THE Bishop of Birmingham's paper at the Church Congress on “The Uniformity of Nature and the Freedom of Man” was an utterance of great interest to students of science. Dr. Barnes did not claim to provide any final solution of the problems which surround this subject; but, what is perhaps an equivalent service, he indicated where the real problems lie. He said that we are confronted with two which are “unsolved and at present insoluble.” In the first place, we cannot understand how mental processes can affect physical events; and, in the second place, “assuming that mind has an influence in the physical world, we cannot explain why the laws of that world appear to form a closed system.” Dr. Barnes did not consider the first difficulty solved by the assumption that “there is associated with mind some ‘vital force,’” since it has not yet been possible to point to any definite process in which such vital force discloses its activity. Nor, as a solution of the second difficulty, would he accept the idea that the will may exercise a sort of directive power without interfering with the principle of the conservation of energy, since all such contentions fail to satisfy the mathematical physicist.
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News and Views. Nature 122, 582–585 (1928). https://doi.org/10.1038/122582a0