Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/282

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Scientific Literature.

Owing to the increasing demands upon our space, authors and publishers are notified that hereafter the department of Scientific Literature, with the exception of Publications Received, will be discontinued.



The busy pen of Mr. John Fiske has produced another book marked by the qualities which the public has learned to associate with all his work—lucidity of expression, felicity of illustration, a large command of the conventional elements of literary composition, and a philosophy which, while very free and lightsome in its steps and paces, always has the luck to fetch up within easy hailing distance of a moderate orthodoxy. Mr. Fiske undertakes to conduct us on an excursion Through Nature to God[1] somewhat as Cook, of international fame, might undertake to see us safe from New York to the Holy Land. Of the two, we think Cook makes the surer thing of it; yet no one can deny that Mr. Fiske has done his best to trace the itinerary and encourage his excursionists to believe that they will "get there."

We may as well candidly confess that we have not much faith in the method followed in the work before us. The intention is to show that an analysis of Nature and of Nature's ways yields God; in other words, that we have only to carry out the processes of thought which an examination of the external world and of human history sets in motion in order to find God at the end of the argument. Thus, by searching, contrary to what Scripture has generally been held to imply, we find out both that God is and to some extent what he is. We prefer the older view. The world's greatest Teacher said simply, "God is a spirit." He did not say that this was a conclusion to which many lines of argument led. He did not hint at any kind of argument, but assumed the affirmation of God by the human consciousness. We venture to say that if Mr. Fiske's method were successful and we could argue ourselves into a belief in God, the result would be disastrous; for the God of argument, or even of analogy, is not the God of the human soul or conscience. We should have one conclusion more of science, but we should lose that for which no conclusion of science could make amends—our sense of the infinite and the possibility of faith.

Mr. Fiske discusses, in the early chapters of his book. The Mystery of Evil. He takes the familiar ground that evil is the necessary correlative, and in a manner the necessary condition, of good. We are placed in a universe that abounds in evil in order that by conquering it we may raise ourselves to a moral level otherwise impossible. On one page the author goes so far as to say that God, and not the devil, "is the creator of evil," but elsewhere he relaxes his boldness and speaks of evil being "permitted." One feels like asking. If good and evil are equally made by God, then which is which? When we speak of electricity as positive and negative we do not ascribe any superiority to one over the other. Nor do we say that centrifugal is a more commendable form of force than

  1. Through Nature to God. By John Fiske. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.