The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, October 31, 1901, Page 7, Image 7

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    and coalesce , and the resulting
amoeba swims away as two individ
uals rolled into one. Now in this
case what became of the individuality
of each amoeba ; did amoeba A eat
amoeba B , or vice versa , and is the re
sulting amoeba a survival of A or of
B or of both , or of neither of them ?
j And what becomes of the antithesis of
< ' ' eating or being eaten , ' ' which was
/ so clear and distinct in the highly
specialized forms of life , and is so
evanescent in the simpler forms ?
i This illustration may serve to teach
( us how necessary it is to trace things
up to their origins , before expressing
too confident opinions as to their
nature and relations.
Life and Matter.
In the case of the organic or inorganic -
' " organic worlds the proper course obviously -
' viously is , not to draw conclusions
from extreme and highly specialized
instances , but to follow life down
ward to its simplest and most primi
tive form , and to trace matter up
ward to the stage which approaches
most nearly to the living form of life.
Following matter upward , we find a
regular progression from the simple
to the complex. Take the diamond ,
which is one of the simplest of sub
stances , being merely the crystalized
form of a single ultimate element ,
carbon. It is extremely hard and ex
tremely stable. Ascending to com
pounds of two , three or more elements ,
we get substances which are more
complex and less stable ; and at last
wo arrive at combinations which in
volve many elements and are most
complex. Among these latter sub
stances arc some , called colloids ,
which are neither solid , like crystals ,
ror fluid , like liquids , but in an in
termediate state , like jelly , or the
white of an egg , in which the mole
cules have great mobility and are
at a considerable distance apart , so
that water can penetrate their mass.
These colloids are for the most part
very complicated compounds of vari
ous elements based on a nucleus of
carbon , which from its atom having
four poles with strong mutual attrac
tions , is eminently qualified for form
ing what may be called the inner skel
eton of these complex combinations.
Colloids of this description supply the
last stage of the ascending line from
inorganic matter to organic life.
Next , let us trace life downward to
ward matter. There is a constant
sucession from the more to the less
complex and differentiated ; from
man through mammals , reptiles , fish
es , and a long chain of more simple
forms , until at its end welcome to the
two last links , which are the same
for all animals , all plants , and all
forms of animated existence. The last
link but one is the cell , the last of all
is protoplasm. Protoplasm , called by
Huxley "the physical basis of life , "
is a colorless jelly-like substance , ab
solutely homogeneous , without struc
ture , in fact a mere microscopic speck
of jelly. The cell is the first stop in
the specialization of protoplasm , the
outer layer of which , in contact with
the surrounding environment , becomes
hardened so as to form a cell-wall ,
while a portion of the enclosed proto
plasm condenses into a nucleus , in
which a further condensation makes
what is called the nucleolus or second
smaller nucleus. This constitutes the
nucleated cell , whoso repeated subdi
vision into other similar cells in geometrical
metrical progression furnishes the raw
material out of which all the varied
structures of the world of life
are built up. Plants and animals ,
bones , muscles , and organs
of sense , are all composed
of modified cells , hardened , flattened
or otherwise altered , as the case may
require. If we trace life up to its or
igin in the same individual , instead
of in the species , we arrive at the same
result. All plants and animals , wheth
er of the lowest or highest forms fish ,
reptile , bird , mammal , man begin
their individual existence as a speck
of protoplasm , passing into a nucle
ated cell , which contains in it the
whole principle of its subsequent evolution
lution into the mature and completed
form. Protoplasm is , therefore , evi
dently the nearest approach of life to
matter ; and if life , when the world
was in a different chemical condition
from what it is now , ever originated
from atomic and molecular combina
tions , it was in this form. To suppose
that any more complicated form of life ,
however humble , could originate
from chemical combinations , would
be a violation of the law of evolution ,
which shows a uniform 'development
from the simple to the complex , and
never a sudden jump , passing at a
bound over intermediate grades. To
understand life , we must understand
protoplasm ; for protoplasm , closely as
it approximates to colloid matter , is
thoroughly alive. A whole family ,
the monera , consists simply of a living
globule of jelly. Every molecule , as
in a crystal , is of homogeneous chemi
cal composition and an epitome of the
whole mass. There are no special
parts , no organs told off for particular
functions , and yet many life-functions
nutrition , reproduction , sensation ,
and movement are performed , but
each by the whole body. The jelly
speck becomes a mouth to swallow ,
and turning inside out a stomach to
digest. It shoots out tongues of jelly
to move and feel with , and presently
withdraws them. With these attri
butes it is impossible to deny to proto
plasm the full endowment of the low
est class of life , or to doubt that , like
the atom in the material world , it is
the primary element of organic , or
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living existence. Given this atom ,
wo can trace up , step by step , the
whole evolution of matter ; so given
the protoplasm , we can trace up the
evolution of life by progressive stages
to its highest development man.
What is protoplasm ? In its sub
stance it is a nitrogenous carbon com
pound , differing only from other sim
ilar compounds of the albuminous fam
ily of colloids by the extremely com
plex nature of its molecules. It con
sists of five elements , and its average
composition is believed by chemists
to be 52.55 per cent carbon , 21.28 oxy
gen , 15.17 nitrogen , 6.7 hydrogen , 1.2
sulphur. Its peculiar qualities , there
fore , including life , are not the result
of any new and peculiar atom added
to the known chemial compounds of
the same family but of the manner
of grouping and motions of these well-
known material elements It has in
a remarkable degree the faculty of ab
sorbing water , so that its molecules
seem to float in it in a condition of
semi-fluid aggregation , which ap
pears essential to the molecular mo
ments which are the cause or the ac
companiment of life.
Thus , many seeds if perfectly dry ,
may remain for months apparently as
dead and as unchanging as crystals ,
to revive into life when moistened.
But , * in addition to those material
qualities in which protoplasm seems
to differ only from a whole group of
similar compounds of the type of glyc
erine , by the greater complexity and
mobility of its molecules , it has de
veloped the new and peculiar element
which is called life , and which has
been defined by the late Dr. Oliver
Wendell Holmes as "the state of an
organized being in which it maintains ,
or is capable of maintaining its struc
tural integrity by the constant inter
change of elements with the surround
ing media. ' ' In its essence , life is
manifested by the faculties of nutri
tion , sensation , movement and repro
duction. As regards nutrition , there
is this essential difference between
living and non-living matter. The
latter , if it feeds and grows at all ,
does so only by taking on fresh mole
cules of its own substance on its outer
surface , as in the case of a small crys
tal of ice in freezing water. If it feeds
on foreign matter and throughout its
mass , it does so only in the way of
chemical combination. Living matter -
tor , on the other hand , feeds internal
ly , and works up foreign substances ,
by the process we call digestion , in
to molecules like its own , which it
assimilates , rejecting as waste any
surplus or foreign matter which it
cannot incorporate It thus grows or
decays as assimilation or waste pre
ponderates , remaining always itself.
The distinction will be clear if we
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