The Persistence Of Force; A Point In The Argument Of Natural Theology -- By: Frederic Gardiner

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 038:149 (Jan 1881)
Article: The Persistence Of Force; A Point In The Argument Of Natural Theology
Author: Frederic Gardiner

The Persistence Of Force; A Point In The Argument Of Natural Theology

Rev. Frederic Gardiner

The doctrine of the Persistence of Force, as it is among the latest, so it is considered among the surest and the most important of the results of modern science. Like every other advance in truth, it must needs have interest to the theologian; but, in the absorbing attention given to its physical relations, its theological bearings have not yet been sufficiently considered.

A certain vague recognition of the constancy of force, of a relation between the different physical forces, and, specifically, a suspicion, at least, that heat is “a mode of motion” among . the particles of matter, may be found occasionally among the older philosophers. With them it was but a vague guess, like many others, which, in the minds of those familiar with nature, often become prophecies of future discovery. The matter was first brought to definite experimental test by Count Rumford at the close of the last century. He established the convertibility of mechanical motion into heat, and even determined, with a fair approximation to accuracy, the mechanical equivalent of heat. A little later these conclusions were confirmed by the experiments of Davy; but after this the subject was suffered to rest for nearly half a cen-

tury. The crucial and fundamental fact had been ascertained, but the scientific world was not yet prepared to avail itself of the fruits. Soon after 1840 the matter was taken up anew by many able investigators and has since been pursued in different countries with great skill and zeal. Seguin of France, Grove and Joule of England, Mayer of Germany, Colding of Denmark were prominent among those who first established the general doctrine of the mutual relations of the natural forces, and the subject has been closely pursued by Helmholtz, Holtzman, Faraday, Thompson, Tyndall, and many others. For the last quarter of a century it has been an established doctrine of science, and has been largely discussed theoretically and mathematically as well as experimentally.

The cardinal point of the theory is the relation of heat to mechanical motion. A definite quantitative relation between natural forces was here first established. It is a matter of sufficiently common observation that arrested, or partially arrested, motion produces heat. The leaden bullet may even melt on striking the iron target; the anvil is warmed by the repeated blows of the hammer; the journals of machinery grow hot by friction; and the hardest steel may be cut by a rapidly revolving disc of sheet iron which, pressed against it, melts its pathway through. By carefully conducted and often repeated experiments it has been shown that one pound le...

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