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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/366

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Ward implies that he knows all about it; while I, on the other hand, am sure that I know nothing about it.

 

And now, passing to my essential purpose, let me exemplify Professor Ward's controversial method. Specifying an hypothesis of the late Dr. Croll (who, he thinks, had "incomparably more right to an opinion on the question" than I have), he says, that it "at least recognizes a problem with which Mr. Spencer scarcely attempts to deal—I mean the evolution of the chemical elements. It thus suffices to convict Mr. Spencer's work of a certain incompleteness" (i., 190). Apparently the words "scarcely attempts" refer to a passage in the above-named essay, "Mr. Martineau on Evolution," where several reasons are given for thinking that the "so-called elements arise by compounding and recompounding." More than this has been done, however. The evolution of the elements, if not systematically dealt with within the limits of the Synthetic Philosophy, has not been ignored. In an essay on "The Nebular Hypothesis" (Essays, i., pp. 156-9), it is argued, that "the general law of evolution, if it does not actually involve the conclusion that the so-called elements are compounds, yet affords a priori ground for suspecting that they are such"; and five groups of traits are enumerated which support the belief that they originated by a process of evolution like that everywhere going on. But the point I here chiefly emphasize is that, having reflected upon me for omitting two volumes, Professor Ward again reflects upon me for having omitted something which one of these volumes would have contained. "Sir, you have neglected to build that house which was wanted! Moreover, you have not supplied the stairs!"

From a sin of omission let us pass to a sin of commission. Professor Ward quotes from me the sentence—"The absolutely homogeneous must lose its equilibrium; and the relatively homogeneous must lapse into the relatively less homogeneous."—First Principles, p. 429). Then presently he writes:—

"In truth, however, homogeneity is not necessarily instability. Quite otherwise. If the homogeneity be absolute—that of Lord Kelvin's primordial medium, say—the stability will be absolute too. In other words, if 'the indefinite, incoherent homogeneity,' in which, according to Mr. Spencer, some rearrangement must result, be a state devoid of all qualitative diversity and without assignable bounds, then, as we saw in discussing mechanical ideals, any 'rearrangement' can result only from external interference; it can not begin from within" (i., 223).

And then he goes on to argue that "Thus, the very first step in Mr. Spencer's evolution seems to necessitate a breach of continuity. This fatal defect, &c." (ibid.).