« VorigeDoorgaan »
property is sometimes called self-sufficiency, and sometimes self-comprehension,) appertains to the Deity, as his essential distinction, and removes his nature from that of all things which we see. Which consideration contains the answer to a question that has sometimes been asked, namely, Why, since something or other must have existed from eternity, may not the present universe be that something? The contrivance perceived in it, proves that to be impossible. Nothing contrived, can, in a strict and proper sense, be eternal, forasmuch as the contriver must have existed before the contrivance.
Wherever we see marks of contrivance, we are led for its cause to an intelligent author. And this transition of the understanding is founded upon uniform experience. We see intelligence constantly contriving; that is, we see intelligence constantly producing effects, marked and distinguished by certain properties; not certain particular properties, but by a kind and class of properties, such as relation to an end, relation of parts to one another, and to a common purpose. We see, wherever we are witnesses to the actual formation of things, nothing except intelligence producing effects so marked and distinguished. Furnished with this experience, we view the productions of nature. We observe them also marked and distinguished in the same manner. We wish to account for their origin. Our experience suggests a cause perfectly adequate to this account. No experience, no single instance or example, can be offered in favour of any other. In this cause therefore we ought to rest; in this cause the common sense of mankind has, in fact, rested, because it agrees with that, which, in all cases, is the foundation of knowledge,—the undeviating course of their experience. The reasoning is the same as that, by which we conclude any ancient appearances to have been the effects of volcanoes or inundations; namely, because they resemble the effects which fire and water produce before our eyes; and because we have never known these effects to result from any other operation. And this resemblance may subsist in so many circumstances, as not to leave us under the smallest doubt in forming our opinion. Men are not deceived by this reasoning: for whenever it happens, as it sometimes does happen, that the truth comes to be known by direct information, it turns out to be what was expected. In like manner, and upon the same foundation
(which in truth is that of experience), we conclude that the works of nature proceed from intelligence and design; because, in the properties of relation to a purpose, subserviency to a use, they resemble what intelligence and design are constantly producing, and what nothing except intelligence and design ever produce at all. Of every argument, which would raise a question as to the safety of this reasoning, it may be observed, that if such argument be listened to, it leads to the inference, not only that the present order of nature is insufficient to prove the existence of an intelligent Creator, but that no imaginable order would be sufficient to prove it; that no contrivance, were it ever so mechanical, ever so precise, ever so clear, ever so perfectly like those which we ourselves employ, would support this conclusion. A doctrine, to which, I conceive, no sound mind can assent.
The force however of the reasoning is sometimes sunk by our taking up with mere names. We have already noticed,* and we must here notice again, the misapplication of the term " law," and the mistake concerning the idea which that term expresses in physics, whenever such idea is made to take the place of power, and still more of an intelligent power, and, as such, to be assigned for the cause of any thing, or of any property of any thing, that exists. This is what we are secretly apt to do, when we speak of organized bodies (plants for instance, or animals,) owing their production, their form, their growth, their qualities, their beauty, their use, to any law or laws of nature; and when we are contented to sit down with that answer to our inquiries concerning them. I say once more, that it is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing. A law presupposes an agent, for it is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is the order according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the " law" does nothing; is nothing.
What has been said concerning " law," holds true of mechanism. Mechanism is not itself power. Mechanism, without power, can do nothing. Let a watch be contrived and constructed ever so ingeniously; be its parts ever so many, ever so complicated, ever so finely wrought or artificially put together, it cannot go without a weight or spring, i. e. without a force * Ch. i. sect. vii.
independent of, and ulterior to, its mechanism. The spring acting at the centre, will produce different motions and different results, according to the variety of the intermediate mechanism. One and the selfsame spring, acting in one and the same manner, viz. by simply expanding itself, may be the cause of a hundred different and all useful movements, if a hundred different and well-devised sets of wheels be placed between it and the final effect; e. g. may point out the hour of the day, the day of the month, the age of the moon, the position of the planets, the cycle of the years, and many other serviceable notices; and these movements may fulfil their purposes with more or less perfection, according as the mechanism is better or worse contrived, or better or worse executed, or in a better or worse state of repair: but in all cases, it is necessary thai the spring act at the centre. The course of our reasoning upon such a subject would be this: By inspecting the watch, even when standing still, we get a proof of contrivance, and of a contriving mind, having been employed about it. In the form and obvious relation of its parts, we see enough to convince us of this. If we pull the works in pieces, for the purpose of a closer examination, we are still more fully convinced. But, when we see the watch going, we see proof of another point, viz. that there is a power somewhere, and somehow or other, applied to it; a power in action ;—that there is more in the subject than the mere wheels of the machine;—that there is a secret spring, or a gravitating plummet;—in a word, that there is force, and energy, as well as mechanism.
So then, the watch in motion establishes to the observer two conclusions: One; that thought, contrivance, and design, have been employed in the forming, proportioning, and arranging of its parts; and that whoever or wherever he be, or were, such a contriver there is, or was: The other; that force or power, distinct from mechanism, is, at this present time, acting upon it. If I saw a hand-mill even at rest, I should see contrivance: but if I saw it grinding, I should be assured that a hand was at the windlass, though in another room. It is the same in nature. In the works of nature we trace mechanism; and this alone proves contrivance: but living, active, moving, productive nature, proves also the exertion of a power at the centre; for, wherever the power resides may be denominated the centre.
The intervention and disposition of what are called "second causes* fall under the same observation. This disposition is or is not mechanism, according as we can or cannot trace it by our senses and means of examination. That is all the difference there is; and it is a difference which respects our faculties, not the things themselves. Now where the order of second causes is mechanical, what is here said of mechanism strictly applies to it. But it would be always mechanism (natural chymistry, for instance, would be mechanism,) if our senses were acute enough to descry it. Neither mechanism, therefore, in the works of nature, nor the intervention of what are called second causes (for I think that they are the same thing,) excuses the necessity of an agent distinct from both.
If, in tracing these causes, it be said, that we find certain general properties of matter which have nothing in them that bespeaks intelligence, I answer, that, still, the managing of these properties, the pointing and directing them to the uses which we see made of them, demands intelligence in the highest degree. For example: suppose animal secretions to be elective attractions, and that such and such attractions universally belong to such and such substances; in all which there is no intellect concerned; still the choice and collocation of these substances; the fixing upon right substances, and disposing them in right places, must be an act of intelligence. What mischief would follow, were there a single transposition of the secretory organs; a single mistake in arranging the glands which compose them!
There may be many second causes, and many courses of second causes, one behind another, between what we observe of nature, and the Deity: but there must be intelligence somewhere; there must be more in nature than what we see; and, amongst the things unseen, there must be an intelligent, designing author. The philosopher beholds with astonishment the production of things around him. Unconscious particles of matter take their stations, and severally range themselves in an order, so as to become collectively plants or animals, i. e. organized bodies, with parts bearing strict and evident relation to one another, and to the utility of the whole: and it should seem that these particles could not move in any other way than as they do; for they testify not the smallest sign of choice, or liberty, or discretion. There may be particular intelligent beings, guiding these motions in each case: or they may be the result of trains of mechanical dispositions, fixed beforehand by an intelligent appointment, and kept in action by a power at the centre. But, in either case, there must be intelligence.
The minds of most men are fond of what they call a principle, and of the appearance of simplicity, in accounting for phenomena. Yet this principle, this simplicity, resides merely in the name; which name, after all, comprises, perhaps, under it a diversified, multifarious, or progressive operation, distinguishable into parts. The power in organized bodies, of producing bodies like themselves, is one of these principles. Give a philosopher this, and he can get on. But he does not reflect, what this mode of production, this principle (if such he choose to call it) requires; how much it presupposes; what an apparatus of instruments, some of which are strictly mechanical, is necessary to its success; what a train it includes of operations and changes, one succeeding another, one related to another, one ministering to another; all advancing, by intermediate, and, frequently, by sensible steps, to their ultimate result? Yet, because the whole of this complicated action is wrapped up in a single term, generation, we are to set it down as an elementary principle; and to suppose, that when we have resolved the things which we see into this principle, we have sufficiently accounted for their origin, without the necessity of a designing, intelligent Creator. The truth is, generation is not a principle, but a process. We might as well call the casting of metals a principle; we might, so far as appears to me, as well call spinning and weaving principles: and then, referring the texture of cloths, the fabric of muslins and calicoes, the patterns of diapers and damasks, to these, as principles, pretend to dispense with intention, thought, and contrivance, on the part of the artist; or to dispense, indeed, with the necessity of any artist at all, either in the manufacturing of the article, or in the fabrication of the machinery by which the manufacture was carried on.
And, after all, how, or in what sense, is it true, that animals produce their lihe? A butterfly, with a proboscis instead of a mouth, with four wings and six legs, produces a hairy caterpillar, with jaws and teeth, and fourteen feet. A frog produces a tadpole. A black beetle, with gauze
wings, and a crusty covering, produces a white, smooth, soft worm; an ephemeron fly, a cod-bait maggot. These, by a progress through different stages of life, and action, and enjoyment (and, in each state, provided with implements and organs appropriated to the temporary nature which they bear), arrive at last at the form and fashion of the parent animal. But all this is process, not principle; and proves, moreover, that the property of animated bodies, of producing their like, belongs to them, not as a primordial property, not by any blind necessity in the nature of things, but as the effect of economy, wisdom, and design; because the property itself assumes diversities, and submits to deviations dictated by intelligible utilities, and serving distinct purposes of animal happiness. # fl l^ACMThe opinion, which would consider " generation" as a principle in nature; and which would assign this principle as the cause, or endeavour to satisfy our minds with such a cause, of the existence of organized bodies; is confuted, in my judgment, not only by every mark of contrivance discoverable in those bodies, for which it gives us no contriver, offers no account whatever , but also by the farther consideration, that things generated, possess a clear relation to things not generated. If it were merely one part of a generated body bearing a relation to another part of the same body; as the mouth of an animal to the throat, the throat to the stomach, the stomach to the intestines, those to the recruiting of the blood, and, by means of the blood, to the nourishment of the whole frame: or if it were only one generated body bearing a relation to another generated body; as the sexes of the same species to each other, animals of prey to their prey, herbivorous and granivorous animals to the plants or seeds upon which they feed; it might be contended, that the whole of this correspondency was attributable to generation, the common origin from which these substances proceeded. But what shall we say to agreements which exist between things generated and things not generated? Can it be doubted, was it ever doubted, but that the lungs of animals bear a relation to the air, as a permanently elastic fluid l They act in it and by it; they cannot act without it. Now, if generation produced the animal, it did not produce the air: yet their properties correspond. The eye is made for light, and light for the eye. The eye would be of no use without light, and light perhaps of little without eyes; yet one is produced by generation, the other not. The ear depends upon undulations of air. Here are two sets of motions: first, of the pulses of the air; secondly, of the drum, bones, and nerves of the ear; sets of motions bearing an evident reference to each other: yet the one, and the apparatus for the one, produced by the intervention of generation; the other altogether independent of it.
If it be said, that the air, the light, the elements, the world itself, is generated; I answer, that I do not comprehend the pro
fiosition. If the term mean any thing simiar to what it means when applied to plants or animals, the proposition is certainly without proof; and, I think, draws as near to absurdity, as any proposition can do, which does not include a contradiction in its terms. I am at a loss to conceive, how the formation of the world can be compared to the generation of an animal. If the term generation signify something quite different from what it signifies on ordinary occasions, it may, by the same latitude, signify any thing. In which case, a word or phrase taken from the language of Otaheite, would convey as much theory concerning the origin of the universe, as it does to talk of its being generated.
We know a cause (intelligence) adequate to the appearances which we wish to account for: we have this cause continually \v producing similar appearances: yet, rejecting this cause, the sufficiency of which we know, and the action of which is constantly before our eyes, we are invited to resort to suppositions, destitute of a single fact for their support, and confirmed by no analogy with which we are acquainted. Were it necessary to inquire into the motives of men's opinions, I mean their motives separate from their arguments; I should almost suspect, that, because the proof of a Deity drawn from the constitution of nature is not only popular but vulgar (which may arise from the cogency of the proof, and be indeed its highest recommendation,) and because it is a species almost of puerility to take up with it; for these reasons, minds, which are habitually in search of invention and originality, feel a resistless inclination to strike off into other solutions and other expositions. The truth is, that many minds are not so indisposed to any thing which can be offered to them, as they are to the flatness of being content with common reasons: and, what is most to be lamented, minds conscious of
superiority, are the most liable to this repugnancy.
The " suppositions" here alluded to, all agree in one character: they all endeavour to dispense with the necessity in nature, of a particular, personal intelligence; that is to say, with the exertion of an intending, contriving mind, in the structure and forma tion of the organized constitutions which the world contains. They would resolve all productions into unconscious energies, of a like kind, in that respect, with attraction, magnetism, electricity, &c.; without any thing farther.
In this, the old system of atheism and the new agree. And I much doubt, whethei the new schemes have advanced any thing upon the old, or done more than changed the terms of the nomenclature. For instance, I could never see the difference between the antiquated system of atoms, and Buffon's organic molecules. This philosopher, having made a planet by knocking off from the sun a piece of melted glass, in consequence of the stroke of a comet; and having set it in motion, by the s».me stroke, both round its own axis and the sun; finds his next difficulty to be, how to bring plants and animals upon it. In order to solve this difficulty, we are to suppose the universe replenished with particles, endowed with life, but without organization or senses of their own; and endowed also with a tendency to marshal themselves into organized forms. The concourse of these particles, by virtue of this tendency, but without intelligence, will, or direction (for I do not find that any of these qualities are ascribed to them), has produced the living forms which we now see.
Very few of the conjectures which philosophers hazard upon these subjects, have more of pretension in them, than the challenging you to show the direct impossibility of the hypothesis. In the present example, there seemed to be a positive objection to the whole scheme upon the very face of it; which was that, if the case were as here represented, new combinations ought to be perpetually taking place; new plants and animals, or organized bodies which were neither, ought to be starting up before our eyes every day. For this, however, our philosopher has an answer. Whilst so many forms of plants and animals are already in existence, and, consequently, so many "internal moulds," as he calls them, are prepared and at hand, the organic particles run into these moulds, and are employed in supplying an accession of substance to them, as well for their growth as for their propagation. By which means, things keep their ancient course. But, says the same philosopher, should any general loss or destruction of the present constitution of organized bodies take place, the particles, for want of " moulds" into which they might enter, would run into different combinations, and replenish the waste with new species of organized substances.
Is there any history to countenance this notion? Is it known, that any destruction has been so repaired? any desert thus repeopled?
So far as I remember, the only natural appearance mentioned by our author, by way of fact whereon to build his hypothesis, is the formation of worms in the intestines of animals, which is here ascribed to the coalition of superabundant organic particles, floating about in the first passages; and which have combined themselves into these simple animal forms, for want of internal moulds, or of vacancies in those moulds, into which they might be received. The thing referred to, is rather a species of facts, than a single fact; as some other cases may, with equal reason, be included under it . But to make it a fact at all, or, in any sort, applicable to the question, we must begin with asserting an equivocal generation, contrary to analogy, and without necessity: contrary to an analogy, which accompanies us to the very limits of our knowledge or inquiries; for wherever, either in plants or animals, we are able to examine the subject, we find procreation from a parent form: without necessity; for I apprehend that it is seldom difficult to suggest methods, by which the eggs, or spawn, or yet invisible rudiments of these vermin, may have obtained a passage into the cavities in which they are found.* Add to this, that their constancy to their species, which, I believe, is as regular in these as in the other vermes, decides the question against our philosopher, if, in truth, any question remained upon the subject.
Lastly: These wonder-working instruments, these " internal moulds," what are they after all? what, when examined, but a name without signification; unintelligible,
• I trust I may be excused, for not citing, as another fact which is to confirm the hypothesis, a grave assertion of this writer, that the branches of trees upon which the stag feeds, break out again in his horns. Such facts merit no discussion.
if not self-contradictory; at the best, differing in nothing from the "essential forms" of the Greek philosophy? One short sentence of Buffon's work exhibits his scheme as follows: "When this nutritious and prolific matter, which is diffused throughout all nature, passes through the internal mould of an animal or vegetable, and finds a proper matrix, or receptacle, it gives rise to an animal or vegetable of the same species." Does any reader annex a meaning to the expression "internal mould," in this sentence? Ought it then to be said, that, though we have little notion of an internal mould, we have not much more of a designing mind? The very contrary of this assertion is the truth. When we speak of an artificer or an architect, we talk of what is comprehensible to our understanding, and familiar to our experience. We use no other terms than what refer us for their meaning to our consciousness and observation; what express the constant objects of both: whereas names like that we have mentioned, refer us to nothing; excite no idea; convey a sound to the ear, but I think do no more.
Another system which has lately been brought forward, and with much ingenuity, is that of appetencies. The principle, and the short account of the theory, is this: Pieces of soft, ductile matter, being endued with propensities or appetencies for particular actions, would, by continual endeavours, carried on through a long series of generations, work themselves gradually into suitable forms; and, at length, acquire, though perhaps by obscure and almost imperceptible improvements, an organization fitted to the action which their respective propensities led them to exert. A piece of animated matter, for example, that was endued with a propensity to fiy, though ever so shapeless, though no other we will suppose than a round ball to begin with, would, in a course of ages, if not in a million of years, perhaps in an hundred millions of years (for our theorists, having eternity to dispose of, are never sparing in time,) acquire wings. The same tendency to locomotion in an aquatic animal, or rather in an animated lump which might happen to be surrounded by water, would end in the production of fins: in a living substance, confined to the solid earth, would put out legs and feet; or, if it took a different turn, would break the body into ringlets, and conclude by crawling upon the ground.'
Although I have introduced the mention