Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/748

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ent impossibility, are falling right and left under the strokes of science, who shall say that this one, too, may not ultimately crumble beneath the strenuous but reverent assault? Whether the achievement is possible or impossible, however, the derivation of life from not-life at some time, if not at this time, under conditions provided in the laboratory of Nature herself, is certain: the fate of the hypothesis is not by any means involved in that of the experiment.

"No specimen of any kind of matter which is actually passing from the non-living to the living state, or which can be shown to establish any connection between these absolutely different conditions of matter," Dr. Beale asserts, "has been, or can be at this time, brought forward." Discounting the expression "absolutely different," and noting with satisfaction the qualifying phrase "at this time," it must be observed that the assertion remains, nevertheless, in some degree inaccurate. Not to mention that all living matter is constituted by not-living elements, there is good reason to believe that the molecules of those colloidal compounds which together form living matter are constituted by molecules of the not-living crystalloids, and it is beyond dispute that the same substance, as silica, may pass, under varying conditions, from the crystalloidal to the colloidal state and back again, for which reasons, among others, the colloid may be pointed to as a "kind of matter" which, if not "actually passing from the nonliving to the living state," can at least be said to "establish" some "connection" between these "different conditions of matter." Be this as it may, it "has been brought forward" as such, and by no less honored an investigator than Professor Graham, whose discovery of the law of the diffusion of gases, to say nothing of his profound researches on the diffusion of aqueous solutions, should have made his name familiar to Dr. Beale. "The colloid is in fact," says Professor Graham, "a dynamical state of matter, the crystalloidal being the statical condition. The colloid possesses energia. It may be looked upon as the primary source of the force appearing in the phenomena of vitality." Whatever Dr. Beale may think of the colloid, it serves at any rate to check his broad assertion, and at the same time to indicate how sharply experimental science is pressing upon the problem of life. "At this time," however, the pregnant movement has but fairly begun.

"But the fact," Dr. Beale insists, "that this living matter, as is well known, is invariably derived from matter that already lived, is a serious difficulty which presents itself to the mind at the outset of the inquiry." Here, again, our professor omits the important qualification to which he is committed. "Living matter" is "invariably derived from matter that already lived," so far as our experience goes, if we leave out of the account Dr. Bastian's experiments; but our experience at present, aside from those interesting but unfinished researches, does not stretch away to the beginning of life, and it is unphilosoph-