Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/698

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cal act that the specific chemical rupture is effected, in consequence of which the protoplasm reassumes its former contracted state in space.

In physiology, the peculiar activity displayed by the protoplasm, and induced by the dynamical influence of the medium, is called the function of the acting substance. The function is said to be stimulated by the dynamical influence, and the material compounds which separate from the living substance during this operation are distinguished as products of functional disintegration.

The special function of living contraction, which we have been enabled so plainly to follow up in our primitive organisms, is typical of all motor and sensory functions whatever. Contractility is the fundamental expression of vital function. It is the first unmistakable, distinctly visible manifestation of living activity.

All these functional performances, these visible and otherwise directly sensible parts of organic activity, compose the open spectacle of life—the ostensible conspicuous display of vitality. They correspond to the manifest figurative exhibitions of an exquisitely-contrived clock, all set in motion during its unwinding. But beyond this variegated automatic show perceived on the outside, what depths of unsolved mystery, molecular and other, remain behind in the impenetrable recesses of organization, affording a boundless field for scientific exploration, as well as teleological speculation.

All those of the past and present who, in the stronghold of final causes, have fortified their faith in a spirit of guiding forethought—Voltaire, the sprightly scoffer, with Paley, the sifting advocate, and so many more who have sought to interpret the secret scheme of apparent design traceable in the all-befitting coaptation—of things to me it seems they have but slightly and superficially used their strong means.

The wonder lies essentially in the unification and integration of manifold influences into the compass of one single individual entity, not so essentially in the subsequent spontaneous correlation of that individual to those manifold influences. The wonder lies chiefly in the concentrated and unified organization of the relations, not so much in their functional display afterward. The problem is the established unity of the multifariously related individual, not the planning and fitting of these multifarious relations themselves. The power of our life is intrinsically wrought, not extrinsically derived.

This most weighty truth the science of organization maintains not on mere general grounds or formal conclusions drawn from assumed premises, but it is ready to prove it step by step by actual verification. The subsistence of the reverse supposition is altogether emotional and metaphysical; it rests on fictitious ontology. From foreign spheres an outside hand of power is made to reach forth, and to set going, by dint of will or deed, the precious clock of life, with all its play of sensation and motion, its revealing and its conquering beats. From out the indefinite infinitudes an unlimited skill is evoked, and upon it are im-