Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/258

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perhaps it is calculated to excite fear or awe in him. This idea is more plausible than the other. The universe as compared with man is a revelation of forces that are infinite, and it may be said that surely these have something awful and impressive in them. There is, however, another side to the question. This universe represents not only infinite forces, but it represents also infinite impotence. So long as we conform ourselves to certain ordinary rules we may behave as we like for anything it can do to us. We may look at it with eyes of adoration, or make faces at it, and blaspheme it, but for all its power it can not move a finger to touch us. Why, then, should a man be in awe of this lubberly All, whose blindness and impotence are at least as remarkable as its power, and from which man is as absolutely safe as a mouse in a hole is from a lion? But there still remains the emotion of wonder to be considered. Is not the universe calculated to excite our wonder? From the agnostic point of view we must certainly say No. The further science reveals to us the constitution of things the feeling borne in on us more and more strongly is this, that it is not wonderful that things happen as they do, but that it would be wonderful if they happened otherwise: while as for the Unknown Cause that is behind what science reveals to us, we can not wonder at that, for we know nothing at all about it, and, if there is any wonder involved in the matter at all, it is nothing but wonder at our own ignorance.

So much, then, for our mere emotions toward the Unknowable. There still remains, however, one way more in which it is alleged that our consciousness of it can be definitely connected with duty; and this is the way which our agnostic philosophers most commonly have in view, and to which they allude most frequently. I allude to the search after scientific truth and the proclamation of it, regardless of consequences. Whenever the agnostics are pressed as to the consequences of their principles, it is on this conception of duty that they invariably fall back. Mr. Herbert Spencer, on his own behalf, expresses the position thus:

The highest truth he sees will the wise man fearlessly utter, knowing that, let what may come of it, he is thus playing his right part in the world, knowing that if he can effect the change [in belief] he aims at, well; if not, well also; though not so well.[1]

After what has been said already it will not be necessary to dwell long on this astonishing proposition. A short examination will suffice to show its emptiness. That a certain amount of truth in social intercourse is necessary for the continuance of society, and that a large number of scientific truths are useful in enabling us to add to our material comforts is, as Prof. Huxley would say,

  1. "First Principles," p. 123.