The power of authority is never more subtle and effective than when it produces a psychological atmosphere or climate favorable to the life of certain modes of belief, unfavorable, and even fatal, to the life of others.
Though the parallel is not complete, it is safe to say that science will never touch them unaided by its practical applications. Its wonders may be catalogued for purposes of education, they may be illustrated by arresting experiments, by numbers and magnitudes which startle or fatigue the imagination but they will form no familiar portion of the intellectual furniture of ordinary men unless they be connected, however remotely, with the conduct of ordinary life.
Man, so far as natural science by itself is able to teach us, is no longer the final cause of the universe, the Heaven-descended heir of all the ages. His very existence is an accident, his story a brief and transitory episode in the life of one of the meanest of the planets.
But science is the great instrument of social change, all the greater because its object is not change but knowledge, and its silent appropriation of this dominant function, amid the din of political and religious strife, is the most vital of all the revolutions which have marked the development of modern civilisation.
Imperishable moments and immortal deeds, death itself and love stronger than death, will be as though they had never been. The energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed and the earth tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for the moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit and all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousness, which in this obscure corner has for a brief space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at rest.
Kant, as we all know, compared moral law to the starry heavens, and found them both sublime. On the naturalistic hypothesis we should rather compare it to the protective blotches on a beetle's back, and find them both ingenious.