Physics and Metaphysics

Paul R. Shipman, Sherwood J. B. Sugden
1904 The Monist  
Lodge (knighted for proficiency in physics) asserts that " life can generate no trace of energy, it can only guide it " ; from which he infers that life is immaterial or hyperphysical. The answer to his assertion, I should say, is what the lawyers call a demurrer. The assertion is true ; but the inference which he draws from it does not follow. Life cannot generate energy, to be sure. Nor can energy itself. Nor can anything else. The total energy of the universe is constant, admitting of
more » ... generation nor destruction, as fixed by the law of the conservation of energy; a law, by the way, not generalised from experience, but a necessity of thought, to which all experience is subject, and which consequently is as little liable in the future to have a "question mark" placed against it by competent thinkers as the law of identity or the law of contradiction or any other part of the organic law of mind. In general, it may be said, the uniformities of mind, not excepting the absolute uniformities, answer to uniformities of matter, a subjective necessity being the obverse of an objective impossibility. The inner is the outer, transformed, not transnatured. Resuming, the point to be proved in this discussion is not that life cannot generate energy, but that life cannot transform energy-is not a link in the endless chain of physical transformations. Professor Lodge is guilty of what the logicians know as ignoratio clcnchi. He has mistaken the question in dispute. Energy is not generated, but is transformed, and life indisputably transforms energy-generates not energy but forms of energy. Life does nothing more or less than generate forms of energy. It consists in generating them-subsists by generating them. The distinction between energy and forms of energy, constituting the basis of physics, the distinguished physicist would seem to have overlooked, probably because the content obscured it. When Yankee Doodle came to town he could not see it for the houses. How can life guide energy without itself having energy, one may ask in all seriousness ? The deserved prominence of Sir Oliver Lodge among scientific people will excuse an examination of the mode in which he works out his fallacy. Guiding implies changing the direction of motion, which, if we may accept the law of motion accepted by physicists from Newton to Lodge or next to Lodge, can be done by guest on June 9, 2016 Downloaded from
doi:10.5840/monist190414241 fatcat:oxmd5zu4mfa6bprn6vyigrjszy