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THE POWER OF GOD IN NATURE-continued.
" that combination of Natural Forces which we call Life.”
PROF. HUXLEY. The Life of Man essentially consists in the manifestation of Forces of various kinds of which his organism is the instrument.”
DR. WM, B, CARPENTER.
This is not a treatise on physics or natural history, and we shall not attempt to teach what may be much better learned from the works of our leading writers on these subjects. All we can do here is to re-state in such language as will be comprehensible to non-scientific readers, and in the form best adapted for our argument, a few of the leading facts relative to the modifications of that influence which we may now call the Power of God acting in nature; and more especially its phases which are admittedly linked with one another in an unbroken chain.
If physical force be distinct from and external to matter, it not only operates upon masses, but also upon the minutest particles into which matter is believed to be divisible. When it acts upon and between masses, as for example the celestial bodies, it is known as the attraction of gravitation, or as centrifugal force; when upon smaller masses or upon particles it is called cohesion, aggregation, magnetic attraction, &c. (though the last-named method of Divine action is but little understood). When it agitates molecules of matter causing them to oscillate, or in certain conditions to aggre
gate or separate from one another, it is variously known as heat, sound, electricity, actinism, and chemical activity. If the operation of the power known as chemical force, has a tendency to split up already formed substances into their elementary parts, it is called analytical force; but if on the other hand its effect is to build up such substances from the constituent particles, it is called synthetical. And if our authorities concerning the nature of the prime force be correct, then it follows that in whatever quantities, or under whatever circumstance we see, hear, feel, or think of matter, it must necessarily be under the influence of one or other of these phases of force; for the two entities, as we have seen, are always inseparably associated.
Now all the revelations of science, whether they have been made with the microscope, the telescope, or the spectroscope (which has rendered us in some small degree familiar with the physical constitution of the heavenly bodies), or by the unaided sense, or with the help of visible or invisible reagents as in chemistry; all tend to show that not only is physical force all-pervading or omnipresent, but that it acts upon the different forms of matter in an invariable sequence, with unerring certainty, or as it is called
according to law.” The order in which the forces operate, or the law which governs their action, will be found to be perfect for the attainment of certain ends, namely, the equilibrium, protection, preservation, and development of the universe; and to advance a step in our argument, for the adaptation of inorganic nature to biological conditions. To speak popularly, the physical forces of the Almighty have fitted and are adapting the unconscious worlds to receive and support organised existences; plants, animals, and the
highest of all animals, Man, on this earth, and it may be his equivalent or superior in other spheres.
To return to the simplest manifestation of force, motion. The power which propels the cannon-ball through the air was derived from another force which was previously active in the particles of gunpowder, and when the ball is suddenly checked by the target or ship's side against which it is launched, the force does not die, is not annihilated, but entering with inconceivable rapidity into the closely-packed material of the iron-plate, and returning into the substance of the ball itself, it there under the designation of heat causes the particles to oscillate and the whole to glow again, until freeing itself once more, it finds in the external air a less restricted sphere of action. Nor does this everactive, ever-changing Power in nature confine its operation to inanimate objects, and to the construction and destruction of what we call inorganic substances, but it presents itself to our notice as the quickening agency known as “ vital power,” or “vitality,” which is now recognised by the best scientific authorities, to be only another and a higher modification of physical force.
No new fact in science has been proclaimed amidst such an outcry from pietists as this one.
“ What!” they exclaim, “would you rob us of the most precious gift of the Almighty; of the breath of life which he breathed into the body of Adam when he made him a living soul? Would you degrade this heavenly attribute to a level with the brute forces of nature ?” But if there be anything in these exclamations, for they are nothing more, they simply remind us that He also breathed his life into every other living thing, for so far as all vital influences are concerned
they are literally the same in the lower animals as in Man, and unless the materialistic view of the ruling Power in the universe is to be accepted, He still continues to breathe the breath of life (to use the old expression figuratively) not only into Man, but into every vitalised type of existence as it is born into the world. But we are not now dealing with the traditional or emotional aspects of the Creator, and it is our business to explain to those who have not followed the experiments and observations of scientific men, why the term “vitality” is rapidly losing its old signification, and is giving place to another yet unnamed and imperfectly understood modification of the physical forces. It was already stated in the last chapter that formerly the physical force incorrectly designated “motion,” was supposed to be totally distinct from that called “heat”; which was itself believed to be specifically different from “light," and so on, until by the researches of men of science, amongst whom Grove was the most conspicuous, it was shown that all those forces are but modifications of one prime force, and that they are all correlated or convertible.* So we have treatises on 'Heat a mode of motion,'t where it is shown that the force “ Heat” is not a different force from
Light,” but that it is the same force modified as it operates upon varying forms of matter. So without professing to enter into details, or to speak with scientific accuracy concerning the changes which take place in physical force acting under different conditions, it may be safely affirmed, that instead of there being many distinct forces, as “motion," " light,” “ heat," "sound,” &c., those are all so inti
* Grove, 'On the Correlation of Physical Forces.' Longmans. + Tyndall; also similar works by Balfour Stewart and others.
mately correlated as to justify us in calling them One Power acting variously upon different conditions of matter.
And so, too, a great many of the natural operations of organised forms of existence were, until recently, believed to be performed under a mysterious influence called “vitality,” a special quality supposed to appertain to plants and animals, as contradistinguished from the merely physical properties of minerals and other so-called inorganic substances, and the duration of that influence was called the “life” of the plant or animal; its cessation, death. But before even the correlation or convertibility of the physical forces was fully established, the students of living types had their attention drawn to the fact that relations similar to those which were found to exist amongst the physical forces, also present themselves between those forces and what had until then been known as “vital power," or
vitality.” No sooner was the identity of physical and vital force suspected, than numerous students of biology set themselves to work, to trace out and follow the chain by which the two sets of forces are interlinked, foremost amongst them being Dr. W. B. Carpenter, and the result of the joint researches of physicists, chemists, and biologists has been as follows: All the processes by which plants and animals are generated, developed, and supported, as well as their mechanical motions, when they possess any, are due to the action of physical forces, just as a crystal is a purely physical formation. The stomach is a laboratory, or more properly it is part of a machine into which the raw material is mechanically forced, which is to be converted into “living” tissue. The animal thus supplied constitutes the entire machine, and if we follow the raw material, food, in its progress through