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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

72                        Vibrations

the bodies of animals and vegetables we find equivocal
generation a necessity; nor do I see any.way out of it except
by maintaining that nothing is ever either quite dead or quite
alive, but that a little leaven of the one is always left in the
other. For it would be as difficult to get the thing dead, if it
is once all alive, as alive if once all dead.

According to this view to beget offspring is to communicate
to two pieces of protoplasm (which afterwards combine)
certain rhythmic vibrations which, though too feeble to
generate visible action until they receive accession of fresh
similar rhythms from exterior objects, yet on receipt of
such accession set the game of development going and main-
tain it. It will be observed that the rhythms supposed to be
communicated to any germs are such as have been already
repeatedly refreshed by rhythms from exterior objects in
preceding generations, so that a consonance is rehearsed and
pre-arranged, as it were, between the rhythm in the germ and
those that in the normal course of its ulterior existence are
likely to flow into it. If there is too serious a discord between
inner and outer rhythms the organism dies.

Atoms and Fixed Laws

When people talk of atoms obeying fixed laws, they are
either ascribing some kind of intelligence and free will to
atoms or they are talking nonsense. There is* no obedience
unless there is at any rate a potentiality of disobeying.

No objection can lie to our supposing potential or elementary
volition and consciousness to exist in atoms, on the score
that their action would be less regular or uniform if they had
free will than if they had not. By giving them free will we
do no more than those who make them bound to obey fixed
laws. They will be as certain to use their freedom of will
only in particular ways as to be driven into those ways by
obedience to fixed laws.

The little element of individual caprice (supposing we start
with free will), or (supposing we start with necessity) the
little element of stiffrieckedness, both of which elements we
find everywhere in nature, these are the things that prevent
even the most reliable things from being absolutely reliable.
It is they that form the point of contact between this universe