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umperceived by him. This we must do in order to vindicate the artist's skill, or, at least, the perfection of it; as we must also judge of his intention, and of the provisions employed in fulfilling that intention, not from an instance in which they fail, but from the great plurality of instances in which they succeed. But, after all, these are different questions from the question of the artist's existence: or, which is the same, whether the thing before us be a work of art or not: and the questions ought always to be kept separate in the mind. So likewise it is in the works of nature. Irregularities and imperfections are of little or no weight in the consideration, when that consideration relates simply to the existence of a Creator. When the argument respects his attributes, they are of weight; but are then to be taken in conjunction (the attention is not to rest upon them, but they are to be taken in conjunction) with the unexceptionable evi- |
dences which we possess, of skill, power, and
benevolence, displayed in other instances; which evidences may, in strength; number, and variety, be such, and may so overpower apparent blemishes, as to induce us, upon
, the most reasonable ground, to believe, that
these last ought to be referred to some cause, though we be ignorant of it, other than de
fect of knowledge or of benevolence in the author. II. There may be also parts of plants and animals, as there were supposed to be of the watch, of which, in some instances, the operation, in others, the use, is unknown. These form different cases; for the operation may be unknown, yet the use be certain. Thus it is with the lungs of animals. It does not, I think, appear, that we are acquainted with the action of the air upon the blood, or in what manner that action is communicated by the lungs: yet we find that a very short suspension of their office destroys the life of the animal. In this case, therefore, we may be said to know the use, nay we experience the necessity, of the organ, though we be ignorant of its operation. Nearly the same thing may be observed of what is called the lymphatic system. We suffer grievous inconveniences from its disorder, without being informed of the office which it sustains in the a conomy of our bodies. There may possibly also be some few examples of the second class, in which not only the operation is unknown, but in which experiments may seem to prove that the part is not necessary; or may leave a doubt, how far it is even useful to the plant or animal in which it is found.
This is said to be the case with the spleen; which has been extracted from dogs, without any sensible injury to their vital functions. Instances of the former kind, namely, in which we cannot explain the operation, may be numerous; for they will be so in proportion to our ignorance. They will be more or fewer to different persons, and in different stages of science. Every improvement of knowledge diminishes their number. There is hardly, perhaps, a year passes, that does not, in the works of nature, bring some operation, or some mode of operation, to light, which was
before undiscovered, probably unsuspected.
Instances of the second kind, namely, where the part appears to be totally useless, I believe to be extremely rare; compared with the number of those, of which the use is evident, they are beneath any assignable proportion; and, perhaps, have never been sub
mitted to a trial and examination sufficiently
accurate, long enough continued, or often enough repeated. No accounts which I have seen, are satisfactory. The mutilated animal may live and grow fat (as was the case of the dog deprived of its spleen), yet may be defective in some other of its functions; which, whether they can all, or in what degree of vigour and perfection, be per
formed, or how long preserved, without the extirpated organ, does not seem to be ascertained by experiment. But to this case, even were it fully made out, may be applied the consideration which we suggested concerning the watch, viz. that these superfluous parts do not negative the reasoning which we instituted concerning those parts which are useful, and of which we know the use: the indication of contrivance, with respect to them, remains as it was before. III. One atheistic way of replying to our observations upon the works of nature, and to the proofs of a Deity which we think that we perceive in them, is to tell us, that all which we see must necessarily have had some form, and that it might as well be its present form as any other. Let us now apply this answer to the eye, as we did before to the watch. Something or other must have occupied that place in the animal's head: must have filled up, we will say, that socket: we will say also, that it must have been of that sort of substance which we call animal substance, as flesh, bone, membrane, cartilage, &c. But that it should have been an eye, knowing as we do what an eye comprehends, —viz. that it should have consisted, first, of a series of transparent lenses (very different,
by-the-bye, even in their substance, from the opaque materials of which the rest of the body is, in general at least, composed; and with which the whole of its surface, this single portion of it excepted, is covered): secondly, of a black cloth or canvass (the only membrane of the body which is black) spread out behind these lenses, so as to receive the image formed by pencils of light transmitted through them; and placed at the precise geometrical distance at which, and at which alone, a distinct image could be formed, namely, at the concourse of the refracted rays: thirdly, of a large nerve communicating between this membrane and the brain; without which, the action of light upon the membrane, however modified by the organ, would be lost to the purposes of sensation:— that this fortunate conformation of parts should have been the lot, not of one individual out of many thousand individuals, like the great prize in a lottery, or like some singularity in nature, but the happy chance of a whole species; nor of one species out of many thousand species, with which we are acquainted, but of by far the greatest number of all that exist; and that under varieties, not casual or capricious, but bearing marks of being suited to their respective exigencies: