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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/367

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"NATURALISM AND AGNOSTICISM."

Observe the words "without assignable bounds"—without knowable limits, infinite. So that the law of the instability of the homogeneous is disposed of because it does not apply to an infinite homogeneous medium. But since infinity is inconceivable by us, this alleged case of stable homogeneity is inconceivable too. Hence the proposal is to shelve the law displayed in all things we know, because it is inapplicable to a hypothetical thing we can not know, and can not even conceive! Now let me turn to the essential point. This nominally-exceptional case was fully recognized by me in the chapter he is criticising. In § 155 of First Principles (p. 429), it is written:—

"One stable homogeneity only, is hypothetically possible. If centers of force, absolutely uniform in their powers, were diffused with absolute uniformity through unlimited space, they would remain in equilibrium. This, however, though a verbally intelligible supposition, is one that can not be represented in thought; since unlimited space is inconceivable."

So that this nominal exception which Professor Ward urges against me as a "fatal defect," was set forth by me thirty-seven years ago!

A somewhat more involved case may next be dealt with. Professor Ward writes:—

"Moreover, on the physical assumption from which Mr. Spencer sets out, viz., that the mass of the universe and the energy of the universe are fixed in quantity—which ought to mean are finite in quantity—there can be no such alternations [of evolution and dissolution] as he supposes" (i., 192).

After some two pages of argument, he goes on:—

"And so while all transformations of energy lead directly or indirectly to transformation into heat, from that transformation there is no complete return, and, therefore finally no return at all. This then is the conclusion to which Mr. Spencer's premises lead. Two eminent physicists who accept those premises may be cited at this point: 'It is absolutely certain,' they say, 'that life, so far as it is physical, depends essentially upon transformations of energy; it is also absolutely certain that age after age the possibility of such transformations is becoming less and less; and, so far as we yet know, the final state of the present universe must be an aggregation (into one mass) of all the matter it contains, i.e. the potential energy gone, and a practically useless state of kinetic energy, i.e. uniform temperature throughout that mass.… The present visible universe began in time and will in time come to an end'" (p. 194).

Mark now, however, that this opinion of "two eminent physicists," quoted to disprove my position, and tacitly assumed to have validity in so far as it serves that end, is forthwith dismissed as having, for other purposes, no validity. His next paragraph runs:—

"To this conclusion we are surely led from such premises. But again I ask what warrant is there for the premises? Our experience certainly does not embrace the totality of things, is, in fact, ridiculously far from