Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

logians believe, salvation depends on the announcement of these truths, surely the same Power which gives the revelation is as able to announce it throughout the universe, as to prompt human beings to go as missionaries for that purpose to Burmah or Thibet. Altogether the attempt to show scriptural theology to be adverse to the hypothesis that other moral worlds exist besides our own, appears to us to have signally failed.*

Turning to Dr. Whewell's ingenious physical arguments against extending the analogy derived from the earth to other worlds, we find objections of a more tangible character. He ingeniously breaks, or tries to break, the force of the natural presumption, that the earth is only one amongst many worlds subject to similar laws, by showing that this cannot be the case with the moon, nor, as he imagines, with Neptune (the most distant of the planets), and thence he infers, that all antecedent presumption is taken away directly any one world has been proved to be created without regard to the existence of moral life upon its surface. We freely admit that there can exist but little analogy between the conditions of life on our earth, and those which might be possible on the moon in its present state. The physical constitution of its inhabitants if inhabitants there be—must be so different from ours, that very little analogy between them, beyond the mere fact of living on a solid surface, could probably exist. Bodies they might have, but surely not lungs; nor could they be subject to the same physiological laws. Dr. Whewell seems to us right in arguing that the physical analogy is so slight that we have very little more reason for believing our satellite to be inhabited by beings of similar mental and moral organization to ourselves, than we have for believing vacant space to be so peopled-in other words, very little at all. If we argue—as we must do—for or against the existence of beings like us in mental and moral nature, from the likeness or unlikeness of their physical conditions—then we must admit that the dissimilarity is in so many respects wider than the similarity between the lunar and terrestrial state of things, that any presumption of the sort would be very rash indeed. We remember reading in the famous German Astronomer Mädler's delightful book on Astronomy, a speech supposed to be delivered by an inhabitant of the moon to his fellow-countrymen, on a visit he had been enabled to pay to our earth, and on the great difference of physical life in the two planets. There can

Mr. Higginson's able lectures deal very well with Sir David Brewster's extraordinary assertion that the inspired writers knew the other worlds to be inhabited, and evinced that knowledge in their casual mention of the stars.

be no doubt that there is no rain at least on this side of the moon-no sensible atmosphere that reaches so high as the lunar mountains, though a few astronomers do fancy they have perceived one on the flatter edges of the moon's surface-no water—and of course no fire, if there be no gas in which it might burn. Now, without these things the lunar people must be a good deal unlike us. The moon being much less dense than the earth, and about one-fiftieth of its size, the creatures there must be five or six times as light on their legs, and Mädler represents, we remember, his traveller as describing the oppressiveness of walking here, but as speaking of a slight alleviation to the pain he had experienced in ascending when he reached the top of the Alps, both from the diminution of atmospheric pressure, and the decrease in his own weight. Clearly, both on account of the dust (as there is no water there), and on account of the cold, it is well that the moon has no wind, and the possible inhabitants no lungs, or else the consumptive hospitals would be largely stocked. On the other hand, the possible lunites must have great advantages over the earth in several respects. The dark side of the moon, which has always a night of fourteen days, being without the compensating earth-light, (which is indefinitely more brilliant than our moon-light,) must be an excellent place for penal colonies and observatories, so that they perhaps chain their convicts to mural circles, and confer tickets of leave on the most successful users of the transit instrument. Having no obscuring clouds or atmosphere, the celestial phenomena must be extremely brilliant, and being visible uninterruptedly for about 327 hours, it is likely that these problematic neighbours of ours, if actually existing, have surpassed us as far in astronomical science as we have surpassed them in all the arts to which steam and water are necessary elements. On the near side of the moon, on the other hand, there must be an excellent supply of light, since the whole light of our own world (which turns to her a face about fourteen times as large as that which she presents to us) is available during the long fortnight between sunrise and sunset. We must suppose, therefore, that building-leases must differ very considerably in value on the two sides of our satellite, especially as—if there be no atmosphere-neither gas nor candles can be in use. Architecture, too, must be a difficult lunar art as compared with terrestrial architecture, since gravity is by no means so favourable to the solidity of their buildings as it is with us. Again, their vegetable life, without rain or moisture, must be of an anomalous kind; and birds and fish being out of the question, there would be a good deal of sameness about the food, as also about the trades and sports which are concerned with procuring food, amongst our lunar brethren, if we might judge by our own condition. If there be no atmosphere, there can be no fire and no operation that depends on fire; so that we may say there are probably no lunar cooks, bakers, or smiths: and, again, there can be no lunar grocers, greengrocers, poulterers, fishmongers, sailors, or shipwrights. In a vacuum, also, they cannot probably talk or sing; as any one may know who has tried to hear a beil ring in an exhausted receiver. Music, therefore, cannot be a lunar fine art : they can have no Handel or Beethoven. On the other hand, dancing may exist on a much greater scale, but time must be beaten to the eye. Also, painting can scarcely be imagined to have attained much perfection. Light and shadow they certainly have, and so may possibly have a daguerreotyping process (though, without nitrates and oxides, their chemistry must be very different), but though they may possess a Claudet they surely have no Claude. To any one who knows how almost entirely colour depends on the air and its refracting process, it must seem almost impossible that the lunar people can possess an art of colour. Sunset must be a dull affair, and even the sky is not blue but black. Turner and Claude might be exiled there for their sins. They have no cloud and no rainbow. On the other hand, they might have a Phidias and a Thorwaldsen, as well as a Michael Angelo. Philology must be based entirely on the hieroglyphic principle of an imitation of forms, as they have no sounds to imitate; but they might converse, like our deaf and dumb, on their fingers. Possibly they make up for the want of shooting and fishing by the much superior character of their hunting, since their horses and dogs, if as strong as our own, must be able to gallop at an amazing speed, and take twenty-barred gates with ease. However, the sensation of meeting a breeze is even then denied to them.

Again, we know that the heat of our earth depends so much upon the atmospheric blanket round us, which gathers and keeps the solar heat, that even the long day of 327 hours upon the moon can scarcely be temperate without it, and the nights must be severe enough. But possibly their animal heat is considerable, and as the cold is quite dry, it may not be so objectionable. Altogether we cannot feel much doubt that there is no case derived from physical analogies, for supposing mental and moral constitutions, like that of man, to exist upon this side of the moon. And so much we willingly yield to Dr. Whewell.* On the other hand, we must say that while nothing

We are told, however, by Mr. Baden Powell that recent calculations is known about the physical causes which produce an atmosphere, while some astronomers believe that the moon already possesses one of extreme rarity, and is likely to increase it at the expense of cometary gases by attracting them to her surface as they pass near her, and while also (as is supposed of the earth), there may be a central fire deep beneath the surface of the moon, and consequently, imprisoned gases which only need to be set free, there is no ground for asserting that she is always to be what she now is, in relation even to terrestrial kinds of organic life, (the only organic life of which we know anything). Nothing is known of the changes by which the earth has been prepared for man. If we could see what it was in the lifeless or azoic stage, as the geologists call it, would not even Dr. Whewell despair of ever seeing a University Press and Inductive sciences established upon it ?

But even if the moon be regarded, as Dr. Whewell proposes to lay down, not only at present, but for all time, as a mere " beautiful ash,” it by no means helps him to break through the analogical argument for moral constitutions like that of man existing upon worlds where atmospheres and all the conditions of our own organic life, though in various degrees, certainly exist. As we have before observed, the à priori presumption would be rather favourable to a considerable variety in the forms of existence in different planets from the observed discrepancies of this kind on the earth. If the change from the pole to the equator, from the Esquimaux to the Hindoos, be so considerable, we should expect that a much greater change would exhibit a much greater scope for variety in organic moulds. Nevertheless, we should expect that dissimilarities of moral type would be connected together by fundamental similarities in moral laws, if with considerable change in physical condition, we discern the action of the same invariable physical laws. To prove, as Dr. Whewell attempts, that Venus and Mercury are intolerable furnaces, Mars an arctic wilderness, the little asteroids shapeless lumps, Jupiter, Saturn and the further planets mere masses of ice, water, or vapour, is possible only by a method which would easily enable us to prove that no part of the earth is tenantable by beings in any degree like man, except

go to prove this side of the moon to be more elevated by twenty-nine miles above its centre of gravity than the opposite side; so that the non-existence of an atmosphere on this side would only prove that it does not extend to the top of a mountainous elevation twenty-nine miles high, which could hardly be expected, even if there were an atmosphere on the other side. In this case the other side may be already inhabited by beings like ourselves. It would be curious if the vacuous side should have the benefit of the earth’s light, and the inhabited side be deprived of it.

G

that where we have demonstrated its possibility by prosperously living ourselves.

Neptune, says Dr. Whewell, beginning cheerfully with the most cheerless planetary spot, receives only gooth part of the solar light and heat which reaches our earth ; the sun would appear to an observer there about the size of Jupiter as it is seen by us, although vastly more bright. Now unless we have à priori grounds for assuming all planets to contain organic beings like to man, would any one suppose that such beings could live under the partial illumination of a sun about as big as Jupiter ? The natural reply is, first, that unless we are to expect rational existence to be absolutely linked with not only a certain class of physical conditions, but also with an utterly invariable amount of each of these physical conditions, such a variety in the latter need not shake our belief at all, that such a planet, or at least planets in like circumstances, might be inhabited. The argument does not depend on the case of a single planet. The strict presumption rather is, that some planets, in each of the various possible classes, are probably the abodes of beings in whom a mental accompanies a physical organization, while some in each of these classes are not. If the earth has arrived at such a stage after an indefinitely long career of irrationality, we may reasonably expect that some other planets are, and some are not, similarly circumstanced, after passing through a variety of circumstances more or less different in kind and duration from the irrational infancy of the earth. All we mean to assert is, that the argument from analogy is not sensibly affected by the different physical condition of Neptune,-not that the probability is that this one planet is inhabited, but that if many planets in the universe were similarly circumstanced, we might reasonably expect that some of them

The improbability, if it exist at all, is not in its physical condition, but simply in the fact that the presumption is perhaps against supposing that any one given planet is, at a given time, the abode of rational beings, looking to our own knowledge of what the history of the earth has been—and this is not the point Dr. Whewell's argument touches. We should deny entirely that the argument has any of the strength against the other planets which it certainly has against the moon : there, as we have seen, the probable non-existence of an atmosphere would imply such an absolute difference in the physical organization of its inhabitants, if any, and consequently in their whole sensitive constitution and existence, that all we can say is that physical analogies give us not very much more ground for assuming, during its present condition, rational inhabitants in the moon, than for assuming inhabitants to exist in vacant

[ocr errors]

were.

space itself.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »