« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
I subjoin a list of the persons whose names I have adduced in the following pages, as having been convinced of the truth and reality of most of these phenomena. I presume it will be admitted that they are honest niun. If, then, these facts, which many of them declare they have repeatedly witnessed, never took place, I must leave my readers to account for the undoubted fact of their belief in them, as best they can. I can only do so by supposing these well-known men to have been all fools or madmen, which is to me more difficult than believing they are sane men, capable of observing matters of fact, and of forming a sound judgment as to whether or no they could possibly have been deceived in them. A man of sepse will not lightly declare, as many of these do, not only that he has witnessed what others deem absurd and incredible, but that he feels morally certain he was not deceived in what
LIST. 1. Professor A. DE MORGAN—Mathematician and Logician.
2. Professor CHALLIS— Astronomer. 3. Professor WM. GREGORY, M.D.--Chemist. 4. Professor ROBERT HARE, M.D.—Chemist. 5. Professor HERBERT MAYO, M.D., F.R.S.—Physiologist. 6. Mr. RUTTER— Chemist. 7. Dr. ELLIOTSON—Physiologist. 8. Dr. HADDOCK-Physician. 9. Dr. GULLY-Physician. 10. Judge EDMONDS—Lawyer. 11. Lord LYNDHURST—Lawyer. 12. CHARLES BRAY, Philosophical Writer. 13. Archbishop WHATELY-Clergyman. 14. Rev. W. KERR, M.A.-Clergyman. 15. Hon. Col. E. B. WILBRAHAM-— Military Man.
16. Capt. R. F. BURTON— Military Man. 17. NASSAU E. SENIOR— Political Economist. 18. W. M. THACKERAY–Author. 19. T. A. TROLLOPE—Author. 20. R. D. OWEN-Author and Diplomatist. 21. W. HOWITT- Author. 22. S. C. HALL-Author.
MIRACLES AND MODERN SCIENCE.
A MIRACLE is generally defined to be a violation or suspension of a law of nature, and as the laws of nature are the most complete expression of the accumulated experiences of the human race, Hume was of opinion that no amount of human testimony could prove a miracle. Strauss bases the whole argument of his elaborate work on the same ground, that no amount of testimony coming to us through the depth of eighteen centuries can prove that those laws were ever subverted, which the unanimous experience of men now shows to be invariable. Modern science has placed this argument on a wider basis, by showing the interdependence of all these laws, and by rendering it inconceivable that force and motion, any more than matter, can be absolutely originated or destroyed. Prof. Tyndall in his recent paper on The Constitution of the Universe in the Fortnightly Review, says, "A miracle is strictly defined as an invasion of the law of the conservation of energy.* To create or annihilate matter would be deemed on all hands a miracle; the creation or annihilation of energy would be equally a miracle to those who understand the principle of conservation.” Mr. Lecky in his great work on “Rationalism” shows us that during the last two or three centuries, there has been a continually increasing disposition to adopt secular rather than theological views, in history, politics, and science. The great physical discoveries of the last twenty years have pushed forward this movement with still greater rapidity, and have led to a firm conviction in the minds of most men of education that the universe is governed by wide and immutable laws, under which all phenomena whatever may be classed, and to which no fact in nature can ever be opposed. If therefore we define miracle as a contravention of any one of these laws, it must be admitted that modern science has no place for it; and we cannot be surprised at the many and varied attempts by writers of widely different opinions, to account for or explain away all recorded facts in history or religion, which they believe could only have happened on the supposition of miraculous or supernatural agency. This task has been by no means an easy one.
* This supposed definition of a miracle is a pure assumption. Miracles do not imply any “invasion of the law of the conservation of energy,” but merely the existence of intelligent beings invisible to us, yet capable of acting on matter, as explained further on.
The amount of direct testimony to miracles in all ages is very great. The belief in miracles has been, till very recently, almost universal, and it may safely be asserted that, of those who are, on general grounds, most firmly convinced of the impossibility of events deemed miraculous, few if any have thoroughly and honestly investigated the nature and amount of the evidence that those events really happened. On this subject, however, I do not now intend to enter. It appears to me that the very basis of the whole question has been to some extent misstated and misunderstood, and that in every well authenticated case of supposed miracle a solution may be found which will remove many of our difficulties.
One common fallacy appears to me to run through all the arguments against facts deemed miraculous, when it is asserted that they violate, or invade, or subvert the laws of nature. This is really assuming the very point, to be decided, for if the disputed fact did happen, it could only be in accordance with the laws of nature, since the only complete definition of the “laws of nature" is that they are the laws which regulate all phenomena. The very word supernatural,” as applied to a fact, is an absurdity; and “miracle," if retained at all, requires a more accurate definition than has yet been given of it. To refuse to admit, what in other cases would be absolutely conclusive evidence of a fact, because it cannot be explained by those laws of nature with which we are now acquainted, is really to maintain that we have complete knowledge of those laws, and can determine beforehand what is or is not possible. The whole history of the progress of human knowledge shows us, that the disputed prodigy of one age becomes the accepted natural phenomenon of the next, and that many apparent miracles have been due to laws of nature subsequently discovered.
Many phenomena of the simplest kind would appear supernatural to men having limited knowledge. Ice and snow might easily be made to appear so to inhabitants of the tropics. The ascent of a balloon would be supernatural to persons who knew nothing of the cause of its upward motion; and we may well conceive that, if no gas lighter than atmospheric air had ever been discovered, and if in the aninds of all (philosophers and chemists included), air had become indissolubly connected with the idea of the lightest form of terrestrial matter, the testimony of those who had seen a balloon ascend might be discredited, on the grounds that a law of nature must be suspended, in order that anything could freely ascend through the atmosphere in direct contravention to the law of gravitation.
A century ago, a telegram from three thousand miles' distance, or a photograph taken in a second, would not have been believed possible, and would not have been credited on any testimony, except by the ignorant and superstitious who believed in miracles. Five centuries ago,