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The following passage supplies a good example of the extraordinary ideas which, in some instances, prevail with respect to the bearing of the study of physical, on final,
“ But, it is rejoined, you explain every thing by your omnipotent gravitation,-—what is the origin of that? I answer, this too we know full well.
The daughter of the old blind Fate,,her servants, magnitude, number, and proportion,ếher inheritance, a universe without a God, which requires no God. . . . When the great astronomer Lalande denied a Deity, could trace in the heavens no God, in the movement of the stars no finger of God, we are compelled to allow the logical consequence of his reasoning. That high order and adaptation of end and means is only the product of the rigid mechanism of necessary physical laws; there, above, is only a blind mindless destiny, the absolute ruler of its universe. But I appeal to the truth of the saying in St. John,- In the spirit only shall we worship God; and in what only our science is for mind, is its dignity and value to be found. He only can style the order of the universe an adaptation of means to end, who brings to its observation a belief in the reality of design. But the true interpretation of the order of design lies far more clearly apparent in the mind of man. The infinite Spirit does not bail itself under proportion and number! The play with number is an easy play, its joy only the joy of the imprisoned spirit at the clank of its fetters.” - PROFESSOR Fries' Lectures on Astronomy, quoted in the Edinburgh Review, cxxvi., p. 450.
The quotation is given in the course of an article, one
object of which is to prove that the highest mathematical or physical talent does not confer, nay, even impairs, the power of reasoning on other subjects; of this the passage quoted certainly supplies a remarkably strong instance, (though not, I believe, contemplated in that light by the reviewer,) if the author be really entitled to the mathematical reputation which he is said to bear in Germany.
This mass of confusion of ideas would be at once cleared away by a slight attention to those distinctions which I have endeavoured to indicate.
It appears to me that the attempt to define the term “ blind fate,” or “necessity,” would at once decide all questions of this sort. I can attach no meaning to it which is not at once contradictory to the notion of design. Blind fate could not produce adaptation to an end ; if it could it would no longer be blind fate but eternal providence.
We may take for another example the remark of an extremely well-intentioned writer:
“ It is manifest that the mineral geology, considered as a science, can do as well without God (though on a question concerning the origin of the earth,) as Lucretius did.”. Peny, Comparative Estimate, &c.
If geology proceeded by any other course than that of the independent study of “minerals,” it would neither be “a science," nor could it afford the slightest proof of a Deity. It investigates“ a question concerning the origin of the earth,” without making any assumption of a Creator; and that investigation leads to the most decisive proof of a Creator, which would be no proof but an argument in a circle, if it had assumed a Creator in the first instance. It is sufficient to add with regard to Lucretius, that to him those proofs were wholly unknown.
I will cite one more passage in further illustration :“ It has ever been the refuge of scepticism to believe that
the laws of nature being fixed permanent and invariable, this frame of things is eternal ; that the earth and all the apparatus of bodies in this and other systems were ever in the state they now are, and will ever continue the same. In this their scheme they think no God needful.”—DR. WOODWARD, Nat. Hist. of Earth, p. 9.
I should merely state the matter thus :—The existing permanence and uniformity of nature is no proof that the world had not a beginning. The existence of order and adjustment is the proof of design and Divine Intelligence. The assumption of a Deity in natural philosophy would but render the evidence of natural theology a petitio principii.
LORD BROUGHAM in more than one instance charges Paley with a distaste or incapacity for metaphysical speculation ; and in particular exemplifies the charge in the absence (as he contends,) of all distinct mention in Paley's argument of the proofs of mind as the origin of the design and adaptation found in the material world. “ He (Paley,) assumes the very position which alone sceptics dispute. In combatting him they would assert that he begged the whole question ; for certainly they do not deny, at least in modern times, the fact of adaptation. As to the fundamental doctrine of causation not the least allusion is ever made to it in any of his writings, even in his Moral Philosophy."(Disc., note, p. 79.)
In reply to this, Dr. Turton (p. 122,) quotes a passage from Paley's chapter on The Personality of the Deity, in which he distinctly contends that the evidences of design prove a personal agent; that they are the evidences of mind, and that mind constitutes personality. He further traces our conviction of this to similar effects produced by moral agents within our observation.
Dr. Turton has in another place ably explained the plainness of style and absence of profound metaphysical speculation which characterize Paley's writings as originating in the manifest design he all along entertained, and so successfully pursued, of putting the whole argument in a perfectly popular form, so as to place it within the grasp of the most limited or least cultivated understanding. This consideration appears to me to afford at once a perfectly satisfactory vindication of Paley, if he had not entered into the details of the question. But I cannot help thinking that in this (as in some other instances,) the Regius Professor has been somewhat too severe on the noble author. The fact certainly does appear to me, upon the most careful review of the passages adduced, to be much in favour of the justice of Lord Brougham's complaint of the omission of an exact, philosophical discussion of the point in
question. That the omission was designed, and wisely designed, in reference to Paley's particular object, does not affect the question of its being an omission, when considered in a strictly metaphysical light. The precise point of the inference of mind is rather asserted than proved, rather illustrated than rigidly analyzed. It is a subject worthy of more profound investigation than I have happened to find bestowed upon
it. So far as the doctrine of causation is concerned I may venture to hope that the illustrations conveyed in these pages may not be useless towards supplying the deficiency. At any rate it is one
rate it is one of the most valuable points of Lord Brougham's Discourse, that it urges attention to this particular question with so much force and originality.
Lord Brougham, in his note on cause and effect, in the
course of some remarks on necessary connexion, refers to the doctrine of a first cause; contending that the idea of causation which we derive from our volition (before referred to,) is essential to that doctrine. Had we not such an idea, that of “power or causality could never have been obtained by us from any observation of the sequences of events. The idea of design or contrivance in like manner must have been wanting to us; and hence I cannot understand how, but for the consciousness of power, we could ever have been led to the belief in the existence of a first cause."-(P. 231.)
If we take the term causation in the sense to which I have above referred, of moral causation, the justness of these remarks will be fully admitted ; that distinction has not been introduced by the author.
On the psychological argument,” as well as on several other important questions connected with this subject, some acute observations will be found in a small tract, entitled, Remarks on Lord Brougham, fc., by T. Martin. London, 1835.
NOTE H. p. 191.
The anecdote of Boyle referred to in the text has been often repeated. I have not, however, been able to discover the precise authority for it ; but the sentiment will be found expressed in his Considerations on the Usefulness of Experimental Philosophy, p. 18, ed. 1664.
A similar opinion is advocated by Bacon, (De Aug., lib. i.,) applying the passage in the Proverbs, “ The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." (xx. 27.)