« AnteriorContinuar »
IS THE NOTION OF A PLURALITY OF INHABITED WORLDS CONSONANT
WITH SCIENCE AND REVELATION ?
An inquiry into the probability of the us, then, at once proceed to the examination existence of inhabited worlds other than our of this subject; and pursuing this inductive own, whilst invested with much interest to line of argument, we will, in the first place, the curious mind, will, we think, be found not give our attention to the formation of the entirely devoid of practical benefit. It is true, earth, and then direct our inquiry to the that the world in which we live is so far stars and planets which surround it. isolated from the surrounding spheres, that Standing upon that hill-top, cast your eye the discovery of the certainty of all of them over the boundless expanse before you. being populous with intelligent beings would Hill, dale, and plain lie stretching out, one be of no practical utility, as no possible com- beyond the other, in endless succession, munication could ever take place between until all fade in dim indistinctness. But them and ourselves. The present inquiry, all are teeming with organic life. nevertheless, opens to us a grand field for low corn is gently waving upon the hill-side; the exercise of our reasoning powers; leads the dancing leaves of a thousand lofty trees us to contemplate the infinitude of the realm are rustling in the dale; the bleating sheep over which God reigns, thus assisting our and lowing cattle are grazing peacefully in conception of his almighty power and wis- the plain; and the tapering spires and asdom; and, bringing us into communication cending smoke from a thousand chimneys, with nature in all its grandeur, arousing scattered in clusters here and there over within us thoughts of the most solemn cha- the landscape, speak plainly of the art of racter, carrying with them many humbling an intelligent being; whilst the distant roar yet ennobling tendencies. As Humboldt and busy hum, wafted by the breeze to your remarks, in the beautiful introduction to his attentive ear, proclaim that men are toiling “Cosmos," "The earnest and solemn thoughts and labouring in their various avocations. awakened by a communion with nature, in- All is full of life. Turn you round, and tuitively arise from a presentiment of the or- gaze now in an opposite direction, and you der and harmony pervading the whole uni- see the restless ocean glittering in the sunverse, and from the contrast we draw between light; and, borne upon its heaving bosom, the narrow limits of our own existence and the eye is attracted to a brightly white obthe image of infinity revealed on every side, ject slowly but steadily drawing nearer, and whether we look upwards to the starry vault you know that a vessel is coming to cast of heaven, scan the far-stretching plain be- the spoils of other and far distant lands at fore us, or seek to trace the dim horizon your feet, attesting the fact that other shores across the vast expanse of ocean.”
besides that on which you stand are teeming We are aware that the slight knowledge with organic life. But other sights and other which we possess of the construction and sounds claim your attention; and turning development of the spheres inhabiting space, reluctantly away from the contemplation places many difficulties in the path we have of the snowy sail, you perceive a quarto traverse. Making, however, a free use of ryman hewing and blasting his way deep the knowledge the discoveries of science has into the bowels of the earth; and upon some presented to us with regard to our own of the slabs of rock which his labours have Earth, and taking it as a base, and com- exposed to view, you see undulating marks, paring with it the little we do know of the similar to those left upon the sands of the surrounding spheres, we trust, by this ana- sea shore by the retiring tide. And there, logical line of reasoning, to arrive at a safe also, you find shells, and what appear to be conclusion upon the matter before us. Let the remains fishes and other aquatic or
ganisms, both animal and vegetable. And pale queen herself meekly looks down upon the remains of land plants and animals you you from the zenith of her lofty throne. also discover; but many of them are of an You observe that that bright star, which shone entirely different species and of a more gi- with so lustrous a white light in the west gantic character than any with which you when the gloom of night first gathered over are acquainted. You examine farther, and you, has now disappeared below the horizon, perceive signs which lead you to suppose following the track of the sun. And other that there must have been an alternation of stars and constellations, which strove to pedry land and water: for now the strata are netrate the mists that hung over the east, loaded with the remains of sea plants, fish, are now glittering brightly high over your and shells, and you say, “The ocean once head. Some of these, you observe, shine made this place its bed”—now a seam of with a steady beam, whilst the greater numcoal tells you that apon this same spot a ber twinkle and flicker, so that you almost mighty forest once grew and flourished: imagine that the winds of heaven will preagain the strata present the remains of sently extinguish them. Night after night, fresh water plants and fish, and land plants and year after year, and century after cenand animals, and you say,
Here has been tury, you, the philosopher of many ages, the site of a fresh water lake, or of a river's closely and perseveringly watching these mouth.” Vast chasms and fissures, and the heavenly bodies, at last discover that those broken and fused strata, tell you of the steadily shining orbs which first attracted agency of fire and other mighty disturbing your attention, pendant in space, move, at
You ask yourself, “ How is this? various distances from it, constantly round -the earliest historical records tell me not of one centre; that the earth on which you these great changes. The Mount Ararat of stand, like them, whilst revolving on its own the present day is the same Ararat upon which axis, moves round the same common centre, Noah's ark rested.” You observe further and that centre the sun, or, rather, situated that no traces of man can be found in any in the sun, shining with the same warm and but the most recent alluvial deposits. And life-giving beam upon all alike. And you you put all these, and many other things further discover that the splendid orb of which you have observed, together, and, as pale light, which walks with such a queenly a philosopher, reason upon them; and the dignity across the vault of heaven, is a satelresult is, that you conclude that this earth lite attendant upon and revolving round the has passed through many different stages of earth; and that some of the other planets existence, and was the scene of organic life have similar satellites, accompanying their many long ages before man became an in- primary spheres in their course round the habitant of it. Yes ; this is as plainly sun. And finally, all the beauty and granwritten on the page of nature by the finger deur of the solar system is disclosed to your of God, as the fact that “on the sixth day mental gaze. God created man” is recorded in the scrip- But those myriads of twinkling stars, tures, by the same finger of the same Al- what are they? Wondrous fact! They are mighty Being.
suns, and the centres of other planetary Whilst you have been thus employed, and systems like our own. Millions of these stand lost in wonder at the discoveries you suns form the astral system, and the infinihave made, the sun—that same sun which tude of space is filled with them, whirling in the morning you saw rise in its blushing and rushing headlong through its boundless glory in the east, and walk triumphantly realms, guided in their mazy dances by a across the arch of heaven, pouring forth Hand that never errs. Oh! philosopher, such beautiful streams of light and heat in what mighty thoughts rise within us, strugits course-has now sunk to rest below the gle with our weak nature, and overwhelm western horizon. One by one the stars ap- us at the contemplation of your imperfect pear in the dark vault above, till the whole discoveries! And yet, whilst man's fancy heavens are studded with them, and in one cannot wander amidst these boundless fields place so thickly as to assume the appearance of thought without being lost in their vastof a milky band, spread out like a veil over ness, there is a Mind that conceived and a the dark face of night; and at last heaven's Hand that executed and still presides over a
design, of which that which you have disco- , ther, science has taught us that some of vered is but a most imperfect and atomical them agree in having one or more satellites; part. Oh God! how mighty art thou in thy that the nearest to us, and consequently works and ways!
those most capable of accurate observation, You do not, however, rest satisfied with and also the moon, possess in common with what you have discovered; but are stimu- our earth an atmosphere and volcanic mounlated to inquire farther into the grand secrets tains, and possibly seas; and that the situaof nature. Accordingly, you wish to know tion of our earth is not a peculiar one, being something of the way in which the Deity neither the nearest to, nor most distant from, caused these innumerable worlds to assume the sun. Is it, then, inconsistent with scitheir present shape and position. You per- ence to suppose that the analogy can be ceive that certain causes lead to certain carried still farther? Our philosopher, as effects in things with which you come in he stood upon the hill-top, gazed long and closer contact; and observing effects similar wistfully at the smiling landscape, teeming in their nature in the regions of space, you with vegetable and animal life, stretching ask, “Why should not the same causes have out before him. Is it not probable that given birth to them?” You have reason to eqnally glorious prospects charm the senses suppose that all space was once filled with a of philosophers dwelling in those worlds, so luminous matter, or “fire mist,” of irregular like our own in so many respects? The constitution. The laws of attraction and fact that some of them possess an atmogravitation were impressed upon it by a sphere and volcanic mountains seems to us divine band. Nuclei were established in it, particularly to point to an affirmative answer. which became the centres of aggregation; Those of our readers who have any acquaintand the fiery matter, rushing in all directions ance with the science of geology well know towards these centres, became broken up how important a part the atmosphere and into various masses. The conflicting cur- volcanic action, in conjunction with water, rents of matter meeting together gave a have played in reducing our earth to a state rotatory motion to them. Centrifugal force fit for organic life. They well know that it caused them, whilst in a soft state, to swell was by means of the atmosphere and water, out at their equators; and soon rings were acting upon the hard surfaces of the primeval cast off, having the same motion as their rock, broken up by earthquakes and volcanic primary spheres, and which in their turn eruptions, that were deposited those strata, became broken up, forming other spheres, composed of many elements, from which a revolving round those from which they were soil capable of supporting vegetable life was detached. And thus you have astral, solar, ultimately derived. We are not aware wheplanetary, and satellitary systems. It is a ther positive signs of water have yet been beautiful theory; but still, only a theory.* discovered, either in the moon or any of the
Let us apply, then, this theory and these planets. But the discovery of volcanic erupfacts—the discoveries of philosophy—to the tions points plainly, we think, to its existsubject more immediately before us. We ence. For the formation of steam, by water have seen that it is probable that the various coming in contact with the heated rocks in spheres forming our solar system had a the bowels of the earth, is a chief agent in common origin from the same mass of lumi- causing the upheaving and upbreaking of nous matter. We are sure that the planets the earth's crust, as is proved by the volumes and their satellites, in common with one an- of steam escaping from the crater of an other, revolve on their own axes, and, at active volcano. It is not far-fetched, then, various distances, round a common centre, to suppose that it is also an agent in effecting the sun (supposed by the above theory to be the eruptions that have been observed to the remains of the fire mist, and from which take place in the moon and some of the all the planets were thrown off); that they planets. Would not, also, the various gases all in common, though in different degrees, set free by these eruptions, combine with the derive light and heat from that sun. Fur- gases in the air and form water. Presuming,
then, the existence of water, may we not * Such is a very brief and necessa: ily imperfect fairly suppose that the atmosphere, fire, and sketch of La Place's theory of the cusmography. water, have produced similar effects in the
moon and planets that they have done opon | as follows, viz., Mercury, 37,000,000; Venus, this earth; and.that soils capable of sup- 68,000,000 ; Earth, 95,000,000 ; Mars, porting, vegetable. life inay exist there as 145,000,000; Jupiter, 494,000,000; Saturn, well as here? If such soils, why not vege- 906,000,000; and Uranus, 1,822,000,000 table life? And if vegetable, why not animal of miles, their respective mean velocities in life also ?
travelling round it are-Mercury, 109,442, It would not, of course, necessarily follow Venus, 80,062, Earth, 68,092, Mars, 55,166, that if vegetable and animal organisms Jupiter, 29,866, Saturn, 22,050, and Uranus exist in these worlds, that man dwells there 15,546 miles per hour. May not--and we also. For, as we have seen, our earth was put forth the idea timidly-may not the gradually prepared for the habitation of great velocity at which the nearer planets man; and races after races of vegetables travel be the means of decreasing the power and animals were introduced, flourished, of the action of the sun's rays upon them, and decayed, long ages before man came and the slower rate at which the more disupon the scene. It is, therefore, highly tant ones travel be the means of increasing, probable that many of the planets may yet or rather of allowing greater effect to, the be only in a state of preparation for the ha- power of the solar rays? It is, at least, not bitation of man, or some other intelligent impossible; and if these ideas be worth anybeing. But we are acquainted with no facts thing, it is by no means certain that the in science which prove that our world is in a comparative degrees of heat possessed by the more advanced state than many others. Than planets are correctly represented by the some others it may be: for if there be any figures quoted above. We would also sugtruth in the La Placean theory of the cos- gest that the extraordinary difference in the mogony, the rings of Saturn, not yet broken amount of heat experienced by the inhabitup into satellites, would lead to the suppo- ants of the torrid zone from that experienced sition of that planet being in a less advanced by those who dwell in the frigid zone, stage than our own; and that it is, perhaps, should make us hesitate to assume the uninnot yet fitted for the existence of sentient habitability of all the planets on account of beings.
the difference in their temperatures. The difference in the degree of heat re- But we hasten on, and must be very brief ceived from the sun by the other planets, in in another consideration. Whilst revelation comparison with our earth, may be urged as and history lead us to the conclusion that a reason against the probability of their man has not been an inhabitant of this world being, like it, inhabited. For whereas the for more than some 6,000 years, geology, as amount of heat received by Mercury and we have already seen, has disclosed the marVenus, as compared with that received by vellous fact--a fact there is no gainsayingthe Earth, is respectively as 7 and 2 to i, of the existence of this world for countless that received by Jupiter and Saturn is only ages. But the Great Creator, reason and as 14 and io to 1; so that the heat of some revelation tell us, could have no beginning; is too great, and that of others too small, to He was from, and will be to, all eternity. support such animal life as ours. But in Is it consistent with our ideas of this Suthe first place, it is not necessary to suppose preme Being to suppose that he, until within that the inhabitants of the various spheres some few short thousand years, has been are all constituted alike; nor that the heat reigning over inorganic matter and “beasts of the planets is in proportion to the power of that perish”? Can we imagine God sitting the sun's rays falling upon them. The on his lofty throne, alone in his glory? more distant planets may have more inherent cannot; no, we cannot. Nor can we conbeat, and atmospheres that are more powerfu! ceive of him otherwise than as surrounded conductors of it, than those in closer prox- with hosts of adoring spirits, worshipping imity to the sun. It is, also, a curious but him, and doing his behests. Revelation well authenticated fact, that the velocity at tells us of angels, and leads us to believe which the planets travel round the sun is that they existed before our first parents, greater, the nearer they approximate to it. Adam and Eve, were created. Whence Thus, whilst their respective mean distances these spirits, if this earth be the only inhafrom that lumina y are, in round numbers, bited world? Wherefore this vast, extended
creation—these countless stars, forming solar , is the notion of a plurality of inhabited and astral systems?“ To give light upon worlds perfectly consonant with the teachings the earth.” But not one millionth part of of science, but is positively supported by the them are visible without the aid of powerful general testimony of revelation. telescopes!
We now leave this subject in the hands of The idea that this globe, this single grain other writers, remarking only in conclusion, of sand upon the desert, is the only sphere that our aim in this opening article has been in which God has placed intelligent beings to lay down the groundwork of an argument is presumptuous, and derogates from the upon which others might build, rather than infinite nature of the Creator ; and most to raise up an elaborate superstructure of conscientiously do we believe, that not only our own.
PHILALETHES. NEGATIVE ARTICLE.-I. NEVER did we enter upon a discussion | may fall into a similar mistake, and thus with feelings less excited, and a mind less derive but little benefit from our discussion. prejudiced, than at present. The subject is When we use the terms, “ Plurality of Inso speculative, and so unconnected with habited Worlds,” we do not mean to include practical life, that we cannot attach much as their supposed inhabitants, angelic beings, importance, at least in the present imper- spiritual existences, or any ethereal forms. fect state of our knowledge, to either defeat We place the same restrictions upon the term or victory. The necessary uncertainty in as Dr. Whewell, probably the anonymous auwhich both views must be involved, the com- thor alluded to, does, and limit the question paratively indefinite arguments by which to beings of similar nature, disposition, and each must be supported, the extravagant character to ourselves, formed like us in a theories into which, by their fascination, we body out of the dust of the ground, and enare so liable to be drawn, and that at the dowed with the same intellectual, moral, and slightest impulse, tend, in a considerable religious capabilities-in short, we limit the degree, to remove from our hearts the ran- question to man, This, then, is the point cour of disputants and the hostility of anta- which we propose to examine, —"Is the supgonists; while, on the other liand, they have position that there are more worlds than one a great and advantageous influence in im- inhabited by men, consistent with science parting to us the coolness of reasoners, and and revelation?” To this we give a decided the caution of logicians. Accordingly, we negative, and we firmly believe that not only have no fears of transgressing the bounds do all our present discoveries support it, but of moderation and decorum in the present that all future ones will tend to the same debate, and we sincerely trust that the pages conclusion. of the British Controversialist will not be To prove the view we have thus defined, tarnished with those violent outbursts of we purpose to bring forward, Ist, Arguments temper which are the characteristics of many, derived from the outer world; and 2ndly, who, with an excess of imprudence and reck- Arguments of a moral kind. lessness, endeavour to overthrow the old and 1st. We are told that there is a great and establish the new; nor be degraded by those undeniable similarity between our earth and extreme conservatives, who would deny the the planets, in several important particulars, utility of change and progression to a rational and therefore, as the former is inhabited, the being, and restrict him to antiquated notions probability is that the latter also is inhabiwhich cannot be supported either by scrip- ted. “With so many striking points of ture or science.
resemblance between the earth and Jupiter," Previous to our examination of the argu- says Sir D. Brewster,* “ the unprejudiced ments which we intend to bring forward, we mind cannot resist the conclusion, that Jupithink it necessary clearly to define the mean- ter has been created for the express purpose ing of the question before us; for if the of being the seat of animal and intellectual mighty veteran, Sir David Brewster, has life.” In spite, however, of the respectable misapprehended it in his reply to the anony- authority which this name must give to every mous author who so electrified us all, we cannot but expect that a few of our readers • “More Worlds than One," p. 59.