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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/243

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"COWARDLY AGNOSTICISM."

than it solves. Thus, though we can not demonstrate that a creator does not exist, we have no grounds whatever for supposing that he does. With regard to man, what science finds is analogous. According to theology, he is a being specially related to God, and his conduct and his destinies have an importance which dwarfs the sum of material things into insignificance. But science exhibits him in a very different light; it shows that in none of the qualities once thought peculiar to him does he differ essentially from other phenomena of the universe. It shows that just as there are no grounds for supposing the existence of a creator, so there are none for supposing the existence of an immortal human soul; while as for man's importance relative to the rest of the universe, it shows that, not only as an individual, but also as a race, he is less than a bubble of foam is when compared with the whole sea. The few thousand years over which history takes us are as nothing when compared with the ages for which the human race has existed. The whole existence of the human race is as nothing when compared with the existence of the earth; and the earth's history is but a second and the earth but a grain of dust in the vast duration and vast magnitude of the All. Nor is this true of the past only, it is true of the future also. As the individual dies, so also will the race die; nor would a million of additional years add anything to its comparative importance. Just as it emerged out of lifeless matter yesterday, so will it sink again into lifeless matter to-morrow. Or, to put the case more briefly still, it is merely one fugitive manifestation of the same matter and force which, always obedient to the same unchanging laws, manifest themselves equally in a dung-heap, in a pig, and in a planet—matter and force which, so far as our faculties can carry us, have existed and will exist everywhere and forever, and which nowhere, so far as our faculties avail to read them, show any sign, as a whole, of meaning, of design, or of intelligence.

It is possible that Prof. Huxley, or some other scientific authority, may be able to find fault with some of my sentences or my expressions, and to show that they are not professionally or professorially accurate. If they care for such trifling criticism they are welcome to the enjoyment of it; but I defy any one to show, putting expression aside and paying attention only to the general meaning of what I have stated, that the foregoing account of what science claims to have established is not substantially true, and is not admitted to be so by any contemporary thinker who opposes science to theism, from Mr. Frederic Harrison to Prof. Huxley himself.

And now let us pass on to something which in itself is merely a matter of words, but which will bring what I have said thus far into the circle of contemporary discussion. The men who are