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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/506

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would search out the secrets of nature must humbly wait on experience, obedient to its slightest hint, is but partly true. This may be his ordinary attitude; but now and again it happens that observation and experiment are not treated as guides to be meekly followed, but as witnesses to be broken down in cross-examination. Their plain message is disbelieved, and the investigating judge does not pause until a confession in harmony with his preconceived ideas has, if possible, been wrung from their reluctant evidence.

This proceeding needs neither explanation nor defense in those cases where there is an apparent contradiction between the utterances of experience in different connections. Such contradictions must of course be reconciled, and science can not rest until the reconciliation is effected. The difficulty really arises when experience apparently says one thing and scientific instinct persists in saying another. Two such cases I have already mentioned; others will easily be found by those who care to seek. What is the origin of this instinct, and what its value; whether it be a mere prejudice to be brushed aside, or a clue which no wise man would disdain to follow, I can not now discuss. For other questions there are, not new, yet raised in an acute form by these most modern views of matter, on which I would ask your indulgent attention for yet a few moments.

That these new views diverge violently from those suggested by ordinary observation is plain enough. No scientific education is likely to make us, in our unreflective moments, regard the solid earth on which we stand, or the organized bodies with which our terrestrial fate is so intimately bound up, as consisting wholly of electric monads very sparsely scattered through the spaces which these fragments of matter are, by a violent metaphor, described as 'occupying.' Not less plain is it that an almost equal divergence is to be found between these new theories and that modification of the common-sense view of matter with which science has in the main been content to work.

What was this modification of common sense? It is roughly indicated by an old philosophic distinction drawn between what were called the 'primary' and the 'secondary' qualities of matter. The primary qualities, such as shape and mass, were supposed to possess an existence quite independent of the observer; and so far the theory agreed with common sense. The secondary qualities, on the other hand, such as warmth and color, were thought to have no such independent existence; being, indeed, no more than the resultants due to the action of the primary qualities on our organs of sense perception;—and here, no doubt, common sense and theory parted company.

You need not fear that I am going to drag you into the controversies with which this theory is historically connected. They have left abiding traces on more than one system of philosophy. They are not