תמונות בעמוד

A fondness for new and ingenious statements, and a distaste for what is often repeated, have thrown a suspicion on the common argument of design which it does not deserve. The argument may be briefly stated thus. A contrivance, adapted to a certain end, supposes a contriving intelligence. Animated nature is a series of such contrivances, and therefore proves the existence of a Mind antecedent to them all, understanding and intending them all, the infinite Author of them all, which infinite Mind is God. This is the simple old argument, which we still assert to be, not unassailable, but unanswerable and indestructible. To object to this argument, that it omits to give a reason why an evident contrivance is to be ascribed to a contriving Mind, or, in other words, why a set of means which are brought together for a particular end, is to be termed a contrivance, seems to us to be trifling with the argument, and nothing more. If the omission is to be formally supplied, it can only be done by saying, that we ascribe the construction of an animated being to a Maker, because we ascribe our own inferior constructions to the operation of human intelligence, and because, from the very nature of our minds, we must ascribe an organized work to some intelligent artificer. This, to be sure, is coming to the ultimate fact in the case. But why the omission of this ultimate fact, which was evidently understood if not stated in the old argument, should be objected to it as a fatal defect, we cannot imagine. As it has been thus objected, however, and with some parade of words, it is well that it should be distinctly supplied hereafter, in all careful statements of the argument. This has been done in the present work of Dr. Roget. The following extract from his introductory chapter on Final Causes, furnishes a fair specimen of the argumentative portion of his book.

“ But though it be granted that all the phenomena we behold are the effects of certain causes, it might still be alleged, as a bar to all further reasoning, that these causes are not only utterly unknown to us, but that their discovery is wholly beyond the reach of our faculties. The argument is specious only because it is true in one particular sense, and that a very limited one. Those who urge it, do not seem to be aware that its general application, in that very same sense, would shake the foundation of every kind of knowledge, even that which we regard as built upon the most solid basis. Of causation, it is agreed that we know nothing; all that we do know is, that one event succeeds another with undeviating constancy. Now by probing this subject to the bottom, we shall find that, in rigid strictness, we have no certain knowledge of the existence of any thing, save that of the sensations and ideas which are actually passing in our minds, and of which we are necessarily conscious. Our belief in the existence of external objects, in their undergoing certain changes, and in their possessing certain physical properties, rests on a different foundation, namely, the evidence of our senses; for it is the result of inferences which the mind is, by the constitution of its frame, necessarily led to form. We may trace to a similar origin the persuasion irresistibly forced upon us, that there exist not only other material objects beside our own bodies, but also other intellectual beings beside ourselves. We can neither see nor feel those extraneous intellects, any more than we can see or feel the cause of gravitation, or the subtle sources of electricity or magnetism. We nevertheless believe in the reality both of the one and of the other; but it is only because we infer their existence from particular trains of impressions made upon our senses, of which impressions alone our knowledge can, in metaphysical strictness, be termed certain.

Upon what evidence do I conclude that I am not a solitary being in the Universe; that all is not centred in myself; but that there exist other intellects similar to my own? Undoubtedly no other than the observation that certain effects are produced, which the experience I have had of the operations of my own mind leads me, by an irresistible analogy, to ascribe to a similar agency, emanating from other beings; beings, however, of whose actual intellectual presence I cannot be conscious, whose nature I cannot fathom, whose essence I cannot understand.

I can judge of the operations of other minds only in as far as those operations accord with what has passed in my own. I cannot divine processes of thought to which mine have borne no resemblance; I cannot appreciate motives of which I have never felt the influence, nor comprehend the force of passions never yet awakened in my breast : neither can I picture to myself feelings to which no sympathetic chord within me has ever vibrated.

Our own intelligence, our own views, and our own affections, then, furnish the only elements by which it is possible for us to estimate the analogous powers and attributes of other minds. The difficulty of applying this scale of measurement will, of course, increase in proportion to the difference between the objects compared; and although we may conceive that there are powers and intelligences infinitely surpassing our own, the conceptions we can form of such superior essences must necessarily be indefinite and obscure, and must partake of the same kind of imperfection as our notions of the distances of the heavenly bodies, however familiar we may be with the units of the scale by which those distances are capable of being expressed. When, on the other hand, the objects contemplated are more within the range of our mental vision; when, for instance, they are phenomena that we can assimilate to our own voluntary acts, and in which we can clearly trace the connexion between means and end, then does our recognition of the agency of intellect become most distinct, and our conviction of its real and independent existence become most intimate and assured.

“ Such is the kind of evidence on which rests our belief of the existence of our fellow-men. Such, also, is the foundation of our assurance that there exists a Mighty Intellect, who has planned and executed the stupendous works of creation, with a skill surpassing our utmost conceptions; by powers to which we can assign no limit, and the object of whose will is universal good. * "

Vol. 1. pp. 24 - 27.

The illustrations which are then given of the analogical process on which the proof of design is founded, are peculiarly happy. The first of these, though not more ingenious than Dr. Paley's illustration of the watch, and perhaps suggested by it, is more picturesque.

The evidence of design and contrivance in the works of nature carries with it the greatest force whenever we can trace a coincidence between them and the products of human art. If in any unknown region of the earth we chanced to discover a piece of machinery, of which the purpose was manifest, we should not fail to ascribe it to the workmanship of some mechanist, possessed of intelligence, actuated by a motive, and guided by intention. Farther, if we had a previous experience of the operation of similar kinds of mechanism, we could not doubt that the effect we saw produced was the one intended by the artificer. Thus, if in an unexplored country, we saw, moving upon the waters of a lake, the trunk of a tree, carved into the shape of a boat, we should immediately conclude that this form had been given to it for the purpose of enabling it to float. If we found it also provided with paddles at its sides, we should infer, from our previous knowledge of the effects of such instruments, that they were intended to give motion to this boat, and we should not hesitate to conclude that the whole was the work of human hands, and the product of human intelligence and design. If, in addition, we found this boat furnished with a rudder and with sails, we should at once understand the object of these contrivances, and our ideas of the skill of the artificer would rise in proportion to the excellence of the apparatus, and the ingenuity displayed in its adaptation to circumstances.

6 * The view here taken is, of course, limited to Natural Theology; that being the express and exclusive object of these Treatises."

“ Let us suppose that in another part of this lake we found an insect,* shaped like the boat, and moving through the water by successive impulses given to that medium by the action of levers, extending from its sides, and shaped like paddles, having the same kind of movement, and producing the same effects. Could we resist the persuasion that the Artificer of this insect, when forming it of this shape, and providing it with these paddles, had the same mechanical objects in view ? Shall we not be confirmed in this idea on finding that these paddles are constructed with joints, which admit of no other motion than that of striking against the water, and of thus urging forward the animal in its passage through that dense and resisting medium? Many aquatic animals are furnished with tails which evidently act as rudders, directing the course of their progressive motion through the fluid. Who can doubt but that the same intention and the same mechanical principles which guide the practice of the ship-builder, are here applied in a manner still more refined, and with a master's hand ?" If Nature has furnished the nautilus with an expansible membrane, which the animal is able to spread before the breeze, when propitious, and by means of which it is wasted along the surface of the sea, but which it quickly retracts in unfavorable circumstances, is not her design similar to that of the human artificer, when he equips his bark with sails, and provides the requisite machinery for their being hoisted or furled with ease and expedition ?” – Vol. 1. pp. 28-30.

What pleasant scenes of far away solitudes, and silent and sunny lakes, and light canoes, and cool summer sailing, are here brought before the mind. What a pure spring of kindly piety must have been gushing in the heart of the writer, when he penned those beautiful paragraphs. We will sail with him, and with such as he is, on the great voyage of discovery and knowledge, and let others, if they will, commit themselves to the guidance of those blind pilots who tempt the dark vortices of chance and atheism.

The argument of design is eminently of a cumulative character; each instance of mechanism in the works of nature being an addition to the pile of facts by which it is supported. In accordance with this view, Dr. Roget goes through the

“* Such as the Notonecta glauca, Lin., or water boatman, and the Dytiscus marginalis, or water beetle.

several classes of organized existence, ascending from the lowest to the highest, from vegetables up to men, and adducing instances, throughout the whole, of the wonderful workmanship of God; of the most curious and inimitable systems of structure, adapted to certain functions, executed after a definite plan, and denoting a wise and mighty and merciful Creator. He commences with the mechanical functions of animal and vegetable economy, which depend upon the simpler properties of matter, and the well-known laws of mechanism. He then proceeds to the consideration of the nutritive or vital functions of the same, which are of a more refined and intricate nature than the mechanical functions, as they involve the chemical properties of organized substances. He rises from these subjects to a description of the faculties of perception and volition, which belong to living animals as sentient and active beings; and lastly he gives an account of the reproductive functions and the phenomena of animal developement.

In pursuing this course, Dr. Roget exhibits those qualities as a writer, which are requisite to the proper treatment of physiological subjects. He is evidently well possessed of the knowledge he would impart. His descriptions, of which the main body of his work necessarily consists, are clear and ac

His definitions are precise, and the illustrations, by which he fixes them in the reader's mind, are admirably selected, and such as can hardly fail of retaining a place in the memory. Take for instance the manner in which he illustrates his definition of organization.

“ Life, which consists of a continued series of actions directed to particular purposes, cannot be carried on but by the instrumentality of those peculiar and elaborate structures and combinations of material particles which constitute organization. All these arrangements, both as respects the mechanical configuration and the chemical constitution of the elements of which the organized body is composed, even when apparently most simple, are, in reality, complex and artificial in the highest possible degree. Let us take as a specimen the crystalline lens, or hard central part, of the eye of a cod fish, which is a perfectly transparent, and to all appearance homogeneous, spherule. No one, unaccustomed to explore the wonders of nature, would suspect that so simple a body, which he might suppose to be formed of a uniform material cast in a mould, would disclose, when examined under a powerful microscope, and with the skill of a Brewster, the most refined and exquisite conformation. Yet, as I shall have occasion to specify


« הקודםהמשך »