Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/486

This page has been validated.

their true proportions. Yet this is a little more than the one-hundredth part of our distance from the sun, from which we get the light and heat on which our lives depend. What, then, shall we say of those sidereal spaces to measure which this solar distance is taken as the unit! The astronomer contemplates magnitudes and distances and motions expressed by figures of such vast array, that the power of enumeration is almost staggered, and our capacity to comprehend values is altogether overwhelmed by them. But let us reduce the unit of measure from the mile to the inch, and then let us take the reciprocals of these enormous values obtained by the astronomer in his study of the planetary composition of the universe, and we shall have before us the order of measurements which engage the attention of the physicist who studies the molecular composition of matter. If we are not dismayed by the one, let us not be by the other. In one case our conceptions are pictures in miniature; in the other they must be pictures enlarged. But it is no more difficult to picture the distance between two minute bodies, when measured by the hundred-millionths of an inch, than it is to picture it between two greater ones when measured by the hundred millions of miles. To comprehend the real magnitude is, in both cases, impossible, and our belief in the existence of either must depend on our faith in the infallibility of mathematical processes and on the observations upon which they are based. But granting the existence of such evidence to sustain it, neither can be called incredible, however it may transcend our comprehension, for credulity consists, not in believing, but believing without evidence.


HOW the workers of many insects became sterile is an interesting question, though one difficult to answer. Those who believe in special creation solve this problem, as they solve so many other difficulties, by stating that insects are sterile because they were created sterile. The majority of educated persons, however, require to be convinced by some more tangible argument; the conclusion that things are because they are, having lost the only merit it ever possessed, the annihilation of thought.

To state the problem that all may understand it: there are many insects, as the bees, ants, wasps, and termites, that are divided into three castes, males, females, and workers; the latter are sterile, and it is asked how, according to modern theory, these workers can have arisen? It is said that, since they do not propagate their kind, no spontaneous variations can be produced for natural selection to work