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Observations placeholder

A letter from Mr. Darwin to Georges Romanes : December 5, 1878.



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A description of the experience

from The Life And Letters Of George John Romanes M.A., Ll.D., F.R.S. Late Honorary Fellow Of Gonville And Caius College, Cambridge Written And Edited By His Wife 1896

A letter from Mr. Darwin to Georges Romanes : December 5, 1878.

I have read your anonymous book some parts twice over with very great interest ; it seems admirably, and here and there very eloquently written, but from not understanding metaphysical terms I could not always follow you. For the sake of outsiders, if there is another edition, could you make it clear what is the difference between treating a subject under a 'scientific,' 'logical,' 'symbolical,' and 'formal' point of views or manner ? With regard to your great leading idea, I should like sometimes to hear from you verbally (for to answer would be too long for letters) what you would say if a theologian addressed you as follows :

' I grant you the attraction of gravity, persistence of force (or conservation of energy), and one kind of matter, though the latter is an immense admission ; but I maintain that God must have given such attributes to this force, independently of its persistence, that under certain conditions it develops or changes into light, heat, electricity, galvanism, perhaps even life.

' You cannot prove that force (which physicists define as that which causes motion) would inevitably thus change its character under the above conditions. Again I maintain that matter, though it may in the future be eternal, was created by God with the most marvellous affinities, leading to complex definite compounds and with polarities leading to beautiful crystals, &c. &c. You cannot prove that matter would necessarily possess these attributes. Therefore you have no right to say that you have " demonstrated " that all natural laws necessarily follow from gravity, the persistence of force, and existence of matter. If you say that nebulous matter existed aboriginally and from eternity with all its present complex powers in a potential state, you seem to me to beg the whole question.'

Please observe it is not I, but a theologian who has thus addressed you, but I could not answer him.

In your present 'idiotic' state of mind, you will wish me at the devil for bothering you.

Yours very sincerely,

Charles. DARWIN.

18 Cornwall Terrace, Regent's Park : Sunday, Dec. 1878.

The source of the experience

Darwin, Charles

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps