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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/369

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355
"NATURALISM AND AGNOSTICISM."

cited in disproof of his astronomical beliefs at large. It would be held that so undecided a phrase as "saw reason to think," not implying a definite deduction, did not implicate his general conceptions nor appreciably discredit them. Professor Ward, however, thinks a tentative opinion is equivalent to a positive assertion. In the course of the foregoing argument (p. 191) he represents me as saying that "there is an alternation of evolution and dissolution in the totality of things." He does not quote the whole clause, which runs thus:—"For if, as we saw reason to think, there is an alternation of evolution and dissolution in the totality of things, &c." Here, then, are two qualifying expressions which he suppresses; and not only does he here suppress them, but elsewhere he refers to this passage as not speculative, but quite positive. On p. 197 he says:—

"But of a single supreme evolution embracing them all we have no title to speak: not even to assume that it is, much less to say what it is; least of all to affirm confidently that it can be embraced in such a meaningless formula as the integration of matter and the dissipation of motion." [The italics are mine.]

So that a hypothetical inference (implied by "if"), drawn from avowedly uncertain data (implied by "reason to think"), he transforms into an unhesitating assertion. He does this in presence of my statement that respecting transformations of the Universe as a whole, no "legitimate conclusions" can be drawn, and that we must be forever "without answer to this transcendent question." Nay, he does it in presence of a still more specific repudiation of certainty. Section 182 begins:—

"But of a single supreme evolution embracing them all we have no title to speak: not even to assume that it is, much less to say what it is; least of all to affirm confidently that it can be embraced in such a meaningless formula as the integration of matter and the dissipation of motion." [The italics are mine.]

"Here we come to the question raised at the close of the last chapter—does Evolution as a whole, like Evolution in detail, advance toward complete quiescence? Is that motionless state called death, which ends Evolution in organic bodies, typical of the universal death in which Evolution at large must end?…

"To so speculative an inquiry, none but a speculative answer is to be expected. Such answer as may be ventured, must be taken less as a positive answer than as a demurrer to the conclusion that the proximate result must be the ultimate result" (p. 529). Instead of being a positive answer, it is intended to exclude a positive answer.

One more instance may be given to illustrate Professor Ward's mode of discrediting views which he dislikes. On p. 198 of his first volume occurs the sentence—

"At any rate such a conception is less conjectural and more adequate than Mr. Spencer's ridiculous comparison of the universe to a spinning top that begins by 'wabbling.' passes into a state of steady motion or equilibrium mobile, and finally comes to rest."

The reader who seeks a warrant for this representation will seek in vain. If, in the chapter of First Principles on "Equilibration," he