Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/156

This page has been validated.

What perplexity does the thought, coupled with the facts, bring into the mind! But if these aborted ovules are reminiscences of an earlier age, and an acorn less differentiated from the general type of the ovary, the oak becomes intelligible. And in this light of evolution all aborted organs, all rudimental organs, all floral eccentricities, become intelligible. Botany itself ceases to be a toy, and commands the attention of such imperial minds as those of Spencer and Mill. Her boundaries are enlarged. The plant does not stand apart, the result of a single antecedent. It represents the action of countless forces through countless ages. It almost justifies Tennyson's apostrophe;

"Flower in the crannied wall,

I pluck you out of the crannies—
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is."



IN the British Quarterly Review for January, 1874, the writer of the article to which I formerly replied,[1] makes a rejoinder. It is of the kind which might have been anticipated. There are men to whom the discovery that they have done injustice is painful. After proof of having wrongly ascribed to another such a nonsensical belief as that insensible motion is heat because heat is insensible motion, some would express regret. Not so my reviewer. Having by forced interpretations debited me with an absurdity, he makes no apology; but, with an air implying that he had all along done this, he attacks the allegation I had really made—an allegation which is at least so far from an absurdity, that he describes it only as not justified by "the present state of science." And here, having incidentally referred to this point, I may as well, before proceeding, deal with his substituted charge at the same time that I further exemplify his method. Probably, most of those who see the British Quarterly will be favorably impressed by the confidence of his assertion; but those who compare my statement with his travesty of it, and who compare both with some authoritative exposition, will be otherwise impressed. To his statement that I conclude "that friction must ultimately transform all [the italics are his] the energy of a sound into heat," I reply that it is glaringly untrue: I have named friction as a second cause. And when he pooh-poohs the effect of compression because it is "merely momentary," is

  1. See Popular Science Monthly for March, 1874.