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l5 8 FRAGMEN TS OF SCIENCE.

they good-humoredly rallied the lecturer for coming among
them with so stale a story. It was quite plain that this
large body of clergymen, who were, I should say, the finest
samples of their class, had entirely given up the ancient
landmarks, and transported the conception of life’s origin
to an indefinitely distant past.

This leads us to the gist of our present inquiry, which
is this : Does life belong to what we call matter, or is it an
independent principle inserted into matter at some suitable
epoch—say when the physical conditions became such as to
permit of the development of life ? Let us put the ques-
tion with all the reverence due to a faith and culture in
which we all were cradled—a faith and culture, moreover,
which are the undeniable historic antecedents of our pres-
ent enlightenment. I say, let us put the question rever-
ently, but let us also put it clearly and definitely. There
are the strongest grounds for believing that during a cer-
tain period of its history the earth was not, nor was it fit
to be, the theatre of life. Whether this was ever a nebu-
lous period, or merely a molten period, does not much
matter; and if we revert to the nebulous condition, it is
because the probabilities are really on its side. Our ques-
tion is this : Did creative energy pause until the nebulous
matter had condensed, until the earth had been detached,
until the solar fire had so far withdrawn from the earth’s
vicinity as to permit a crust to gather round the planet ?
Did it wait until the air was isolated, until the seasvvere
formed, until evaporation, condensation, and the descent of
rain had begun, until the eroding forces of the atmosphere
had weathered and decomposed the molten rocks so as to
form soils, until the sun’s rays had become so tempered by
distance and by waste as to be chemically fit for the de-
compositions necessary to vegetable life ? Having waited
through those onns until the proper conditions had Set in,
did it send the flat forth, “Let Life be!” ? These ques-

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