The Intellectual Element In Matter -- By: Charles Caverno
BSac 46:183 (July 1889) p. 425
The Intellectual Element In Matter
I wish to make use of some very common knowledge. What I say rests in the current intelligence of the times, for it is derived from the simplest elementary lessons in chemistry. If the common schools do not, the higher schools do, teach the facts and principles to which I call attention, and they so pervade the publications of the day that the common mind may be assumed to know them or readily to apprehend them. I am not about to put forth new knowledge. I am only going to ask attention to the significance of what is already known. The processes of adjustment of what we have may be as fertile in thought and as useful in education as the process of acquisition.
In laying the foundations of theism, the argument to design has always had the most prominent place. This has been natural, for the facts out of which other arguments could be shaped have not been discovered till recent times. The science of chemistry has only just celebrated its first centennial. But the adaptations of means to ends in the structure of organs and in the functions of life was noticed ages ago. This is the classic ground of argument for theism,—good yet, as all things classic are. The principle of natural selection has been running on this argument to design through human history, with the result of the survival and persistence of that which is fittest. But I attempt nothing here. There is more primitive ground, lying back of this old line of thought which has been so successfully worked—ground perhaps not
BSac 46:183 (July 1889) p. 426
so attractive—and jet perhaps on which theistic conclusions can be based, as convincing and invulnerable as those reached by the study of the adaptations and functions of organized life.
Matter is usually set, in thought, in antithesis to mind. The terms “mind” and “matter” convey to us suggestions mutually exclusive. We do not search matter for marks of intelligence. The argument to design has fixed our attention so much on vital functions and their products, that we are oblivious of traces of the action of mind where there is not life. Matter, as we ordinarily see it, is not productive of theistic suggestion. We find it usually a hard, dull, inert substance, and there we leave it. It resists us, if we do not let it alone, and the most of it, so far as we are aware, does not meddle with us, if we do not interfere with it. So we go, as far as it is concerned, our unthinking way. You find proof enough, in the common use of language, that the ordinary view of the world, or the universe, of matter is not fertile in springing theistic thought. The term “materialist,” in common speech, designates an atheist—one who c...
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