The Testimony Of Organic Life -- By: Thomas Hill
BSac 31:124 (Oct 1874) p. 593
The Testimony Of Organic Life
We have endeavored, in this Journal for the current year, to show that the morphological and teleological arguments, drawn from the vegetable and animal kingdoms, are, in their value, independent of all theories concerning the development and succession of animals and plants. We have said that no form of the development theory is satisfactory, or properly deduced from facts; yet the grand theological axiom of the divine economy, so fruitful of scientific results in the mechanical principle of the least action, authorizes us to expect some “better theory in the future, which will accord with the facts of the case. That better theory will not ignore the theological foundation, on which all true science is, consciously or unconsciously, built, — the assumption that there is a divine plan, an intellectual order, in the economy of nature.
The fundamental antithesis of philosophy is the distinction between mind and matter; an antithesis which cannot be ignored by science when it approaches the boundaries of metaphysics. Yet in the speculations of a philosopher, not scientific, and of a scientist not metaphysical, there sometimes appears a confusion of thought, leading them to suspect the identity of matter and spirit. Thus Huxley apparently wonders at himself, that he should be “individually no mate-
BSac 31:124 (Oct 1874) p. 594
rialist, but on the contrary believe materialism to involve grave philosophical error”; while he yet “can see no break in the series of steps “by which “carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen,” “all lifeless bodies,” unite in varied proportions, and in varied conditions, in more or less complex bodies, of which one of the most complex is protoplasm, which “protoplasm exhibits the phenomena of life.” From this point again he sees no logical halting-place, between the admission that such is the case, and the further concession that all vital, intellectual, and moral actions are the results of the molecular forces of protoplasm.
Huxley’s wonder that he retains his faith in spirit, while admitting the existence of protoplasm, in the unproved and improbable form above stated, may arise from his never having examined and appreciated the logical grounds of his spiritual faith. There is nothing in the modern discoveries of the correlation of forces (sublime triumph of science as it is), any more inconsistent with spiritual philosophy than the familiar facts of sleep, fatigue, exhilaration, birth, and death.
In this workshop of nature, in which men are put as apprentices, are various simple raw materials; among them the four organogens enumerated by Huxley. Under proper conditions, of heat and light and other molecul...
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