« PreviousContinue »
present to us causes and effects under the most abstract conditions of magnitude and number, time and space, it is so impossible for us to do more than suspect and imagine that a similar cause produces a similar effect; rather to divine, and augur, to guess, and hope in faith, and not by reason; and assume, with a strong moral probability, rather than prove logically, that it is so; how much more must this be the case when we have to deal with more complicated constructions and untraceable combinations of elements, influences, and conditions in other sciences!
Science must forgive the seeming over-refinement, the unreasonable scrupulosity of such scrutinies into its grandest assertions. There is no thought of disputing the Newtonian system, of slighting astronomical discoveries, of impugning their accuracy as sufficient for all practical purposes, and as exhibiting the noblest examples and proudest triumphs of the human intellect. Only let the immutability and universality of the agencies of nature be reduced to the real limits fixed by actual experience (when all difficulty in the admission of miracles will cease), and maintain them as you like. It is only when an exaggerated statement of science would drive the presence of the Divine Creator from His own creation, that another science besides that of matter must defend its own. It would be but a miserable bargain to purchase the discovery of a universe of Neptunes by the banishment of man from his God.
But then Science will turn to that axiom upon which, after all, the cogency of induction must rest. From the human mind, not from outward experience, as Dr. Whewell so wisely reiterates, we must derive the idea that 'similar causes will produce similar effects. Our belief in the universality and immutability of the operations of nature must rest ultimately upon this internal instinct. Trace that belief, with Hume, to custom; or with others to association; or with others to a separate principle in the human mind; call it the generalizing principle, or the inductive principle: whatever account we give of it, this only, and not experience, can be our authority for assuming the continuity and stability of nature. And if it be a law of mind, a law like our moral principles, so stamped upon our being as to bear the marks of a revelation from God, then upon our faith in the veracity of God, upon our conviction that He would never engrave ineffaceably and unalterably upon the tables of our hearts and souls anything but truths (in one word, after all, upon faith, and
system, they were under the greatest difficulty how to break it to Sir Isaac, and so proceeded to do so by degrees in the softest manner.' What was his only answer? It may be so there is no arguing against facts and experiments.'See Rigaud's Life of Bradley,' p. 62.
not on proof), we may found our science of induction. But is it so stamped by God? Is it more than an instinct, a tendency, an impulse, requiring, like so many other tendencies of our nature, to be narrowly watched, balanced, and corrected by opposite tendencies? All our sins and vices may be traced up to tendencies and principles, all implanted in our being by nature, but not, therefore, to be blindly followed without control or qualification. Are we yet sufficiently acquainted with the nature of this principle to decide this question?. Are there not obvious marks, which class it rather with our instincts than with our reason—with imperfect impulses of our compound nature, rather than with absolute revelations from God? We can break its links. We cannot believe gratitude to be a sin, or falsehood meritorious; but we can imagine and believe in the existence of a world, where all the combinations of nature may be totally different from our present experience. The connexion between death and the swallowing of arsenic is of a totally different kind from that between injustice and the punishable character of injustice. No one would affirm of moral truths, as Science affirms of material causes and effects, that our knowledge of them rests wholly upon experience.
That the principle has been so little studied, is so little understood, would suffice to warn us against asserting at once its Divine authority and sanction for the universal immutability of Nature. It would seem partly to be a result of the mechanical association of ideas, by which the mind spontaneously and unconsciously recalls and suggests combinations once observed, forming thus our memory, our habits, our character, our pleasures, our imagination, and a very large proportion of our practical reasoning. But every step we take in life compels us to keep this associating tendency under the strictest control, to regard it as a hundred other tendencies in our nature necessary to existence -valuable as a prompter-but never to be trusted without the check of a rigid experience. Or it may be also, and probably is, only an operation of that so-called unific principle, which is the first and most essential law of our intellect, by which we are impelled to reduce all that we see and hear to unity-to reduce disorder to a plan, anomalies to regularity, chance coincidences to system, phenomena to generalisation, varieties to classification, everything to unity. And this also is an universal principle in human nature more or less vigorously developed, and implanted by the hand of man's Creator. But indulge this also blindly and without self-control, and what is the result? What has been the history of science, not to speak of the world of morals, and the world of art, or the oscillations of political society, or the perver
sions of religious truth-what has been the history of Science herself but one series of warnings and protests against the aberration of the human intellect, when surrendered to the uncontrolled extravagance of this its fundamental law? Theory rising upon theory to crumble one upon the other into dust, partial inductions, hasty, narrow-minded views, fanciful speculations substituted for facts, half-truths, crude hypotheses, all the varied monstrous forms of intellectual idolatry which Bacon has denounced. Has not the history of science been an inheritance and propagation of these miseries flowing from a rash, unqualified surrender of the human reason to its so-called unific principle uncontrolled by experience -that is by belief in testimony, that is by faith? Is it not the perfection of the scientific reason, while it possesses this unific principle in the highest vigour, unwearied in its analysis of phenomena, stubborn in its demand for satisfaction, fertile in conceptions of new hypotheses to satisfy its craving for analogy and unity in all which it perceives, yet still to listen docilely and submissively to every new anomaly and marvel which due testimony brings before it, even though in Brewster's words of wisdom 'it may put our own views to the torture;'* and to hold both theory and facts suspended together in the mind, until either is certainly disproved, or the anomaly is resolved into the law?
Is there a single principle or movement in the human mind, which is not provided, as it were, with its fly-wheel to regulate it? And is not faith or belief in testimony the fly-wheel to the unific tendency, which, without it, must at every moment sacrifice experience to theory, reality to fancy, truth to falsehood, science to speculation?
There is, then, no internal authority for the Divine infallibility of the great principle of induction that similar causes produce similar effects, such as to erect it into a necessary axiom. It requires at every step to be kept in check by experience, by faith in testimony.
And Science also must remember the necessary conditions of its employment. And these conditions alone preclude the possibility of applying any argument whatever of Inductive Science to the case of miracles. They strike Science dumb. The cases must be precisely similar; with any new ingredient or altered feature the reasoning is lost.
First, then, in a progressive scheme such as Creation is allowed to be, it is impossible to argue absolutely from any one portion of it to another, because the different places, which the two portions occupy in the scale or chain, present an essential difference. The
*Life of Newton, vol. i. p. 91.
absence of miracles at one period cannot be applied to infer their absence in another, any more than the absence of white hairs in the child, the boy, the youth, and the adult, would render the fact incredible in a man of eighty. The two cases are not the same, they never can be the same.
Secondly, as Bishop Butler has warned us already, if we are to argue by analogy for the exclusion of miracles from the whole of a created system, we must have before us a previous instance of another whole creation with which to compare it. Where is the other creation precisely similar to this in which we live, from which we know by experience that miracles have been excluded?
And, thirdly, even if we did possess such a previous instance, may it not be true that no argument of analogy could be legitimately drawn from a mere negation-that we can no more build up an inductive reasoning upon a non-experience than a syllogism upon negative premises?
It is something to have advanced thus far-to have seen that legitimate inductive science has absolutely no experience—no induction with which to encounter miracles. But, before we close, let us advance one step farther. Has it not a vast amount of experience to confirm them? Would not the true inductive philosopher, thoroughly conversant with the whole range of nature, alive to the snares of his own imagination, and honestly observant of facts, even expect them-even prophesy them? What is his stumbling-block? It is his assumption-his arbitrary assumption -of the idea of unity as the formula of creation. It is the supposed strict, absolute unity of the creation, of its Creator, and of His laws, which is the principle, from which flows the dread of miracles, of anything which disturbs the seeming uniformity and permanence of the creation. But does creation, does experience present to us this principle alone as the type on which it has been moulded? With unity is combined essentially and inseparably at every step the very opposite principle of multitude. Those thousands upon thousands of years which geology claims for its æons, those unimaginable depths of ather, before which we can only count by millions, till calculation fails-what are these, what are duration and extension in themselves, but ideas, not of unity alone, but of unity held in combination with infinite multitude?
More than this, there is an absolute, discrete multitude meeting us at every turn, forced upon us-intruded on us—as if to warn us at every step against the seduction of mere unity. That biune polarity in elementary atoms-that numerical combination of their groups-those organized infusoria-that streak of light in the heavens resolving itself into myriads of orbs-those millions upon millions of organic life, which the sea, the grass, the very
rocks compel us to acknowledge-that feathered dust on the insect's wing-those thousand lenses in a single eye-those thousand fibres in one hair-those thousand plates on a single scale of shell-those thousand cells in the skin's tissue-that countless unfathomable sheathing of germ within germ, embryo within embryo, in the wombs of life-that infinite division and subdivision of the molecules of matter, vanishing at last into mathematical points-surely, surely a theory of simple unity cannot solve the mysteries of a creation, in which its very opposite principle is also so legibly and universally revealed.
More than this, there is variety-variety so varied, and yet so combined with unity of type, that half the task of science is to classify; that is, to arrange and digest, not on the principle of unity alone, but of similarity and of difference combined.
Once more, there is diversity-diversity so diverse as, for instance, in the animal and vegetable kingdom, that, to a superficial eye, resemblance is lost. And yet the eye of science detects beyond the surface the principle of unity in a thousand analogies and harmonies.
But more than this, there is opposition-opposition never severed from harmony, yet still opposition-opposition of motions in the heavens, opposition of action and reaction in the mechanical forces, opposition of life and death, of energy and repose, of attraction and repulsion, of growth and decay, of regularity and disturbance; of uniformity and catastrophes, equilibrium and oscillations; and the profoundest speculators of physical science are in every province compelled at last to resolve their disputations and their doubts into formulæ, not limited to one of these poles, but embracing them, harmonising them both in inseparable conjunction. Is it not the truth? Is it not so entirely the truth, that the mind which more than any other of this day has embraced the whole range of science, concludes his survey with the question, which his Christian as well as his Platonic philosophy might have suggested, and will assuredly confirm; and which, perhaps, contains the clue to all the problems of the world, Is not the universe pervaded by an omnipresent antagonism, a fundamental conjunction of contraries, everywhere opposite, nowhere independent?'* May not occasional deviations be a necessary complement to a law of general uniformity ? †
*Whewell, Nov. Org. Renov.,' p. 250.
Here would fall in the important question, whether in every theory of creation, no less than in the Mosaic, let that theory be one of successive production, or of fluxional development, it is possible to conceive the present state of existence, without a continued and repeated interposition of the Creator with