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This prejudice against what is called the pride of science, as an impious intrusion on forbidden ground, is precisely that expressed by Pliny, when speaking of Hipparchus forming his catalogue of the stars; he says, “ Ausus rem etiam Deo improbam annumerare posteris stellas.” I have commented upon the influence of such prejudices in my History of Science, in the Cabinet Cyclopædia,
The reader is also referred for some admirable observations on the “ Pride of Reason,” (powerfully illustrated by comparison with the “ Pride of Eye-sight,") to the Rev. J. Blanco White's Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy, p. 84.
The celebrated controversy between Newton and Leibnitz was disgraced by the attempt of the latter to fix upon the doctrines of his great rival the charge of a tendency to materialism and atheism. The malicious character of such an attempt was equalled only by the absurdity which must manifestly attach to it in the eyes of any one who had read Newton's writings. Groundless as such a charge was, yet it tended much to keep up the prejudices which for a long while prevailed against the reception of the Newtonian theory; and received support from the readiness with which the generality of men cling to the authority of a distinguished name, especially if it sanction them in rejecting any new doctrines, which are always distasteful to the mass of mankind simply because they are new and require thought, and perhaps the surrender of established ideas. To such sources we may perhaps trace the prevalence of still-lingering prejudices against physical philosophy in general as having a tendency to cherish intellectual vanity, and a spirit hostile to the inculcation of religious truth.
Views similar to those here stated have the sanction of some of the highest philosophical authorities. Thus Aristotle in his treatise, De Mundi, cap. vi., represents it as unworthy of the Supreme Being, “ αυτουργειν παντα;” supporting it by a comparison with the condition of a monarch and his subordinate functionaries, &c. The same idea is upheld also by Lord Bacon, De Augmentis, book iii. c. 4.
Boyle observes, “ As it more recommends the skill of an engineer to contrive an elaborate engine, so as that there need nothing to reach his ends in it, but the contrivance of parts void of understanding, than if it were necessary that ever and anon a discreet servant should be employed to concur notably to the operations of this or that part, or to hinder the engine from being out of order; so it more sets off the wisdom of God in the fabric of the universe, that he can make so vast a machine perform all those many things which he designed it should, by the mere contrivance of brute matter, managed by certain laws of motion and upheld by his ordinary and general concourse, than if he employed from time to time an intelligent overseer to regulate and control the motion of the parts.”—Inquiry into the Vulgar Notion of Nature.
Lord Kames, in his “ Essay on the Laws of Motion, &c.," Edinb. Phys. and Lit. Essays, vol. i., after quoting the above passage of Boyle, remarks: “ What may be the opinion of others I cannot say, but to me this argument is perfectly conclusive. Considering this universe as a great machine, the workmanship of an intelligent cause, I cannot avoid thinking it the more complete the less mending or
interposition it requires. The perfection of every piece of workmanship, human and divine, consists in its answering the designed purpose without bestowing further labour
That an opposite feeling should prevail in a poet is not surprising, and we trace it in the Dunciad, canto iv. l. 474. But it is singular that views so rational and satisfactory should have been objected to by a philosopher like Dugald Stewart, who condemns them in no measured terms as “absurd;" and this upon the idea that it would be unworthy of the Deity to employ a machinery of second causes, because machinery among men is avowedly introduced to save labour and accomplish the purpose in view more easily and completely, which of course cannot apply to the designs of Omnipotence.-Philosophy of Mind, ii. 555. But the real question obviously refers to the machinery, not for the work it does, but for the skill displayed in its construction and operation ; the proofs of which are unquestionably stronger, as it requires less manual interference.
The following passage from one of the most eminent of Newton's followers is worthy of careful consideration : “ As we cannot but conceive the universe as depending on the first cause and chief mover, whom it would be absurd, not to say impious, to exclude from acting in it; so we have some hints of the manner in which he operates in nature, from the laws which we find established in it. Though he is the source of all efficacy, yet we find that place is left for second causes to act in subordination to him; and mechanism has its share in carrying on the first scheme of nature. The establishing the equality of action and reaction, even in those powers which seem to surpass mechanism, and to be more immediately derived from him, seems to be an indication that those powers, while they derive their efficacy from him, are however in a certain degree circumscribed and regulated
in their operations by mechanical principles; and that they are not to be considered as mere immediate volitions of his, (as they are often represented,) but rather as instruments made by him to perform the purposes for which he intended them. If, for example, the most noble phenomena in nature be produced by a rare elastic æthereal medium, as Sir I. Newton conjectured, the whole efficacy of this medium must be resolved into his power and will who is the Supreme Cause. This however does not hinder but that the same medium may be subject to the like laws as other elastic fluids in its actions and vibrations; and that if its nature were better known to us we might make curious and useful discoveries concerning its effects from these laws. It is easy to see that this conjecture no way derogates from the government and influences of the Deity, while it leaves us at liberty to pursue our inquiries concerning the nature and operations of such a medium; whereas they who hastily resolve these powers into immediate volitions of the Supreme Cause, without admitting any intermediate instruments, put an end to our inquiries at once, and deprive us of what is probably the most sublime part of philosophy, by representing it as imaginary and fictitious.”—MACLAURIN, Account of Newton's Disc., conclusion.
In this passage we cannot fail to recognise the expressions of a powerful mind,-fettered, indeed, by certain metaphysical notions, yet sufficiently free to gain a clear view of the real bearing and use of physical truth ; perhaps designedly cautious in the language and mode of illustration adopted.
In support of these and the like views, the writings of poets are frequently appealed to, and with good reason, as such ideas are properly congenial to the region of poetry ;-the error lies in mistaking them for philosophy. Thus a wellknown and justly admired passage of Cowper, (Task, book v. 1. 710,) is often cited in confirmation of the opinion above adverted to. If thus applied, it involves the fallacy in reasoning here exposed. The writings of that amiable poet in general, are a favourite authority with a considerable party for their disparagement both of natural theology and of physical science; a subject on which it must be manifest, the expressions of a poet, and especially one of Cowper's tone of mind and general acquirements, cannot be regarded as of any weight.
In the productions of another school, whose views border closely on the poetical, and would be unexceptionable if honestly proposed as such, we find similar sentiments upheld. One specimen is referred to in p. 227. In the same publication we are warned that “they who interpret not what men call nature by the Bible, will bring down the Bible to the standard of nature ;” and that “they who resolve every thing into secondary or physical causes, and will not see Him who is the cause of all causes, and worketh by all those things whose operation meets our senses, will lose all sense for discerning His hand when Scripture plainly declares it.”—Dr. Pusey's Sermon, p. 2. If they did not resolve everything into secondary causes, they could not arrive at any evidence of the first; nor again find the proofs of the truth of Scripture.
I have referred to the principle on which this school