Of the Unity of the Deity
|March 16, 2012||Filled under All text of Paley Natural Theology, Chapter 25||
Of the “Unity of the Deity,” the proof is, the uniformity of plan observable in the universe. The universe itself is a system; each part either depending upon other parts, or being connected with other parts by some common law of motion, or by the presence of some common substance. One principle of gravitation causes a stone to drop towards the earth, and the moon to wheel round it. One law of attraction carries all the different planets about the sun. This philosophers demonstrate. There are also other points of agreement amongst them, which may be considered as marks of the identity of their origin, and of their intelligent Author. In all are found the conveniency and stability derived from gravitation. They all experience vicissitudes of days and nights, and changes of season. They all, at least Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, have the same advantages from their atmosphere as we have. In all the planets, the axes of rotation are permanent. Nothing is more probable, than that the same attracting influence, acting according to the same rule, reaches to the fixed stars: but, if this be only probable, another thing is certain, viz. that the same element of light does. The light from a fixed star affects our eyes in the same manner, is refracted and reflected according to the same laws, as the light of a candle. The velocity of the light of the fixed stars is also the same as the velocity of the light of the sun, reflected from the satellites of Jupiter. The heat of the sun, in kind, differs nothing from the heat of a coal fire.
In our own globe, the case, is clearer. New countries are continually discovered, but the old laws of nature are always found in them: new plants perhaps, or animals, but always in company with plants and animals which we already know: and always possessing many of the same general properties. We never get among such original, or totally different, modes of existence, as to indicate, that we are come into the province of a different Creator, or under the direction of a different will. In truth, the same order of things attends us wherever we go. The elements act upon one another, electricity operates, the tides rise and fall, the magnetic needle elects its position in one region of the earth and sea as well as in another. One atmosphere invests all parts of the globe, and connects all; one sun illuminates; one moons exerts its specific attraction upon all parts. If there be a variety in natural effects, as, e.g. in the tides of different seas, that very variety is the result of the same cause, acting under different circumstances. In many cases this is proved; in all, is probable.
The inspection and comparison of living forms, add to this argument examples without number. Of all large terrestrial animals, the structure is very much alike; their senses nearly the same; their natural functions and passions nearly the same; their viscera nearly the same, both in substance, shape, and office: digestion, nutrition, circulation, secretion, go on, in a similar manner, in all. The great circulating fluid is the same; for, I think, no difference has been discovered in the properties of blood, from whatever animal it be drawn. The experiment of transfusion proves, that the blood of one animal will serve for another. The skeletons also of the larger terrestrial animals, show particular varieties, but still under a great general affinity. The resemblance is somewhat less, yet sufficiently evident, between quadrupeds and birds. They are all alike in five respects, for one in which they differ.
In fish, which belong to another department, as it were, of nature, the points of comparison become fewer. But we never lose sight of our analogy, e.g. we still meet with a stomach, a liver, a spine; with bile and blood; with teeth; with eyes,—(which eyes are only slightly varied from our own, and which variation, in truth demonstrates, not an interruption, but a continuance of the same exquisite plan; for it is the adaptation of the organ to the element, viz. to the different refraction of light passing into the eye out of a denser medium.) The provinces, also, themselves of water and earth, are connected by the species of animals which inhabit both; and also by a large tribe of aquatic animals, which closely resemble the terrestrial in their internal structure; I mean the cetaceous tribe, which have parts, like those of land animals. This similitude, surely, bespeaks the same creation and the same Creator.
Insects and shell-fish appear to me to differ from other classes of animals the most widely of any. Yet even here, beside many points of particular resemblance, there exists a general relation of a peculiar kind. It is the relation of inversion; the law of contrariety: namely, that whereas in other animals, the bones, to which the muscles are attached, lie within the body; in insects and shell-fish they lie on the outside of it. The shell of a lobster performs to the animal the office of a bone, by furnishing to the tendons that fixed basis or immovable fulcrum, without which, mechanically, they could not act. The crust of an insect is its shell, and answers the like purpose. The shell also of an oyster stands in the place of a bone; the bases of the muscles being fixed to it, in the same manner as, in other animals, they are fixed to the bones. All which (under wonderful varieties, indeed, and adaptation of form) confesses an imitation, a remembrance, a carrying on, of the same plan.
The observations here made are equally applicable to plants; but, I think, unnecessary to be pursued.
It is a very striking circumstance, and alone sufficient to prove all which we contend for, that in this part likewise of organized nature, we perceive a continuation of the sexual system.
Certain however it is, that the whole argument for the divine unity, goes no farther than to a unity of counsel.
It may likewise be acknowledged, that no arguments which we are in possession of, exclude the ministry of subordinate agents. If such there be, they act under a presiding, a controlling will; because they act according to certain general restrictions, by certain common rules, and, as it should seem, upon a general plan: but still such agents, and different ranks, and classes, and degrees of them, may be employed.