It is necessary to make the ether absolutely elastic and absolutely rigid. We are acquainted with many materials that are elastic, and with some that are comparatively rigid. But the elastic substances that we are acquainted with are not rigid, and the rigid substances are not elastic; and to assume such contradictory qualities in the ether transports us far beyond the bounds of experimental science.
These are but a few of the difficulties raised by the assumption of the ether as a real entity; but as there is no means of demonstrating its existence, except by arguing the necessity of having such a medium to transmit radiant energy, it follows that no multiplication of objections to the theory is likely to refute it in the minds of those who feel this necessity. Those who refuse to admit the possibility of “action at a distance,” who insist on inventing a connecting material medium between every observed effect and some material object with which it seems to be in causal connection, will, I suppose, have to be allowed to exercise their ingenuity in any way to satisfy their minds, even though they may have to revise their theory with every fresh discovery in optics or radioactivity.
There are many other ingenious mental devices, like this of the ether, which seem to me only materialistic efforts to postpone or to dodge the real vital lessons to be read from natural phenomena,—efforts to push the real Cause back one step farther into the shadow,—a last desperate effort, in the face of the constantly accumulating evidence of modern knowledge that the great First Cause is far more intimately connected with life and motion than many are willing to believe. We have already mentioned gravity and the other attractive forces, such as cohesion and adhesion; but seemingly very few people have ever paused to consider how utterly inexplicable they still remain in any physical or materialistic sense.
It is easy to explain any form of a push in a physical way; but gravity is not a push but a pull. And how are we to explain the method by which a body can act where it is not, how explain in detail the way by which it can reach out and pull in toward itself another separated body, and exert this pull across the immeasurably wide fields of space? The law of inverse squares may tell us very accurately the manner in which the results are accomplished, for our Creator is a God of order. But there is no materialistic theory of the why of gravitation that is worth employing the time of sensible, truth-loving people. And we can rest assured that there never will be any such real “explanation,” save that this is the way which the great Jehovah has ordained. Since such theories only explain the known in terms of the unknown, they can serve only as a sort of mental buffer or shield between us and the conception of the direct working of a personal God, whose word must always be as effective throughout the remotest corners