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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/364

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the bounds, which therefore seem unconscious, though production of either by the other seems to imply that they are of the same essential nature, this necessity we are under to think of the external energy in terms of the internal energy gives rather a spiritualistic than a materialistic aspect to the universe; further thought, however, obliging us to recognize the truth that a conception given in phenomenal manifestations of this ultimate energy can in no wise show us what it is.

While the beliefs to which analytic science thus leads are such as do not destroy the object-matter of religion, but simply transfigure it, science under its concrete forms enlarges the sphere for religious sentiment. From the very beginning the progress of knowledge has been accompanied by an increasing capacity for wonder. Among savages, the lowest are the least surprised when shown remarkable products of civilized art, astonishing the traveler by their indifference. And so little of the marvelous do they perceive in the grandest phenomena of Nature that any inquiries concerning them they regard as childish trifling. This contrast in mental attitude between the lowest human beings and the higher human beings around us is paralleled by the contrasts among the grades of these higher human beings themselves. It is not the rustic, nor the artisan, nor the trader, who sees something more than a mere matter of course in the hatching of a chick; but it is the biologist, who, pushing to the uttermost his analysis of vital phenomena, reaches his greatest perplexity when a speck of protoplasm under the microscope shows him life in its simplest form, and makes him feel that however he formulates its processes the actual play of forces remains unimaginable. Neither in the ordinary tourist nor in the deer-stalker climbing the mountains above him does a Highland glen rouse ideas beyond those of sport or of the picturesque; but it may, and often does, in the geologist. He, observing that the glacier-rounded rock he sits on has lost by weathering but half an inch of its surface since a time far more remote than the beginnings of human civilization, and then trying to conceive the slow denudation which has cut out the whole valley, has thoughts of time and of power to which they are strangers—thoughts which, already utterly inadequate to their objects, he feels to be still more futile on noting the contorted beds of gneiss around, which tell him of a time, immeasurably more remote, when far beneath the earth's surface they were in a half-melted state, and again tell him of a time, immensely exceeding this in remoteness, when their components were sand and mud on the shores of an ancient sea. Nor is it in the primitive peoples who supposed that the heavens rested on the mountain-tops, any more than in the modern inheritors of their cosmogony who repeat that "the heavens declare the glory of God," that we find the largest conceptions of the universe or the greatest amount of wonder excited by contemplation of it. Rather, it is in the astronomer, who sees in the sun a mass so vast that even into one of his spots our earth might be plunged without