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When the craft of science took the winds of the 17th century with Bacon's carefully prepared compass, its crew would have been astounded had they been told in what strange waters it would be sailing in the 20th century. For the ship is bearing down on the harbor of those early philosophers who declared that time hardly has a separate existence from the human brain; and that matter is the holding together of infinitesimal particulars in an all-pervading ether.

19th century science predestalled the theory that life is a product of matter. 20th century science is rapidly affecting a volte-face and is watching matter dissolve into electrons, into a mere collection of electrified particles, which elude sight and sense! The step from this stage into a matterless world beyond is not such a far one - intellectually.

Philosophy, once a sneered-at Cinderella, is now beginning to come to her own. Brilliant scientists have shown the inability of physical science to arrive at the nature of things without her help. If we survey the course of scientific and philosophic thought since 1859, when Darwin published his epochal origin of Species, we may trace its descent deep into materialism during the last century, and its ascent towards a more spiritual interpretation of the universe during this century.

The materialists who talk a mid-Victorian language in Darwinian accents are becoming unintelligible to the brighter generation of today, who have followed science into strange findings of Jeans, Einstein and Lodge. When Einstein showed what a weird twist the sun's rays undergo before reaching our globe, the scientific lights which were guiding us dimmed a little and men grew wary of jumping to conclude the obvious. So too, the psychology of fifty years looks a little woeful at the present time. The studies in abnormal psychology alone have played havoc with the seemingly sound explanations of that time. The new order of scientific inquirers who now concern themselves with problems of time and causality, especially the mathematical physicists, have opened up entirely new vistas.

Einstein has also taught us to look upon time as another dimension, though we have hardly grasped the full import of this revolutionary idea. And if his later work is leading him anywhere, to regard mind as the ultimate reality. We live in an age of applied science: knowledge comes first; belief is but secondary. We probe every fact or event in this world with a searching 'why?'. There is a cause for every visible effect. The old times when a baffling event was explained away by a reference to the will of God, or to the fiat of an angel are gone, and gone for good. Spiritual truth must henceforth stand upon a scientific foundation; it must never be afraid of any question, and it must not dismiss the honest investigator as irreligious because he wants proof before he will believe.

   
  Questions
   
  1. (a) What would have astounded the 17th century scientists ?
    (b) What two beliefs had the early philosophers declared ?
    (c) What 19th century theory did 20th century science debunk ?
       
  2. (a) Explain why the writer compares philosophy with Cinderella.
    (b) What was interesting about Darwin's Origin of Species ?
    (c) Why are Victorian materialists becoming unintelligible to today's generation ?
       
  3. (a) When did men grow wary of concluding the obvious ?
    (b) How were baffling events explained in the old days ?
    (c) What beliefs cause us to probe everything ?
       
  4.   For each of the following words give one word or short phrase ( not more than seven words ) which has the same meaning as it has in the passage.
      i.   infinitesimal   v.   dimmed
      ii.   all-pervading   vi.   ultimate
      iii.   descent   vii.   baffling
      iv.   unintelligible   viii.   irreligious
       
  5. Briefly summarize, in about 160 words, the growth of scientific enquiry. Get your material from the whole passage.
       
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  Answers
       
  1. (a) They would have been surprised if they knew the direction that knowledge was taking.
    (b) They had said time was not real and that matter consists of small particles being held together.
    (c) 20th century science is disproving the theory that life came from matter.
       
  2. (a) Cinderella was a beautiful girl who was neglected and one day her real worth was known. This is just like what is happening to philosophy.
    (b) The theory first went deep into materialism and then rose high into spiritualism.
    (c) The modern students have gone beyond the science of Victorian scientists so they will find them strange.
       
  3. (a) When Einstein showed that light rays curved, men became careful about jumping to conclusions on what seemed obvious.
    (b) They were explained according to what they seemed.
    (c) The belief that there is a cause for everything makes us probe everything.
       
  4. i very small
    ii present everywhere
    iii went down
    iv cannot be understood
    v not clear
    vi final
    vii puzzling
    viii unholy
       
  5. Seventeenth century scientists would have been baffled had they foreseen into what areas their science would enter in the twentieth century. Oddly enough, their theories are seen to be similar to the early philosophers. Nineteenth century science discoveries too are being challenged. Philosophy, once despised by science, is being rediscovered. Scientists are beginning to realize that physical science needs philosophy. Darwin's theory goes into materialism in its early stages and becomes spiritual later on. Victorian materialists are sounding nonsensical to the brighter generation of today. Strange findings have been unearthed, like Einstein's theory that even light rays are curved. from thence, men became careful about concluding as true what appears to be obvious.

In this age, everything is being questioned and accepted only if proven to be scientifically true. It has been discovered that there is a cause for every effect which can be seen. this is different from the times where everything baffling was explained away with 'God'. ( 159 words )

           
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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