number of the blows. When two or more phenomena occur in the environment invariably together, they are stamped to the same depth or to the same relief, and indissolubly connected. And here we come to the threshold of a great question. Seeing that he could in no way rid himself of the consciousness of Space and Time, Kant assumed them to be necessary 'forms of intuition,' the moulds and shapes into which our intuitions are thrown, belonging to ourselves, and without objective existence. With unexpected power and success, Mr. Spencer brings the hereditary experience theory, as he holds it, to bear upon this question. 'If there exist certain external relations which are experienced by all organisms at all instants of their waking lives—relations which are absolutely constant and universal—there will be established answering internal relations, that are absolutely constant and universal. Such relations we have in those of Space and Time. As the substratum of all other relations of the Non-Ego, they must be responded to by conceptions that are the substrata of all other relations in the Ego. Being the constant and infinitely repeated elements of thought, they must become the automatic elements of thought—the elements of thought which it is impossible to get rid of—the "forms of intuition."'
Throughout this application and extension of Hartley's and Mill's 'Law of Inseparable Association,' Mr. Spencer stands upon his own ground, invoking, instead of the experiences of the individual, the registered experiences of the race. His overthrow of the restriction of experience to the individual is, I think, complete. That restriction ignores the power of organising experience, furnished at the outset to each individual; it ignores the different degrees of this power possessed by different races, and by different individuals of the same race. Were there not in the human brain a potency antecedent to all experience, a dog or a cat ought to be as capable of education as man. These predetermined internal relations are independent of the experiences of the individual. The human brain is the 'organised register of infinitely numerous experiences received during the evolution of life, or rather during the evolution of that series of organisms through which the human organism has been reached. The effects of the most uniform and frequent of these experiences have been successively bequeathed, principal and interest, and have slowly mounted to that high intelligence which lies latent in the brain of the infant. Thus it happens that the European inherits from twenty to thirty cubic inches more of brain than the Papuan. Thus it happens that faculties, as of music, which scarcely exist in some inferior races, become congenital in superior ones. Thus it happens that out of savages unable to count up to the number of their fingers, and speaking a language containing only nouns and verbs, arise at length our Newtons and Shakspeares.'
At the outset of this Address it was stated that physical theories which lie beyond experience are derived by a process of abstraction from experience. It is instructive to note from this point of view the successive introduction of new conceptions. The idea of the attraction of gravitation was preceded by the observation of the attraction of iron by a magnet, and of light bodies by rubbed amber. The polarity of magnetism and electricity also appealed to the senses. It thus became the substratum of the conception that atoms and molecules are endowed with attractive and repellent poles, by the play of which definite forms of crystalline architecture are produced. Thus molecular force becomes structural. [Footnote: See Art. on Matter and Force, or 'Lectures on Light,' No. III.] It required no great boldness of thought to extend its play into organic nature, and to recognise in molecular force the agency by which both plants and animals are built up. In this way, out of experience arise conceptions which are wholly ultra-experiential. None of the atomists of antiquity had any notion of this play of molecular polar force, but they had experience of gravity, as manifested by falling bodies. Abstracting from this, they permitted their atoms to fall eternally through empty space. Democritus assumed that the larger atoms moved more rapidly than the smaller ones, which they therefore could overtake, and with which they could combine. Epicurus, holding that empty space could offer no resistance to motion, ascribed to all the atoms the same velocity; but he seems to have overlooked the consequence that under such circumstances the atoms could never combine. Lucretius cut the knot by quitting the domain of physics altogether, and causing the atoms to move together by a kind of volition.
Was the instinct utterly at fault which caused Lucretius thus to swerve from his own principles? Diminishing gradually the number of progenitors, Mr. Darwin comes at length to one 'primordial form;' but he does not say, so far as I remember, how he supposes this form to have been introduced. He quotes with satisfaction the words of a celebrated author and divine who had I gradually learnt to see that it was just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe He created a few original forms, capable of self-development into other and needful forms, as to believe He required a fresh act of creation to supply the voids caused by the action of His laws.' What Mr. Darwin thinks of this view of the introduction of life, I do not know. But the anthropomorphism, which it seemed his object to set aside, is as firmly associated with the creation of a few forms as with the creation of a multitude. We need clearness and thoroughness here. Two courses and two only are possible. Either let us open our doors freely to the conception of creative acts, or abandoning them, let us radically change our notions of Matter. If we look at matter as pictured by Democritus, and as defined for generations in our scientific text-books, the notion of conscious life coming out of it cannot be formed by the mind. The argument placed in the mouth of Bishop Butler suffices, in my opinion, to crush all such materialism as this. Those, however, who framed these definitions of matter were but partial students. They were not biologists, but mathematicians, whose labours referred only to such accidents and properties of matter as could be expressed in their formulae. Their science was mechanical science, not the science of life. With matter in its wholeness they never dealt; and, denuded by their imperfect definitions, 'the gentle mother of all' became the object of her children's dread. Let us reverently, but honestly, look the question in the face. Divorced from matter, where is life? Whatever our faith may say, our knowledge shows them to be indissolubly joined. Every meal we eat, and every cup we drink, illustrates the mysterious control of Mind by Matter.
On tracing the line of life backwards, we see it approaching more and more to what we call the purely physical condition. We come at length to those organisms which I have compared to drops of oil suspended in a mixture of alcohol and water. We reach the protogenes of Haeckel, in which we have 'a type distinguishable from a fragment of albumen only by its finely granular character.' Can we pause here? We break a magnet, and find two poles in each of its fragments. We continue the process of breaking; but, however small the parts, each carries with it, though enfeebled, the polarity of the whole. And when we can break no longer, we prolong the intellectual vision to the polar molecules. Are we not urged to do something similar in the case of life? Is there not a temptation to close to some extent with Lucretius, when he affirms that 'Nature is seen to do all things spontaneously of herself without the meddling of the gods? or with Bruno, when he declares that Matter is not 'that mere empty capacity which philosophers have pictured her to be, but the universal mother who brings forth all things as the fruit of her own womb?' Believing, as I do, in the continuity of nature, I cannot stop abruptly where our microscopes cease to be of use. Here the vision of the mind authoritatively supplements the vision of the eye. By a necessity engendered and justified by science I cross the boundary of the experimental evidence, [Footnote: This mode of procedure was not invented in Belfast.] and discern in that Matter which we, in our ignorance of its latent powers, and notwithstanding our professed reverence for its Creator, have hitherto covered with opprobrium, the promise and potency of all terrestrial Life.
If you ask me whether there exists the least evidence to prove that any form of life can be developed out of matter, without demonstrable antecedent life, my reply is that evidence considered perfectly conclusive by many has been adduced; and that were some of us who have pondered this question to follow a very common example, and accept testimony because it falls in with our belief, we also should eagerly close with the evidence referred to. But there is in the true man of science a desire stronger than the wish to have his beliefs upheld; namely, the desire to have them true. And this stronger wish causes him to reject the most plausible support, if he has reason to suspect that it is vitiated by error. Those to whom I refer as having studied this question, believing the evidence offered in favour of 'spontaneous generation' to be thus vitiated, cannot accept it. They know full well that the chemist now prepares from inorganic matter a vast array of substances, which were some time ago regarded as the sole products of vitality. They are intimately acquainted with the structural power of matter, as evidenced in the phenomena of crystallisation. They can justify scientifically their belief in its potency, under the proper conditions, to produce organisms. But, in reply to your question, they will frankly admit their inability to point to any satisfactory experimental proof that life can be developed, save from demonstrable antecedent life. As already indicated, they draw the line from the highest organisms through lower ones down to the lowest; and it is the prolongation of this line by the intellect, beyond the range of the senses, that leads them to the conclusion which Bruno so boldly enunciated. [Footnote: Bruno was a Pantheist,' not an 'Atheist' or a 'Materialist.']
The 'materialism' here professed may be vastly different from what you suppose, and I therefore crave your gracious patience to the end. 'The question of an external world,' says J. S. Mill, 'is the great battleground of metaphysics.' [Footnote: 'Examination of Hamilton,' p. 154.] Mr. Mill himself reduces external phenomena to 'possibilities of sensation.' Kant, as we have seen, made time and space 'forms' of our own intuitions. Fichte, having first by the inexorable logic of his understanding proved himself to be a mere link in that chain of eternal causation which holds so rigidly in nature, violently broke the chain by making nature, and all that it inherits, an apparition of the mind. [Footnote: 'Bestimmung des Menschen.'] And it is by no means easy to combat such notions. For when I say 'I see you,' and that there is not the least doubt about it, the obvious reply is, that what I am really conscious of is an affection of my own retina. And if I urge that my sight can be checked by touching you, the retort would be that I am equally transgressing the limits of fact; for what I am really conscious of is, not that you are there, but that the nerves of my hand have undergone a change.
All we hear, and see, and touch, and taste, and smell, are, it would be urged, mere variations of our own condition, beyond which, even to the extent of a hair's breadth, we cannot go. That anything answering to our impressions exists outside of ourselves is not a fact, but an inference, to which all validity would be denied by an idealist like Berkeley, or by a sceptic like Hume. Mr. Spencer takes another line. With him, as with the uneducated man, there is no doubt or question as to the existence of an external world. But he differs from the uneducated, who think that the world really is what consciousness represents it to be. Our states of consciousness are mere symbols of an outside entity which produces them and determines the order of their succession, but the real nature of which we can never know. [Footnote: In a paper, at once popular and profound, entitled 'Recent Progress in the Theory of Vision,' contained in the volume of lectures by Helmholtz, published by Longmans, this symbolism of our states of consciousness is also dwelt upon. The impressions of sense are the mere signs of external things. In this paper Helmholtz contends strongly against the view that the consciousness of space is inborn; and he evidently doubts the power of the chick to pick up grains of corn without preliminary lessons. On this point, he says, further experiments are needed. Such experiments have been since made by Mr. Spalding, aided, I believe, in some of his observations by the accomplished and deeply lamented Lady Amberly; and they seem to prove conclusively that the chick does not need a single moment's tuition to enable it to stand, run, govern the muscles of its eyes, and peck. Helmholtz, however, is contending against the notion of pre-established harmony; and I am not aware of his views as to the organisation of experiences of race or breed.] In fact, the whole process of evolution is the manifestation of a Power absolutely inscrutable to the intellect of man. As little in our day as in the days of Job can man by searching find this Power out. Considered fundamentally, then, it is by the operation of an insoluble mystery that life on earth is evolved, species differentiated, and mind unfolded, from their prepotent elements in the immeasurable past.
The strength of the doctrine of Evolution consists, not in an experimental demonstration (for the subject is hardly accessible to this mode of proof), but in its general harmony with scientific thought. From contrast, moreover, it derives enormous relative cogency. On the one side we have a theory (if it could with any propriety be so called) derived, as were the theories referred to at the beginning of this Address, not from the study of nature, but from the observation of men—a theory which converts the Power whose garment is seen in the visible universe into an Artificer, fashioned after the human model, and acting by broken efforts as man is seen to act. On the other side we have the conception that all we see around us, and all we feel within us—the phenomena; physical nature as well as those of the human mind—have their unsearchable roots in a cosmical life, if I dare apply the term, an infinitesimal span of which is offered to the investigation of man. And even this span is only knowable in part. We can trace the development of a nervous system, and correlate with it the parallel phenomena of sensation and thought. We see with undoubting certainty that they go hand in hand. But we try to soar in a vacuum the moment we seek to comprehend the connection between them. An Archimedean fulcrum is here required which the human mind cannot command; and the effort to solve the problem—to borrow a comparison from an illustrious friend of mine—is like that of a man trying to lift himself by his own waistband. All that has been said in this discourse is to be taken in connection with this fundamental truth.
When' nascent senses' are spoken of, when 'the differentiation of a tissue at first vaguely sensitive all over' is spoken of, and when these possessions and processes are associated with 'the modification of an organism by its environment,' the same parallelism, without contact, or even approach to contact, is implied. Man the object is separated by an impassable gulf from man the subject. There is no motor energy in the human intellect to carry it, without logical rupture, from the one to the other.
The doctrine of Evolution derives man, in his totality, from the interaction of organism and environment through countless ages past. The Human Understanding, for example,—that faculty which Mr. Spencer has turned so skilfully round upon its own antecedents—is itself a result of the play between organism and environment through cosmic ranges of time. Never, surely, did prescription plead so irresistible a claim. But then it comes to pass that, over and above his understanding, there are many other things appertaining to man, whose prescriptive rights are quite as strong as those of the understanding itself. It is a result, for example, of the play of organism and environment that sugar is sweet, and that aloes are bitter; that the smell of henbane differs' from the perfume of a rose. Such facts of consciousness (for which, by the way, no adequate reason has ever been rendered) are quite as old as the understanding; and many other things can boast an equally ancient origin. Mr. Spencer at one place refers to that most powerful of passions—the amatory passion—as one which, when it first occurs, is antecedent to all relative experience whatever; and we may press its claim as being at least as ancient, and as valid, as that of the understanding itself. Then there are such things woven into the texture of man as the feeling of Awe, Reverence, Wonder—and not alone the sexual love just referred to, but the love of the beautiful, physical, and moral, in Nature, Poetry, and Art. There is also that deep-set feeling, which, since the earliest dawn of history, and probably for ages prior to all history, incorporated itself in the Religious of the world. You, who have escaped from these religions into the high-and-dry light of the intellect, may deride them; but in so doing you deride accidents of form merely, and fail to touch the immovable basis of the religious sentiment in the nature of man. To yield this sentiment reasonable satisfaction is the problem of problems at the present hour. And grotesque in relation to scientific culture as many of the religions of the world have been and are—dangerous, nay, destructive, to the dearest privileges of freemen as some of them undoubtedly have been, and would, if they could, be again—it will be wise to recognise them as the forms of a force, mischievous if permitted to intrude on the region of objective knowledge, over which it holds no command, but capable of adding, in the region of poetry and emotion, inward completeness and dignity to man.
Feeling, I say again, dates from as old an origin and as high a source as intelligence, and it equally demands its range of play. The wise teacher of humanity will recognise the necessity of meeting this demand, rather than of resisting it on account of errors and absurdities of form. What we should resist, at all hazards, is the attempt made in the past, and now repeated, to found upon this elemental bias of man's nature a system which should exercise despotic sway over his intellect. I have no fear of such a consummation. Science has already to some extent leavened the world; it will leaven it more and more. I should look upon the mild light of science breaking in upon the minds of the youth of Ireland, and strengthening gradually to the perfect day, as a surer check to any intellectual or spiritual tyranny which may threaten this island, than the laws of princes or the swords of emperors. We fought and won our battle even in the Middle Ages: should we doubt the issue of another conflict with our broken foe?
The impregnable position of science may be described in a few words. We claim, and we shall wrest from theology, the entire domain of cosmological theory. All schemes and systems which thus infringe upon the domain of science must, in so far as they do this, submit to its control, and relinquish all thought of controlling it. Acting otherwise proved always disastrous in the past, and it is simply fatuous to-day. Every system which would escape the fate of an organism too rigid to adjust itself to its environment, must be plastic to the extent that the growth of knowledge demands. When 'this truth has been thoroughly taken in, rigidity will be relaxed, exclusiveness diminished, things now deemed essential will be dropped, and elements now rejected will be assimilated. The lifting of the life is the essential point; and as long as dogmatism, fanaticism, and intolerance are kept out, various modes of leverage may be employed to raise life to a higher level.
Science itself not unfrequently derives motive power from an ultra-scientific source. Some of its greatest discoveries have been made under the stimulus of a non-scientific ideal. This was the case among the ancients, and it has been so amongst ourselves. Mayer, Joule, and Colding, whose names are associated with the greatest of modern generalisations, were thus influenced. With his usual insight, Lange at one place remarks, that 'it is not always the objectively correct and intelligible that helps man most, or leads most quickly to the fullest and truest knowledge. As the sliding body upon the brachystochrone reaches its end sooner than by the straighter road of the inclined plane, so, through the swing of the ideal, we often arrive at the naked truth more rapidly than by the processes of the understanding.' Whewell speaks of enthusiasm of temper as a hindrance to science; but he means the enthusiasm of weak heads. There is a strong and resolute enthusiasm in which science finds an ally; and it is to the lowering of this fire, rather than to the diminution of intellectual insight, that the lessening productiveness of men of science, in their mature years, is to be ascribed. Mr. Buckle sought to detach intellectual achievement from moral force. He gravely erred; for without moral force to whip it into action, the achievement of the intellect would be poor indeed.
It has been said by its opponents that science divorces itself from literature; but the statement, like so many others, arises from lack of knowledge. A glance at the less technical writings of its leaders—of its Helmholtz, its Huxley, and its Du Bois-Reymond—would show what breadth of literary culture they command. Where among modern writers can you find their superiors in clearness and vigour of literary style? Science desires not isolation, but freely combines with every effort towards the bettering of man's estate. Single-handed, and supported, not by outward sympathy, but by inward force, it has built at least one great wing of the many-mansioned home which man in his totality demands. And if rough walls and protruding rafter-ends indicate that on one side the edifice is still incomplete, it is only by wise combination of the parts required, with those already irrevocably built, that we can hope for completeness. There is no necessary incongruity between what has been accomplished and what remains to be done. The moral glow of Socrates, which we all feel by ignition, has in it nothing incompatible with the physics of Anaxagoras which he so much scorned, but which he would hardly scorn to-day. And here I am reminded of one among us, hoary, but still strong, whose prophet-voice some thirty years ago, far more than any other of this age, unlocked whatever of life and nobleness lay latent in its most gifted minds—one fit to stand beside Socrates or the Maccabean Eleazar, and to dare and suffer all that they suffered and dared—fit, as he once said of Fichte, Ito have been the teacher of the Stoa, and to have discoursed of Beauty and Virtue in the groves of Academe.' With a capacity to grasp physical principles which his friend Goethe did not possess, and which even total lack of exercise has not been able to reduce to atrophy, it is the world's loss that he, in the vigour of his years, did not open his mind and sympathies to science, and make its conclusions a portion of his message to mankind. Marvellously endowed as he was—equally equipped on the side of the Heart and of the Understanding—he might have done much towards teaching us how to reconcile the claims of both, and to enable them in coming times to dwell together, in unity of spirit and in the bond of peace.
And now the end is come. With more time, or greater strength and knowledge, what has been here said might have been better said, while worthy matters, here omitted, might have received fit expression. But there would have been no material deviation from the views set forth. As regards myself, they are not the growth of a day; and as regards you, I thought you ought to know the environment which, with or without your consent, is rapidly surrounding you, and in relation to which some adjustment on your part may be necessary. A hint of Hamlet's, however, teaches us how the troubles of common life may be ended; and it is perfectly possible for you and me to purchase intellectual peace at the price of intellectual death. The world is not without refuges of this description; nor is it wanting in persons who seek their shelter, and try to persuade others to do the same. The unstable and the weak have yielded and will yield to this persuasion, and they to whom repose is sweeter than the truth. But I would exhort you to refuse the offered shelter, and to scorn the base repose—to accept, if the choice be forced upon you, commotion before stagnation, the breezy leap of the torrent before the foetid stillness of the swamp. In the course of this Address I have touched on debatable questions, and led you over what will be deemed dangerous ground—and this partly with the view of telling you that, as regards these questions, science claims unrestricted right of search. It is not to the point to say that the views of Lucretius and Bruno, of Darwin and Spencer, may be wrong. Here I should agree with you, deeming it indeed certain that these views will undergo modification. But the point is, that, whether right or wrong, we claim the right to discuss them. For science, however, no exclusive claim is here made; you are not urged to erect it into an idol. The inexorable advance of man's understanding in the path of knowledge, and those unquenchable claims of his moral and emotional nature, which the understanding can never satisfy, are here equally set forth. The world embraces not only a Newton, but a Shakspeare—not only a Boyle, but a Raphael—not only a Kant, but a Beethoven—not only a Darwin, but a Carlyle. Not in each of these, but in all, is human nature whole. They are not opposed, but supplementary—not mutually exclusive, but reconcilable.
And if, unsatisfied with them all, the human mind, with the yearning of a pilgrim for his distant home, will still turn to the Mystery from which it has emerged, seeking so to fashion it as to give unity to thought and faith; so long as this is done, not only without intolerance or bigotry of any kind, but with the enlightened recognition that ultimate fixity of conception is here unattainable, and that each succeeding age must be held free to fashion the mystery in accordance with its own needs—then, casting aside all the restrictions of Materialism, I would affirm this to be a field for the noblest exercise of what, in contrast with the knowing faculties, may be called the creative faculties of man. Here, however, I touch a theme too great for me to handle, but which will assuredly be handled by the loftiest minds, when you and I, like streaks of morning cloud, shall have melted into the infinite azure of the past.
X. APOLOGY FOR THE BELFAST ADDRESS.
THE world has been frequently informed of late that I have raised up against myself a host of enemies; and considering, with few exceptions, the deliverances of the Press, and more particularly of the religious Press, I am forced to admit that the statement is only too true. I derive some comfort, nevertheless, from the reflection of Diogenes, transmitted to us by Plutarch, that 'he who would be saved must have good friends or violent enemies; and that he is best off who possesses both.' This 'best' condition, I have reason to believe, is mine.
Reflecting on the fraction I have read of recent remonstrances, appeals, menaces, and judgments—covering not only the world that now is, but that which is to come—I have noticed with mournful interest how trivially men seem to be influenced by what they call their religion, and how potently by that 'nature' which it is the alleged province of religion to eradicate or subdue. From fair and manly argument, from the tenderest and holiest sympathy on the part of those who desire my eternal good, I pass by many gradations, through deliberate unfairness, to a spirit of bitterness, which desires with a fervour inexpressible in words my eternal ill. Now, were religion the potent factor, we might expect a homogeneous utterance from those professing a common creed, while, if human nature be the really potent factor, we may expect utterances as heterogeneous as the characters of men. As a matter of fact we have the latter; suggesting to my mind that the common religion, professed and defended by these different people, is merely the accidental conduit through which they pour their own tempers, lofty or low, courteous or vulgar, mild or ferocious, as the case may be. Pure abuse, however, as serving no good end, I have, wherever possible, deliberately avoided reading, wishing, indeed, to keep, not only hatred, malice, and uncharitableness, but even every trace of irritation, far away from my side of a discussion which demands not only good-temper, but largeness, clearness, and many-sidedness of mind, if it is to guide us to even provisional solutions.
It has been stated, with many variations of note and comment, that in the Address as subsequently published by Messrs. Longman I have retracted opinions uttered at Belfast. A Roman Catholic writer is specially strong upon this point. Startled by the deep chorus of dissent which my 'dazzling fallacies' have evoked, I am now trying to retreat. This he will by no means tolerate. 'It is too late now to seek to hide from the eyes of mankind one foul blot, one ghastly deformity. Professor Tyndall has himself told us how and where this Address of his was composed. It was written among the glaciers and the solitudes of the Swiss mountains. It was no hasty, hurried, crude production; its every sentence bore marks of thought and care.
My critic intends to be severe: he is simply just. In the 'solitudes' to which he refers I worked with deliberation, endeavouring even to purify my intellect by disciplines similar to those enjoined by his own Church for the sanctification of the soul. I tried, moreover, in my ponderings to realise not only the lawful, but the expedient; and to permit no fear to act upon my mind, save that of uttering a single word on which I could not take my stand, either in this or in any other world.
Still my time was so brief, the difficulties arising from my isolated position were so numerous, and my thought and expression so slow, that, in a literary point of view, I halted, not only behind the ideal, but behind the possible. Hence, after the delivery of the Address, I went over it with the desire, not to revoke its principles, but to improve it verbally, and above all to remove any word which might give colour to the notion of 'crudeness, hurry, or haste.'
In connection with the charge of Atheism my critic refers to the Preface to the second issue of the Belfast Address: 'Christian men,' I there say, 'are proved by their writings to have their hours of weakness and of doubt, as well as their hours of strength and of conviction; and men like myself share, in their own way, these variations of mood and tense. Were the religious moods of many of my assailants the only alternative ones, I do not know how strong the claims of the doctrine of "Material Atheism" upon my allegiance might be. Probably they would be very strong. But, as it is, I have noticed during years of self-observation that it is not in hours of clearness and vigour that this doctrine commends itself to my mind; that in the presence of stronger and healthier thought it ever dissolves and disappears, as offering no solution of the mystery in which we dwell, and of which we form a part.'
With reference to this honest and reasonable utterance my censor exclaims, 'This is a most remarkable passage. Much as we dislike seasoning polemics with strong words, we assert that this Apology only tends to affix with links of steel to the name of Professor Tyndall, the dread imputation against which be struggles.'
Here we have a very fair example of subjective religious vigour. But my quarrel with such exhibitions is that they do not always represent objective fact. No atheistic reasoning can, I hold, dislodge religion from the human heart. Logic cannot deprive us of life, and religion is life to the religious. As an experience of consciousness it is beyond the assaults of logic. But the religious life is often projected in external forms—I use the word in its widest sense—and this embodiment of the religious sentiment will have to bear more and more, as the world become more enlightened, the stress of scientific tests. We must be careful of projecting into external nature that which belongs to ourselves. My critic commits this mistake: he feels, and takes delight in feeling, that I am struggling, and he obviously experiences the most exquisite pleasures of 'the muscular sense' in holding me down. His feelings are as real, as if his imagination of what mine are were equally real. His picture of my 'struggles' is, however, a mere delusion. I do not struggle. I do not fear the charge of Atheism; nor should I even disavow it, in reference to any definition of the Supreme which he, or his order, would be likely to frame. His 'links' and his 'steel' and his 'dread imputations' are, therefore, even more unsubstantial than my 'streaks of morning cloud,' and they may be permitted to vanish together.
These minor and more purely personal matters at an end, the weightier allegation remains, that at Belfast I misused my position by quitting the domain of science, and making an unjustifiable raid into the domain of theology. This I fail to see. Laying aside abuse, I hope my accusers will consent to reason with me. Is it not lawful for a scientific man to speculate on the antecedents of the solar system? Did Kant, Laplace, and William Herschel quit their legitimate spheres, when they prolonged the intellectual vision beyond the boundary of experience, and propounded the nebular theory? Accepting that theory as probable, is it not permitted to a scientific man to follow up, in idea, the series of changes associated with the condensation of the nebulae; to picture the successive detachment of planets and moons, and the relation of all of them to the sun? If I look upon our earth, with its orbital revolution and axial rotation, as one small issue of the process which made the solar system what it is, will any theologian deny my right to entertain and express this theoretic view? Time was when a multitude of theologians would have been found to do so—when that archenemy of science which now vaunts its tolerance would have made a speedy end of the man who might venture to publish any opinion of the kind. But, that time, unless the world is caught strangely slumbering, is for ever past.
As regards inorganic nature, then, we may traverse, without let or hindrance, the whole distance which separates the nebulae from the worlds of to-day. But only a few years ago this now conceded ground of science was theological ground. I could by no means regard this as the final and sufficient concession of theology; and, at Belfast, I thought it not only my right but my duty to state that, as regards the organic world, we must enjoy the freedom which we have already won in regard to the inorganic. I could not discern the shred of a title-deed which gave any man, or any class of men, the right to open the door of one of these worlds to the scientific searcher, and to close the other against him. And I considered it frankest, wisest, and in the long run most conducive to permanent peace, to indicate, without evasion or reserve, the ground that belongs to Science, and to which she will assuredly make good her claim.
I have been reminded that an eminent predecessor of mine in the Presidential chair, expressed a totally different view of the Cause of things from that enunciated by me. In doing so he transgressed the bounds of science at least as much as I did; but nobody raised an outcry against him. The freedom he took I claim. And looking at what I must regard as the extravagances of the religious world; at the very inadequate and foolish notions concerning this universe which are entertained by the majority of our authorised religious teachers; at the waste of energy on the part of good men over things unworthy, if I may say it without discourtesy, of the attention of enlightened heathens; the fight about the fripperies of Ritualism, and the verbal quibbles of the Athanasian Creed; the forcing on the public view of Pontigny Pilgrimages; the dating of historic epochs from the definition of the Immaculate Conception; the proclamation of the Divine Glories of the Sacred Heart—standing in the midst of these chimeras, which astound all thinking men, it did not appear to me extravagant to claim the public tolerance for an hour and a half, for the statement of more reasonable views—views more in accordance with the verities which science has brought to light, and which many weary souls would, I thought, welcome with gratification and relief.
But to come to closer quarters. The expression to which the most violent exception has been taken is this: 'Abandoning all disguise, the confession I feel bound to make before you is, that I prolong the vision backward across the boundary of the experimental evidence, and discern in that Matter which we, in our 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.' To call it a 'chorus of dissent,' as my Catholic critic does, is a mild way of describing the storm of opprobrium with which this statement has been assailed. But the first blast of passion being past, I hope I may again ask my opponents to consent to reason. First of all, I am blamed for crossing the boundary of the experimental evidence. This, I reply, is the habitual action of the scientific mind—at least of that portion of it which applies itself to physical investigation. Our theories of light, heat, magnetism, and electricity, all imply the crossing of this boundary. My paper on the 'Scientific Use of the Imagination,' and my 'Lectures on Light,' illustrate this point in the amplest manner; and in the Article entitled 'Matter and Force' in the present volume I have sought, incidentally, to make clear, that in physics the experiential incessantly leads to the ultra-experiential; that out of experience there always grows something finer than mere experience, and that in their different powers of ideal extension consists, for the most part, the difference between the great and the mediocre investigator. The kingdom of science, then, cometh not by observation and experiment alone, but is completed by fixing the roots of observation and experiment in a region inaccessible to both, and in dealing with which we are forced to fall back upon the picturing power of the mind.
Passing the boundary of experience, therefore, does not, in the abstract, constitute a sufficient ground for censure. There must have been something in my particular mode of crossing it which provoked this tremendous 'chorus of dissent.'
Let us calmly reason the point out. I hold the nebular theory as it was held by Kant, Laplace, and William Herschel, and as it is held by the best scientific intellects of to-day. According to it, our sun and planets were once diffused through space as an impalpable haze, out of which, by condensation, came the solar system. What caused the haze to condense? Loss of heat. What rounded the sun and planets? That which rounds a tear—molecular force. For aeons, the immensity of which overwhelms man's conceptions, the earth was unfit to maintain what we call life. It is now covered with visible living things. They are not formed of matter different from that of the earth around them. They are, on the contrary, bone of its bone, and flesh of its flesh. How were they introduced? Was life implicated in the nebula—as part, it may be, of a vaster and wholly Unfathomable Life; or is it the work of a Being standing outside the nebula, who fashioned it, and vitalised it; but whose own origin and ways are equally past finding out? As far as the eye of science has hitherto ranged through nature, no intrusion of purely creative power into any series of phenomena has ever been observed. The assumption of such a power to account for special phenomena, though often made, has always proved a failure. It is opposed to the very spirit of science; and I therefore assumed the responsibility of holding up, in contrast with it, that method of nature which it has been the vocation and triumph of science to disclose, and in the application of which we can alone hope for further light. Holding, then, 'that the nebulae and the solar system, life included, stand to each other in the relation of the germ to the finished organism, I reaffirm here, not arrogantly, or defiantly, but without a shade of indistinctness, the position laid down at Belfast.
Not with the vagueness belonging to the emotions, but with the definiteness belonging to the understanding, the scientific man has to put to himself these questions regarding the introduction of life upon the earth. He will be the last to dogmatise upon the subject, for he knows best that certainty is here for the present unattainable. His refusal of the creative hypothesis is less an assertion of knowledge than a protest against the assumption of knowledge which must long, if not for ever, lie beyond us, and the claim to which is the source of perpetual confusion upon earth. With a mind open to conviction he asks his opponents to show him an authority for the belief they so strenuously and so fiercely uphold. They can do no more than point to the Book of Genesis, or some other portion of the Bible. Profoundly interesting, and indeed pathetic, to me are those attempts of the opening mind of man to appease its hunger for a Cause. But the Book of Genesis has no voice in scientific questions. To the grasp of geology, which it resisted for a time, it at length yielded like potter's clay; its authority as a system of cosmogony being discredited on all hands, by the abandonment of the obvious meaning of its writer. It is a poem, not a scientific treatise. In the former aspect it is for ever beautiful: in the latter aspect it has been, and it will continue to be, purely obstructive and hurtful. To knowledge its value has been negative, leading, in rougher ages than ours, to physical, and even in our own' free' age to moral, violence.
No incident connected with the proceedings at Belfast is more instructive than the deportment of the Catholic hierarchy of Ireland; a body usually too wise to confer notoriety upon an adversary by imprudently denouncing him. The 'Times,' to which I owe a great deal on the score of fair play, where so much has been unfair, thinks that the Irish Cardinal, Archbishops, and Bishops, in a recent manifesto, adroitly employed a weapon which I, at an unlucky moment, placed in their hands. The antecedents of their action cause me to regard it in a different light; and a brief reference to these antecedents will, I think, illuminate not only their proceedings regarding Belfast, but other doings which have been recently noised abroad.
Before me lies a document bearing the date of November 1873, which, after appearing for a moment, unaccountably vanished from public view. It is a Memorial addressed, by Seventy of the Students and Ex-students of the Catholic University in Ireland, to the Episcopal Board of the University; and it constitutes the plainest and bravest remonstrance ever addressed by Irish laymen to their spiritual pastors and masters. It expresses the profoundest dissatisfaction with the curriculum marked out for the students of the University; setting forth the extraordinary fact that the lecture-list for the faculty of Science, published a month before they wrote, did not contain the name of a single Professor of the Physical or Natural Sciences.
The memorialists forcibly deprecate this, and dwell upon the necessity of education in science: 'The distinguishing mark of this age is its ardour for science. The natural sciences have, within the last fifty years, become the chiefest study in the world; they are in our time pursued with an activity unparalleled in the history of mankind. Scarce a year now passes without some discovery being made in these sciences which, as with the touch of the magician's wand, shivers to atoms theories formerly deemed unassailable. It is through the physical and natural sciences that the fiercest assaults are now made on our religion. No more deadly weapon is used against our faith than the facts incontestably proved by modern researches in science.'
Such statements must be the reverse of comfortable to a number of gentlemen who, trained in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, have been accustomed to the unquestioning submission of all other sciences to their divine science of Theology. But this is not all:
One thing seems certain,' say the memorialists, viz, that if chairs for the physical and natural sciences be not soon founded in the Catholic University, very many young men will have their faith exposed to dangers which the creation of a school of science in the University would defend them from. For our generation of Irish Catholics are writhing under the sense of their inferiority in science, and are determined that such inferiority shall not long continue; and so, if scientific training be unattainable at our University, they will seek it at Trinity or at the Queen's Colleges, in not one of which is there a Catholic Professor of Science.'
Those who imagined the Catholic University at Kensington to be due to the spontaneous recognition, on the part of the Roman hierarchy, of the intellectual needs of the age, will derive enlightenment from this, and still more from what follows: for the most formidable threat remains. To the picture of Catholic students seceding to Trinity and the Queen's Colleges, the memorialists add this darkest stroke of all: 'They will, in the solitude of their own homes, unaided by any guiding advice, devour the works of Haeckel, Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, and Lyell; works innocuous if studied under a professor who would point out the difference between established facts and erroneous inferences, but which are calculated to sap the faith of a solitary student, deprived of a discriminating judgment to which he could refer for a solution of his difficulties.'
In the light of the knowledge given by this courageous memorial, and of similar knowledge otherwise derived, the recent Catholic manifesto did not at all strike me as a chuckle over the mistake of a maladroit adversary, but rather as an evidence of profound uneasiness on the part of the Cardinal, the Archbishops, and the Bishops who signed it. They acted towards the Students' Memorial, however, with their accustomed practical wisdom. As one concession to the spirit which it embodied, the Catholic University at Kensington was brought forth, apparently as the effect of spontaneous inward force, and not of outward pressure becoming too formidable to be successfully opposed.
The memorialists point with bitterness to the fact, that 'the name of no Irish Catholic is known in connection with the physical and natural sciences.' But this, they ought to know, is the complaint of free and cultivated minds wherever a Priesthood exercises dominant power. Precisely the same complaint has been made with respect to the Catholics of Germany. The great national literature and the scientific achievements of that country, in modern times, are almost wholly the work of Protestants. A vanishingly small fraction of it only is derived from members of the Roman Church, although the number of these in Germany is at least as great as that of the Protestants. 'The question arises,' says a writer in an able German periodical, 'what is the cause of a phenomenon so humiliating to the Catholics? It cannot be referred to want of natural endowment due to climate (for the Protestants of Southern Germany have contributed powerfully to the creations of the German intellect), but purely to outward circumstances. And these are readily discovered in the pressure exercised for centuries by the Jesuitical system, which has crushed out of Catholics every tendency to free mental productiveness.' It is, indeed, in Catholic countries that the weight of Ultramontanism has been most severely felt. It is in such countries that the very finest spirits, who have dared, without quitting their faith, to plead for freedom or reform, have suffered extinction. The extinction, however, was more apparent than real, and Hermes, Hirscher, and Gunther, though individually broken and subdued, prepared the way, in Bavaria, for the persecuted but unflinching Frohschammer, for Doellinger, and for the remarkable liberal movement of which Doellinger is the head and guide.
Though moulded for centuries to an obedience unparalleled in any other country, except Spain, the Irish intellect is beginning to show signs of independence; demanding a diet more suited to its years than the pabulum of the Middle Ages. As for the recent manifesto in which Pope, Cardinal, Archbishops, and Bishops are united in one grand anathema, its character and fate are shadowed forth by the Vision of Nebuchadnezzar recorded in the Book of Daniel. It resembles the image, whose form was terrible, but the gold, and silver, and brass, and iron of which rested upon feet of clay. And a stone smote the feet of clay; and the iron, and the brass, and the silver, and the gold, were broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the wind carried them away.
Monsignor Capel has recently been good enough to proclaim at once the friendliness of his Church towards true science, and her right to determine what true science is. Let us dwell for a moment on the proofs of her scientific competence. When Halley's comet appeared in 1456 it was regarded as the harbinger of God's vengeance, the dispenser of war, pestilence, and famine, and by order of the Pope the church bells of Europe were rung to scare the monster away. An additional daily prayer was added to the supplications of the faithful. The comet in due time disappeared, and the faithful were comforted by the assurance that, as in previous instances relating to eclipses, droughts, and rains, so also as regards this 'nefarious' comet, victory had been vouchsafed to the Church.
Both Pythagoras and Copernicus had taught the heliocentric doctrine—that the earth revolves round the sun. In the exercise of her right to determine what true science is, the Church, in the Pontificate of Paul V, stepped in, and by the mouth of the holy Congregation of the Index, delivered, on March 5, 1616, the following decree:
And whereas it hath also come to the knowledge of the said holy congregation that the false Pythagorean doctrine of the mobility of the earth and the immobility of the sun, entirely opposed to Holy writ, which is taught by Nicolas Copernicus, is now published abroad and received by many. In order that this opinion may not further spread, to the damage of Catholic truth, it is ordered that this and all other books teaching the like doctrine be suspended, and by this decree they are all respectively suspended, forbidden, and condemned.
But why go back to 1456 and 1616? Far be it from me to charge bygone sins upon Monsignor Capel, were it not for the practices he upholds to-day. The most applauded dogmatist and champion of the Jesuits is, I am informed, Perrone. No less than thirty editions of a work of his have been scattered abroad for the healing of the nations. His notions of physical astronomy are virtually those of 1456. He teaches boldly that 'God does not rule by universal law... that when God orders a given planet to stand still He does not detract from any law passed by Himself, but orders that planet to move round the sun for such and such a time, then to stand still, and then again to move, as His pleasure may be.' Jesuitism proscribed Frohschammer for questioning its favourite dogma, that every human soul was created by a direct supernatural act of God, and for asserting that man, body and soul, came from his parents. This is the system that now strives for universal power; it is from it, as Monsignor Capel graciously informs us, that we are to learn what is allowable in science, and what is not!
In the face of such facts, which might be multiplied at will, it requires extraordinary bravery of mind, or a reliance upon public ignorance almost as extraordinary, to make the claims made by Monsignor Capel for his Church.
Before me is a very remarkable letter addressed in 1875 by the Bishop of Montpellier to the Deans and Professors of Faculties of Montpellier, in which the writer very clearly lays down the claims of his Church. He had been startled by an incident occurring in a course of lectures on Physiology given by a professor, of whose scientific capacity there was no doubt, but who, it was alleged, rightly or wrongly, had made his course the vehicle of materialism. 'Je ne me suis point donne,' says the Bishop, 'la mission que je remplis au milieu de vous. "Personne, au temoignage de saint Paul, ne s'attribue a soi-meme un pareil honneur; il y faut etre appele de Dieu, comme Aaron." Et pourquoi en est-il ainsi? C'est parse que, selon le meme Apotre, noun devons titre les ambassadeurs de Dieu; et it n'est pas dans les usages, pas plus qu'il n'est dans la raison et le droit, qu'un envoye s'accredite lui-meme. Mais, si j'ai recu d'En-Haut une mission; si l'Eglise, au nom de Dieu lui-meme, a souscrit me lettres de creance, me sieraitil de manquer aux instructions qu'elle m'a donnees et d'entendre, en un sens different du sien, le role qu'elle m'a confie?
'Or, Messieurs, la sainte Eglise se croit investie du droit absolu d'enseigner les hommes; elle se croit depositaire de la verite, non pas de la verite fragmentaire, incomplete, melee de certitude et d'hesitation, mais de la verite totale, complete, au point de vue religieux. Bien plus, elle est si sure de l'infaillibilite que son Fondateur divin lui a communiquee, comme la dot magnifique de leur indissoluble alliance, que, meme dans l'ordre naturel, scientifique ou philosophique, moral ou politique, elle n'admet pas qu'un systeme puisse etre soutenu et adopte par des chretiens, s'il contredit a des dogmes definis. Elle considere que la negation volontaire et opiniatre d'un seul point de sa doctrine rend coupable du peche d'heresie; et elle pense que toute heresie formelle, si on ne la rejette pas courageusement avant de paraitre devant Dieu, entraine avec soi la perte certaine de la grace et de l'eternite.'
The Bishop recalls those whom he addresses from the false philosophy of the present to the philosophy of the past, and foresees the triumph of the latter. 'Avant que le dix-neuvieme siecle s'acheve, la vieille philosophie scolastique aura repris sa place dans la juste admiration du monde. Il lui faudra pourtant bien du temps pour guerir les maux de tout genre, causes par son indigne rivale; et pendant de longues annees encore, ce nom de philosophie, le plus grand de la langue humaine apres celui de religion, sera suspect aux ames qui se souviendront de la science impie et materialiste de Locke, de Condillac ou d'Helvetius. L'heure actuelle est aux sciences naturelles: c'est maintenant l'instrument de combat contre l'Eglise et contre toute foi religieuse. Nous ne les redoutons pas.' Further on the Bishop warns his readers that everything can be abused. Poetry is good, but in excess it may injure practical conduct. 'Les mathematiques sont excellentes: et Bossuet les a louees "comme etant ce qui sert le plus a la justesse du raisonnement;" mais si on s'accoutume exclusivement a leur methode, rien de ce qui appartient a l'ordre moral ne parait plus pouvoir etre demontre; et Fenelon a pu parler de l'ensorcellement et des attraits diaboliqes de la geometrie.'
The learned Bishop thus finally accentuates the claims of the Church: 'Comme le definissait le Pape Leon X, au cinquieme concile oecumenique de Latran, "Le vrai ne peut pas etre contraire a lui-meme: par consequent, toute assertion contraire a une verite de foi revelee est necessairement et absolument fausse." Il suit de la que, sans entrer dans l'examen scientifique de telle ou telle question de physiologie, mais par la seule certitude de nos dogmes, nous pouvons juger du sort de telle ou telle hypothese, qui est une machine de guerre anti-chretienne plutot qu'une conquete serieuse sur les secrets et les mysteres de la nature... C'est un dogme que l'homme a ete forme et faconne des mains de Dieu. Donc il est faux, heretique, contraire a la dignite du Createur et offensant pour son chef-d'oeuvre, de dire que l'homme constitue la septieme espece des singes... Heresie encore de dire que le genre humain n'est pas sorti d'un seul couple, et qu'on y peut compter jusqu'a douze races distinctes!'
The course of life upon earth, as far as Science can see, has been one of amelioration—a steady advance on the whole from the lower to the higher. The continued effort of animated nature is to improve its condition and raise itself to a loftier level. In man improvement and amelioration depend largely upon the growth of conscious knowledge, by which the errors of ignorance are continually moulted, and truth is organised. It is the advance of knowledge that has given a materialistic colour to the philosophy of this age. Materialism is therefore not a thing to be mourned over, but to be honestly considered—accepted if it be wholly true, rejected if it be wholly false, wisely sifted and turned to account if it embrace a mixture of truth and error. Of late years the study of the nervous system, and its relation to thought and feeling, have profoundly occupied enquiring minds. It is our duty not to shirk—it ought rather to be our privilege to accept—the established results of such enquiries, for here assuredly our ultimate weal depends upon our loyalty to the truth. Instructed as to the control which the nervous system exercises over man's moral and intellectual nature, we shall be better prepared, not only to mend their manifold defects, but also to strengthen and purify both. Is mind degraded by this recognition of its dependence? Assuredly not. Matter, on the contrary, is raised to the level it ought to occupy, and from which timid ignorance would remove it.
But the light is dawning, and it will become stronger as time goes on. Even the Brighton "Church Congress" affords evidence of this. From the manifold confusions of that assemblage my memory has rescued two items, which it would fain preserve: the recognition of a relation between Health and Religion, and the address of the Rev. Harry Jones. Out of the conflict of vanities his words emerge wholesome and strong, because undrugged by dogma, coming directly from the warm brain of one who knows what practical truth means, and who has faith in its vitality and inherent power of propagation.
I wonder whether he is less effectual in his ministry than his more embroidered colleagues? It surely behoves our teachers to come to some definite understanding as to this question of health; to see how, by inattention to it, we are defrauded, negatively and positively: negatively, by the privation of that 'sweetness and light' which is the natural concomitant of good health; positively, by the insertion into life of cynicism, ill-temper, and a thousand corroding anxieties which good health would dissipate. We fear and scorn 'materialism.' But he who knew all about it, and could apply his knowledge, might become the preacher of a new gospel. Not, however, through the ecstatic moments of the individual does such knowledge come, but through the revelations of science, in connection with the history of mankind.
Why should the Roman Catholic Church call gluttony a mortal sin? Why should fasting occupy a place in the disciplines of religion? What is the meaning of Luther's advice to the young clergyman who came to him, perplexed with the difficulties of predestination and election, if it be not that, in virtue of its action upon the brain, when wisely applied, there is moral and religious virtue even in a hydro-carbon? To use the old language, food and drink are creatures of God, and have therefore a spiritual value. Through our neglect of the monitions of a reasonable materialism we sin and suffer daily. I might here point to the train of deadly disorders over which science has given modern society such control—disclosing the lair of the material enemy, ensuring his destruction, and thus preventing that moral squalor and hopelessness which habitually tread on the heels of epidemics in the case of the poor.
Rising to higher spheres, the visions of Swedenborg, and the ecstasy of Plotinus and Porphyry, are phases of that psychical condition, obviously connected with the nervous system and state of health, on which is based the Vedic doctrine of the absorption of the individual into the universal soul. Plotinus taught the devout how to pass into a condition of ecstasy. Porphyry complains of having been only once united to God in eighty-six years, while his master Plotinus had been so united six times in sixty years. [Footnote: I recommend to the reader's particular attention Dr. Draper's important work entitled, 'History of the Conflict between Religion and Science' (Messrs. H. S. King and Co.)] A friend who knew Wordsworth informs me that the poet, in some of his moods, was accustomed to seize hold of an external object to assure himself of his own bodily existence. As states of consciousness such phenomena have an undisputed reality, and a substantial identity; but they are connected with the most heterogeneous objective conceptions. The subjective experiences are similar, because of the similarity of the underlying organisations.
But for those who wish to look beyond the practical facts, there will always remain ample room for speculation. Take the argument of the Lucretian introduced in the Belfast Address. As far as I am aware, not one of my assailants has attempted to answer it. Some of them, indeed, rejoice over the ability displayed by Bishop Butler in rolling back the difficulty on his opponent; and they even imagine that it is the Bishop's own argument that is there employed. But the raising of a new difficulty does not abolish—does not even lessen—the old one, and the argument of the Lucretian remains untouched by anything the Bishop has said or can say.
And here it may be permitted me to add a word to an important controversy now going on: and which turns on the question: Do states of consciousness enter as links into the chain of antecedence and sequence, which give rise to bodily actions, and to other states of consciousness; or are they merely by-products, which are not essential to the physical processes going on in the brain? Speaking for myself, it is certain that I have no power of imagining states of consciousness, interposed between the molecules of the brain, and influencing the transference of motion among the molecules. The thought 'eludes all mental presentation;' and hence the logic seems of iron strength which claims for the brain an automatic action, uninfluenced by states of consciousness. But it is, I believe, admitted by those who hold the automaton-theory, that states of consciousness are produced by the marshalling of the molecules of the brain: and this production of consciousness by molecular motion is to me quite as inconceivable on mechanical principles as the production of molecular motion by consciousness. If, therefore, I reject one result, I must reject both. I, however, reject neither, and thus stand in the presence of two Incomprehensibles, instead of one Incomprehensible. While accepting fearlessly the facts of materialism dwelt upon in these pages, I bow my head in the dust before that mystery of mind, which has hitherto defied its own penetrative power, and which may ultimately resolve itself into a demonstrable impossibility of self-penetration.
But the secret is an open one—the practical monitions are plain enough, which declare that on our dealings with matter depend our weal and woe, physical and moral. The state of mind which rebels against the recognition of the claims of 'materialism' is not unknown to me. I can remember a time when I regarded my body as a weed, so much more highly did I prize the conscious strength and pleasure derived from moral and religious feeling—which, I may add, was mine without the intervention of dogma. The error was not an ignoble one, but this did not save it from the penalty attached to error. Saner knowledge taught me that the body is no weed, and that treated as such it would infallibly avenge itself. Am I personally lowered by this change of front? Not so. Give me their health, and there is no spiritual experience of those earlier years—no resolve of duty, or work of mercy, no work of self-renouncement, no solemnity of thought, no joy in the life and aspects of nature—that would not still be mine; and this without the least reference or regard to any purely personal reward or punishment looming in the future.
And now I have to utter a 'farewell' free from bitterness to all my readers; thanking my friends for a sympathy more steadfast, I would fain believe, if less noisy, than the antipathy of my foes; and commending to these a passage from Bishop Butler, which they have either not read or failed to lay to heart. 'It seems,' saith the Bishop, 'that men would be strangely headstrong and self-willed, and disposed to exert themselves with an impetuosity which would render society insupportable, and the living in it impracticable, were it not for some acquired moderation and self-government, some aptitude and readiness in restraining themselves, and concealing their sense of things.'
XI. THE REV. JAMES MARTINEAU AND THE BELFAST ADDRESS.
[Footnote: Fortnightly Review.]
PRIOR to the publication of the Fifth Edition of these 'Fragments' my attention had been directed by several estimable, and indeed eminent, persons, to an essay by the Rev. James Martineau, as demanding serious consideration at my hands. I tried to give the essay the attention claimed for it, and published my views of it as an Introduction to Part 11. of the 'Fragments.' I there referred, and here again refer with pleasure, to the accord subsisting between Mr. Martineau and myself on certain points of biblical Cosmogony. 'In so far,' says he, 'as Church belief is still committed to a given Cosmogony and natural history of man, it lies open to scientific refutation.' And again: 'It turns out that with the sun and moon and stars, and in and on the earth, before and after the appearance of our race, quite other things have happened than those which the sacred Cosmogony recites.' Once more: 'The whole history of the genesis of things Religion must surrender to the Sciences.' Finally, still more emphatically: 'In the investigation of the genetic order of things, Theology is an intruder, and must stand aside.' This expresses, only in words of fuller pith, the views which I ventured to enunciate in Belfast. 'The impregnable position of Science,' I there say, 'may be stated in a few words. We claim, and we shall wrest from Theology, the entire domain of Cosmological theory.' Thus Theology, so far as it is represented by Mr. Martineau, and Science, so far as I understand it, are in absolute harmony here.
But Mr. Martineau would have just reason to complain of me, if, by partial citation, I left my readers under the impression that the agreement between us is complete. At the opening of the eighty-ninth Session of the Manchester New College, London, on October 6, '1874, he, its principal, delivered an Address bearing the title 'Religion as affected by Modern Materialism;' the references and general tone of which make evident the depth of its author's discontent with my previous deliverance at Belfast. I find it difficult to grapple with the exact grounds of this discontent. Indeed, logically considered, the impression left upon my mind by an essay of great aesthetic merit, containing many passages of exceeding beauty, and many sentiments which none but the pure in heart could utter as they are uttered here, is vague and unsatisfactory. The author appears at times so brave and liberal, at times so timid and captious, and at times, if I dare say it, so imperfectly informed, regarding the position he assails.
At the outset of his Address Mr. Martineau states with some distinctness his 'sources of religious faith.' They are two—'the scrutiny of Nature' and 'the interpretation of Sacred Books.' It would have been a theme worthy of his intelligence to have deduced from these two sources his religion as it stands. But not another word is said about the 'Sacred Books.' Having swept with the besom of Science various 'books' contemptuously away, he does not define the Sacred residue; much less give us the reasons why he deems them sacred. [Footnote: Mr. Martineau's use of the term 'sacred' is unintentionally misleading. In his later essays we are taught that he does not mean to restrict it to the Bible. He does not, however, mention the 'books' beyond those of the Bible to which he would apply the term. 1879.] His references to 'Nature,' on the other hand, are magnificent tirades against Nature, intended, apparently, to show the wholly abominable character of man's antecedents if the theory of evolution be true. Here also his mood lacks steadiness. While joyfully accepting, at one place, 'the widening space, the deepening vistas of time, the detected marvels of physiological structure, and the rapid filling-in of the missing links in the chain of organic life,' he falls, at another, into lamentation and mourning over the very theory which renders 'organic life' 'a chain.' He claims the largest liberality for his sect, and avows its contempt for the dangers of possible discovery. But immediately afterwards he damages the claim, and ruins all confidence in the avowal. He professes sympathy with modern Science, and almost in the same breath he treats, or certainly will be understood to treat, the Atomic Theory, and the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy, as if they were a kind of scientific thimble-riggery.