The author of "More Light: A Dream in Scie'nce," has published a treatise purporting to answer that, in our opinion, nf3ver-to-be-humanly-answered question, "What is Matter?" We have always denounced speculation upon topics whicli we believe to lie beyond the boundary of physical inquiry ; believing that scientific methods cannot be applied to such investigation, if that may be called investigation, which is nothing more than either conjecturing what may be the causes of existing facts,- or deducing a system from a basis of conjecture. Such speculations are generally a patchwork of guesses, with new names for old facts, which only transfer the mystery surrounding the ultimate causes of things. The best illustrations of this statement we could possibly give are some short quotations from the work in question. The universe is filled with centers of lorce; each center the center sphere; each sphere a compound of two spheres, having the same center, one a sphere of attraction, the other a sphere of repulsion. It is by the separation of these two spheres of attraction and repulsion, and therefore by the calling forth and exercise of their powers by each, that we have the different modifications of matter. The Divine Mind caused a certain immense, but yet finite, portion of space to be marked off from His immediate pres-sence as a center—a great sphere—of space. This, by some manifestation of His power and presence, was filled with centers of force, the seeds, as it were, of that which was to be known as matter, round each of which two forces, attraction and repulsion, were in abeyance. If the reader is not disgusted with the absurd and visionary character of these propositions, he will perhaps be interested in their analysis. The propositions may be thus restated. Matter is force. Force has a Divine, origin. The latter proposition *nay be considered as foreign to the purpose of the work, which is to tell us what matter is, not from wh; nee it originated. But somehow the idea that matter is force does not seem satisfjictory. We do not get a very good notion of it by calling it force, a term which is as mysterious as was matter before our author had poured upon it the brilliant light of his powerful intellect. He would doubtless tell us were we to ask "What is force?" tliat force is—is—in fact—is matter, which would be perfbctly intelligible and satisfactory. We should then have got to the ultimatum, and further inquiry would be super-fiuous. We are not surprised at the severe lashing this book has received from the reviewers. Dreamers in science are out of place in the present age. The world does not need or want them. Dreaming and speculation are not just now in favor. There is too much work to do, to waste time and thought in such futile occupations.
This article was originally published with the title "What is Matter?" in Scientific American 21, 12, 186 (September 1869)