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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/770

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the best authorities on spectrum analysis. I had intended, in this connection, to discuss these last points, to which I can here only allude, and which are every day acquiring greater and greater importance; but my paper is already too long, and there is abundant material for another essay on the same general subject. I have accomplished the immediate object at which I aimed, if I have made evident that the foundations of our science are still hidden in obscurity, and that the conception of a chemical element is to-day just as indefinite and just as metaphysical as it was at the time of Aristotle.

 

AGNOSTICISM.
By Prof. THOMAS H. HUXLEY.

WITHIN the last few months the public has received much and varied information on the subject of agnostics, their tenets, and even their future. Agnosticism exercised the orators of the Church Congress at Manchester.[1] It has been furnished with a set of "articles" fewer, but not less rigid, and certainly not less consistent than the thirty-nine; its nature has been analyzed, and its future severely predicted by the most eloquent of that prophetical school whose Samuel is Auguste Comte. It may still be a question, however, whether the public is as much the wiser as might be expected, considering all the trouble that has been taken to enlighten it. Not only are the three accounts of the agnostic position sadly out of harmony with one another, but I propose to show cause for my belief that all three must be seriously questioned by any one who employs the term "agnostic" in the sense in which it was originally used. The learned principal of King's College, who brought the topic of agnosticism before the Church Congress, took a short and easy way of settling the business:

But if this be so, for a man to urge, as an escape from this article of belief, that he has no means of a scientific knowledge of the unseen world, or of the future, is irrelevant. His difference from Christians lies not in the fact that he has no knowledge of these things, but that he does not believe the authority on which they are stated. He may prefer to call himself an agnostic; but his real name is an older one—he is an infidel; that is to say, an unbeliever. The word infidel, perhaps, carries an unpleasant significance. Perhaps it is right that it should. It is, and it ought to be, an unpleasant thing for a man to have to say plainly that he does not believe in Jesus Christ.

And in the course of the discussion which followed, the Bishop of

  1. See the "Official Report of the Church Congress held at Manchester," October, 1888, pp. 253, 254.