Page images

courage or address the picturesque and generous knighterrantry displayed on behalf of the Earth by the challenger. The contest has ended nearly where it began. The two first combatants cared more about the result than Mr. Baden Powell, and had better weapons than any other of their successors.

There was some apparent want of clearness in the minds of both Dr. Whewellt and Sir David Brewster, as to the exact scope of the argument on which they took up opposite sides. On the one hand, Dr. Whewell's thesis assumed that no argument from analogy for the existence of beings like ourselves, in other worlds, can be adequate, unless the analogy in physical conditions be proved to be exact. On the other hand, Sir David Brewster reasoned as if no amount of difference in those conditions, however gigantic, at all affects the presumption that beings of moral and intellectual natures, like to man, exist there. Now, of course such an assumption as this last destroys the possibility of reasoning on the subject at all, as we can easily show by putting an extreme case. Why, then, is the argument confined, one might ask, to the material globes at all? Of course it is quite possible and conceivable, that all the vacant spaces between the stars, as well as the stars and planets themselves, may be peopled by beings morally and intellectually, though not physically, like man. Clearly the true scope of the argument from analogy is just this: what grounds taken from physical analogies have we to suppose that beings with similar organizations to ourselves exist beyond the earth? The only reason why our minds fix on the bright points in the heavens rather than on the dark void in which they lie, is, that there at least we know bodily creatures might live; and this naturally suggests to our minds that their inhabitants, if any, would be more likely to resemble man,

The little volume by Mr. Simon, indeed, is very bold, and makes claim for Neptune that he has as much light from the sun as our earth. In this respect, however, Mr. Simon is himself in darkness, and his courage is the courage of mistake. His book is written under the impression that the absorption of light by a medium is the only cause of its diminution as the distance from the sun increases, and after endeavouring to prove that the planetary spaces are empty, he contends that Neptune receives very nearly as much of the sun as we. But of course the law of diminution is geometrical not physical. When the solar light is distributed over the orbit of Neptune, there can only be nine hundred times as few rays on any given space as when it is distributed only over the orbit of the earth.

+ We suppose there can be no impropriety in speaking by name of a writer of whose authorship no one has any sort of doubt. Circumlocutions used in respect for an etiquette of which the natural reasons have ceased to exist when every one speaks what only a title-page conceals, are surely a needless ceremonial yoke.

than the spiritual beings who should be able to exist without any solid footing on which to tread. So far, then, if there be any possibility of an argument at all, as distinguished from mere conjecture, it is essentially an argument from the likeness, or probable likeness, of the physical conditions which we are able to investigate. If we can say, "Here are the prior conditions of a physical life not unlike that of man," it is more natural and easy for the imagination (which is essentially a faculty that strives to complete the half-seen, according to the law previously observed in like cases that have been wholly seen), to sketch-in the hidden fragment of the circle, and add, "Here also may exist the mental and moral organizations which on this earth, at least, accompany such conditions." We think that Sir David Brewster has not quite clearly apprehended this, and should admit, therefore, that so far as Dr. Whewell proved that the physical conditions of other worlds are absolutely different from those of the earth, so far he tended to destroy the only positive argument from analogy which is accessible to us; for so far at least he tended to place us in the attitude of mere conjecture in which we must already be with respect to the vacancy of absolute space, where the physical conditions cannot in any respect resemble our own. On the other hand, Dr. Whewell was certainly guilty of an equally considerable inaccuracy of thought, on the other side of the question; for he assumed, all through his essay, that to our minds discrepancy, even in degree only, between the physical conditions of other worlds and that of our earth, ought to be a real difficulty in the way of conceiving that any inhabitants, in any respect organized like ourselves, exist there. Now such an assumption appears to us to violate the argument from analogy, as much, on the one side, as Sir David Brewster's implicit assumption does on the other. The argument from analogy, looked at in its broadest and truest form, would lead us to expect that at least some differences in degree would accompany any existence on a different sphere of being, instead of militating against that hypothesis. No doubt the greater the seen similarity, the greater the expectation of unseen similarity. But one of the things we do see, even upon this earth, is, that general similarity with some variations in our antecedent experiences, conducts us to general similarity with some variations in our consequent experiences, not to utter dissimilarity. If I travel into Eastern countries, and find inhabitants with eyes wide apart and somewhat sloping, I am not reasonable in expecting, when I travel westwards into new countries, either that the inhabitants' eyes must be similarly formed, or else that

there can be no inhabitants at all. Yet this is the kind of assumption Dr. Whewell made. He proved the impossibility of an exact similarity, and argued that it is therefore altogether irrational to assume any similarity at all in the condition of the other planets and our own. On the other hand, we should say, the argument is all the other way. The mere change from one point in space to another, even if I knew nothing at all about the sun, or light, or heat, or other such circumstances, would rightly lead me to expect some further changes not only in the general condition of the planet, but also in the general constitution of its inhabitants, if any; but also, if I knew that many general facts remained similar, I ought to expect that many general facts, that I could not know, would also remain similar. We know, for example, on the earth, that a great variety of physical conditions is accompanied by a great variety of moral characteristics in the inhabitants. And where the change is greater than from one part of the same planet to another part, the natural expectation is-not that no moral and intellectual phenomena will exist there at all-but that the change in them will be in proportion, and only in proportion, to the change in the physical phenomena. We apprehend that Dr. Whewell might admit this criticism, but reply that this very assumption was in his own favour. He would say that geology proves the duration of intellectual and moral phenomena on the earth to be a mere point of time, as compared with its whole duration as a planetary world; and hence, that it is infinitely more probable-if we reason only from analogy-that any other world should be now devoid of intellectual beings than that it should possess them. And this would be good reasoning, probably, for any one of them at a given time; but certainly it is very bad reasoning for all of them at all times. If we find that the earth has been gradually prepared for receiving moral beings, throughout numberless past ages, the natural assumption is, that the numberless worlds scattered throughout space are all of them in infinitely various stages of a similar process, and that some of them are in higher, some in lower stages of that process than the earth itself. Admit even that a spectator of the universe, knowing the general providential purpose with regard to the earth, but utterly ignorant at what point of time he had alighted upon it, would be warranted in assuming that his chance of finding it in the intellectual stage would be infinitely small, (and this admits too much, for we have some reason to think that the moral and intellectual stage will have a future infinity that will balance the past infinity of the unmoral stage, so as to make it really an even chance in which of the two stages he finds it); yet, the number of worlds

being infinitely great, there would be a finite probability that a certain proportion of all he thus visited would be in the moral stage. No doubt this assumes all the worlds to be intended for development, until a presumption is shown to the contrary. But this is really what strict analogy suggests. The geological argument goes against Dr. Whewell, because it tends to suggest to our mind successive stages (of indefinite length), ending in a moral and intellectual stage (of indefinite length) as the only law of the world of which we have had any experience, and, therefore, as that which it is natural and rational for us to assume, till we have something shown us that tends to destroy this expectation. Analogy, as we have said, gives us a licence to assume that observed similarities with observed differences will be accompanied by a similar proportion in the similarities and differences which we cannot observe. In the case of the only globe we can observe, one fact we observe is a law of ascent in the nature of the beings by whom it is occupied, and clearly this gives us an antecedent right to expect that, amongst the infinite number of unobserved cases, there will be some at least on which the same law is to be found. This presumption might, of course, be rebutted by any observed dissimilarities tending to prove that the other worlds differ in this respect-(namely, that of a regular ascent in their condition)-from our earth. But no such dissimilarities have been, or are likely to be, observed; and we do not know how Dr. Whewell could, on his own analogical principles, meet the force of this remark. Physically, the earth can exhibit to observers in distant worlds no conditions more favourable to the supposition of progressive change than distant worlds exhibit to us. Revolving for ever in the same orbit, and subject to the same solar influences century after century, there could be no further reason to an astronomer in Venus or Mars for assuming any regular law of progression on the earth's surface, than we have for assuming such a change in Venus or Mars. Dr. Whewell's rejoinder would virtually be that we are excluded from much of the force of this presumption by two sets of circumstances-one set moral, viz., that we do know the earth to be specially favoured by the Creator, as being the scene of the incarnation and atonement -a fact which renders it probable that a special law of progress might be found on its surface which does not apply elsewhere; and another set of physical circumstances, viz., that in our next neighbour in space-the moon-the only world which we can examine at all closely, the argument against the existence there of beings like ourselves appears to be overwhelming, so that the presumption in favour of all

worlds being thus inhabited is, at least, overturned. As regards the other planets and suns, all that Dr. Whewell shows, or attempts to show, is, that only organizations more or less different from ours could exist there; and this, of course, does not in the least tend to break the force of the analogy in favour of some progressive law by which they are prepared for the higher forms of intellectual and moral life.

Now, let us take first Dr. Whewell's religious difficulties. Admitting, for the sake of argument, his premisses that the earth has been selected for the scene of a special act of divine grace, which marks out her case as unique, we do not see the least ground for saying that this gives us a presumption that she has the highest moral situation in the universe. It might be that, as Dr. Chalmers suggested, other and better worlds have never needed such an intervention,-a supposition that Sir David Brewster, somewhat drily, terms "a painful conclusion," so jealous is he for the glory of our private station in the universe -but, putting aside such a guess, should not theological humility rather be disposed to look the other way? Is it not a common subject for pulpit remark that there was a special inferiority in the "chosen race," as regarded the gifts of this world? Are they not carefully contrasted with the Greeks, and the Romans, and the Egyptians, to show that the divine care singles out the weak things of this world as the instruments of His mightiest acts? Shall not the same be true of the "weak things" of the universe also? and, if so, would it not rather tend to prove that the earth is only a subordinate moral situation, that it has been selected for such a purpose? Might not the Saturnian theologians contrast the earth in terms as disparagingly (as regards purely natural gifts) with Jupiter and themselves, as our divines are in the habit of applying to Israel, when they contrast that despised race with Greek wisdom and Roman power? As to the difficulty of understanding how an incarnation and atonement, of which this earth has been the scene, could avail for inhabitants of another world, there is at least no more difficulty about it, as Sir David Brewster aptly remarks, than in understanding how it has availed for those-such as the Tartars, or the Kamschatkans, or the Patagonians-who through these eighteen centuries have never heard of these events. An announcement of the truth would surely be as effectual four hundred millions of miles off, in Jupiter, as a few thousand miles away, in America or China. If the law of forgiveness be the same in all worlds, and dependent on the same fact, as we must surely suppose, the inhabitants of Uranus or Sirius cannot lose their privileges by mere distance of space! And if, as some theo

« PreviousContinue »