What a wonderful gauge of his own value as a scientific critic does he afford, by whom we are informed that phrenology is a great science, and psychology a chimæra; that Gall was one of the great men of his age, and that Cuvier was "brilliant but superficial"! How unlucky must one consider the bold speculator who, just before the dawn of modern histology which is simply the application of the microscope to anatomy reproves what he calls "the abuse of microscopic investigations," and "the exaggerated credit" attached to them; who, when the morphological uniformity of the tissues of the great majority of plants and animals was on the eve of being demonstrated, treated with ridicule those who attempt to refer all tissues to a "tissu générateur," formed by "le chimérique et inintelligible assemblage d'une sorte de monades organiques, qui seraient dès lors les vrais éléments primordiaux de tout corps vivant;" and who finally tells us, that all the objections against a linear arrangement of the species of living beings are in their essence foolish, and that the order of the animal series is "necessarily linear," when the exact contrary is one of the best-established and the most important truths of zoology.
I am quite unable to understand the distinction which M. Comte endeavours to draw in this passage in spite of his amplifications further on. Every science must consist of precise knowledge, and that knowledge must be co-ordinated into general proportions, or it is not science. When M. Comte, in exemplification of the statement I have cited, says that "les phénomènes organiques ne comportent qu'une étude
This intussusception, however, is a very different process from that imagined either by Buffon or by Bonnet. The substance by the addition of which the germ is enlarged is in no case simply absorbed, ready-made, from the not-living world and packed between the elementary constituents of the germ, as Bonnet imagined; still less does it consist of the "molecules organiques" of Buffon.
This wonderful play of the vital forces of nature is no less dependant on "conditions" on the necessary pre-existing plasma, chemically balanced soils, organic solutions, etc. than the alleged "dynamical aggregates," "molecules organiques," "plastide particles," or "highly differentiated life-stuff," insisted upon by the physicists, in their materialistic theories of life.
Buffon's opinion is, in fact, a sort of combination of views, essentially similar to those of Bonnet, with others, somewhat similar to those of the "Medici" whom Harvey condemns. The "molecules organiques" are physical equivalents of Leibnitz's "monads."
At first its assailants engaged to carry it into execution without restriction; next they appointed a commission of eleven members to prepare the lois organiques, which were to render it practicable; by and by, they ventured to suggest objections to it on the ground that it distributed power too loosely, and only recognised one assembly dependent on the people, even in its measures of legislation.
And each of these may constitute one individuality, in the same sense as the whole organism is one individual, although the matter of the organism has been constantly changing. The primitive male and female molecules may play the part of Buffon's "moules organiques," and mould the assimilated nutriment, each according to its own type, into innumerable new molecules.
But Buffon further imagined that innumerable "molecules organiques" are dispersed throughout the world, and that alimentation consists in the appropriation by the parts of an organism of those molecules which are analogous to them. Growth, therefore, was, on this hypothesis, a process partly of simple evolution, and partly of what has been termed "syngenesis."