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PROOFS FOR THE BEING OF A GOD IN THE
DISPOSITIONS OF MATTER.
On the Distinction between the Laws of Malter and the
Dispositions of Matter.
1. We have already adverted to the style of that argumentation which has been employed, for the purpose of demonstrating the creation of matter from the mere existence of it; and charged it with the same obscurity and want of obviousness which characterize the a priori reasoning. We do not perceive how on the observation of an unshapen mass, there can from its being alone, be drawn any clear or strong inference in favour of its noneternity; or that simply because it now is, a time must have been when it was not. We cannot thus read in the entity of matter, a prior non-entity or an original commencement for it; and something more must be affirmed of matter than barely that it is, ere we can discern that either an artist's mind or an artist's hand has at all been concerned with it.
2. But more than this. This matter, whether an organized solid or a soft and yielding fluid
congregated apparently at random in the receptacie which holds it, might exhibit a number of properties and manifest itself to be the subject of various laws, without announcing that either a creative power or an intelligent purpose had to do with the formation of it. For of what significancy is it towards any conclusion of this sort that an isolated lump is possessed of hardness, or solidity, or weight; or that we can discern in it the law of cohesion, and the law of impulse, and the law of gravitation. These laws might all be detected in any one body, or they might be shared in common throughout an aggregate of bodies-scattered about in rude disorder ; yet exhibiting no trace whatever of a first production at the mandate of any living potentate, or any subsequent distribution which bespoke a skilful and scheming intellect which presided over it. Matter must have had some properties to certify its existence to us, it being by its properties alone and not by any direct view of its naked substratum that we come to recognise it -50 that, to learn of matter at all, it must have had some properties or other belonging to it. Now these properties might be conceived of variously, and all the actual laws of the material system might be discovered in a confused medley of things strewn around without any principle of arrangement—its chemical, and optical, and magnetic, and mechanical laws; and yet from the study of these, no argument might be drawn in favour of a God, who either called the matter into being, or endowed it with the attributes which we find it to possess.
3. The main evidence, then, for a God, as far as this can be collected from visible nature, lies not in the existence of matter, neither in its laws, but in its dispositions. This distinction between the laws and the dispositions of matter has been overlooked by theists; or at least not been brought forward with sufficient prominency. Nevertheless it is essential, not only for the purpose of exhibiting the argument in its strength, but of protecting it from the sophistry of infidels.
4. It may be difficult to discriminate, or at least to characterize by a single word, what that is in matter apart from laws, which we would single out as affording the chief argument for a God. It is not enough to say that, in contradistinction to the properties of matter, we would appeal to the collocation of its parts.
No doubt a very great proportion of the evidence that we are now seeking to demonstrate lies in the right placing of things, but not the whole of it; and this, therefore, is only a specimen of our meaning, without being the full and general exemplar of it. It is not from some matter being harder than others that we infer a God; but when we behold the harder placed where it is obviously the most effective for a beneficial end, as in the nails, and claws, and teeth of animals, in this we see evidence for a God. It is not the law of refraction in optics that manifests to us a designer; but there is a very striking manifestation of Him in the position of the lenses of the eye, and of the retina behind it_being such as to make the rays of light converge into that picture
which is indispensable for the purposes of vision. It is not from the law alone of muscular contraction in animal substances that we argue for a God; but from the circumstance, that wherever a collection of fibres having this property is to be found in the complicated framework of a living creature, the moving force thereby established is always in conjunction with a something that is moveable, and with motions that subserve a useful end-insomuch that along with an apparatus of moving forces, we have a corresponding apparatus of parts to be moved; and furnished too, with the requisite joints or hinges—in other words, not the right powers only, but the right mechanics for giving operation and effect to the powers. Now, though these adaptations may all be quoted as adaptations of place, and therefore as instances of wise and beneficial collocation, it is not right placing alone which gives rise to all our beneficial adaptations. Things must be rightly shaped and rightly proportioned; and besides, looking to laws and forces alone, one can imagine that were all the other dispositions of our present actual economy to remain as they are, a mere change in the intensity of these forces would be the occasion of many grievous maladjustments—as a gravitation of ten times greater force towards the centre of the earth, with only the present powers of locomotion in those who inhabit the surface of it; or more intense affinities of cohesion in the various material substances within the use or reach of man; or an atmosphere and ether for the propagation of light, of different
elasticity than what is now so exquisitely suited to our present susceptibilities of sound and vision.* These instances are enough to prove that the term collocation does not of itself suffice for expressing the distinction at which we now aim. A different centrifugal influence on each planet of our system might have given to each an elongated instead of a nearly circular orbit, and the benefits of such an orbit cannot therefore be referred to collocation alone. The term collocation, no doubt, might express by a single word that which in this argument is contrasted to “ Law.”
But a better perhaps might be found. It certainly does not comprehend all which we wish to include in it as marking design at its first setting up. It is not the mere placing of the parts of matter which affords decisive indication of this, but of parts shaped and sized in the most beneficial way, beside being endowed with the very forces or motions that were the most suitable in the given circumstances. Beside the original placing of Jupiter and his satellites, we must advert in the argument for intelligence to the original direction and intensity of the motions which were communicated to them. Beside the situation of the parts in an anatomical mechanism, reference must be had both to the form and magnitude of the parts. Perhaps then, instead of the collocations, it were better, as more expressive of whatever in matter might be comprehended under the head of its
Whewell, in the second chapter of the Introduction to his truly admirable Bridgewater Treatise, distinguishes both between the force of a law and its intensity or rate, which latter is an arbitrary magnitude.