The Uniformity Of Nature -- By: C. Walker
BSac 46:182 (April 1889) p. 245
The Uniformity Of Nature
“Truths,” says a great thinker of this century, “truths of all others the most awful and interesting, are often considered as so true that they lose all the power of truth.” Truths, it may be added, undoubted and most important, are so often entangled in their ordinary forms of enunciation that they become the accepted premises of error and falsehood. Of this the common expression, “the uniformity of nature.” affords a striking illustration. In Mr. Hut-ton’s sprightly sketch of the discussion of the Philosophical Society in regard to it, one of its most remarkable features is the apparent unconsciousness of anything doubtful or equivocal in its terms, the absence of effort to come to a specific and commonly accepted definition. Definitions, indeed, are implied and suggested. Evidently Mr. Martineau and Professor Huxley and Mr. Stephen attach to the terms in question a modified, if not a different significance. The phrase itself swarms with ambiguities. As is usual in most cases where it is employed, there are ambiguities in connection with the word “nature.” In this particular phrase, moreover, there are different senses with the word “uniformity.” And then, again, there are dispute and question as to the grounds upon which any such idea or fact, and whatever its meaning, is known and accepted. Take, for instance, the first of these words in
BSac 46:182 (April 1889) p. 246
its varied significations. This idol of the materialistic pantheist is protean, not only in its manifestations, but in its meanings. Its worshippers or opposers find a constant change of meaning as demanding their worship or opposition. When, for instance, it is asserted that nature is uniform, nature with some is equivalent to the universe of being, physical, intellectual, and moral; with others it is the universe physical; with others it is the universe of being so far as is known; with others the physical universe so far as is known, and in its principles scientifically verified. So also with uniformity. The assertion of this, with some, is that of cosmical phenomena; with others it is that of the laws or modes of sequence through which these phenomena take place; with others it is that of the invariability of property, in substance and forces, upon which sequences and phenomena are dependent. With others, again, and perhaps the largest number, it is meant there is uniformity of operation and phenomena in that extent of the universe which science has explored and found to be under the reign of law, the known order of material sequence,—which last is about equal to saying, the known uniformity of certain laws and forces and phenomena is uniform. Each one of these, if controverted, must be dealt with in ...
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