Imágenes de página

in our planet, once only clothed itself in humanity, resume elsewhere a physical form, and expiate the guilt of unnumbered worlds?"*

We repeat, that we abstain from offering any of the stern strictures which these passages almost extort from us.


He proceeds to declare himself incompetent to comprehend the Difficulty "put in a form so unintelligible" by the Essayist-that of a kind of existence, similar to that of men, in respect of their intellectual, moral, and spiritual character, and its progressive development, existing in any region occupied by other beings than He denies that Progression has been the character of the history of man,† but rather frequent and vast retrogressions ever since the Fall; and asks "which of these ever-changing conditions of humanity is the unique condition of the Essayist-incapable of repetition in the scheme of the Universe?" Why may there not be an intermediate race between that of man and the angelic beings of Scripture, where human reason shall pass into the highest form of created mind,

and human affections into their

noblest development?

"Why may not the intelligence of the spheres be ordained for the study of regions and objects unstudied and unknown on earth? Why may not labour have a better commission than to earn its bread

by the sweat of its brow? Why may it

not pluck its loaf from the bread-fruit tree, or gather its manna from the ground, or draw its wine from the bleeding vessels of the vine, or inhale its anodyne breath from the paradise gas of its atmosphere?" §

And Sir David thus concludes the chapter :

"The difficulties we have been considering, in so far as they are of a religious character, have been very unwisely introduced into the question of a Plurality of Worlds. We are not entitled to remonstrate with the sceptic, but we venture to doubt the soundness of that philosopher's judgment who thinks that the truths of natural religion are affected by a belief in planetary races, and the reality of that Christian's faith who considers it

to be endangered by a belief that there are other Worlds than his own."

This last paragraph induces us to go so far as to doubt whether Sir David Brewster has addressed his understanding deliberately, to the subject to which so large a portion of the most elaborate reasonings of Dr Whewell have been directed.

Sir David does not quarrel with the Essayist's account of the constitution of man; and we must now see how he deals with the Essayist's arguments drawn from Geology.

Sir David "is not disposed to grudge the geologist even periods so marvellous for the formation of strata, provided as "millions of years required they be considered as merely hypothetical;" and admits that "our seas and continents have nearly the same locality, and cover nearly the same area, as they did at the creation of Adam;" but demurs to the conclusion that the earth was prepared for man by causes operating so gradually as the diurnal change going on around us.

deposited the earth's strata, during the Why may not the Almighty have whole period of its formation, by a rapid precipitation of their atoms from the waters which suspended them, so as to reduce the period of the earth's formation to little more than the united generations of the different orders of plants and animals constituting its organic remains? Why not still further shorten the period, by supposing that plants and animals, requiring, in our day, a century for their development, may in primitive times have shot up in rank luxuriance, and been ready, in a few days! or months! or years, for the great purpose of exhibiting, by their geological distribution, the progressive formation of the earth ?" ||

These questions, of which a myriad similar ones might be asked by any one, we leave to our geological readers; and hasten to inform them, that in involuntary homage to the powerful reasonings of his opponent, Sir David Brewster is fain to question the "inference that man did not exist during the period of the

* More Worlds than One, pp. 141-142. Ibid., p. 152. § Ibid., p. 153.

+ Ibid., p. 151. || Ibid., pp. 44-47.

earth's formation;"* and to suggest that "there may have existed intellectual races in present unexplored continental localities, or the immense regions of the earth now under water!" "The future of geology may be pregnant with startling discoveries of the remains of intellectual races, even beneath the primitive Azoict formations of the earth!... Who can tell what sleeps beyond? Another creation may be beneath! more glorious creatures may be entombed there! the mortal coils of beings more lovely, more pure, more divine than man, may yet read to us the unexpected lesson that we have not been the first, and may not be the last of the intellectual race!" Is he who can entertain and publish conjectures like these, entitled to stigmatise so severely those of other speculators — as "inconceivable absurdities, which no sane mind can cherish suppositions too ridiculous even for a writer of romance!" This wild license given to the fancy may not be amiss in a poet, whose privilege it is that his " eye in a fine phrenzy rolling" may give to airy give to airy nothing a local habitation, and a name:"-but when set in the scale against the solemnly magnificent array of facts in the earth's history established by Geology, may be summarily discarded by sober and grave inquirers.

The Essayist's suggested analogy between man's relation to time and to space appears to us not understood, in either its scope or nature, by Sir David Brewster. At this we are as much surprised, as at the roughness with which he characterises the argument, as "the most ingenious though shallow piece of sophistry he has ever encountered in modern dialectics." The Essayist suggests a comparison between the numbers expressing the four magnitudes and distances, of the earth, the solar system, the fixed stars, and the nebula-and the numbers expressing the antiquity of the four geological periods for the sake of giving definiteness to our notions."


Sir David abstains from quoting these last expressions, and alleges that the Essayist, "quitting the ground of analogy," founds an elaborate argument on the mutual relation of an atom of time and an atom of space. The "argument" Sir David thus presents to his readers, the capital and italic letters being his own: "That is, the earth, the ATOM OF SPACE, is the only one of the planetary and sidereal worlds that is inhabited, because it was so long without inhabitants, and has been occupied only an ATOM OF TIME." § "If any of our readers," he adds, " see the force of this argument, they must possess an acuteness of perception to which we lay no claim. To us, it is not only illogical; it is a mere sound in the ear, without any sense in the brain." This is the language possibly befitting an irritated Professor towards an ignorant and conceited student, but hardly suitable when Sir David Brewster is speaking of such an antagonist as he cannot but know he has to deal with. It does not appear to us the Essayist's attempt, or purpose, to establish any arbitrary abз0lute relation between time and space, or definite proportions of either, as concurring or alternative elements for determining the probability of a plurality of worlds. But he says to the dogmatic astronomical objector to Christianity, Such arguments as you have hitherto derived from your consideration of SPACE, MULTITUDE, and MAGNITUDE, for the purpose of depressing man into a being beneath his Maker's special notice, I encounter by arguments derived from recent disclosures concerning another condition of existence-DURATION, or TIME. Protesting that neither Time nor Space has any true connection with the subject, nevertheless I will turn your own weapons against yourself. My argument from Time shall at least neutralise yours from Space: mine shall involve the conditions of yours, fraught with their supposed irresistible force, and falsify them in fact, as forming premises whence may be deduced derogatory inferences con

* More Worlds than One, p. 47.

Azoic signifies those primary rocks which contain no traces of organic life, no remains of plants or animals.

+ More Worlds than One, p. 52.

|| Ibid., p. 206.

cerning man. The Essayist's ingenious and suggestive argument is intended not to prove an opinion, but to remove an objection; which, according to the profound thinker, Bishop Butler, is the proper office of analogy. It is asked, for instance, how can you suppose that man, such as he is represented to be, occupies only an immeasurably minute fraction of existing matter? and it is answered, I find that man occupies only an immeasurably minute fraction of elapsed time: and this is, to me, an answer to the "How," as concluding improbability. How is balanced against How: Difficulty against difficulty: they neutralise each other, and leave the great question, the great reality, standing as it did before either was suggested, to be dealt with according to such evidence as God has vouchsafed us. We, therefore, do not see that the Essayist is driven to say, as Sir David Brewster alleges he is, either that because man has occupied only an atom of space, he must live only an atom of time on the earth; or that because he has lived only an atom of time, he must occupy but an atom of space. In dismissing this leading portion of the Essayist's reasonings, we shall say only that we consider it worthy of the attention of all persons occupied in speculations of this nature, as calculated to suggest trains of novel, profitable, and deeply interesting reflection.

that analogy on which the pluralist relies ?

Thus far the Essayist, as followed by his opponent, on the assumption that the other bodies of the universe are fitted, equally with the earth, to be the abodes of life. But are they? Here we are brought to the last stage of the Essayist's speculations-What physical EVIDENCE have we that the other bodies of the Solar System, besides the Earth, the Fixed Stars, and the Nebulæ, are structures capable of supporting human life, of being inhabited by Rational and Moral Beings?

The great question, in its physical aspect, is now fully before us: Is there

For the existence of Life several conditions must concur; and any of these failing, life, so far as we know anything about it, is impossible. Not air, only, and moisture, but a certain temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, and a certain consistence, on which the living frame can rest. Without the other conditions, an atmosphere alone does not make life possible; still less, prove its existence. A globe of red-hot metal, or of solid ice, however well provided with an atmosphere, could not be inhabited, so far as we can conceive. The old maxim of the logicians is true: that it requires all the conditions to establish the affirmative, but that the negative of any one proves the nega


First, as to the smallest tenants of our system, the thirty † planetoids, some of which are certainly no larger than Mont Blanc.

Sir David Brewster dare not venture to suggest that they are inhabited, or in any condition to become so, any more than meteoric stones, which modern science regards as masses of matter, moving, like the planets, in the celestial spaces, subject to the gravitating attraction of the Sun; the Earth encountering them occasionally, either striking directly upon them, or approaching to them so closely that they are drawn by the terrestrial attraction, first within the atmosphere, and afterwards to the earth's surface. Here our Essayist gives a thrust at his Pluralist opponent not to be parried, asking him why he shrunk from asserting the planetoids and meteoric stones to be inhabited? If it be because of their being found to be uninhabited, or of their smallness, then "the argument that they are inhabited because they are planets fails him." §

"There is, then," says elsewhere the wary Essayist, "a degree of smallness which makes you reject the supposition of inhabitants. But where does that degree

* More Worlds than One, pp. 206, 207.

A thirtieth planetoid was discovered by Mr Hind since the publication of the second edition of the Essay.

§ Dial., p. 60.

LARDNER, Museum of Science and Art, vol. i. p. 156.
Ibid., p. 28.

2 c


of smallness begin? The surface of Mars is only one-fourth that of the Earth. Moreover, if you allow all the planetoids to be uninhabited, those planets which you acknowledge to be probably uninhabited far outnumber those with regard to which even the most resolute Pluralist

holds to be inhabited. The majority swells every year; the planetoids are now thirty. The fact of a planet being inhabited, then, is, at any rate, rather the exception than the rule; and therefore must be proved, in each case, by special evidence. Of such evidence I know not a trace!"

We may add, also, that Dr Lardner, vouched by Sir David Brewster, as we shall soon see, to be a thoroughly competent witness, gives up the planetoids as seats of habitation for animal life.*

Let us now, would say our Essayist, proceed on our negative tour, so to speak, and hasten to pay our respects to the Moon, our nearest neighbour, and whose distance from the Sun is admitted to adapt her, so far, for habitation. If it appear, by strong evidence, that the Moon is not inhabited, then there is an end of the general principle, that all the bodies of the solar system are inhabited, and that we must begin our speculation about each with this assumption. If the Moon be not inhabited, then, it would seem, the belief that each special body in the system is inhabited, must depend upon reasons specially belonging to that body, and cannot be taken for granted without these reasons. I Now, as to the Moon, we have latterly acquired the means of making such exact and minute inquiries, that at the meeting of the British Association at Hull last year, Mr Phillips, an eminent geologist, stated that astronomers can discern the shape of a spot on the Moon's surface, only a few hundred feet in breadth. Passing by, however, the Essayist's brief but able

account of the physical condition of this satellite of ours, we will cite the recent testimony of one accredited by Sir David Brewster § as "a mathematician and a natural philosopher, who has studied, more than any preceding writer, the analogies between the Earth and the other planets "Dr Lardner, who, in the third volume (published since our last Number appeared) of the work placed at the head of this article, thus concludes his elaborate account of the Moon, as now regarded by the most enlightened astronomers—after proving it to be as exempt from an atmosphere as is the utterly exhausted receiver of a good air-pump!"


§ Pp. 80, 81.
** P. 24.

"In fine, the entire geographical character of the moon, thus ascertained by long-continued and exact telescopic surveys, leads to the conclusion, that no analogy exists between it and the earth which could confer any probability on the conjecture that it fulfils the same purposes in the economy of the universe; and we must infer, that whatever be its uses in the solar system, or in the general purposes of creation, it is not a world inhabited by organised races such as those to which the earth is appropriated. "

We must leave Sir David and Dr Lardner to settle their small amount of differences together; for Sir David will have it that "the moon exhibits such proofs of an atmosphere that we have a new ground from analogy for believing that she either has, or is in a state of preparation for receiving, inhabitants; " whom, "with monuments of their hands," he "bopes may be discovered with some magnificent telescope which may be constructed!"** And he is compelled to believe that "all the other unseen satellites of the solar system are homes to animal and intellectual

* Museum, &c., vol. i. p. 64.

+ P. 271. Her distance from us is 240,000 miles; and our Essayist, by the way, tells us (chap. x. § 7) that "a railroad-carriage, at its ordinary rate of travelling, would reach her in a month." We should not like to travel by the Lunar Express, but should prefer the parliamentary train, and hope, starting from the Hanwell station, to get to the terminus in a couple of years or so. Good Bishop Wilkins intended to be taken up by birds of flight trained for the purpose. When the Duchess of Newcastle asked him where he intended to bait by the way, he answered, "Your Grace is the last person to ask me the question, having built so many castles in the air!"

Essay, p. 272. T P. 108.

Museum, &c., vol. iii. p. 48.

life." The Essayist would seem not to have deemed it necessary to deprive the sun of inhabitants; but our confident Pluralist will not surrender the stupendous body so easily. His friend Dr Lardner properly regards it "as a vast globular furnace, the heat emitted from each square foot of which is seven times greater than the heat issuing from a square foot of the fiercest blast-furnace: to what agency the light and heat are due, no one can do more than conjecture. According to our hypothesis, it is a great ELECTRIC LIGHT in the centre of the system;" and "entirely removed from all analogy with the earth""utterly unsuited for the habitation of organised tribes." Nevertheless Sir David believes that "the sun is richly stored with inhabitants" the probability "being doubtless greatly increased by the simple consideration of its enormous size"-a "domain so extensive, so blessed with perpetual light;" but it would seem that "if it be inhabited," it is probably "occupied by the highest orders of intelligence!"§ who, how ever, are allowed to enjoy their picturesque, and, it must be owned, somewhat peculiar, but doubtless blessed position, only by peeping every now and then through the sun's spots, and so "seeing distinctly the planets and stars"-in fact, "large portions of the heavens !" || Perhaps it may be thought that this is not a very handsome way of dealing with such exalted beings!

The Essayist has now our seven principal sister-planets to deal with -the two infra-terrestrial, Mercury and Venus, and the five extra-terrestrial-Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune; and as to all these, the question continues, do they so resemble the earth in physical conditions, as to lead us safely to the conclusion that they resemble it in that other capital particular, of being the habitations of intellectual and moral beings? Here, be it observed, that every symptom of unlikeness which the Essayist can detect, greatly augments the burthen of proof incumbent upon his opponents.

* Museum, &c., vol. iii. p. 109. § More Worlds than One, pp. 97, 101.

When it was discovered that the old planets in certain important particulars resembled the earth, being opaque and solid bodies, having similar motions round the sun and on their own axis, some accompanied by satellites, and all having arrangements producing day and night, summer and winter, who could help wondering whether they must not also have inhabitants, reckoning and regulating their lives and employments by days, months, and years? This was, at most, however, a mere guess or conjecture; and whether it is now more probable than then, depends on the intervening progress of astronomy and science in general. Have subsequent discoveries strengthened or impugned the validity of the conjecture? The limits of our system have been since vastly extended by the discovery of Uranus and Neptune; and the planetary sisterhood has also increased in number by thirty little and very eccentric ones.

Now, as to NEPTUNE, says the Essayist, in substance, what reason has a sensible person for believing it peopled, as the earth is, by human beings-i. e. consisting of body and soul? He is thirty times further than we are from the sun, which will appear to it a mere star-about the size of Jupiter to us; and Neptune's light and heat will be nine hundred times less than ours! ¶ If it, nevertheless, contain animal and intellectual life, we must try to conceive how they get on with such a modicum of those useful elements!

But have we general grounds for assuming all the planetary bodies inhabited ? Beginning with the moon, we have encountered a decided negative. If any planet, however, have sufficient light, heat, clouds, winds, and a due adjustment of gravity, and the strength of the materials of which organisation consist, there may be life of some sort or other. Now we can measure and weigh the planets, exactly, by the law of gravitation, which embraces every particle of matter in our system, and find the mass of our earth to be only five times heavier than water. Compar

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »