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old, or done more than changed the terms of the nomenclature. For instance, I could never see the difference between the antiquated system of atoms, and Buffon's organic molecules. T .is philosopher, having made a planet by knocking off from the fun a piece of melted glass, in con sequence of the stroke of a comet; and having set it in motion, by the fame stroke, both round its own axis and the fun, finds his next difficulty to be, how to bring plants and animals upon it. In order to solve this difficulty, we are to suppose the universe replenished with particles, endowed with life, but without organization or senses of their own; and endowed also with a tendency to marshal themselves into organized forms. The concourse of these particles, by virtue of this tendency, but without intelligence, will, or direction, (for I do not find that any of these qualities are ascribed to them,) has produced the living forms which we now see.
Very few of the conjectures, which philo-p scphers hazard upon these subjects, have more of pretension in them, than the challenging you to shew the direct impossibility of the hypothesis. In the present example, there seemed to be a positive objection to the whole scheme upon the very face of it; which was, that, if
the the case were as here represented, new combinations ought to be perpetually taking place ;, new plants and animals, or organized bodies which were neither, ought to be starting up before our eyes every day. For this, however, our philosopher has an answer. Whilst so many forms of plants and animals are already in existence, and, consequently, so many " internal molds," as he calls them, are prepared and at hand, the organic particles run into these molds, and are employed in supplying an accession of substance to them, as well for their growth, as for their propagation. By which means things keep their antient course. But, fays the fame philosopher, should any general loss or destruction of the present constitution of organized bodies take place, the particles, for want of *' molds" into which they might enter, would run into different combinations, and replenish the waste with new species of organized substances.
Is there any history to countenance this notion? Is it known, that any destruction has been so repaired? any defart thus repeopled?
So far as I remember, the only natural appearance mentioned by our author, by way of fact whereon to build his hypothesis, the
only only support on which it rests, is the formation of worms in the intestines of animals, which is here ascribed to the coalition of superabundant organic particles, floating about in the first passages; and which have combined themselves into these simple animal forms, for want of internal molds, or of vacancies in those molds, into which they might be received. The thing referred to is rather a species of facts, than a single fact; as some other cases may, with equal reason, be included under it.I But to make it a fact at all, or, in any sort, applicable to the question, we must begin with asserting an equivocal generation contrary to analogy, and without necessity: contrary to an analogy, which accompanies us to the very limits of our knowledge or enquiries, for wherever, either in plants or animals, we are able to examine the subject, we find procreation from a parent form; without necessity, for I apprehend that it is seldom difficult to suggest methods, by which the eggs, or spawn, or yet invisible rudiments of these vermin, may'have obtained a passage into the cavities in which they are found *. Add to
; • I trust I.may be excused, for not citing, as another fact which is to confirm the hypothesis, a grave asssrtioa
„,"* of this, that their constancy to their Jpecies, which, I believe, is as regular in these as in the other vermes, decides the question against our philosopher, if, in truth, any question remained upon the subject.
Lastly; these wonder-working instruments, these " internal molds," what are they after all? what, when examined, but a name without signification; unintelligible, if not self-comradictory; at the best, differing nothing from the "essential forms" of the Greek philosophy? One short sentence of Buffon's work exhibits his scheme as follows. "When this nutritious and prolific matter, which is diffused throughout all nature, pastes through the internal mold of an animal or vegetable, and finds a proper matrix or receptacle, it gives rise to an animal or vegetable of the fame species." Does any reader annex a meaning to the expression "internal mold," in this sentence? Ought it then to be faid, that, though we have little notion of an internal mold, we have not much more of a designing mind? The very contrary of this assertion is the truth. When we speak of an artificer or an Architect,
of this writer, that the branches of trees upon which the stag feeds, break out again in his horns. Swhfaffs merit no difcuflion.
we talk of what is comprehensible to our understanding, and familiar to our experience. We use no other terms, than what refer us for their meaning to our consciousness and observation; what express the constant objects of both: whereas names, like that we have mentioned, refer us to nothing; excite no idea; convey a sound to the ear, but I think do no more.
Another system, which has lately been brought forward, and with much ingenuity, is that of appetencies. The principle, and the short account, of the theory, is this. Pieces of soft, ductile, matter, being endued with propensities or appetencies for particular actions, would, by continual endeavours, carried on through a longseries of generations, work themselves gradually into suitable forms; and, at length, acquire, though perhaps by obscure and almost imperceptible improvements, an organization fitted to the action which their respective propensities led them to exert. A piece of animated matter, for example, that was endued with a propensity to fiy, though ever so shapeless, though no other we will suppose than a round ball to begin with, would, in a course of ages, if not in a million of years, perhaps in a hundred millions of years,