Изображения страниц


which, whether they can all, or in what degree of vigour and perfection, be performed, or how long preserved, without the extirpated organ, does not seem to be ascertained by experiment. But to this case, even were it fully made out, may be applied the consideration which we suggested concerning the watch, viz. that these superfluous parts do not negative the reasoning which we instituted concerning those parts which are useful, and of which we know the use; the indication of contrivance, with respect to them, remains as it was before. III. One atheistic way of replying to our observations upon the works of nature, and to the proofs of a Deity, which we think that we perceive in them, is to tell us, that all which we see must necessarily have had some form, and that it might as well be its present form as any other. Let us now apply this answer to the eye, as we did before to the watch. Something or other must have occupied that place in the animal's head; must have filled up, we will say, that socket: we will say also, that it must have been of that sort of substance which we call animal substance, as flesh, bone, membrane, cartilage, &c. But that it should have been an eye, knowing as we do what an eye comprehends,-viz. that it should have consisted, first, of a series of transparent lenses (very different by-the-by, even in their substance, from the opaque materials of which the rest of the body is, in general at least, composed; and with which the whole of its surface, this single portion of it excepted, is covered) secondly, of a black cloth or canvas (the only membrane of the body which is black) spread out behind these lenses, so as to receive the image formed by pencils of light transmitted through them; and placed at the precise geometrical distance, at which, and at which alone, a distinct image could be formed, namely, at the concourse of the refracted rays: thirdly, of a large nerve communicating between this membrane and the brain; without which, the action of light upon the membrane, however modified by the organ, would be lost to the purposes of sensation:-that this fortunate conformation of parts should have been the lot, not of one individual out of many thousand individuals, like the great prize in a lottery, or like some singularity in nature, but the happy chance of a whole species: nor of one species out of many thousand species, with which we are acquainted, but of by far the greatest number of all that exist; and that under varieties, not casual or capricious, but bearing marks of being suited to their respective exigencies :—that all this should have taken place, merely because something must have occupied these points in every animal's forehead; -or, that all this should be thought to be accounted for, by the short answer, "that whatever was there must have had some form or other," is too absurd to be made more so by any augmentation. We are not contented with this answer; we find no satisfaction in it, by way of accounting for appearances of organization far short of those of the eye, such as we observe in fossil shells, petrified bones, or other substances which bear the vestiges of animal or vegetable recrements, but which, either in respect of utility, or of the situation in which they are discovered, may seem accidental enough. It is no way of accounting even for these things, to say, that the stone, for instance, which is shewn to us (supposing the question to be concerning a petrification), must have contained some internal conformation or other. Nor does it mend the answer to add, with respect to the singularity of the conformation, that after the event, it is no longer to be computed what the chances were against it. This is always to be computed when the question is, whether a useful or imitative conformation be the produce of chance, or not: I desire no greater certainty in reasoning, than that by which chance is excluded from the present disposition of the natural world. Universal experience is against it. What does chance ever do for us? In the human body, for instance, chance, i. e. the operation of causes without design, may produce a wen, a wart, a mole, a pimple, but never an eye. Amongst inanimate substances, a clod, a pebble, a liquid drop, might be ; but never was a watch, a telescope, an organised body of any kind, answering a valuable purpose by a complicated mechanism, the effect of chance. In no assignable instance hath such a thing existed without intention somewhere.

IV. There is another answer which has the same effect as the resolving of things into chance; which answer would persuade us to believe, that the eye, the animal to which it belongs, every other animal, every plant, indeed every organised body which we see, are only so many out of the possible varieties and combinations of being, which the lapse of infinite ages has brought into existence; that the present world is the relic of that variety;

millions of other bodily forms and other species having perished, being by the defect of their constitution incapable of preservation, or of continuance by generation. Now there is no foundation whatever for this conjecture in any thing which we observe in the works of nature; no such experiments are going on at present; no such energy operates, as that which is here supposed, and which should be constantly pushing into existence new varieties of beings. Nor are there any appearances to support an opinion, that every possible combination of vegetable or animal structure has formerly been tried. Multitudes of conformations, both of vegetables and animals, may be conceived capable of existence and succession, which yet do not exist. Perhaps almost as many forms of plants might have been found in the fields, as figures of plants can be delineated upon paper. A countless variety of animals might have existed, which do not exist. Upon the supposition here stated, we should see unicorns and mermaids, sylphs and centaurs, the fancies of painters, and the fables of poets, realised by examples. Or, if it be alleged that these may transgress the bounds of possible life and propagation, we might, at least, have nations of human beings without nails upon their fingers, with more or fewer fingers and toes than ten, some with one eye, others with one ear, with one nostril, or without the sense of smelling at all. All these, and a thousand other imaginable varieties, might live and propagate. We may modify any one species many different ways, all consistent with life, and with the actions necessary to preservation, although affording different degrees of conveniency and enjoyment to the animal. And if we carry these modifications through the different species which are known to subsist, their number would be incalculable. No reason can be given why, if these deperdits ever existed, they have now disappeared. Yet, if all possible existences have been tried, they must have formed part of the catalogue.

But, moreover, the division of organised substances into animals and vegetables, and the distribution and sub-distribution of each into genera and species, which distribution is not an arbitrary act of the mind, but founded in the order which prevails in external nature, appear to me to contradict the supposition of the present world being the remains of an indefinite variety of existences; of a variety which rejects all plan. The hypothesis teaches, that every possible variety of being hath, at one time or other, found its way into existence (by what cause or in what manner is not said), and that those which were badly formed, perished; but how or why those which survived should be cast, as we see that plants and animals are cast, into regular classes, the hypothesis does not explain; or rather the hypothesis is inconsistent with this phenomenon.

The hypothesis, indeed, is hardly deserving of the consideration which we have given to it. What should we think of a man who, because we had never ourselves seen watches, telescopes, stocking-mills, steam-engines, &c. made, knew not how they were made, nor could prove by testimony when they were made, or by whom,-would have us believe that these machines, instead of deriving their curious structures from the thought and design of their inventors and contrivers, in truth derive them from no other origin than this; viz. that a mass of metals and other materials having run when melted into all possible figures, and combined themselves in all possible forms, and shapes, and proportions, these things which we see, are what were left from the accident, as best were worth preserving; and, as such, are become the remaining stock of a magazine, which, at one time or other, has by this means contained every mechanism, useful and useless, convenient and inconvenient, into which such-like materials could be thrown? I cannot distinguish the hypothesis as applied to the works of nature, from this solution, which no one would accept, as applied to a collection of machines *.

That in a former state of the earth, ages before it was tenanted by man, many animals and vegetables existed, supposed to be long since extinct, is very certain. The bones and other remains of extinct species, are continually discovered in all parts of the world; their skeletons have been carefully arranged by geological labourers, and their size, habits, food, and many other particulars readily ascertained.

"In these curious inquiries," says Lord Brougham,

[ocr errors]

we are conversant, not merely with the world before the flood, but with a world which before the flood was covered with water, and which in far earlier ages had been the habitation of birds, and beasts, and reptiles. We are carried, as it were, several worlds back, and we reach a period when all was water and slime and mud, and the waste, without either man or plants, gave resting-place to enormous beasts like lions and elephants, and river horses, while the water was tenanted by lizards, the size of a

V. To the marks of contrivance discoverable in animal bodies, and to the argument deduced from them, in proof of design, and of a designing Creator, this turn is sometimes. attempted to be given, namely, that the parts were not intended for the use, but that the use arose out of the parts. This distinction is intelligible. A cabinet-maker rubs his mahogany with fish-skin; yet it would be too much to assert that the skin of the dog-fish was made rough and granulated on purpose for the polishing of wood, and the use of cabinet-makers. Therefore the distinction is intelligible. But I think that there is very little place for it in the works of nature. When roundly and generally affirmed of them, as it hath sometimes been, it amounts to such another stretch of assertion, as it would be to say, that all the implements of the cabinet-maker's work-shop, as well as his fish-skin, were substances accidentally configurated, which he had picked up, and converted to his use; that his adzes, saws, planes, and gimlets, were not made, as we suppose, to hew, cut, smooth, shape out, or bore wood with; but that these things being made, no matter with what design, or whether with any, the cabinet-maker perceived that they were applicable to his purpose, and turned them to account.

But, again. So far as this solution is attempted to be applied to those parts of animals, the action of which does not depend upon the will of the animal, it is fraught with still more evident absurdity. Is it possible to believe that the eye was formed without any regard to vision; that it was the animal itself which found out, that, though formed with no such intention, it would serve to see with; and that the use of the eye, as an organ of sight, resulted from this discovery, and the animal's application of it? The same question may be asked of the ear; the same of all the senses. None of the senses fundamentally depend upon the election of the animal; consequently neither upon his sagacity, nor his experience. It is the impression which objects make upon them, that constitutes their use. Under that impression, he is passive. He may bring objects to the sense, or within its reach; he may select these objects; but over the impression itself he has no power, or very little; and that properly is the sense.

Secondly; there are many parts of animal bodies which seem to depend upon the will of the animal in a greater degree than the senses do, and yet with respect to which, this solution is equally unsatisfactory. If we apply the solution to the human body, for instance, it forms

whale, sixty or seventy feet long, &c."-Preliminary Discourse, p. 47.

It is probable that many animals, fishes, &c. do yet exist on our globe which we have not seen. Saying nothing of the unexplored portions of the carth's surface, our investigations have been, as it were, almost entirely confined to that surface. The, to us, unfathomable depths of the ocean are probably inhabited by fish, adapted to withstand the enormous pressure of water to which they are necessarily exposed, and the interior of our globe probably contains great inland lakes tenanted by fish and other living animals. We are not indeed without instances of occasional glimpses of these hidden creatures. As an instance, Davy, in his "Last Days of a Philosopher," has given us the description of a curious fish, the Proteus Anguinus, found only in the waters of the natural cave, or grotto of the Maddalena at Adelsberg, and one at Sittich in Illyria, and that only after particular seasons of rain.

"At first view you might suppose this animal to be a lizard, but it has the motions of a fish. Its head, and the lower part of its body and its tail, bear a strong resemblance to those of the eel, but it has no fins, and its curious bronchial organs are not like the gills of fishes.... It is furnished with lungs; it can live either above or below the surface of the water. Its fore feet resemble hands, but they have only three claws or fingers, and are too feeble to be of use in grasping, or supporting the weight of the animal. In dry seasons they are seldom found here, but after great rains they are often abundant. I think it cannot be doubted that their natural residence

is in an extensive deep subterranean lake, from which, in great floods, they are sometimes forced through the crevices of the rocks, into this place where they are found. They have been noticed of various sizes, from that of the thickness of a quill to that of the thumb; their form of organs is always the same. It is surely a perfect animal of a peculiar species. And it adds one instance more to the number already known of the wonderful manner in which life is produced and perpetuated in every part of our globe, even in places which seem the least suited to organized existences. And the same infinite power and wisdom which has fitted the camel and the ostrich for the deserts of Africa... has given the proteus to the deep and dark subterraneous lakes of Illyria; an animal to whom the presence of light is not essential, and who can live indifferently in air and in water, on the surface of the rock, or in the depths of the mud."

Whatever may be the number of extinct or hidden animals, the existence of these in no way alters the conclusion to be derived from the fact that the remains of those supposed to be extinct still bear the same marks of contrivance in their formation, as others which are now universally inhabiting the earth. Thus, by the teeth and cloven hoofs of several animals known to us only in the fossil state, we are enabled to determine that their owners lived upon vegetables, had a mouth adapted for grazing, and were fitted to inhabit marshy places, where the grass grew most luxuriantly, and of a size best adapted to the necessities of an enormous animal.-Buckland, Cuvier, Davy.

itself into questions, upon which no reasonable mind can doubt; such as, whether the teeth were made expressly for the mastification of food, the feet for walking, the hands for holding? or whether, these things being as they are, being in fact in the animal's possession, his own ingenuity taught him that they were convertible to these purposes, though no such purposes were contemplated in their formation?

All that there is of the appearance of reason in this way of considering the subject is, that in some cases the organisation seems to determine the habits of the animal, and its choice to a particular mode of life; which, in a certain sense, may be called “the use arising out of the part." Now to all the instances, in which there is any place for this suggestion, it may be replied, that the organisation determines the animal to habits beneficial and salutary to itself; and that this effect would not be seen so regularly to follow, if the several organisations did not bear a concerted and contrived relation to the substance by which the animal was surrounded. They would, otherwise, be capacities without objects; powers without employment. The web-foot determines, you say, the duck to swim; but what would that avail, if there were no water to swim in? The strong, hooked bill, and sharp talons, of one species of bird, determine it to prey upon animals; the soft, straight bill, and weak claws of another species, determine it to pick up seeds: but neither determination could take effect in providing for the sustenance of the birds, if animal bodies and vegetable seeds did not lie within their reach. The peculiar conformation of the bill and tongue and claws of the woodpecker, determines that bird to search for his food amongst the insects lodged behind the bark, or in the wood, of decayed trees; but what should this profit him, if there were no trees, no decayed trees, no insects lodged under their bark, or in their trunk? The proboscis with which the bee is furnished, determines him to seek for honey: but what would that signify, if flowers supplied none? Faculties thrown down upon animals at random, and without reference to the objects amidst which they are placed, would not produce to them the services and benefits which we see and if there be that reference, then there is intention.

Lastly; the solution fails entirely when applied to plants. The parts of plants answer their uses, without any concurrence from the will or choice of the plant.

VI. Others have chosen to refer every thing to a principle of order in nature. A principle of order is the word: but what is meant by a principle of order, as different from an intelligent Creator, has not been explained either by definition or example; and, without such explanation, it should seem to be a mere substitution of words for reasons, names for causes. Order itself is only the adaptation of means to an end: a principle of order therefore can only signify the mind and intention which so adapts them. Or, were it capable of being explained in any other sense, is there any experience, any analogy, to sustain it? Was a watch ever produced by a principle of order? and why might not a watch be so produced, as well as an eye?

Furthermore, a principle of order, acting blindly and without choice, is negatived by the observation, that order is not universal; which it would be, if it issued from a constant and necessary principle: nor indiscriminate, which it would be, if it issued from an unintelligent principle. Where order is wanted, there we find it: where order is not wanted, i. e. where, if it prevailed, it would be useless, there we do not find it. In the structure of the eye (for we adhere to our example), in the figure and position of its several parts, the most exact order is maintained. In the forms of rocks and mountains, in the lines which bound the coasts of continents and islands, in the shape of bays and promontories, no order whatever is perceived, because it would have been superfluous. No useful purpose would have arisen from moulding rocks and mountains into regular solids, bounding the channel of the ocean by geometrical curves; or from the map of the world resembling a table of diagrams in Euclid's Elements, or Simpson's Conic Sections.

VII. Lastly the confidence which we place in our observations upon the works of nature, in the marks which we discover of contrivance, choice, and design; and in our reasoning upon the proofs afforded us; ought not to be shaken, as it is sometimes attempted to be done, by bringing forward to our view our own ignorance, or rather the general imperfection of our knowledge of nature. Nor in many cases, ought this consideration to affect us, even when it respects some parts of the subject immediately under our notice. True

fortitude of understanding consists in not suffering what we know to be disturbed by what we do not know. If we perceive a useful end, and means adapted to that end, we perceive enough for our conclusion. If these things be clear, no matter what is obscure. The argument is finished. For instance; if the utility of vision to the animal which enjoys it, and the adaptation of the eye to this office, be evident and certain (and I can mention nothing which is more so), ought it to prejudice the inference which we draw from these premises, that we cannot explain the use of the spleen? Nay, more: if there be parts of the eye, viz. the cornea, the crystalline, the retina, in their substance, figure, and position manifestly suited to the formation of an image by the refraction of rays of light, at least, as manifestly as the glasses and tubes of a dioptric telescope are suited to that purpose; it concerns not the proof which these afford of design, and of a designer, that there may perhaps be other parts, certain muscles for instance, or nerves in the same eye, of the agency or effect of which we can give no account; any more than we should be inclined to doubt, or ought to doubt, about the construction of a telescope, viz. for what purpose it was constructed, or whether it were constructed at all, because there belonged to it certain screws and pins, the use or action of which we did not comprehend. I take it to be a general way of infusing doubts and scruples into the mind, to recur to its own ignorance, its own imbecility: to tell us that upon these subjects we know little; that little imperfectly; or rather, that we know nothing properly about the matter. These suggestions so fall in with our consciousness, as sometimes to produce a general distrust of our faculties and our conclusions. But this is an unfounded jealousy. The uncertainty of one thing does not necessarily affect the certainty of another thing. Our ignorance of many points need not suspend our assurance of a few. Before we yield, in any particular instance, to the scepticism which this sort of insinuation would induce, we ought accurately to ascertain, whether our ignorance or doubt concern those precise points upon which our conclusion rests. Other points are nothing. Our ignorance of other points may be of no consequence to these, though they be points, in various respects, of great importance. A just reasoner removes from his consideration, not only what he knows, but what he does not know, touching matters not strictly connected with his argument, i. e. not forming the very steps of his deduction: beyond these, his knowledge and his ignorance are alike relative.



WERE there no example in the world, of contrivance, except that of the eye, it would be alone sufficient to support the conclusion which we draw from it, as to the necessity of an intelligent Creator. It could never be got rid of; because it could not be accounted for by any other supposition, which did not contradict all the principles we possess of knowledge; the principles according to which, things do, as often as they can be brought to the test of experience, turn out to be true or false. Its coats and humours, constructed, as the lenses of a telescope are constructed, for the refraction of rays of light to a point, which forms the proper action of the organ; the provision in its muscular tendons for turning its pupil to the object, similar to that which is given to the telescope by screws, and upon which power of direction in the eye, the exercise of its office as an optical instrument depends; the farther provision for its defence, for its constant lubricity and moisture, which we see in its socket and its lids, in its gland for the secretion of the matter of tears, its outlet or communication with the nose for carrying off the liquid after the eye is washsed with it; these provisions compose altogether an apparatus, a system of parts, a preparation of means, so manifest in their design, so exquisite in their contrivance, so successful in their issue, so precious, and so infinitely beneficial in their use, as, in my


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »