CHAPTER IV
CAUSE AND EFFECT -- PROBABILITY

§ 1. -- Mechanism

THE discussion of the previous chapter has led us to see that law in the scientific sense only describes in mental shorthand the sequences of our perceptions. It does not explain why those perceptions have a certain order, nor why that order repeats itself; the law discovered by science introduces no element of necessity into the sequence of our sense-impressions; it merely gives a concise statement of how changes are taking place. That a certain sequence has occurred and recurred in the past is a matter of experience to which we give expression in the concept causation; that it will continue to recur in the future is a matter of belief to which we give expression in the concept probability. Science in no case can demonstrate any inherent necessity in a sequence, nor prove with absolute certainty that it must be repeated. Science for the past is a description, for the future a belief; it is not, and has never been, an explanation, if by this word is meant that science shows the necessity of any sequence of perceptions. Science cannot demonstrate that a cataclysm will not engulf the universe to-morrow, but it can prove that past experience, so far from providing a shred of evidence in favour of any such occurrence, does, even in the light of our ignorance of any necessity in the sequence of our perceptions, give an overwhelming probability against such a cataclysm. If the reader has once fully grasped that science is an intellectual résumé of past

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