From the introductory chapter: DRIFT OF MODERN THOUGHT.
The laws of nature, which are by many erroneously considered self-operating entities, are simply the names of methods of working. The vitalizing forces themselves are hidden behind an impenetrable veil of mystery. Of the certain existence of secret somethings wholly distinct from the particles of matter wrapped up within the folds of germs or within the faces of crystals we have palpable proofs in phenomena, but the most searching scientific analysis has never yet lifted or rent the veil. We think we account by gravity for the rush of the avalanche and the tides of the sea. Hydrogen and oxygen embrace at the touch of fire, and we call it chemical affinity. Frost utters some potent spell over the particles of a water-drop and they fall into line and effect symmetrical combinations with the precision of drilled infantry, and we flatter ourselves we have solved the riddle when we christen it crystallization. Kernels of wheat taken from the hand of an Egyptian mummy, where they had lain through the long roll of three thousand years seemingly dead, when dropped into the earth were found filled with skilled alchemists who, in unknown proportions and by unknown processes, compounded in their crucibles ingredients of dew, air, soil, and sunlight. That there should have been power left to produce vegetable cell-growth after this death-like sleep of thirty centuries we may well pronounce a mystery, but what that was which slept and in its waking goldened the fields with grain again is a mystery infinitely greater. Two embryos so minute as scarcely to be discernible to the naked eye, their points of difference seldom, if ever, detected even when placed in the focus of the microscope, will, when favorably circumstanced, develop, one into a winged butterfly, the other into a bounding tiger: why, none can tell....
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