Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/227

This page has been validated.
215
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE.

evolved. All this rather favors the idea of a beginning than otherwise. As for limits in space, we cannot be sure that we see anything outside of the system of the milky-way. Minds of theological predilections have therefore no need of distorting the facts to reconcile them with their views.

But the only scientific presumption is, that the unknown parts of space and time are like the known parts, occupied; that, as we see cycles of life and death in all development which we can trace out to the end, the same holds good in regard to solar systems; that as enormous distances lie between the different planets of our solar system, relatively to their diameters, and as still more enormous distances lie between our system relatively to its diameter and other systems, so it may be supposed that other galactic clusters exist so remote from ours as not to be recognized as such with certainty. I do not say that these are strong inductions; I only say that they are the presumptions which, in our ignorance of the facts, should be preferred to hypotheses which involve conceptions of things and occurrences totally different in their character from any of which we have had any experience, such as disembodied spirits, the creation of matter, infringements of the laws of mechanics, etc.

The universe ought to be presumed too vast to have any character. When it is claimed that the arrangements of Nature are benevolent, or just, or wise, or of any other peculiar kind, we ought to be prejudiced against such opinions, as being the offspring of an ill-founded notion of the finitude of the world. And examination has hitherto shown that such beneficences, justice, etc., are of a most limited kind—limited in degree and limited in range.

In like manner, if any one claims to have discovered a plan in the structure of organized beings, or a scheme in their classification, or a regular arrangement among natural objects, or a system of proportionality in the human form, or an order of development, or a correspondence between conjunctions of the planets and human events, or a significance in numbers, or a key to dreams, the first thing we have to ask is whether such relations are susceptible of explanation on mechanical principles, and if not they should be looked upon with disfavor as having already a strong presumption against them; and examination has generally exploded all such theories.

There are minds to whom every prejudice, every presumption, seems unfair. It is easy to say what minds these are. They are those who never have known what it is to draw a well-grounded induction, and who imagine that other people's knowledge is as nebulous as their own. That all science rolls upon presumption (not of a formal but of a real kind) is no argument with them, because they cannot imagine that there is anything solid in human knowledge. These are the people who waste their time and money upon perpetual motions and other such rubbish.