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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/574

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
why, then the universe is a sham and man an impertinence. All comes to nothing in the end, consciousness ceases when the phosphorus in the brain ceases to burn, and with the end of consciousness the material world might as well shrivel and die and come to nothing also.

This is a significant enunciation, and will bear pondering. We have seen no clearer statement of the respective attitudes of the theological mind and of the scientific mind toward the things of this world. What is the value of the great scheme we call nature taken at what we know of it? Margaret Fuller, neither theologian nor scientist, but fond of the mystical, offered, on the whole, to "accept" this universe. Bishop Clark, not to be taken in by shams, will accept it conditionally, that is, if he has assurance that its end is such as to justify the process by which it is reached. The universe has no worth in itself, and can only acquire it as it is found to conform to the theological standard—a standard, moreover, which was set up in ages of ignorance before anything had been found out concerning the nature, character, method, or magnitude of the object valued. Here the universe is, a mighty, boundless, unfathomed fact; if it squares with the theological ideal of what ought to be its design—an ideal framed without any knowledge of its constitution—it may be approved; otherwise, it is a humbug, and, the sooner it shrivels into nothingness, the better.

It is to be here noted that on either theological alternative science is suffocated. Theologians claim to have long known the grand why and wherefore of this universe, but that never inspired them to inquire into its how—never led to science. For, having the greater explanation already, why should they concern themselves about lesser explanations? The greater explanation not only superseded the lesser, but condemned them. Familiar with the futurities, and having in hand the lever that controls the beatitudes and the torments of an immortal destiny, it would have been recreancy for the theologians to favor trivial inquiries into what was doomed soon to "pass away as a scroll." They were logically bound to resist all tendencies to such trifling in this probationary world. So, the men who knew the why proscribed, imprisoned, strangled, and roasted the men of vain curiosity who strove to understand the frivolous how. There was, therefore, plenty of consistency in the orthodox antagonism to the spread of the spirit of science.

But if, on the other hand, the why can not be known as the theologians claim to know it, independent of all knowledge of the how, then on the authority of Bishop Clark the universe is a sham, and who is going to get up much interest in the study of shams? A man will not seriously inquire into that for which he has no respect; and, just to the degree in which people are imbued with this spirit of contemptuous indifference for the present world, will be their carelessness in relation to that scientific truth which raises the value of life in proportion as it is known and applied.

And which is the most reverent and the most truly religious attitude—not to raise any question of humility—that which assumes to pronounce on the aims and purposes of the universe, while contentedly ignorant of all truth regarding its order, or that which searches out its wonderful constitution, that it may rise to its plans and purposes, as gathered from its beautiful structures, its exquisite harmonies, its beneficent adaptations, and the solemn grandeur of its mighty movements? We protest against the doctrines which the Bishop offers us in the name of religion, as well as much else that emanates from the platform where he spoke. And we would respectfully suggest to the devotees of the Monday lectureship, if it would not have been