Views of an Agnostic
by: Ross E. Browne
This is part 4 of Ross E. Browne's 1915 book, Views of an Agnostic.
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Of the working hypotheses which have been most convincingly established by the scientists, and are of most far-reaching importance, I shall cite a few in anticipation of future reference to them.
The “atomic theory” assumes that the bases of all ponderable matter, as we know it, consist of minute substantial elements with the attributes of mass and affinity.
The principle of “indestructibility of matter” indicates that the elements of substance are permanent. They are not subject to destruction, diminution or increase in number or mass. Inferentially they have always existed as they are, and will so continue for all time. The adoption of this hypothesis has had a great influence in the development of chemistry and other branches of science.
The principle of “conservation of energy” indicates that any .given quantity of energy is permanent. It may be converted into different forms, but is not subject to destruction, diminution or increase. There is no creation of new energy. Energy is either kinetic or potential in form, and these forms are convertible, the one into the other. The sum total is permanent. Kinetic energy is the energy of mass in motion, straight-lined, curvilinear, continuous or vibratory. As examples may be cited that of a cannon ball in motion, heat, electricity, light, etc., all ultimately convertible, the one into the other, or into potential energy. Potential energy may be defined as the latent power to produce kinetic energy, ‘and is measured by innate force and the distance through which it may act. Mass and energy are interdependent. The one cannot exist without the other. The adoption of this hypothesis has led to great progress in the physical sciences.
The so-called “law of gravity,” as finally established by Newton, indicates that everybody attracts every other body in proportion to the product of their two masses and to the reciprocal of the square of the distance of separation between the centers of gravity of the two, The recognition of this law, or the invention and verification of this hypothesis, enabled Newton to establish mathematical formulae for the calculation of the orbits of the planets.
The principle of “evolution,” as established by Darwin, indicates that all organic beings are derived by processes of propagation, development and natural selection, from simpler forms, and primarily from one or more elementary forms. It points to the near relationship of many of the higher animals, notably of man to the anthropoid ape. It has furnished an important basic principle for guidance in the future development of the natural history sciences.
The principle of “cause and effect” will be presented in a separate chapter.