Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

—that all this should have taken place, merely because something must have occupied those points in every animal's forehead;—or, that all this should be thought to be accounted for, by the short answer, “that whatever was there, must have had some form or other,” is too absurd to be made more so by any augmentation. We are not contented with this answer; we find no satisfaction in it, by way of accounting for appearances of organization far short of those of the eye, such as we observe in fossil shells, petrified bones, or other substances which bear the vestiges of animal or vegetable recrements, but which, either in respect of utility, or of the situation in which they are discovered, may seem accidental enough. It is no way of accounting even for these things, to say that the stone, for instance, which is shown to us (supposing the question to be concerning a petrification), must have contained some internal conformation or other. Nor does it mend the answer to add, with respect to the singularity of the

'' conformation, that, after the event, it is no

longer to be computed what the chances were

against it. This is always to be computed,

when the question is, whether a useful or imitative eonformation be the produce of chance, or not: I desire no greater certainty

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

in reasoning, than that by which chance is excluded from the present disposition of the natural world. Universal experience is against it. What does chance ever do for us? In the human body, for instance, chance, i. e. the operation of causes without design, may produce a wen, a wart, a mole, a pimple, but never an eye. Amongstinanimate substances,

a clod, a pebble, a liquid drop might be ; but

never was a watch, a telescope, an organized body of any kind, answering a valuable purpose by a complicated mechanism, the effect of chance. In no assignable instance hath such a thing existed without intention somewhere. IV. There is another answer which has the same effect as the resolving of things into chance; which answer would persuade us to | believe, that the eye, the animal to which it . belongs, every other animal, every plant, indeed every organized body which we see, are only so many out of the possible varieties and combinations of being, which the lapse of infinite ages has brought into existence; that the present world is the relict of that variety; millions of other bodily forms and other species having perished, being by the defect of their constitution incapable of preservation, or of continuance by generation. Now there

is no foundation whatever for this conjecture in any thing which we observe in the works of nature; no such experiments are going on at present; no such energy operates, as that which is here supposed, and which should be constantly pushing into existence new varieties of beings. Nor are there any appearances to support an opinion, that every possible combination of vegetable or animal structure has formerly been tried. Multitudes of conformations, both of vegetables and animals, may be conceived capable of existence and succession, which yet do not exist. Perhaps almost as many forms of plants might have been found in the fields, as figures of plants can be de

lineated upon paper. A countless variety of

animals might have existed, which do not exist. Upon the supposition here stated, we should see unicorns and mermaids, sylphs and centaurs, the fancies of painters, and the fables of poets, realized by examples. Or, if it be alleged that these may transgress the limits of possible life and propagation, we might, at least, have nations of human beings without nails upon their fingers, with more or fewer fingers and toes than ten, some with one eye, others with one ear, with one nostril, or without the sense of smelling at all. All these, and a thousand other imaginable varieties,

might live and propagate. We may modify,

any one species many different ways, all con

sistent with life, and with the actions necessary to preservation, although affording different degrees of conveniency and enjoyment to the animal. And if we carry these modifications through the different species which are known to subsist, their number would be incalculable. No reason can be given why, if these deperdits ever existed, they have now disappeared. Yet, if all possible existences have been tried, they must have formed part of the catalogue. But, moreover, the division of organized substances into animals and vegetables, and the distribution and sub-distribution of each

into genera and species, which distribution is

not an arbitrary act of the mind, but found

ed in the order which prevails in external nature, appear to me to contradict the supposition of the present world being the remains of an indefinite variety of existences; of a variety which rejects all plan. The hypothesis teaches, that every possible variety of being hath, at one time or other, found its way into existence (by what cause or in what manner is not said), and that those which were badly formed, perished; but how or why those which survived F

|

should be cast, as we see that plants and animals are cast, into regular classes, the hy

pothesis does not explain; or rather the hypothesis is inconsistent with this phaenome

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

it. What should we think of a man who, because we had never ourselves seen watches,

telescopes, stocking-mills, steam-engines, &c.

made, knew not how they were made, or

could prove by testimony when they were made, or by whom, would have us believe

that these machines, instead of deriving their curious structures from the thought and design of their inventors and contrivers, in truth derive them from no other origin than this ; viz. that a mass of metals and other materials having run when melted into all possible fi

gures, and combined themselves in all possible forms, and shapes, and proportions, these

things which we see, are what were left from the accident, as best worth preserving ; and, as such, are become the remaining stock of a magazine, which, at one time or other, has by this means, contained every mechanism, useful, and useless, convenient and inconvenient, into which such like materials could be thrown? I cannot distinguish the hypothesis

« VorigeDoorgaan »