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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/303

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THE THEORY OF MOLECULES.

in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time.

Each molecule, therefore, throughout the universe, bears impressed on it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives of Paris, or the double royal cubit of the Temple of Karnac.

No theory of evolution can be formed to account for the similarity of molecules, for evolution necessarily implies continuous change, and the molecule is incapable of growth or decay, of generation or destruction.

None of the processes of Nature, since the time when Nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule. We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of the molecules, or the identity of their properties, to the operation of any of the causes which we call natural.

On the other hand, the exact equality of each molecule to all others of the same kind gives it, as Sir John Herschel has well said, the essential character of a manufactured article, and precludes the idea of its being eternal and self-existent.

Thus we have been led, along a strictly scientific path, very near to the point at which Science must stop. Not that Science is debarred from studying the internal mechanism of a molecule which she cannot take to pieces, any more than from investigating an organism which she cannot put together. But, in tracing back the history of matter, Science is arrested when she assures herself, on the one hand, that the molecule has been made, and on the other that it has not been made by any of the processes we call natural.

Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created.

It is only when we contemplate, not matter in itself, but the form in which it actually exists, that our mind finds something on which it can lay hold.

That matter, as such, should have certain fundamental properties—that it should exist in space and be capable of motion, that its motion should be persistent, and so on, are truths which may, for any thing we know, be of the kind which metaphysicians call necessary. We may use our knowledge of such truths for purposes of deduction, but we have no data for speculating as to their origin.

But that there should be exactly so much matter and no more in every molecule of hydrogen is a fact of a very different order. We have here a particular distribution of matter—a collocation—to use the expression of Dr. Chalmers, of things which we have no difficulty in imagining to have been arranged otherwise.

The form and dimensions of the orbits of the planets, for instance,