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either." ." By this impious drivel is meant, that if this infinitude of systems be made by one God, who has peopled every orb as our own is peopled, with rational and moral beings, it is absurd to suppose that He has such a special regard for us, as the Scriptures assure us He has-that He was made flesh, and dwelt among us-lived with us, died for us, rose again for us; us, the insignificant occupants of this insignificant speck amidst the resplendent magnificence of the infinite universe. Now, that such a notion is equally irreligious and unphilosophical we trust no intelligent reader of ours requires to be persuaded; but that there are both friends and enemies of the Christian Faith, who fear or believe otherwise, may be assumed; and hence the unspeakable importance of viewing the matter soberly, by such light as we have,—as God has been pleased to vouchsafe to us. If we have little, we cannot help it, but must gratefully and reverently make the best use we can of it; assuring ourselves that there must be wise reasons for our omniscient Creator's having given us just as much as we have, and no more. He might have endowed us with faculties nearly akin to His own; but He has thought proper to act otherwise.
The attention of scientific persons, and those of a speculative character in religion, physics, and morals, has recently been recalled to the question, - whether there are grounds for believing the heavenly bodies to be inhabited by rational beings,—by the publication, eleven months ago, of a thin octavo volume of 279 pages, bearing no author's name, and entitled, Of the Plurality of Worlds, an Essay. Internal evidence seemed to point to a distinguished person at Cambridge as the author-a gentleman of great eminence as a mathematician, a logician, a divine, and a moralist-in short, to the Reverend Dr Whewell, the Master of Trinity College. The work was divided into numbered paragraphs, as is usual with that gentleman; peculiarities of spelling-e. g., "offense," instead of
"offence"-and of style and expression, are common to the Essay and the other works of the suspected author. We are not aware that up to the present time he has repudiated the work thus attributed to him. On the contrary, he has just published a Dialogue, by way of supplement to it, in which he and various classes of objectors are speakers; and on one of them telling him that one of his critics "repeatedly tries to connect his speculations with those of the author of Vestiges of Creation," a wild work of an infidel character, he answers, "If he were to try to connect me with an answer to that work, which went through two editions, under the title of Indications of the Creator, he would be nearer the mark; at least, I adopt the sentiments of this latter book." Now, this latter book was published, certainly not with Dr Whewell's name on the titlepage, but by the publisher of all his other works, and entitled Indications of the Creator; Theological Extracts from Dr Whewell's History and Philosophy of Inductive Science. But whereas the Essay in question is written by the present highly-gifted Master of Trinity, with the design of showing that "the belief of the planets and stars being inhabited is illfounded a notion taken up on insufficient grounds, and that the most recent astronomical discoveries point the other way "—the author declaring that these "views have long been in his mind, the convictions which they involve growing gradually deeper, through the effect of various trains of speculation;" it will be found, on referring to Dr Whewell's Bridgewater Treatise, published in 1833, that these views seem not then to have been entertained by him. In book iii. chap. 2, we find him speaking thus: "The earth, the globular body thus covered with life, is not the only globe in the universe. There are circling about our own sun six others, so far as we can judge, perfectly analogous in their nature, besides our moon, and other bodies analogous to it. No one can resist the temptation to conjecture that these globes, some
Age of Reason.
of them much larger than our own, are not dead and barren; that they are, like ours, occupied with life, organisation, intelligence. To conjecture is all that we can do; yet even by the perception of such a possibility, our view of the domain of nature is enlarged and elevated." Speaking again of the stars, and supposing them suns, with planets revolving round them, he adds, "And these may, like our planet, be the seats of vegetable, animal, and rational life. We may thus have in the universe, worlds, no one knows how many, no one can guess how varied." And, finally, in the ensuing chapter, “ On man's place in the Universe," he says: "We thus find that a few of the shining spots which we see scattered on the face of the sky in such profusion, appear to be of the same nature as the earth; and may, perhaps, as analogy would suggest, be, like the earth, the habitations of organised beings.' Undoubtedly these remarks are penned in a cautious and philosophic spirit; and upwards of twenty years' subsequent reflection, by the light of various splendid astronomical discoveries during that interval, is now announced to have so far shaken Dr Whewell's faith in such "conjectures," as to induce him, "in all sincerity and simplicity," to submit "to the public the arguments, strong or weak," which had occurred to him on the subject; "and which, when he proceeded to write the Essay, assumed, by being fully unfolded, greater strength than he had expected." He is now disposed to regard a belief in the plurality of worlds "to have been really produced by a guess, lightly made at first, quite unsupported by subsequent discoveries, and discountenanced by the most recent observations, though too remote from knowledge to be either proved or disproved." And further, he thus indicates the grand scope of the entire inquiry: "I do not attempt to disprove the plurality of worlds, by taking for granted the truths of Revealed Religion; but I say that the teaching of Religion may, to a candid inquirer, suggest the wisdom of not taking for granted the Plurality of Worlds. Religion seems, at first sight at least, to represent Man's history and position as unique.
VOL. LXXVI.-NO. CCCCLXVII.
Astronomy, some think, suggests the contrary. I examine the force of this latter suggestion, and it seems to me to amount to little or nothing." In the tenth and eleventh chapters of the Essay, Dr Whewell thus speaks, in two passages (§§ 12, 20), which appear to us to indicate at once the spirit in which he offers his speculations, and his apprehension as to the reception with which they might meet. In the former, he owns that his "views are so different from those hitherto generally entertained, and considered as having a sort of religious dignity belonging to them, that we may fear, at first at least, they will appear to many rash and fanciful, and almost, as we have said, irreverent." In the latter he speaks thus:
be a regret and disturbance naturally felt at having to give up our belief that the planets and the stars probably contain servants and worshippers of God. It must always be a matter of pain and trouble, to be urged with tenderness, and to be performed in time, to untwine our reverential religious sentiments from erroneous views of the constitution of the
"It is not to be denied that there may
Universe with which they have been involved. But the change once made, it is found that religion is uninjured, and reverence undiminished. And therefore we trust that the reader will receive with candour and patience the argument which we have to offer with reference to this view, or, rather, this sentiment."
In this tone of manly modesty is expressed the whole of this really remarkable work; but all competent readers will also be struck by the dignified consciousness of power associated with that modesty. These two characteristics have invested this book with a certain charm, in our eyes, which we cannot but thus avow, after having given his Essay, and the Dialogue, in which he deals with various objectors to his Essay, due consideration. A calm perusal of that Dialogue may suggest to shrewd opponents the necessity of approaching the writer of it with caution.
Here, then, we have a man of firstrate intellectual power, a practised and skilful dialectician, formidably familiar with almost every department of physical science, in its latest
and highest development; an eminent moral writer and academical teacher, and an orthodox clergyman in the Church of England, coming forward deliberately to commit himself to opinions which he acknowledges he does not publish "without some fear of giving offense: "-opinions at variance with those not only popularly held, but maintained by perhaps three-fourths of even scientific persons who have bestowed attention on the subject. Who can doubt his right to do so, especially in a calm and temperate spirit, as contradistinguished to one of arrogance and dogmatism? None but a fool would rush angrily forward, to encounter such an author with harsh and heated language, or derogatory and uncharitable insinuations and imputations. A philosophical and duly qualified opponent would act differently. He would say, In this age of free inquiry, no matter how bold and serious the attack on preconceptions and longestablished opinion and belief, if it be made in a grave and manly spirit of inquiry and argument, and especially by one whose eminent character, qualifications, and position, entitle his suggestions and speculations to deliberate consideration, that deliberate consideration they must have. "I have presented," says the writer of the Essay, in the Dialogue, "gravely and calmly, the views and arguments which occurred to my mind, on a question which many persons think an interesting one; and if any one will introduce any other temper into the discussion of this question, with him I will hold no argument; if he write in a vehement and angry strain, I will have nothing to say to him." The author is here alluding to Sir David Brewster, the author of the second of the three works placed at the head of this article. If, on the other hand, a man of great authority and reputation be unwise enough to run counter to opinions universally received, and that by persons of high scientific and literary reputation, merely as a sort of gladiatorial exercise, disturbing views rightly associated with religion and science, and with levity shaking the confidence of
mankind in conclusions arrived at by the profoundest masters of science, he must take the consequences of being deemed presumptuous and trifling, and encounter the stern rebuke of those whom he is not entitled to treat with disrespect.
Now, a careful and unprejudiced perusal of this Essay has satisfied us concerning several things. It is written with uncommon ability. The author has an easy mastery of the English language, and these pages abound in vigorous and beautifullyexact expressions. From beginning to end, also, may be seen indications of a subtle and guarded logic; a felicitous and masterly disposition of his subject; a thorough familiarity with the heights and depths of physics, divinity, and morals; and, above and infinitely beyond all, a reverent regard for the truths of revealed religion, and an earnest desire to advance its interests, by removing what, in his opinion, many deem a serious stumblingblock in the way of the devout Christian. That stumblingblock may be seen indicated in the audacious language which we have quoted from Thomas Paine. If this be the object which Dr Whewell has had in viewand who will doubt it ?-his title to respectful consideration is greatly enhanced. He must be given credit for having deliberately counted the cost of what he was about to do— the amount of censure, ridicule, and contempt which he might provoke. It seems that he has felt himself strong enough to make the experiment; and here he sees a distinguished contemporary, Sir David Brewster, quickly ascribing "his theories and speculations to no better feeling than a love of notoriety;"* who again stigmatises an argument of the Essayist as "the most ingenious though shallow piece of sophistry which we have ever encountered in modern dialectics."+
*More Worlds than One, p. 199.
That Dr Whewell offers us, in his Essay and Dialogue, his real views and opinions, and that they have been long and deeply considered, we implicitly believe, on his own_statement that such is the case. It may nevertheless be, that he is the uncon+ Ibid., p. 202.
scious victim of an invincible love of paradox; and indeed Sir David Brewster unceremoniously characterises the Essayist's conjectures concerning the fixed stars as "insulting to Astronomy," and "ascribable only to some morbid condition of the mental powers, which feeds upon paradox, and delights in doing violence to sentiments deeply cherished, and to opinions universally believed;" that having once conceived what he regards as a happy idea on a great question, he dwells upon it with such an eager fondness as warps his judgment; that having committed himself to what he has seen to be a false position, he defends it desperately, with consummate logical skill. Or he may believe himself entitled to the credit of having demolished bold and vast theories, and plucked up by the roots an enormous fallacy. It may be so, or it may not; but Dr Whewell's is certainly a very bold attempt to swim against the splendid stream of modern astronomical speculation. He would say, however, Is it not as bold to people, as to depopulate the starry structures? It is on you that the burthen of proof rests: you cannot see, or hear, inhabitants in other spheres; the Bible tells us nothing about them; and where, therefore, is the EVIDENCE on which you found your assertion, and would coerce me into a concurrence in your conclusions? I long for the production of sufficient evidence of so awful a fact as that God has created all the starry bodies for the purpose of placing upon them beings in any degree like man-moral, intellectual, accountable beings, of equal, higher, or lower degree of intelligence-consisting of that wondrous combination of matter and mind, body and soul, which constitutes man, existing in similar relations to the external world. The mere suggestion startles me, both as a man of science and a Christian believer, on account of certain difficulties which appear to me greater than perhaps even you may have taken into account. But, however this may be, I call upon you for proofs of so vast
* More Worlds than One, p. 230.
a fact as you allege to exist, or the best kind and greatest degree of evidence which may justify me in assenting to the existence of such a fact. We are dealing with facts, probabilities, improbabilities; and I repudiate any intrusion of sentiment or fancy. If God has told me that the fact exists, I receive it with reverence; and wonder at finding myself a member of so immense a family, from all communication with which He has been pleased to cut me off in my present stage of existence. But if God has not told me the fact directly-and I feel no religious obligation to hold the fact to exist or not to exist-I will regard the question as one both curious and interesting, and weigh carefully the reasons which you offer me in support of your assertion. But will you, in return, weigh carefully the reasons I offer for asserting a fact which appears to me, however you may think erroneously, of incalculably greater personal moment to me as a member of the human family-namely, that "man's history and position are unique;-that the earth is really the largest planetary body in the solar system-its domestic hearth, and the only wORLD in the universe?" I am quite as much startled at having to receive your notion, as you may be to receive mine. My great engine of proof, says his opponent, is analogy: well, replies the other, there I will meet you; and the first grand point to settle is, whether there is an analogy;t when that shall have been settled in the affirmative, we will, as carefully as possible, weigh the amount of it.
This is the point at issue between Dr Whewell and Sir David Brewster; who resolutely undertakes to demonstrate "More Worlds than One" to be "the creed of the philosopher, and the hope of the Christian." It is to be seen whether this eminent member of the scientific world, also a firm believer in the Christian religion, has undertaken a task to which he is equal. He must present such an amount of proof as will require the plurality of worlds to be accepted as his CREED, by a PHILOSOPHER; that is, by a
+ Essay (2d edition), p. 261.
Baconian-one accustomed to exact and patient investigation of facts, and inferences deducible from them; who rigorously rejects, as disturbing forces, all appeals to our hopes or wishes, our feelings or fancy.
There are two questions before us; to which we shall add, on our own account, a third. The first is that asked in 1686 by the gifted and sprightly Fontenelle (whom Voltaire pronounced the most universal genius which the age of Louis XIV. produced), and echoed in 1854 by Sir David Brewster: Pourquoi non? Why should there not be a plurality of worlds? The second is that asked by Dr Whewell: Why should there be? "I do not pretend to disprove a plurality of worlds; but I ask in vain for any argument that makes the doctrine probable."* The third, is our own. And what if there be ?-a question of a directly practical tendency. We shall take the second question first, because it will bring Dr Whewell first on the field, as it was he who has so suddenly mooted this singular question. But we would at the outset entreat our readers, at all events our younger ones, to remember that we are dealing with a purely speculative subject, respecting which zealous partisans are apt to draw on their imaginations-to assert or deny the existence of analogy, on insufficient grounds; to overstrain or underrate its force; and lend to bare probabilities, or even pure possibilities, somewhat of the air of facts, where facts there are absolutely none.
I. Why should there be more worlds than one? "Astronomy," says Dr Whewell, "no more reveals to us extra-terrestrial moral agents, than religion reveals to us extra-terrestrial plans of Divine government;" and to remedy the assumption of moral agents in other worlds, by the assumption of some operation of the Divine plan in other worlds, is unauthorised and fanciful, and a violation of the humility, submission of mind, and spirit of reverence, which religion requires. He considers Dr Chalmers's allowance of astronomy's offering strong analogies in favour of such
opinions as more than rash:" he regards such “analogies" as, to say the least, greatly exaggerated; and by taking into account what astronomy really teaches us, and what we learn also from other sciences, I shall attempt to reduce such analogies to their true value." We have seen Dr Whewell, in 1833, expressing an opinion very doubtfully, with a "perhaps, that, as analogy would suggest, a few of the heavenly bodies appearing to be of the same nature as the earth, may be, like it, the seats of organised beings." He is now disposed to annihilate those analogies, so far as they are deemed sufficient to warrant such an immense conclusion. But that to which he is now disposed to come is equally immense. He says, "That the earth is inhabited, is not a reason for believing that the other planets are so, but for believing that they are not so."‡ Her orbit "is the temperate zone of the solar system, where only is the play of hot and cold, moist and dry, possible. . . . The earth is really the largest planetary body in the solar system; its domestic hearth; adjusted between the hot and fiery haze on one side, the cold and watery vapour on the other. This region only is fit to be a domestic hearth, a seat of habitation; in this region is placed the largest solid globe of our system; and on this globe, by a series of creative operations, entirely different from any of those which separated the solid from the vaporous, the cold from the hot, the moist from the dry, have been established, in succession, plants, and animals, and MAN. So that the habitations have been occupied; the domestic hearth has been surrounded by its family; the fitnesses so wonderfully combined have been employed; and the earth alone, of all the parts of the frame which revolve round the sun, has become a WORLD."§ Now, let us here cite two or three passages of Scripture, one of them very remarkable. "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; but the earth hath he given to the children of men." || "Thus saith God the Lord, he that created
+ Essay, pp. 133, 134.
* Dialogue, p. 37. § Ibid., pp. 308, 309.
Ibid., pp. 299, 300. Psalm cxv. 16.