« PreviousContinue »
served, governed, and fashioned by divine skill. The hand of God may be discerned in the life of every successive period. These views are specially adapted to the understanding of common minds, and may be advantageously employed in popular discourses where a priori and abstract discussions may be worse than useless. We will not go over the beaten track of natural theology, but simply specify what peculiar arguments for the existence of God are furnished by geology.
Arguments for a Creator. We will present arguments for a Creator derived both from the inorganic and organic worlds. And first, the existence of inorganic matter proves a Creator. If matter has existed from eternity, as many philosophers have believed, it has not been created, and therefore its presence does not prove a Creator. The ancients argued for the eternity of matter on the principle ex nihilo nihil fit. Their assumption was gratuitous. The time never was when infinite mind did not exist. A power has always existed competent to create matter. Without Deity the conclusion would be correct.
The best proof of the creation of matter, independently of natural science, is the principle that it does not exist of necessity. If not necessary it is not eternal, and therefore had a beginning. Now if we can follow back the history of matter to a time when we understand that its existence is incompatible with its necessary laws, we shall have proof of its creation, and can intelligently reason of its finite nature. We take the ground that the eternal existence of matter is impossible.
1. Organic life had a beginning. Following down the strata into the earth we see the remains of successive races of organisms, each one more simple, till in the oldest stratified rocks upon the globe are found the relics of the very simplest of the organic races.
Earlier than the Laurentian no organisms could have existed.
2. Before the creation of life there was only one kingdom
in nature — the mineral or inorganic. This was in the condition of purely igneous fluidity.
3. Still earlier the matter of the earth was in the condition of intensely heated vapor, and according to the hypothesis of La Place the whole solar system was accumulated in one great revolving nebula.
4. The kindling of the nebula fire is supposed to be due to the action of chemical laws, — the atoms united by elective affinity thus producing light and heat. The theory does not necessarily imply that all matter existed originally in the form of uncombined elements, but they must have been more abundant than afterwards. These four points we assume without considering their proofs.
Matter cannot exist without chemical and physical laws. It is made of atoms, simple or compound. The full conception of atoms involves their peculiar affinities, size, and weight; that is, fundamental, chemical, and physical laws. We speak of mere matter or dead matter; but there is no such thing. The expression is figurative, denoting the absence of organisms. Any assemblage of particles in space must be affected by the law of gravity, the atoms must unite into compounds whenever brought near each other. The inevitable consequence of the action of these fundamental laws is revolution upon axis, and around other bodies if they are adjacent, heat, condensation, fusion, the combination of the atoms into crystals and an oblate or prolate sphere. These fundamental laws must continue to work until every atom is joined to its chosen companion, the sphere has become thoroughly cooled and consolidated. This must be the general result, with or without life. Hence the inference, that if matter had been eternal, these results would have been produced ages ago. Matter then is finite,- it was created; and hence there must have been a Creator.
It may be objected to the creation of matter that there has been an eternal succession of worlds and systems; that we see only a part of one great cycle, commencing with chemical action and ending in desolation; and that there is some law
of nature to resolve matter at the end of the cycle into the simple elements, when chemical action will recommence, and the same series of changes will again take place, including the introduction of organisms.
The reply from science to this objection is, that she knows of no law adequate to change the complex compounds at the end of one cycle into the nascent elements of the new series. It would require the superintending hand of a power above mature to effect this result. Moreover, the commencement of the first cycle is not accounted for on the supposition of an infinite series of cycles. The first kindling of the atomic fires still remain for a creative band.
Paleontological arguments. Three distinct forms of the proof of the existence of a Creator may be derived from the paleontological history of animals.
A. The institution of the animal and vegetable kingdoms in nature proves the existence of a Creator. The distinctions between the inorganic and organic kingdoms are well marked. Except by a power from without, the atoms can never arrange themselves in any higher form than that of crystals. But the principle of life can combine the inorganic elements into substances unknown in the mineral kingdom. Without the life-force carbon would never occur in the condition of coal; it would have remained, invisibly combined in the gas, carbonic acid. The vital forces have decomposed the acid retaining the carbon, and setting free the oxygen. Now what produces this organific power? Is it contained in the atoms like gravity and elective affinity? No. Life is a power superior to the blind forces of matter, and acting in a totally different sphere. Inferior causes do not produce effects above themselves. The vital and physical forces are convertible only through the medium of organisms, and the origin of the vital is utterly beyond the limits of human science. Life, then, had a beginning upon our globe, and it came not from the laws of nature; it was bestowed upon matter by an infinite mind.
1 American Journal of Science, (2d series), Vol. xxviii. p. 319. Vol. xxx. p. 41.
B. The succession of systems of life evinces the hand of a Creator. Geology teaches that there have been several distinct systems of life and action upon the globe. The oldest economy of which we have traces is that of the Laurentian period in which plants were coupled with the very simplest forms of animal life, inferior even to corallines. In the next system, the Cambrian, there are sea-weeds, worms, and the most inferior of the crustacea. The third shows in comparative profusion crustacea, inferior mollusca, etc. The succeeding systems exhibit marked progress. The higher organisms gradually appeared, essentially in the order of their rank. There were no trees till the Devonian period, and those of low grade. Insects and reptiles came with trees, increasing in perfection equally with the forests. Fishes preceded reptiles and birds, but followed cephalopods. Birds succeeded reptiles, to be followed last of all by mammals. The doctrine of organic progression implies that complexity and perfection of organization increase as we ascend in the rocks, that numerous and successive systems of life, all differing from one another, have occupied the globe, and that these minor systems of life are but harmonious parts of one all-comprehending system of organization, whose culmination is witnessed in existing nature. The fact that each system has been suddenly introduced as a whole, not by single interpolations of species, indicates some general cause for its production, and in our view proves successive creations from an almighty hand. When life had been exterminated, an exigency existed which demanded a being of infinite power to create and adapt to novel circumstances new races. The paleozoic atmosphere was heavily charged with carbonic acid, and the paleozoic animals could breathe it with impunity. Not till the carbon had been condensed into coal-beds was the atmosphere sufficiently purified to allow large air-breathers to flourish. Every economy had its peculiarities to which the several families of animals were skilfully adapted.
C. The creation of man was a divine work. Man the most perfect of the animals was introduced last. He could not
have lived in many of the previous aeons on account of insalubrious climates, disagreeable associations, and unproductive soils. He appears suddenly upon the arena with nothing to connect him physically or mentally with previously existing animals. It is the grandest event in the earth's history. None of the previous races had possessed moral natures, nor mental, except in a limited degree, nor the power of speech. The creation of man, with endowments entirely different from those already existing, demands a divine Creator; for what else could meet the exigency?
Objection to C. Man was developed from the ape by principles of natural selection. The apes began to speak, speech developed mind and soul, and the body was gradually adapted to the wants of the mind.
Answer. The zoological distinctions between man and the apes are greater than can be possible between members of the same family or order. Therefore the one has not been developed from the other.
In the classification of the animal kingdom we have first the five grand types, then the classes, and thirdly the orders. Classes are characterized by the manner in which the plan of the structure of the respective types is executed; orders by the degrees of complication of class structure. The differences between man and the most perfect ape, the gorilla, are those of degree. Consequently man constitutes by himself a distinct zoological order, called Bimana (Blumenbach), Archencephala (Owen), or Archont (Dana). Now if man belongs to a distinct order from the apes, you cannot transform one into the other short of a score of gradations, entirely wanting in nature. The ape has four feet resembling hands; man has two hands and two feet. Man is the sole animal that uses only two extremities for locomotion, birds not excepted, because their forward extremities are changed to wings. Man's anterior extremities have been transferred from the locomotive to the cephalic series; that is, are made to attend to the wants of the head exclusively, and not to assist in locomotion also, as in the apes. Man's hands supply the
VOL. XXIV. No. 94,