Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/472

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dous achievements of ever-toiling Nature; or whether we are merely passing strangers, endowed with a principle of life otherwise sustained, with an essence of being not vitally implicated in the general enchainment of temporal occurrences. On all sides we are fervently striving to gain assurance of, at least, this one leading position in our mysterious fate. To whatever sources of revelation seem available, there is put in every imaginable shape this decisive question: "Do we or do we not entirely belong to the actual state of things in which we at present find ourselves involved?"

This is evidently the real import of the momentous controversy now provoked anew, on deeper grounds than ever before, by the adoption of the evolution hypothesis on the part of Science. In all quarters of our globe, from every laboratory and study, where the investigation of any branch of Nature is methodically pursued, we hear the voice of Science proclaiming, with all but unanimous accord, one and the same truth, that through natural development, from lowest beginnings, has grown, step by step, all of which we can ever gain any knowledge. This is certainly a grave conclusion, coming as it does from the most cautious and reserved school of thinkers. If proved to be true it must, in course of time, necessarily subvert all former creeds, changing completely the groundwork of human faith, and prescribing to life new guiding principles. To mistake this inevitable issue of the grand contest entered upon by the students of Nature against the authority of their own mental inheritance would betray either short-sightedness or insincerity. Let none, then, remain in doubt that it is the serious intent of evolutionists so to unfold the system of Nature, the philosophy of synthesis, of organization, as to make it eventually the bearer on a strictly scientific foundation of all manner of truth. On all sides they are challenged to make good their assertions, and to show how we ourselves, with our exalted faculties, have come to be part and parcel of this same supposed onward flow of natural events.

The disciples of Science are accordingly everywhere at work to raise to the dignity of a consistent theory what is promiscuously held on the strength of much good evidence, though also in reliance upon the eventual verification of much vague foreshadowing: though it is incumbent upon us as evolutionists to prove our opinion, yet it must be admitted that at present we are far from having established a connected chain of evidence in support of it. We cannot deny that, when from the point of view of our present knowledge we attempt to survey the gradual ascent from lower to higher cosmical manifestations, we are abruptly checked at various critical points. The continuity of that surface, on which our understanding is wont to skim the depths of reality, presents sudden chasms. We experience one such sharp mental recoil when we endeavor smoothly to glide from the inorganic into the organic world. For, whatever may be asserted to the contrary, Science does not yet exactly comprehend the transition from lifelessness to life.