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ART. III.-1. The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences. By William Whewell, D.D. J. W. Parker, 1858.

2. History of the Inductive Sciences. By William Whewell, D.D . J. W. Parker, 1858.


E are about to venture a few suggestions, not on the admirable volumes which are placed at the head of this article, nor on any particular work connected with the important question of Modern Scepticism, but on one short phrase, which is insensibly stealing into general circulation, and which seems to require considerable watchfulness and caution. They are offered for the consideration of Physical Science and Inductive Logicnot in any spirit of antagonism to them, and still less dogmatically. But the phrase itself appears not only to involve a violation of the first laws of accurate inductive reasoning, but to be charged with most perilous conclusions to Christian faith, unless it be carefully modified. This phrase is 'the Immutability of the Laws of Nature.'

In the short space to which these suggestions must be confined, it is needless to empty a common-place book to illustrate the bold and unqualified manner in which the expression too often drops, even from the lips of writers whose life and conduct emphatically protest against the charge of unbelief. They neither deduce themselves, nor wish others to deduce, the consequences which flow from it. They would shudder at the thought, that mere incaution in their language should strike a death-blow at the Christian belief of the age. But incautious language is the dry rot of the world. The historians and philosophers of physical science remind us in every page of the power of words, mere words-warn us how they necessarily contain the sporules of mighty principles, how they give to those principles wings to fly, and filaments to root them in the earth, and a power of propagation able to cover the whole field of truth with the most noxious weeds, so that when once their hold is taken, it is almost hopeless to eradicate ther The language of Physical as of Moral Science is its vehicle, the body without which its mind cannot act. And our present object is to implore caution, only caution; the caution prescribed and commanded by its own Logic of Induction, rigidly confining statements of facts to actual experience, and refraining from any admixture with these of assumption, or hypothesis, in the employment of one phrase, the Immutability of the Laws of Nature.

Newton himself has set us the example. That great and glorious intellect has given the same warning, has supplied all the qualifications required to neutralise the fatal mischief involved

in those incautious words 'Immutability of Nature.' And we plead for nothing else

'Deum esse ens summe perfectum concedunt omnes. Entis autem summe perfecti Idea est, ut sit substantia una, simplex, indivisibilis, viva et vivifica, ubique semper necessario existens, summe intelligens omnia, libere volens bona, voluntate efficiens possibilia, effectibus nobilioribus similitudinem propriam, quantum fieri potest, communicans, omnia in se continens, tamquam eorum principium et locus, omnia per præsentiam substantialem cernens et regens, et cum rebus omnibus, secundum leges accuratas, ut naturæ totius fundamentum et causa, constanter cooperans, nisi ubi aliter agere bonum est.' *

These are the words of Newton, in the seeming outline of his celebrated Scholium-'Secundum leges accuratas constanter cooperans, nisi ubi aliter agere bonum est'-God acting in what is called Nature according to accurate and uniform laws, except when it be good for him to act otherwise. This last clause secures all. Nothing else is wanted. The words involve no compromise, sacrifice no truth, pledge science to nothing beyond the range of its own province, offer no difficulty. But they effectually cut off the train of mischief, which in the popular mind is ready laid from the Immutability of Nature to practical Atheism. And, therefore, we will endeavour at present to take that simple but most perilous phrase 'the Immutability of the Laws of Nature,' and to place it in the crucible, and under the microscope of strict Inductive Logic-that Logic whose nobleness and potency is centred in a rigid discrimination of experience from imagination, of external facts from internal theories; and in a scrupulous integrity and accuracy when registering its own observations. Not to exceed, and not to fall short of facts; not to add, and not to take away; to state the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, are the grand, the vital maxims of Inductive Science, of English Law, and let us add of Christian Faith. If there is insensibly stealing into circulation and acceptance an inaccurate phrase, which tends to violate in every word this fundamental law of inductive logic, it surely should be called in and recoined.. This is all we ask.

And we ask it of those great men, in whose hands the empire of science is now vested, and who possess the control over its language. They are not, like German Rationalists, little likely to carry weight and influence with an English mind. Their authority and therefore their responsibility is enormous. every period of society there spring up classes of minds, besides that class which Divine Providence has especially appointed to


* Sir D. Brewster's Life of Newton, p. 154, vol. ii. Vol. 110.-No. 220. 2 B


teach and guide mankind-prophets as well as priests. And at this day in this country the men who are insensibly rising up to this elevation and power are the men of science. They have given to England wealth and power. They have wrought their miracles before our eyes. Those miracles have been, and are at this day associated, in so many of the noblest characters, with deep and true religion. The practical, honest, truthful character of the inductive intellect offers such an affinity with the best elements of the English mind. We can trust them, have faith in them. Their witness, when it has been given to our religious belief, is therefore so cherished, so precious. We owe to them not merely reverence for their intellectual power, but gratitude for so much enjoyment, so much of something better than mere enjoyment. If such a man as Walter Scott won for himself a marvellous affection and influence merely by ministering to the pleasures of our fancy, how much more are thoughtful minds ready to concentrate their gratitude and confidence round the sources of still more healthy, manly, and ennobling occupations of the mind? We say nothing of the strides by which physical science has advanced to a recognised elevation in social rank, in worldly advantages, in education, in wealth; nothing of the organization of its forces, of its established incorporation, and bodily appearance as it were each year in the most influential centres of our population; or of its association with foreign alliances. It is the part of a wise statesman to watch at every moment each growing influence in the body politic; to aid, to smooth, to guide to good, developments which cannot, and which ought not, to be smothered, and to ally them from their very earliest stages with all the salutary powers in the State. And so it is in the world of thought. Fear, suspicion, jealousy of science-would not this become in Christianity like fear, suspicion, jealousy of the growing wealth, and spreading power, and quickening intellect of any portion of his subjects in the minds of a political ruler? Where must it end, but where all such jealousies have ended, in futile attempts at repression, in indignant struggles for liberty and right, in bitterness of alienation and hatred, in open hostility and rebellion, in final ruin to the hand which enchained when it ought to have set free, and suspected where it ought to have loved?

God forbid we should live to see the day which proclaimed war between Christianity and Science-a civil war, a war between brothers! Nature is one book of God, the Bible is another: its claims as such resting on grounds independent of Science, and unassailable by the evidence of Science. They cannot be at variance. Every seeming discrepancy in them must be capable


of reconciliation. In every page the Bible sends us back to Nature to read there its mysteries and laws, written only in other symbols; and Nature, when rightly read, must lead us also to the Bible. Both employ the same instruments of the intellect —faith and reason; faith by which we accumulate our facts from testimony, reason by which we deduce from those facts legitimate conclusions. Both demand the same rigid scrutiny of testimony, the same careful application of reasoning. Both have their creeds-and creeds how wondrously analogous! Both rest those creeds upon things which have been heard and seen. Both link those things with one great First Cause, the Creator of heaven and of earth; both minister to each other's wants. The closest, the most affectionate communion, mutual confidence and sympathy, joy in its spread, pride in its triumphs, ought to be the feeling of Christianity to Physical Science. And little more is needed to cement this union, to heal all wounds, to soothe all heart-burnings, than a strict and accurate enforcement of the laws of Inductive Logic, the great charter of science itself. Draw a rigid line of demarcation between fact and fancy, experience and theory. Never allow a theory of science to trespass upon a fact of Scripture, nor a theory of the interpretation of Scripture to interfere with a proved fact of Nature. Wherever a difference arises, scrutinise its terms; see if it does not emerge exclusively in the region of theory, not of fact; in some hypothesis, or assumption, or inference of man, not either in the real Word, or the real Work of the Creator; and we may preserve both peace and freedom. Here lies our hope and comfort even in the present uneasiness and seeming estrangement of Christianity and Science. And this is the spirit in which we would approach, and ask others to approach the question-What modification is required by the strict laws of Inductive Logic in the assertion of the 'immutability of the laws of nature,' so that with this modification will vanish all the difficulties of Science in regard to the miracles of Christianity?

First, then, we implore Science to weigh well, to scrutinize carefully that word, which it so boldly uses-law. It is a metaphor, a figure of speech, a very dangerous quicksand to discover under the foundations of any system of induction; and it involves a false analogy, patent on the surface, and acknowledged by science itself. And on that false analogy there rests the whole objection to a miracle. With our idea of law are naturally associated the relations of a moral governor to a moral agent. The law is supposed to be capable of being deposited in the mind of that agent, yet leaving him also capable of either obeying or disobeying; while the essential condition of this operation is, 2 B 2 that

that the moral governor himself should withdraw as it were from the field of action, and only look on, or return to award the penalty or the reward, according to the conduct. The enunciation of the law once for all, its possible retention in the mind of the subject, its prophetic character, pledging futurity, the withdrawal of the lawgiver, the rigid and undeviating enforcement of the penalty, the incompetency or peril of any subsequent interference to suspend or overrule the law, all these are necessary conditions of the moral government and education of man, from which we infer our idea of law. Where is anything like this to be found, when we substitute for the subjects of the lawgiver dead matter in place of moral agents? It is not possible to conceive in such a relation even the enunciation of a law, the proclamation of any prospective will, to creatures without ears to hear, or memories to retain. We do indeed observe certain sequences or conjunctions in the phenomena of nature, which do recur with a certain regularity. We are compelled by one of the primary and essential conditions of our intellect to trace up such conjunctions to a cause, and ultimately to an unseen cause; and all our observations incline us irresistibly to attribute to that unseen cause unity, and will, and intellect, not to speak of other attributes, just as we assign certain human operations to similar principles in the human mind. But here we are stopped. This is all. These sequences, and conjunctions, and concomitances are effected by the will of the Creator. In the words of Augustine, 'Dei Voluntas rerum natura est.' We know no more. All beyond-all those parasitical associations of a prospective rule laid down from the beginning, of a futurity pledged for its continuance, of the withdrawal of the Creator from his creation, leaving it to be governed by his laws and not by his immediate will all that metamorphosis of an actual regularity into a pledged and promised immutability, and therefore all those objections to miraculous interposition drawn from the inconsistency of variability in moral laws with invariability in the moral all vanish. Dei Voluntas rerum natura.' The governor, will of God is the cause of nature. This is all we know; all beyond is fiction, imagination, motes which have swept across the field of our telescope, as we watched the stars, and which we magnified into meteors and planets; and founded on them a theory of the universe, and a theory which would banish man from his God, and God from His own world. Abandon the word law, and the motes will vanish too: substitute for it only such a word as expresses a very general recurrence of facts attributable to the will of the Creator, and the work is nearly accomplished of reconciling Christianity with Science.



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