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mencement, no evidence of the successive steps of the process of transmutation. All these exist nowhere but in the fertile imagination of the coiners of such theories, based upon supposition, and not upon facts. I venture to maintain that no so-called Aristotelians of the middle ages, no philosophers of any period where the inductive method was entirely disregarded, ever displayed a more mischievous instance of groundless hypothesis or hasty generalization, where imagination has usurped the office of reason.

For Mr. Grove to coinmand our respect for his authority, on matters leading us up to the most transcendental parts of human knowledge, we should look at least for a display of sound philosophical induction, on those subjects with which his scientific pursuits have rendered him more familiar. Even here, however, I find his dread of the mysterious leading him beyond the limits of strict inductive science.

The belief in the elixir vitæ, in the archæus or stomach demon, and in the notion that amber possessed a soul, Mr. Grove classes as equal absurdities with the supposition “that a mysterious fluid could knock down a steeple.” I find him also casting doubt on the existence of what he terms “so-called imponderables." Yet I search in vain for some substitute for the "mysterious fluid,”-so destructive and terrific, in the stroke of lightning, which undoubtedly has knocked down many a steeple—and for something to supply the place of the “so-called imponderables.” I know of but two theories of light supported by anything like sound deduction from a vast number of intricate and varying phenomena. Both these theories require the admission of the existence of so-called imponderable matter. What is imponderable matter ? It is matter not subject to the law of gravitation.

If, as regards light, I take the emission theory of Newton, which accounts for a large array of optical facts, then light consists of imponderable matter projected from a luminous body. If I abandon this theory for the undulatory hypothesis, (which accounts for a greater number of optical phenomena of the most recondite character than the former,) light is produced by the vibration of "an imponderable fluid.” Now heat, light, and electricity are regarded, as far as I can understand Mr. Grove's speculations, as not only correlative, but even transmutable phenomena of matter-as indications of the same force under varied conditions, or as modes of the motion of matter. Now I ask how are we to eliminate the mysterious fluid which, under the form of lightning, strikes down a steeple or shatters an oak into a thousand splinters, from the electrical phenomenon, and not, according to Mr. Grove's own theories,

eliminate the notion of imponderables from the phenomena of light?

I know many men of sound science who deplore the departure of so many modern scientific men from the sound method of induction, for the dreams of inventors of hypotheses. The hazy notions of Mr. Grove and kindred philosophers, on the nature of force and matter, are supported more by theoretical dreams than by sound deductions from facts.

While Mr. Grove speaks with contempt of mysterious fluids and so-called imponderables, (supported by an array of facts not much less numerous, and by mathematical analysis as rigid as that by which the law of gravitation is proved,) he can regard with complacency, where facts and arguments fail, the imagined perpetual-motion shower of innumerable meteors into the sun; a hypothesis unsupported by a single fact or observed phenomenon of nature, but invented solely to make tenable those theories of force and matter which evade the existence of imponderables.

If I take the most transcendental views of matter that have ever yet been imagined by men, I am led on the one hand to regard all interplanetary space, not as filled with imponderable fluid, but by something very like a solid combination of matter; while on the other hand, the Boscovichian theory would lead me to regard all this matter ultimately, as having no physical length, breadth or thickness, but to be absolute geometrical points-mere centres of force. Either of these hypotheses I may hold, without laying aside my claim to the rank of a · philosophical thinker. But if I talk of a supposed Hebrew firmament, or believe that God made all things out of nothing, I must be derided as centuries behind the progress of modern thought !

Apologizing for having allowed my observations to run to such a length, I now call on Professor Young to read

his paper.

The following paper was then read :ON THE LANGUAGE OF GESTICULATION; AND ON

THE ORIGIN OF SPEECH. By J. R. YOUNG, Esq., late Professor of Mathematics, Belfast College.

I AM about to invite your attention this evening to a sub

ject which has, I think, received as yet too little notice from philological speculators in their inquiries into the origin of articulate language.

Much learned and successful research has been devoted to the consideration of the question,-Is it possible that all spoken languages can have sprung from a single root ? Can they possibly be all but so many corruptions or modifications or offshoots of one primitive form of speech ?

Professor Max Müller, after a laborious investigation of the matter, upon purely philological considerations, decides this question in the affirmative. His conclusion is, that however dissimilar the various dialects, “they are all nevertheless derived from one primeval language.” (I quote from his Lectures on the Science of Language, Lecture VIII.) This conclusion has been also reached and confirmed by the Rev. Dr. Thornton, and the results of observation which justify it were placed before you, in this Society, in that gentleman's recent paper on Comparative Philology.*

Still the important question remains,—Whence came this primeval language? Was it of human invention, or was it supernaturally communicated to our first parents? Here,putting revelation aside, as in every independent investigation we are bound to do, -we have nothing to guide us except reasonable conjecture and the balance of probabilities; and therefore, at whatever result under this guidance we may arrive, we can never pronounce our conclusion to be indisputably and irresistibly true.

But this character of indisputable truth is not stamped upon any of our conclusions as to the origin of things, to whatever department of nature our investigations are directed. In every such inquiry it behoves us to proceed, not only with caution, but even with distrust. Whatever conclusion, within the entire range of human research, is arrived at otherwise than by demonstration, or by observation, or by experiment, is not a scientific conclusion. Demonstration is confined exclusively to necessary truths,-to things that could not possibly be other than what they are. Observation and Experiment, on the other hand, deal exclusively with phenomena,—with things which, for aught we know to the contrary, might be other than what they are. Such are the objects with which strict science has alone to do. And it is deeply to be deplored, for its own sake, that in recent times the dignity of science has been usurped by speculative conclusions based upon neither demonstration, nor observation, nor experiment, but upon the unsubstantial foundation of pure fancy,—the appeal being, not to our convictions, but to our credulity.

Yet it is a precept universally admitted in theory, however

* Journ. of Trans. of Vict. Instit., vol. I. p. 148, et seq.

widely departed from in practice, that the revelations of science should always be read,—not with a feeling of credulous assent, in the absence of evidence, but with a reasonable scepticism ; while the revelations of Scripture, on the contrary, must be read with an equally reasonable faith. But the modern doctrine reverses the application of these precepts : science is to have all the faith, and the Bible all the scepticism.

If I am required to admit that man is developed from the ape, and the ape from a fish, I am quite ready to admit it, provided I be shown this developing principle in operation, provided I be shown only a few consecutive steps of the approximating process. I am ready to admit it even, if the propounder of the doctrine seriously tells me that he himself has witnessed this onward and continuous advance from ape to man, or from fish to ape, though in but a single instance. I go further : though neither he nor I have seen anything of the kind, yet I will admit it, if he can only point to the recorded testimony of trustworthy eye-witnesses of the phenomena in bygone times.

If not even one of these items of evidence exist, then the belief in this, or in any other physical theory equally unsupported,—though a few men of unquestionable science may embrace that belief,-may be fitly characterized, not as scientific conviction, but as scientific superstition,-an appellation quite as appropriate as the similar appellation sometimes applied to the extravagances of really religious minds.

If I could not submit to you this evening better and sounder reasons in support of the position that the speech of man came from the Creator of man, than the philosophers alluded to can furnish in favour of their position that the human being came from the ape, I certainly should not presume to appear before you. I think and trust, as the event will show, that I shall not incur the charge of arrogance or egotism in preferring these pretensions. Yet, as I have already hinted, the evidence which I shall offer, in support of this position, must not be expected to reach the high character of scientific proof. The inquiry is not one in reference to which the rigid demands of science can be satisfied. It is an inquiry out of the range of strict science; for, as Sir John Herschel truly states, in his beautiful and masterly Discourse, "to ascend to the origin of things is not the business of the natural philosopher.'

I shall, however, appeal to that which is of little less authority. I shall appeal to that which, independently of science, is the guiding principle,—not only in ordinary

matters, but even in matters of high moment,--of all rational intelligent beings. I shall appeal to that important though undefined principle called common sense, to the unbiassed decisions of a sound practical understanding, in reference to a matter in which absolute certainty is not attainable.

I have already stated that the great question for our consideration, on the present occasion, is this: Was speech of human invention? This may be divided into two other questions, which, together, embody the same inquiry :

1st. Could man, placed speechless upon earth, without any external aid, have invented articulate language ?

2nd. Would he, of himself, have originated and elaborated speech, even if he could ?

I have just said that (as you will at once perceive) the two questions here proposed may replace the single questionWas speech of human invention? The first of these two may, however, be dismissed : it will be sufficient, admitting hypothetically that man could originate speech, if it be shown, with a high degree of probability, that he would never have addressed himself to the task.

The single question then to be discussed is this,-Is it probable, that if man had been placed speechless upon the earth, he would have been urged by necessity to contrive for himself an articulate language ?

Now, under whatever circumstances man made his first appearance,—whether he was placed here by a gorilla or by God, is a matter of no moment in this inquiry. Come how he might, he brought a language with him—the language of gesticulation, implanted in him by what is called Nature, and by nature he was prompted, and even constrained to use it. That is my first position. Man has, and was never without, a natural language, a language which is no more an invention of his own, or the gradual acquirement of ages, than his outward manifestations of love and hate, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, or any other of the promptings of nature, are conventional signs, agreed upon by social compact, taught and acquired.

Wherever man is found, he is found (unless he be in a condition of idiotcy) in possession of this natural language ;-he never learns it, he never loses it. It is universal throughout the whole human family. It is employed as a means of intercommunication among the most degraded races of savages, and it is employed in the most polished societies of Europe,-in the animated war-palavers of the wildest Indians, and in the cultivated conversation of courts and palaces, But there is

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