Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/751

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such countless times, in such countless directions, within such countless chambers, passages, recesses, that no wonder the broadest and loftiest intellect of our time, or of any time, stood baffled at the threshold of the labyrinth until he had fashioned the clew of Evolution to guide him through its windings; but the step, though infinitely multiplied, is one and the same, spanning ever the same fathomless chasm, and the faculties which enable us to take it once render us competent to repeat it indefinitely. We thread the maze by a developed use of the powers by which we enter it, treading always over, but never into, the meshes of infinity. The real difficulty, as already implied, is that our present knowledge and intellectual training do not match the complexity of the higher phenomena, which, notwithstanding their astounding complexity, differ from the lower only as a problem in the calculus differs from a sum in addition and subtraction. Fundamentally, there is no difference in the phenomena, and no break: all are interconnected by one unbroken chain of causation. As the watch-maker is developed from primitive man, so is life developed from primitive matter, and the gap between these is no more impassable and no less than the gap between those, or, for that matter, than between the simplest compound and its elements, or between the atoms of the elements themselves. The interval in every case is essentially identical. If it makes life mysterious, it makes mysterious every other thread in the texture of things. The mystery is the same throughout; and so is the only explanation with which the wit of man can embroider the somber secret.

Dr. Beale has nothing more to say with which we need concern ourselves. He is, as I have said, a physician of eminence, and, I may add, a microscopic observer of approved accuracy; but as a philosophical critic he is not a success. I have treated him with courtesy, out of respect for the proprieties of serious discussion rather than for his deserts. The tone of his paper is not candid or respectful; its spirit is derisive; and the body of it is composed chiefly of a tirade, not conspicuous for judgment or comprehension, against the decay of modern thought and the dogmatism of modern scientists, among whom he generously singles out Professor Huxley as a scape-goat, and, laying both hands on his laureled head, confesses over him, with much unction but no fair words, all the iniquities of the children of light, and halloos him, crowned with the shining burden, into a land not inhabited by members of the Victoria Institute. But all this I pass by. It is tempting, I confess, but space or the lack of it, if nothing better, delivers me from the temptation. On the title-page of Dr. Beale's pamphlet is inscribed: "The New Materialism; Dictatorial Scientific Utterances, and the Decline of Thought." Of this inscription the first part might stand, fitly enough, for the title proper, and the last part for the characteristics of the paper, were it not that its "dictatorial utterances" happen not to be "scientific," and that its "thought"