I HAVE said in the first chapter that I would attempt
to shake the pillars that support the roofs both of
monism and dualism and that I would begin with the
latter. So let me state now as cogently as I can the case
against the theory that influences without location ever
control the course of events in the organic world. To do
this is to state the case for monism.
Objections to the view that anything lacking location
can do any controlling are strong. Firstly the concept of
an influence without location is repugnant to common
sense (I am using the term "common sense" with the
meaning that philosophers give to it); secondly, if not
incompatible with religion it raises, at least, difficulties
for the theologian; and thirdly, it appears to be incompatible with one of the most fundamental principles
of physics, the principle of conservation of energy. Though
the last of these objections is the only scientific one and so
the only one with which we ought to be concerned, I think
the others are significant enough to be worth mentioning.
I have analysed in Science versus Materialism the reasons
why common sense cannot accept the concept of an
influence without location. All that I need point out here
is that we are in the habit of taking it for granted that
what is must be somewhere. To believe that an influence
can have reality, can be effective, and yet be nowhere
demands an intellectual effort that none of us would make
unless strong proof were forthcoming that the effort
cannot be avoided. The concept of an influence without
location is, for common sense, unattractive.
I should not venture to speak for the theologian. But
he may well deprecate my description of a monist as a
person who believes that the whole of reality has location.
To say that a person can only receive the more idealistic
label dualist if he believes that some active influences
are literally nowhere may well seem too uncompromising
to the theologian. For do not most of his congregation
adopt the judgement of common sense and believe that
what is, be it matter or spirit, must be somewhere?
Although the ordinary non-philosophical Christian says
that the souls of men are non-material he likes to think
of those who have departed this life as inhabiting some
definite region in space; he likes to think of the human
soul as being "somewhere" after it has left the body.
Existence without location must seem to most religious
people as unhappy a prospect as extinction. A religion
in which heaven was declared to be nowhere would lose
many of its consolations.
And a religion in which God was said to be nowhere
would, I fear, lose much of its appeal to the multitude.
Knowing this the preacher tells his congregation that
God is "everywhere". I doubt when he says this whether
he is making a logical distinction between the place where
a thing is and the place where its influence is felt. If a
company director sends a telegram to his associated firm
in the U.S.A. he thereby exerts an influence on that firm.
But one does not say for that reason that the director is
in the U.S.A. Similarly the moon exerts an influence
on the tides; but one does not say therefore that the moon
is in the sea. And the preacher may justify his statement
that God is everywhere by saying that he does not mean
I that God acts from everywhere, but only that He acts on
But I doubt whether many preachers would be bold
enough to tell their congregations that God acts from
nowhere, even if they thought so. For the preacher is in a
dilemma. He must temper his statements to the simple
minded, who, after all, form the most numerous part of
his congregation. And to do this he must practise a little
deception. He must encourage the notion that the things
he declares to be spiritual are "somewhere", that they
can, on occasion, transmit the energy necessary to let
them be seen and heard, that they are what a scientist
or philosopher would have to call material. Most
devout Christians are happiest with some measure of
This is why the concept of influences without location
is not only unattractive, but also lacks the backing of
authority. Most of those who assert their belief in non-material influences would rather not say whether they
mean thereby influences with or without location. One
must go back to Descartes if one would find a thinker who
can bear even to contemplate such a choice between
And the distinction that I have made in the last
chapter between diathemes and adiathetous structures
has as little backing from authority as the concept of
influences without location. The theologian, who sees
God's guiding hand in every nook and corner of our
universe, who tells us that the stars in their courses,
floods and earthquakes, the winds that bring us fair weather
or rain, are all subject to divine intervention, the
theologian who regards every event as determined partly
by the action of matter on matter and partly by the action
of a non-material God on matter must deny that there
are any adiathetous configurations. To him every
configuration is, in my terminology, a diatheme, and
doubly determinate. If he did not think that he would
never pray for fair weather on a voyage or for preservation
from flood and earthquake.
For the materialist, on the other hand, who denies the
reality of any non-material influence, there is no such
thing as a diatheme. Every configuration is adiathetous,
single determinate. Both these views are backed by
authority and may be called traditional. But the view
expressed here that some things are singly and some doubly
determinate has neither the backing of much authority
nor of much tradition.
The objections to the theory that I have mentioned so
far are, perhaps, only valid for those who prefer the
criterion of attractiveness to the criterion of truth. They
may not carry much weight with a scientist. I do not
know. But there is another objection that must be valid
for a scientist, although theologians might not think it
very important. It is the only one that need concern us
here, and I shall have repeated occasion to return to it.
It is that no one has yet succeeded in reconciling belief
in non-material influences either with elementary
mechanics or with the principle of conservation of energy.
This may not seem at first sight to provide very strong
support for monism, but it really does provide a support
that it is very hard to shake.
As already pointed out, a non-material influence must,
by any acceptable definitions of matter, both lack location
and be incapable of transmitting energy. But no physical
change can be effected without the transmission of energy
to or from the configuration that is being changed, for
every such change depends on the movement of material
particles. This is obvious when the particles are large
and their movement is conspicuous. It is not so obvious
when the particles are small and cannot be easily identified.
Thus changes in chemical constitution, changes in colour,
changes in temperature do not seem to depend on the
movement of material particles. But yet they do.
Though they appear to our senses as changes in the
quality of a substance, they can only be interpreted in
physics as changes in the position or velocity of constituents
of the substance.
It must be remembered that the chemical constitution
of a substance depends on the relative positions of the
atoms of which the substance is formed. A chemical
change occurs when some of these atoms move from
one place to another. Similarly the colour of a surface
depends on the spacing of minute particles on the surface.
The colour changes when these particles assume a different spacing. The temperature of a substance, again,
depends on the average velocity of its component particles.
The greater this velocity is, the higher the temperature.
If the atoms in a chemical substance or the particles in
a surface are to move into new configurations they must
first be set in motion, that is accelerated. And if they are
to remain in the new configurations they must subsequently
be stopped, that is decelerated. Similarly particles in a
system must be accelerated if its temperature is to be
raised, for this can only be done by increasing the average
velocity of the particles; and they must be decelerated if
the temperature is to be reduced to a value corresponding
to a lower average velocity. It is in fact axiomatic that
no physical change can occur in any system without the
acceleration or deceleration of particles in that system.
Now a material particle always has inertia and can,
by Newton's laws of motion, only be accelerated or
decelerated if a force is applied to it. So forces act on
parts of every system that is undergoing any sort of change.
Forces (and I mean by the word ordinary mechanical
forces) act during every chemical change, during every
change in colour, during every change in temperature,
during a change in any observable quality whatever,
while a thing is becoming softer or harder, while it is
being magnetised or demagnetised, while it is acquiring
or losing an electric charge, while it is melting or freezing,
condensing or vapourising.
There is nothing mysterious about an ordinary
mechanical force. In common language it is called a push
or a pull. And these terms are accurate. So things are
being pushed and pulled about whenever there is a physical
change. The things may be large, or they may be very,
very tiny. But always there is literally pushing and pulling ; not only metaphorically.
Now a thing that is pushed is pushed from somewhere,
and a thing that is pulled is pulled from somewhere. So
it is meaningless to speak of a push or a pull as coming
from nowhere. Indeed the notion is scientifically impossible. Whenever a force is applied to an object an equal
force in the reverse direction is applied to some other
object. Physicists express this by saying that action and
reaction are always equal and opposite. The truth
of this law is demonstrated by the kick of a rifle and it is
fully explained in every elementary textbook on mechanics.
This means that the origin of a force must be somewhere. It must have location. It must, according to any
acceptable definition of matter, be material. A non-material influence, lacking location, cannot provide the
mechanical force needed for a material change of any
kind whatever. Thus can one argue, very cogently,
The same argument can be presented in slightly different
terms and is then, perhaps, even more cogent. Each of
the forces needed to produce a physical change must
operate over a finite distance. And the product of force
and distance is energy. So every physical change requires
an expenditure of energy. To say that every material
change depends on pushes and pulls is to say that it
depends on the transmission of energy to or from the
place where the change occurs. But an influence that
lacks location cannot transmit energy; for as I have said
in Chapter II, it would be incompatible with the principle
of conservation of energy for an influence without
location to do so.
How then can an influence that lacks location and
cannot transmit energy play any part whatever in the
causation of a physical change? It cannot exert the
necessary forces; it can neither supply nor receive any of
the energy that must be transmitted from place to place
so that the change can be effected. This is the question
to which the dualist must find the answer.
Thus must every scientist argue who would decide
whether he believes in the effectiveness of non-material
influences or not. Anyone who would like to reject
monism must first come to realise that the monistic
argument appears to be very strong indeed, almost cast
iron. If he thinks it is irrefutable he will have to believe
that all effective influences, though he may elect to call
some of them non-material, are, nevertheless, somewhere,
that they have the power to transmit energy, that, given
suitable apparatus, they could all be observed by physical
means. Most of those who reject monism on religious
grounds would, as I have already said, prefer it that way.
It is the more comforting belief.
But, unfortunately for the peace of enquiring minds,
there are certain hard facts that must cause scientists to
scrutinise this apparently cast iron argument very
carefully. And it is some of these that I propose to put
forward in the next chapters.
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