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advanced researches of our physico-chemical biologists have begun to suggest the appearance on the horizon of the ultimate questions: What is matter? What is energy? Why does matter have its properties? One may study living things; one may study dead things——things which have been in the ranks of the living. One may study the chemistry, physics or "action, reaction and interaction of energy" in organic and inorganic matter. Or, one may study the tropisms of animals and plants. The more thoroughly and accurately these studies have been pursued the more nearly they have approached an explanation of life that is based on the properties of matter and the evidences of energy. Never have they pointed the way beyond. And does the way beyond lie open to the naturalist? Some have doubted.
The statement was made earlier in the development of this thesis that most scientists to-day are "mechanists." It may well be asked whether this applies to them only in their laboratories and in the course of their investigations or whether it also includes their broader and more comprehensive thoughts and philosophies of life. No one professes to be able to answer the crucial question of the origin of life. Yet it is essential that each of us shall take some definite stand in order that we may be in position to say to ourselves that we are moral, unmoral, or immoral; that we are of one religion or of another; that we follow one system of ethics or another. Shall we say that we are "mechanists" and that everything is ultimately attributable to the interplay of blind forces in matter? Such a belief appears rational to some, for it allows them to stand on the firm basis of experimental science. Time and again it has been demonstrated that if we do but set our hand to the task we can master the dynamics of obscure phenomena. In numerous ways man has succeeded in imitating the reactions of living things and has, in many instances, resolved the phenomena into their physicochemical units. As he has gone deeper and deeper into the study of living things and has met with more and more success in his search for explanations, he has grown optimistic.
Now he stands prepared to say that until some sound reason is advanced why it will always be impossible to make a living organism out of non-living matter he prefers to believe that he shall yet see the synthesis of life.
To-day we are looking to that mysterious group of substances known as enzymes to fill the greatest gap in our knowledge of the mechanisms of living things. It is recognized that through the influence of these substances chemical and physical reactions take on certain characteristics which draw the distinguishing marks between the reactions of dead and of living things. There are some who feel that the nature and structure of the enzymes is the next great problem before us. If mechanistic philosophy makes it possible for us to roll up our sleeves in our laboratories and tackle this great mystery, its existence is probably justified. Even if it does throw the final analysis of life upon the laws of matter and energy, it brings us nearer the goal because it tells us what life is. True, we must still define life in the terms of physics and chemistry.
Let us suppose for a moment that scientists were “vitalists" and not "mechanists." Where would their philosophy lead them? If they accepted the teachings of the Church their investigational efforts would have to be directed at the mechanism of life but not at the mechanism of its origin. On such a basis the evidence of the astronomer, geologist, and paleontologist would have to be excluded or else lead to a reductio ad absurdum. If they accepted the hypothesis of panspermia they must ever play the part of the child reaching for the sun and, curiously enough, they must ever keep pushing it away.
Let us adopt then a teleological philosophy, but let us reverse it and say that because there is a final cause for design in nature let us seek the matter-and-energy basis for design. Let us not attempt to encompass science by science. Science is but the body of well-ascertained and verified facts and laws of nature." If it rests upon the matter-and-energy bases of nature, we should keep in mind that when we aim beyond these we are aiming beyond the limits of science and of our tools. If such a philosophy of life necessitates the belief in the divine origin of matter and of energy, then let us be "vitalists.” In that there is a mechanism of life, let us be "mechanists."
J. S. Falk.
(No time has elapsed since the close of Act III. Nestor's conch-shell is heard resounding through the upper reaches of the house. Miss Flecker and Sarah Budie hover in the hall expectantly. Flora, her eyes fixed in a terrible abstracted stare, stands motionless at the left. As the curtain rises, Magnus finally shifts his triumphant gaze from her face and goes to greet the police officers who have entered the hall.)
MAGNUS: Ah, gentlemen! Mr. Dexter, Mr. Gosche! Sarah, some wine for the officers.
SARAH: Yes, Mr. Magnus. (She hurries into the back drawing-room.)
DEXTER: The Head sends his best wishes to you.
DEXTER: Regarding the long talk he had with you, sir, he says: go about the thing in your own way. Consider Mr. Gosche and myself as entirely at your orders. Only in case we recognize a notorious criminal, Mr. Magnus, we will have to ask him from you.
MAGNUS: No, Mr. Dexter, your Head gave me to understand that the disposition of these lives was entirely in my hands, however black the record of any one of them may be.
DEXTER: Well, then!
MAGNUS: However, I doubt if we are to confront any great criminals, Mr. Dexter, Mr. Gosche. We have here to do with the more human failings. It is these half-cases I am interested in, gentlemen, and their extenuating circumstances.
DEXTER: I have placed men at the front and the back.
DEXTER: I will stand behind you, Mr. Magnus, and let Mr. Gosche watch from behind those curtains, therem(pointing to the back drawing-room). There's more to see when you're not
seen yourself, sir; you'd be surprised. (Sarah Budie returns with a tray bearing decanter and glasses.)
MAGNUS: Will you join us, Miss Flecker,
GoSCHE (discreetly, indicating Flora): May I offer the young lady a glass?
MAGNUS: We won't trouble her just yet. (Flora turns dazedly, as tho' there were a great noise in her ears. She starts to walk vaguely into the hall.) Miss Storey, I'll have to ask you to wait here.
FLORA (still in the strange mood of abstraction, seeing and hearing nothing but her own thoughts, gives him a look of defiance, then says submissively "Oh, yes," and returns to her post by the piano.)
MAGNUS: You may be seated.
DEXTER (holding up his glass) : A toast, Mr. Magnus : to the success of your experiment !
MAGNUS (bowing modestly): Thank you.
DEXTER (smacking his lips): Excellent! The Head wished me to say that he greatly regretted not being here to-night as an onlooker. He is much interested in your view of it as an experiment. He will have his joke, sir: he called it your attempt to play God. (Magnus frowns.) He wished to see especially your disposition of cases where the law is inconclusive, the half-andhalf crimes, Mr. Magnus.
MAGNUS: Exactly. Murder is murder, and immorality is immorality; but what of the occasional small theft, the case of fraud in certain particular circumstances-as you put it, the halfand-half crimed.
(Flora's trance is suddenly broken by a feverish idea. Again she starts for the hall.)
MAGNUS: Miss Storey! Stop where you are.
FLORA (turning, like a child): I must find him. Perhaps he didn't hear me.
MAGNUS: I must ask you to sit down. (Sarcastically) Do not be anxious about the young man.
Sit down! (Flora seats herself in the great chair out of sight of the audience. Magnus continues to Dexter:) Ah, they are beginning to come down. Will you help me move this table a few inches ? Thank you.
Gosche (withdrawing): I will be behind this curtain, Mr. Magnus. We are ready with pistols.
MAGNUS: Very good. (He draws his chair up to the table which has been moved a yard to the left, and set to face the back drauring-room.) Miss Flecker, be seated. Who is this woman?
(The first person to be seen on the stairs is Fru Soderström. She is hastily dressed, and has drawn a shawl over the back of her head.) Miss FLECKER: Fru Ternissa
Ternissa Soderström, , Swedish woman with a great fortune. A despicable miser. Contemptible
MAGNUS: Ask her to be seated on the stairs.
Miss FLECKER (going into the hall): Just sit down on the stairs, Fru Soderström.
FRU SODERSTROM: What's the matter? Is there a fire?
Miss FLECKER: No. Sit down. They'll want to talk to you later.
FRU SODERSTROM: With me? Who is it in there? MAGNUS: I must ask you to speak kindly, Miss Flecker.
FRU SODERSTROM: Oh, sirs, tell me what is the matter? I am an old woman; I mustn't be frightened. Kindly tell me. (catching sight of Flora) Flora, my dear child, I beg you to tell me what they want of me.
Miss FLECKER: Sit down, Ternissa, and you will find out.
Fru SODERSTROM (evading her, and running to Flora) : Flora, why don't you answer me? What have they come for? Why are you so white? Look at me!
FLORA: It's come, Mrs. Soderström. The last day .
MAGNUS: Do not upset yourself, madam. Only what is just and right will be done here. I must ask you to return to the hall.
FRU SODERSTROM (tearfully to Flora): Why don't you order them out of your house, Flora? They're just trying to frighten us.—It's money they want, hey? How much do the things want? They must let us alone.