Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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widely separated from the thoughts and feelings of
which they are symbols, as thought and motion.
The wide difference in the effects indicates two dis-
tinct principles. This conclusion is confirmed by
the fact that the two have in many other respects
widely separated fields. The higher functions of
mind may be carried on without any physical
change, except in the slightest movements among
the particles of the brain. The vital operations
go on without the knowledge of the mind.


The identity of the vital and psychical might be
conceded to the materialist without yielding the
fact of our immortality. He would still have the
immense task of showing that life is a function of
matter. But we note here, in the conclusion of this
chapter, that it has not been proved that life and
mind are different activities of the same agent.
Whatever he may make out of the nature of life, as
long as this stronghold remains in his rear, he has
not shown that man is wholly from the dust and
must wholly return to it.


npHB materialist assumes the identity both of the
-*- vital and mental principle and of the vital and
physical force. Materialism is not an established
doctrine and the belief in a future life overthrown
before both assumptions are fully proven. The
defense of the faith in our personal immortality is
made good if the argument by which either is
supported is shown to be inconclusive. The pur-
pose of this chapter is to show that the facts of
biology do not prove that our existence after death
is either impossible or improbable.

The sciences may be divided into biological and
abiological. Under the biological would fall
botany, zoology, physiology, psychology, ethics,
politics, etc. Biology, in a technical sense, is that
special branch of science devoted to the investiga-
tion of the facts and laws of the elementary forms
of life. It is an inquiry into the nature of life
from its general characteristics. Biological specu-
lations are as old as philosophy, but the science
has been so materially assisted by the revelations
lO* ( 225 )


of the microscope and the achievements of chem-
istry, ihat it quite deserves a distinctive name and
rank among the natural sciences. It has brought
out many new facts, corrected many old errors,
and confirmed many former conclusions. It gives
promise of still richer results. But it has not ac-
complished all that it is often believed to have
done. The hopes of its students are too frequently
taken for realized facts. Valid conclusions do not
rest upon expectations, but established truths.

All sensible objects are divided into two great
classes variously called animate and inanimate,
organic and inorganic, living and not living. Some
scientists through fear of associated ideas have
hesitated about the names of the classes, but none
as to the classification itself of the phenomena.
The animate is distinguished from the inanimate
by certain prominent and important marks.

Iviving beings pass through cyclical changes.
Every individual, starting in a germ, advances to
maturity, then decays and dies. Bach generation,
having given existence to successors, is followed by
them in the same course. Germination, growth,
death, is the history of every living thing. The
inanimate are formed, but are not born; they decay
and disintegrate, but do not die.


Living beings are distinguished also by constant
changes through waste and repair. The molecules
by oxidation decay and are carried off, but new
material takes their places by a process called by
physiologists intussusception. Growth in living
beings is altogether different from the mere increase
in size in the inanimate. The inorganic grows by
accretion — the addition of material from without
under mechanical and chemical laws. The ani-
mate grows by assimilation, involving not only
mechanical and chemical principles but also a
factor not reducible to either.

Life cognizable by the senses is always connected
with a peculiar chemical compound known as pro-
toplasm. The chemical constituents in their defin-
ite proportions are known: carbon, hydrogen, oxy-
gen and nitrogen. But there is a principle aside
from and above these, because dead as well as
living protoplasm is known. Living beings are
distinguished from the inanimate by the peculiar
condition of protoplasm.

The difference in the phenomena implies a differ-
ence in the causes. A peculiar phenomenon must
have a peculiar source. Some modern scientists,
afraid of admitting a distinct entity, have been
perplexed about the name by which their cause


shall be known. Candolle calls it vital move-
ment; Prout, organic force; Sclimid, transmuting
cell power; Blumenbach, nisus formativus; Miiller,
vital principle; while many others, vital force.
Prof. Huxley thinks it convenient to use the words
vitality and vital force, as we do electricity and
electrical force, but pronounces the assumption of
an entity absurd. ''To speak of vitality as any-
thing but the name of a series of operations, is as
absurd as if one should speak of the horology of a
clock." * He regards living beings as machines of
great complexity, with energy supplied to them.
The existence of a peculiar force, or a force work-
ing under peculiar conditions, must be admitted,
and the whole controversy between materialists and
others turns upon the nature of that force.

Biologists have studied the phenomena in four
main directions, giving rise to the four great divis-
ions of the science: morphology, the study of the
forms of life; distribution, the existence of the var-
ious forms in different ages and countries; physi-
olog}^, the functions of the organs in the organism;
aetiology, the causes of life and its forms. Prof.
Huxley in the Bncyclopcedia Britannica has given
the most important facts having bearings upon

*Enc. Brit, Ninth Ed., Art. Biology.


philosophical questions which have been yet at-
tained in each department.

Morphologists by means of the microscope have
made very great advances in the knowledge of
living tissues. The old aphorism, "every cell is
from a cell," has been reaffirmed. All the tissues
in plants and animals are made up of cells variously
modified, and no cell arises but by separation from
a pre-existing cell. A cell generally is a spheroidal
mass of protoplasm surrounded by a cellulose
wall. It was formerly supposed to consist always
of a nucleus and wall, and was thought to be, in
this definite form, the morphological unit. Some
affirmed that this organism was the cause of life.
But the microscope has revealed the working of
the bio|Jast and the formation of the cell. The
nucleus is first, and afterwards the wall is built up.
I^ife, instead of being the result of organism, is
found to be the organizing agent. Both nucleus
and cell-wall are wanting in some cells. "For the
whole living world," says Prof. Huxley, "it re-
sults that the morphological unit — the primary and
fundamental form of life — is merely an individual
mass of protoplasm in which no further structure is
discernible; that independent living forms may
present but little advance upon this structure, and


that all the higher forms of life are aggregates of
such morphological units under diverse modifica-
tions." The cells from an original likeness pass
through stages of divergence until they take the
features of the special tissue. By a process of dif-
ferentiation the cells are changed so as to form
the great variety of structures in the living world.

Biology in the departments of distribution and
physiology has very little that is important to our
inquiry. Latitude and climate are known to be
causes of differences in living beings, but they are
not the sole causes. Places differing in longitude,
but not in latitude and climate, have greatly differ-
ent plants and animals. ^'In reference to existing
conditions, nothing can appear to be more arbitrary
and capricious than the distribution of living be-
ings..' '

Studies in physiology have brought out more
clearly the great difference between the animate
and inanimate. They have revealed the fact that
a morphological unit is also a physiological unit,
and the complex whole is but a number of physio-
logically independent cells. The life of any being
is the resultant of the activities of the units. The
threefold functions of the higher forms of being —
sustentation, generation, and correlation — are not


found in all beings or in all cells. Some of the
lower forms of life show no sympathy of part with
part. Some metamorphosed cells indicate no gen-
erative power. In some of the lowest forms of
animal life generation is by fission — a separation
of the parts, and each arising in distinct individ-
uals — and by gemmation, a throwing off of a small
part as a bud, which becomes a being like the
parent. Some plants and animals multiply both'
sexually and asexually.

Our greatest interest is in the setiological inves-
tigations. It is in its facts that we expect to find
the greatest light upon the nature of life. It is
still the doctrine of biology that life comes only
from life. As late as the seventeenth century it
was believed that life in its lowest forms might
originate spontaneously; but one investigator after
another reduced the number of supposed cases,
until the doctrine became almost universal that all
life is from life. Occasionally it has been an-
anounced that life has originated from inorganic
matter, but the experiments proved on examina-
tion to be unsatisfactory. Prof. Huxley, in differ-
ent places, has said: "The fact is that at the
present moment there is not a shadow of trust-
worthy evidence that abiogenesis does take place,


or has taken place within the period during which
life on the globe is recorded." "Of the causes
which led to the origination of living matter it
maybe said we know absolutely nothing." He
thinks, however, that it may have originated spon-
taneously, and if evolution be true it must have
done so. We are not now concerned with his be-
liefs as to possibilities, but with his knowledge of

The biologist, then, finds life in his protoplasm
that came from life, that builds wonderful struc-
tures, but escapes all his analytical processes.
What it is, and whence it came, he does not know.
He is not authorized to say that it is not an entity,
and his sneer does not make the belief in it as such

The effort has been made to reduce the vital
force to the plane of the physical forces by means
of the doctrines of the conservation of energy and
of the correlation of forces. One'^ of the interpre-
ters of modern science has said: "Vital force is
derived from the lower forces of nature; it is re-
lated to other forces much as they are related to
each other — it is correlated with chemical and
physical forces." If this be accepted as a correct

* Prof. Le Conte.


statement, we must see how it is to be under-

The inorganic world is divided into two great
classes: elements and chemical compounds. The
organic is divided also into two: plants and ani-
mals. These classes rise one above the other:
I. Elements, the lowest; 2. Chemical compounds;
3. Plants; 4. Animals. They are planes of being,
each higher resting upon those below. There are
four classes of forces corresponding to the classes
of beings. Among the elements we have gravita-
tion, giving rise to weight and the mechanical
forces. Among chemical compounds we have the
physico-chemical forces: heat, light, electricity and
chemical affinity. Heat, light and electricity were
once thought to be distinct forces, but have been
reduced by modern science to one. They are vi-
brations of ether. After that discovery, it was not
surprising to have the announcement made that
they were transmutable. But the correlation is
made to include also the mechanical forces. Prof.
Le Conte says,* "Heat, light, electricity, magnet-
ism', and mechanical force, are transmutable into
each other, back and forth." But this is not ac-
cepted as a clearly established fact by all scientists.

* Conservation of Energy. Appleton Sc. Series, p. 172.


Quatrefages points out strong objections. He
says,* "Man has always been able to exercise a
certain amount of control over the former (the
physico-chemical); he can produce heat and light
at will; but modern science cannot act upon the
second (gravitation). We can neither augment
nor diminish, reflect, nor refract, nor polarize
weight. Here there is no transmutation of force
similar to that in a machine worked by electricity
or heat."

It is important for us to observe that in what-
ever way scientists settle the dispute, they recog-
nize distinct planes of force, and that the lower
forces are carried up to the higher plane. The
law of gravitation is as fully in force among chem-
ical compounds as among elements, and it modifies
chemical affinities, as well as it is modified by them.
Gravitation and chemical force are only names of
unknown causes.

Among plants we find a new force. Gravitation
and chemical affinities are present, but there is a
new order of phenomena that must be attributed
to another cause, and it has been called by a large
majority of scientists, vital force. lyC Conte says
that any object falling by decomposition from a

* Human Species, p. 9.


higher to a lower plane generates force by which
matter is lifted into a higher. Matter falling from
chemical compounds generates force by which ele-
ments are lifted to the mineral world. He asserts
''that in all cases, vital force is produced by de-
composition." He adduces a number of facts to
illustrate and sustain his assertion. Among them,
one of the most striking is that of fermentation.
Alcoholic fermentation is decomposition. "Fer-
mentation never takes place without the presence
of the yeast plant; this plant never grows without
producing fermentation, and the rapidity of the
fermentation is in exact proporion to the rapidity
of the growth of the plant. The decomposition
of the sugar into alcohol and carbonic acid fur-
nishes the force by which the plant grows and
multiplies. The yeast plant not only assimilates
matter, but also force." But the conclusion does
not follow from these facts, that the vital force is
only transmuted chemical force. The vital force
in higher forms of life certainly allies itself with
the lower forces, and augments its own force with-
out becoming identified with them. The yeast
plant did not originate in the decomposition which
it caused, but the decomposed elements furnished
materials for its structure, and with increased
structure its power was increased.


In the animal we find a still higher form of force
called will, and in man that will takes a still higher
character. In the animal we have all the laws of
the lower carried up. We have gravitation and
chemical affinities and vital force in co-operation
with the higher power. The animal feeds upon
the vegetable, and the vegetable feeds upon the
chemical compounds. There is dependence, but
at the same time a sphere of independence. The
falling of vegetable or animal tissues furnishes
material for the vital force. The forces sent up
may be incorporated with the new animal tissues,
and these become new instruments for the vital
force, without the lower forces becoming vital
force itself The eye is a living organ, but it may
be greatly aided by the lens. The living force
avails itself of the mechanical powers of the eye as
it does of the lens, but it is itself not transmutable
into either. The lower forces are lifted up to be-
come instrumentalities of the vital force without
being changed into it. Prof Balfour Stewart, in
the concluding chapter of his ''Conservation of
Energy,'' discusses the position of life among the
forces of the world. He says: ^ ''That mysterious
thing called life, about the nature of which we

* Conservation of Energy. Appleton, p. 161.


know so little, is probably not unlike the com-
mander of an army in a well-guarded room, from
which telegraphic wires lead to the various divi-
sions. Life is not a bully, who swaggers out into
the open universe, upsetting the laws of energy in
all directions, but rather a consummate strategist,
who, sitting in his secrect chamber before his
wires, directs the movements of his great army."

Prof. Le Conte admits that the change from one
grade of force to another is, so far as we can see,
not gradual but sudden. "The groups of phenom-
ena which we call physical, chemical, vital, animal,
rational, and moral, do not merge into each other
by insensible degrees. In the ascensive scale of
forces, in the evolution of the higher forces from
the lower, there are places of rapid paroxysmal
change. ' ' * There is a greater gap between the
vegetable and those below and also between the
animal and the vegetable, than between the me-
chanical and chemical. If the mechanical and
chemical are transmutable, it does not follow even
by analogy that they are transmutable with the

If life is derived from the lower plane, and is
correlated with the physical and chemical forces,

* Conservation of Energy, p. 195.


they ought to be transmutable into each other back
and forth. If this can be done at all, it is under
the most peculiar conditions. Life comes only
from life. Physical and chemical forces are never
transmuted into the vital ''unless living matter is
then and there present." The correlation is cer-
tainly not the same as in other cases. That con-
dition leaves a grave doubt as to the fact of cor-
relation. When matter is decomposed there is
nothing lost to the sum of matter — it only appears
in other forms. When chemical compounds are
broken up, there is no loss of force. But when
living matter dies, all the physical and chemical
elements remain embodied in the dead frame, until
little by little it is decomposed. What is gone?
Prof Le Conte confesses that there is something here
which science does not understand. Life does not
appear to be transmuted back to the forces of nature.
Prof. Balfour Stewart wrote these significant
words:* "We do not pretend to have discovered
the true nature of life itself, or even the true nature
of its relation to the material universe." "We
have not succeeded in solving the problem as, to
the true nature of life, but have only driven the
difficulty into a borderland of thick darkness, into

* Conservation of Energy, p. 163.


which the light of knowledge has not been able to

Materialism, therefore, fails to show that life is
material, and that the soul must perish with the
physical organism.


THERE are two series of phenomena in life, dis-
tinguished by two distinct names. The differ-
ence is so great that it has attracted the notice of
men from the earliest ages. We unify the one
under the name mind, and the other under that of
body. Dualist and monist, materialist and idealist,
dogmatist and agnostic, all agree in using these
terms. It is one of the great problems of philos-
ophy to determine the relation between the two.

The positivist denies the possibility of the solu-
tion. He limits knowledge to the relations be-
tween phenomena under necessary laws. We
learn laws and forecast the future of the individual
in his freest actions, but of being in itself we can-
not know anything. As long as the positivist is
true to his principles, he cannot determine whether
the mind and body are distinct entities or not.
Knowing nothing of their nature, he is incompetent
to decide upon their relations to each other.

We do not know substance aside from qualities.
There may be a "thing in itself," a thing without



qualities, but we know absolutely nothing about it,
and so far as our conscious life extends it is non-
existent. But we do know being through its
qualities. We know the being in the qualities.
We know each thing so far as we know its qualities.
Qualities without being are pure abstractions.
They have no objective existence whatever. The
only logical result from the Kantian doctrine of
phenomena is Fichtean idealism. We are con-
stantly dealing with being, not with abstraction,
lyife is a reality, not a dream. Positivism, con-
tradicting our commonest experience, cannot give
a satisfactory philosophy of life.

The Monist denies a direct relation between
mind and body, but finds a relation in some ulter-
ior substance which is neither matter nor spirit.
The two sets of properties are the two sides of that
substance. It is a double-faced unity. Mind can-
not influence body, nor.body mind, except through
the relation which each sustains to that one sub-

We know nothing confessedly about that sub-
stance. We may call it God or Nature, but it is an
unknown factor. It is a mere postulate to satisfy
the intellectual craving for unity, and to relieve
from some metaphysical difiSculties. For example,


we cannot explain fully the nature of the causal
relation. We cannot understand how power may
pass from one thing to another. We postulate this
substance, and through it bring cause and effect
together. But the necessity is not great enough to
warrant so great an assumption. We do not be-
lieve in it, because the reasons do not command our
assent. Unless the Monist becomes dogmatic and
falls into materialism or idealism, he holds to two
separate entities in the sphere of our experience.

The Dualist of the Descartian school denies any
direct relation. The mind and body are associated,
but exert no influence upon each other. There is
a correspondence, but the cause must be sought in
God. Matter is inert, and when we have a volition,
God by direct agency moves the muscles. The
senses are affected, and God awakens in the mind
the idea. This was the doctrine of Occasional
Causes. This made God a»mere agent, and life a
perpetual miracle. To get rid of thoughts so un-
worthy of God, Leibnitz proposed another theory:
God knew from eternity all the actions of all minds
and all the modes of action of all bodies. He
brought those minds and bodies together whose
activities corresponded, and the two run together
in perfect harmony. Leibnitz agreed with Descar-


tians in the doctrine of incommunicability between
matter and spirit, but dissented in regard to the
inertia of matter. A physical organization might
carry on its processes independently of mind.
Body and mind are like two clocks which run per-
fectly together, but each with its own springs. This
is known as the Preestablished Harmony theory.

The Descartian Dualism noted the great differ-
ence between the two kinds of phenomena, and
taking one great quality in each, as widely apart as
possible, drew the definitions of the two substances.
These qualities were sometimes sublimated into
substances. Extension itself was supposed to be
matter, and thought mind. The difference between
the qualities was very great, and the substances
must be separated by the whole diameter of being.
It was assumed that they could not act upon each
other. But the assumption was unproved, except
by their definitions, and was contrary to the facts
of every-day experience. If so plain and patent
a truth needs, or could have proof, the experiments
made in recent years have placed a causal relation
between the two above doubt. In some forms of
perception we can determine not only what mental
impressions will be made from stimuli, but how
long before the impressions will arise.


Another form of Dualism regards matter and
spirit as different substances, and soul and body as
distinct entities, but in reciprocal influence. The
Dualist of this class recognizes a causal relation
between them as long as they remain in personal
union. He believes that molecular changes in the
brain cause mental action, and that thoughts and
feelings and volitions cause corresponding changes
in the brain, and through it changes in the muscles
and fibres of the body.

The Materialist denies any relation between
them, other than that of different phases of activ-

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Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 12 of 19)