Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

of sophistry, which we! (Sir David cireling about them!-though * oar Brewster) have encountered in mo- faltering reason utterly fails us!" be dern times ;" * referring bis “theories owns, “when called on to believe and speculations to no better a feeling that even the Nebulæ must be surthan a love of notoriety." It is not rendered to life and reason! Wherto be supposed that Sir David was ever there is matter there must be not perfectly aware who his oppon- life!” One can by this time almost ent was, † which occasions extreme pardon the excitement, the aların surprise at the tone adopted through- rather, and anger, with which Sir out More Worlds than One. In his David ruefully beheld Dr Whewell go preface, he explains as a cause of forth on his exterminating expedition his anger, that he found that "the through Infinitude! It was like a author" of the Essay, " under a father gazing on the ruthless slaughtitle calculated to mislead the public, ter of his offspring. Planet aiter had made an elaborate attack upon planet, satellite after satellite, star opinions consecrated, as Sir David after star, sun after sun, single sons bad thought, by reason and revela- and double suns, system after system, tion,"—that the author had not only nebula after nebula, all disappeared adopted a theory (the Nebular) so before this sidereal Quixote! As for universally condemned as a dangerous Jupiter and Saturn, the pet planets speculation, “but had taken a view of Sir David, they were dealt with in of the condition of the solar system a way perfectly shocking. The former calculated to disparage the science of turned out, to the disordered optics astronomy, and throw a doubt over and unsteady brain of the Essayist, to the noblest of its truths." We dismiss be a sphere of water, with perhaps a this topic with a repetition of our re- few cinders at the centre, and peopled gret, that so splendid a subject was “with cartilaginous and glatinous not approached in a serener spirit; monsters--boneless, watery, pulpy that greater respect was not shown by creatures, floating in the fluid;" while one of his contemporaries for one of poor Saturn may be supposed turning the most eminent men of the age; and aghast on hearing that, for all his that sutficient time was not taken, grand appearance, he was little else in order to avoid divers surprising than a sphere of vapour, with a little macuice occurring in even the compo- water, tenanted, if at all, by "aqueous, sition, and certain rash and unguarded gelatinous creatures — too sluggish expressions and speculations. almost to be deemed alive-floating

If Dr Whewell may be regarded as in their ice-cold waters, shrowded for (pace tanti riri!) å sort of Star- ever by their humid skies!” But Smasher, his opponent is in very talk after this of the pensive Moon! truth a Star-Peopler. Though he ad- “She is a mere cinder! a collection mits that "there are some difficulties of sheets of rigid slag, and inacto be removed, and some additional tive craters !” This could be borne analogies to be adduced, before the no longer; so thus Sir David pours mind can admit the startling propo- forth the grief and indignation of sition that the Sun, Moon, and all the Soul Astronomic, in a passage the satellites, are inhabited spheres” fraught with the spirit, and embody:

- yet he believes that they are : 11 ing the results, of his whole book, and that all the planets of their respec which we give, as evidently laboured tive systems are so; as well as all by the author with peculiar care. the single stars, double stars, and “ Those ungenial minds that can be nebulæ, with all planets and satellites brought to believe that the earth is the

+ Ibid., p. 199.' * In fact, in a note to page 247, Sir David thus slily alludes to those "conjectures" of Dr Whewell in his Bridgewater Treatise, to which we have refered (ante, pp. 290, 291) :-"A very different opinion is stated by Dr Whewell, in his Bridgewater Treatise;" adding, after citing the passages,“ the rest of the chapter, . On the rastness of the Unirerse,' is well worthy of the perusal of the reader, and forms a striking contrast with the opinions of the Essayist.”—This is perfectly fair.

* More Worlds than One, p. 202.

8 More Worlds than One, p. 98. || Ibid., p. 108. 1 Ibid., p. 166.

6

only inhabited body in the universe, will whether a gigantic clod slumbering in have no difficulty in conceiving that it space, or a noble planet equipped like also might have been without inhabitants. our own, and duly performing its appointNay, if such minds are imbued with geo- ed task, to have no living occupants, or logical truth, they must admit that for not in a state of preparation to receive millions of years the earth was without them, seems to us one of those notions inhabitants; and hence we are led to the which could be harboured only in an ill. extraordinary result, that for millions of educated and ill-regulated mind--a mind years there was not an intelligent crea- without faith and without hope : but to ture in the vast dominions of the univer- conceive a whole universe of moving and sal King ; and that before the formation revolving worlds in such a category, inof the protozoic strata, there was neither dicates, in our apprehension, a mind dead a plant nor an animal throughout the in- to feeling and shorn of reason.”* finity of space! During this long period “It is doubtless possible," observes of universal death, when Nature herself Sir David, however, a little further on,t was asleep-the sun, with his magnificent

as if with a twinge of misgiving, “ that attendants—the planets, with their faith- the Mighty Architect of the universe ful satellites—the stars in the binary systems—the solar system itself, were

may have had other objects in view, inperforming their daily, their annual, and comprehensible by us, than that of suptheir secular movements unseen, unheed- porting animal and vegetable life in ed, and fulfilling no purpose that human these magnificent spheres." Would reason can conceive ; lamps lighting no- that Sir David Brewster would allow thing — fires heating nothing — waters himself to be largely influenced by this quenching nothing-clouds screening no- rational and devout sentiment! His thing - breezes fanning nothing - and book is, on the contrary, crammed everything around, mountain and valley, with assertions from beginning to end, hill and dale, earth and ocean, all mean

and of a peremptory and intolerant ing nothing.

character unknown to the spirit of • The stars Did wander darkling in the eternal space.' genuine philosophy. To our apprehension, such a condition of

The Essayist, however, is not inthe earth, of the solar system, and of the capable of quiet humour : and the folsidereal universe, would be the same as

lowing pregnant passage is at least that of our own globe if all its vessels of worthy to stand side by side with that war and of commerce were traversing its

which we have just quoted from his seas with empty cabins and freightless indignant and eloquent opponent :holds ; as if all the railways on its sur- “ Undoubtedly, all true astronomers, face were in full activity without pas- taught caution and temperance of thought sengers and goods; and all our machinery by the discipline of their magnificent beating the air and gnashing their iron science, abstain from founding such asteeth without work performed. A house sumptions upon their discoveries. They without tenants, a city without citizens, know how necessary it is to be upon their present to our minds the same idea as a guard against the tricks which fancy plays planet without life, and a universe with with the senses; and if they see appearout inhabitants. Why the house was ances of which they cannot interpret the built, why the city was founded, why meaning, they are content that they should the planet was made, and why the uni- have no meaning for them, till the due verse was created, it would be difficult explanation comes. We have innumereven to conjecture. Equally great would able examples of this wise and cautious be the difficulty were the planets shape- temper in all periods of astronomy. One less lumps of matter, poised in ether, and has occurred lately. Several careful still and motionless as the grave. But astronomers, observing the stars by day, when we consider them as chiselled had been surprised to see globes of light spheres, and teeming with inorganic glide across the field of view of their beauty, and in full mechanical activity, telescopes, often in rapid succession, and performing their appointed motions with in great numbers. They did not, as may such miraculous precision that their days be supposed, rush to the assumption that and their years never ert a second of these globes were celestial bodies of a new time in hundreds of centuries, the diffi- kind, before unseen, and that, from the culty of believing them to be without life peculiarity of their appearance and moveis, if possible, immeasurably increased. ment, they were probably inhabited by To conceive any one material globe, beings of a peculiar kind. They pro* More Worlds than One, pp. 180, 183.

+ Ibid., p. 185.

ceeded differently. They altered the focus of their telescopes, looked with other glasses, made various changes and trials; and finally discovered that these globes of light were the winged seeds of certain plants, which were wafted through the air, and which, illuminated by the sun, were made globular by being at distances unsuited to the focus of the telescopes !" *

Before proceeding to give our readers some idea of the mode in which Sir David Brewster encounters Dr Whewell, let us offer a general observation concerning both these eminent gentlemen. While the latter exhibits throughout his Essay a spirit of candour and modesty, without one harsh expression or uncharitable insinuation with reference to the holder of doctrines which he is bent upon impugning with all his mental power and multifarious resources; the former, as we have seen, uses language at once heated, uncourteous, and unjustifiable: especially where he more than insinuates that his opponent, whose great knowledge and ability he admits, either deliberately countenances doctrines tending really to Atheism, or may be believed "ignorant of their tendency, and to have forgotten the truths of Inspiration, and even those of Natural Religion."† To venture, however circuitously, to hint such imputations upon an opponent whom he had the slightest reason to suspect being one of such high and responsible academic position, is an offence equally against personal courtesy and public propriety; as we think Sir David Brewster would, on reflection, acknowledge. Both Dr Whewell and Sir David Brewster must excuse us, if, scanning both through the cold medium of impartial criticism, their speculations, questions, or assertions appear to us disturbed and deflected by a leading prepossession or foregone conclusion, which we shall indicate in the words of each.

Dr WHEWELL." The Earth is really the largest Planetary body in the Solar system; its domestic hearth, and the Only World [i. e. collection of intelligent creatures] in the Universe."

*

Sir DAVID BREWSTER.-"Life is almost a property of matter. Wherever there is Matter, there must be Life :Life physical, to enjoy its beauties; Life Moral, to worship its Maker; and Life Intellectual, to proclaim His wisdom and His power. Universal Life upon Universal matter, is an idea to which the mind instinctively clings. . . Every star in the Heavens, and every point in a nebula which the most powerful telescope has not separated from its neighbour, is a sun surrounded by inhabited planets like our own. In peopling such worlds with life and intelligence, we assign the cause of their existence; and when the mind is once alive to this great Truth, it cannot fail to realise the grand combination of infinity of life with infinity of matter." §

·

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The composition of Sir David Brewster, though occasionally too declamatory and rhetorical, and so far lacking the dignified simplicity befitting the subjects with which he deals, has much merit. It is easy, vivid, and vigorous, but will bear retrenchment, and lowering of tone. As to the substantial texture of his work, we think it betrays, in almost every page, haste and impetuosity, and evidence that the writer has sadly under-estimated the strength of his opponent. Another feature of More Worlds than One, is a manifest desire provocare ad populum—a greater anxiety, in the first instance, to catch the ear of the million, than to convince the "fit audience, though few." Now, however, to his work; and, as we have already said, on him lies the labouring oar of proof. All that his opponent professes to do, is to ask for arguments "rendering probable" that "doctrine" which Sir David pledges himself to demonstrate to be not only the "hope" of the Christian, but the creed of the philosopher: as much, that is, an article of his belief, as the doctrines of attraction and gravitation, or the existence of demonstrable astronomical facts.

tion, sketching the growth of the belief He commences with a brief introducin a plurality of worlds-one steadily and firmly increasing in strength, till it encountered the rude shock of the

Essay, ch. vii. sec. 17, p. 221. + More Worlds than One, p. 248. Essay, chap. x. sec. 10, pp. 308, 309; chap. xii. sec. 1, p. 359. § More Worlds than One, pp. 178, 179.

Essayist, whose "very remarkable work" is "ably written," and who "defends ingeniously his novel and extraordinary views:" "the direct tendency of which is to ridicule and bring into contempt the grand discoveries in sidereal astronomy by which the last century has been distinguished." In his next chapter, Sir David discusses "the religious aspect of the question," representing man, especially the philosopher, as always having pined after a knowledge of the scene of his future being. He declares that neither the Old nor the New Testament contains 66 a single expression incompatible with the great truth that there are other worlds than our own which are the seats of life and intelligence;" but, on the contrary, there are" other passages which are inexplicable without admitting it to be true." He regards, as we have seen, the noble exclamation of the Psalmist, "What is man," as "a positive argument for a plurality of worlds;" and "cannot doubt" that he was gifted with a plenary knowledge of the starry system, inhabited as Sir David would have it to be! Dr Chalmers, let us remark, in passing, expressed himself differently, and with a more becoming reserve: "It is not for us to say whether inspiration revealed to the Psalmist the wonders of the modern astronomy," but "even though the mind be a perfect stranger to the science of these enlightened times, the heavens present a great and an elevating spectacle, the contemplation of which awakened the piety of the Psalmist"-a view in which Dr Whewell concurs. Sir David then comes to consider the doctrine of "Man, in his future state of existence, consisting, as at present, of a spiritual nature residing in a corporeal frame." We must, therefore, find for the race of Adam," if not for the races which preceded him!" * & a material home upon which he may reside, or from which he may travel to other localities in the universe." That house, he says, cannot be the earth, for it will not be big enough-there will be such a "population as the habitable parts of our globe could not possibly accommodate;" wherefore, 66 we can

scarcely doubt that their future abode must be on some of the primary or secondary planets of the solar system, whose inhabitants have ceased to exist, like those on the earth; or on planets which have long been in a state of preparation, as our earth was, for the advent of intellectual life." Here, then, is "the creed of the philosopher," as well as "the hope of the Christian." Passing, according to the order adopted in this paper, from the first chapter (" Religious Aspect of the Question"), we alight on the seventh, entitled "Religious Difficulties." We entertain too much consideration for Sir David Brewster to speak harshly of anything falling from his pen; but we think ourselves justified in questioning whether this chapter-dealing with speculations of an awful nature, among which the greatest religious and philosophical intellects tremble as they "go sounding on their dim and perilous way"shows him equal to cope with his experienced opponent, whom every page devoted to such topics shows to have fixed the DIFFICULTY with which he proposed to deal, fully and steadily before his eyes, in all its moral, metaphysical, and philosophical bearings, and to have discussed it cautiously and reverently. We shall content ourselves with briefly indicating the course of observation on that "difficulty" adopted by Sir David Brewster, and leaving it to the discreet reader to form his own judgment whether Sir David has left the difficulty where he found it, or removed, lessened, or enhanced it.

Dr Whewell, in his Dialogue, thus temperately and effectively deals with this section of his opponent's lucubrations :

"His own solution of the question concerning the redemption of other worlds appears to be this, that the provision made for the redemption of man by what took place upon earth eighteen hundred years ago, may have extended its influence to other worlds.

logical hypothesis three remarks offer "In reply to which astronomico-theothemselves: In the first place, the hypothesis is entirely without warrant or countenance in the revelation from which all our knowledge of the scheme of redemption is derived; in the second place, the

*More Worlds than One, p. 18.

events which took place upon earth eighteen hundred years ago, were connected with a train of events in the history of man, which had begun at the creation of man, and extended through all the intervening ages; and the bearing of this whole series of events upon the condition of the inhabitants of other worlds must be so different from its bearing on the condition of man, that the hypothesis needs a dozen other auxiliary hypotheses to make it intelligible; and, in the third place, this hypothesis, making the earth, insignificant as it seems to be in the astronomical scheme, the centre of the theological scheme, ascribes to the earth a peculiar distinction, quite as much at variance with the analogies of the planets to one another, as the supposition that the earth alone is inhabited; to say nothing of the bearing of the critic's hypothesis on the other systems that encircle other suns." *

66

"In freely discussing the subject of a Plurality of Worlds," says Sir David, "there can be no collision between Reason and Revelation." He regrets the extravagant conclusion of some, that the inhabitants of all planets but our own, are sinless and immortal beings that never broke the Divine Law, and enjoying that perfect felicity reserved for only a few of the less favoured occupants of earth. Thus chained to a planet, the lowest and most unfortunate in the universe, the philosopher, with all his analogies broken down, may justly renounce his faith in a Plurality of Worlds, and rejoice in the more limited but safer creed of the anti-Pluralist author, who makes the earth the only world in the universe, and the special object of God's paternal care." He proceeds, in accordance with "men of lofty minds and undoubted piety," to regard the existence of moral evil as a necessary part of the general scheme of the universe, and consequently affecting all its Rational Inhabitants. He "rejects the idea that the inhabitants of the planets do not require a Saviour; and maintains the more rational opinion, that they stand in the same moral relation to their Maker as the inhabitants of the earth; and seeks for a solution of the difficulty how can there be inhabitants in the planets, when God had

*

-

but One Son, whom He could send to save them? If we can give a satisfactory answer to this question, it may destroy the objections of the Infidel, while it relieves the Christian from his difficulties."§ ... "When our Saviour died, the influence of His death extended backward, in the Past, to millions who never heard His name; in the Future, to millions who never will hear it.. a Force which did not vary with any function of the distance. . . . Emanating from the middle planet of the system'

The earth the middle planet of the system? How is this? In an earlier portion of his book (p. 56), Sir David had demonstrated that "our earth is neither the middle [his own italics] planet, nor the planet nearest the sun, nor the planet furthest from that luminary: that therefore the earth, as a planet, has no preeminence in the solar system, to induce us to believe that it is the only inhabited world. Jupiter is the middle planet (p. 55), and is otherwise highly distinguished !" How is this? Can the two passages containing such direct contradictions have emanated from the same scientific controversialist ?-To resume, how

Dialogue, pp. 62-64. SIbid., p. 138.

ever:

"Emanating from the middle planet of the system, why may it not have extended to them all,.. to the Planetary Races in the Past, and to the Planetary Races in the Future? ... But to bring our argument more within the reach of an ordinary understanding "-he supposes our earth split into two parts! the old world and the new (as Biela's comet is supposed to have been divided in 1846), at the beginning of the Christian era! T-" would not both fragments have shared in the beneficence of the Cross-the penitent on the shores of the Mississippi, as richly as the pilgrim on the banks of the Jordan? Should this view prove unsatisfactory to the anxious inquirer, we may suggest another sentiment, even though we ourselves may not admit it into our creed. . May not the Divine Nature, which can neither suffer, nor die, and which,

[ocr errors]

+ More Worlds than One, p. 131. || Ibid., p. 139.

Ibid. Ibid., p. 140.

« AnteriorContinuar »