Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/741

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

OCTOBER, 1883.


 

MATTER LIVING AND NOT-LIVING.
By PAUL R. SHIPMAN.

THE Victoria Institute, or Philosophical Society of Great Britain, has published, in pamphlet form, a paper by Professor Lionel S. Beale, in which that eminent physician and microscopist attacks, with free assertion and aspersion, the doctrine of the identity of living and not-living matter. Dr. Beale is himself a member of the Victoria Institute, and, if one may judge from the imprimatur which the society has set on his paper, he is esteemed a spokesman worthy of its name, if not a foeman worthy of anybody's steel; and no doubt the paper has proved acceptable to those for whom it was intended. It may be worth while, therefore, in the interest especially of this excellent class, to examine what he has to say.

Dr. Beale, it might better be mentioned at once, has a theory of his own, or at least of his adoption, with which he confronts the theory of his aversion; and it will conduce to clearness, as well as brevity, if we first look at the opposing theories side by side, premising that Dr. Beale expressly lays the question of their relative merits before the tribunal of science, whose jurisdiction in the case he thereby acknowledges. Let us at the outset, then, regard the two theories as he sets them face to face.

Dr. Beale opens the discussion by confessing that he finds himself among the "very small number" who "have objected to the physical view of life as untenable in the present state of scientific knowledge," a qualification which in the course of his paper he repeats and reiterates, and which means, if it means anything, that the capacity of physical causes in this relation has not yet been explored exhaustively, and that the view in question may become tenable in the progress of scientific knowledge. "The living world," Dr. Beale proceeds to say, in