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MECHANICAL CREATION

A FALLACY;

BY MR. WILLIAM ROBERTSON.

[Delivered in Oldham Street Lecture Hall, Manchester, July, 1856.]

We are accustomed to describe that species of result arising from the action of bodies upon each other, as distinguished from the action of intelligence upon the same bodies, as "mechanical." The automaton differs in kind from the intelligent agent. The object of this lecture is to shew that the universe, a part of which we inhabit, has not been the product of automatic agency but has been created in its elements and arranged in its various parts by an eternal, self-existent, free, independent, and Almighty God.

It were impossible for me to take up and expose in

the limits of this lecture all the theories which have been proposed with the intention of dispensing with intelligent agency in the formation of the world. To one view of one of these alone can we give adequate attention. La Place suggested a scheme certainly ingenious; he supposed the whole mass of our solar system to have been congregated in one gigantic sphere of gases of different degrees of condensibility, by the passing of which through each other towards the centre according as they condensed, they would

form a kind of vortical movement, which would end in a rotatory motion on an axis. This rotation would, he supposed, increase in intensity as the whole mass condensed, and ultimately rings of less condensible matter would be left at different points within the limits of the system, the contraction of the inner portions always producing a greater velocity in them. These rings would eventually collapse into globes and throw off smaller rings which in turn would solidify into satellites. His scheme has been illustrated and popularised by Professor Nichol, of Glasgow, in his book "Views of the Architecture of the Heavens," and has been adopted by the writers of the "Vestiges of Creation," and of the "Essay on a Plurality of Worlds." It has been abandoned by most since the resolvability of the nebula (the existence of which suggested it at first) has been rendered probable by the recent improvements in the construction of telescopes. The great postulate of these systems one and all is the eternity of matter, without this being granted they have no basis whatever to work upon. We affirm, however-notwithstanding all that has been said and written to the contrary-that matter does not possess those properties by which the human mind has distinguished eternal existence. The basis of every kind of argument regarding the past is the present. Human existence and the present universe are two acknowledged certainties. Upon these certainties it is always warrantable to build just conclusions, either regarding the past or the future.

There is no property of the world we inhabit so perceptible or so universally admitted as mutability, Atheists themselves, do not, so far as my knowledge extends, defend the eternity of the world as it is. In every person's view then, this present state of things leans for its properties of every kind upon the state or condition of things which have gone before it. To defend the doctrine of eternally recurring cycles,

is to revert to the eternity of the world as it is. In the light of the science of these times such a doctrine could not be defended. The eternal progression which is the favourite scheme of modern atheism, is altogether irreconcilable with the ancient scheme of cycles. The modern scheme is considered to be reconcilable with the mathematical doctrine of an infinite series. Of every previous state it is said to be quiet reasonable to affirm that one may have gone before it.

But the doctrine of mathematical infinites is not applicable to material things. Take an illustration: You may take a line of any length and find it infinitely divisible mathematically, and you may suppose that such may also be the result in mechanics or in fact, but it is not so. If you divide the supposed line by two, and its half by two, and so on arithmetically for ever, you would never find the sum of the quotients equal to the full line from which you had started. But if you take a piece of matter and cut it in two, and then half the half, and so on, you will find that before proceeding far, you have reached the limit of an atom of the kind of matter you have cut. You become convinced by such experiment, that when your experiment leaves you the bulk of two atoms, your halving process can go but one step further. And although you may arithmetical values for any half of a mathematical series however small, by writing ciphers after a decimal point, yet in fact in cutting a piece of wood or evolving a gas, you are limited by the atomic limits of the body you operate upon. But again in the mathematical series, you perceive that when you come to a very great distance from the starting point, the half of your remainder is scarcely perceptible,the solid part, consisting of the sum of all your past halvings, would scarcely derive increased value from the addition of the half of the remainder. And if events were expressible in such mathematical terms and

find

representible by them,-and if they had been going on from a past eternity, is it not reasonable to suppose that we should now have reached such an epoch as that the difference of the remainder of our undeveloped infinity would render our present progress altogether unappreciable? The proof adduced then of the possibility of such a series is the surest test we have of the late commencement of this sublunary state of things. As it is demonstrable that a series whose members vary largely has but advanced a few stages, so it is obvious by the very prominent character of our events that we are not anything like an infinite distance from the starting point of our race. But respecting such mathematical infinites, it is equally demonstrable that although continually halvable they never can reach such a point as that to be multiplied infinitely they would only amount to the first number halved, so that a mathematical infinite of this kind is demonstrably true and equally demonstrably false. And in fact the application of the absolute term infinite to the first kind of series is an improper use of language-you start with a line, say one inch in length, and you propose a process of division and select one which leaves a remainder continually, and this being represented by a mathematical series is commonly called infinite because interminable, but every one knows that an inch is not of infinite length nor representible by a positive infinite representation, that is to say you cannot find a measure so small as that increased by infinity will only amount to an inch.

We are now prepared to understand and in some measure to estimate the value of the statement that every event may have been preceded by another adinfinitum. For in all mathematical series of the class to which reference has been had above, every term indicates and in a manner includes all that go before it and in the construction of the universe-the universe as it is, is the sum of all past terms or succes.

sions of events, and includes each of the alterations or alternations or changes within its body. Now the possibility of an infinite series in the materials of the earth is altogether excluded when we consider that there are only about 64 simple elements, that these are not capable of indefinite combinations or changes, but have a very limited range indeed-in short, man might calculate how many substances such 64 elements are resolvable into, and if only one such change were accomplished every thousand years, it would require no great arithmetical stretch to read off the number possible and the greatest definite time required.

But it is asked, how do we know that the world is a consequent at all? I am not aware that the fact is anywhere denied. It is at all events certain that the present race of man is a consequent, that the present race of animals is a consequent-and chemistry has long decided that the same elements are variously combined and are perpetually undergoing new combinations, and cannot be prevented undergoing combinations, every one of which are consequents. But it is asked again, is there any greater absurdity in supposing it to have subsisted as it now is at any specified time throughout the millions of ages that are past, than that it should so exist at this moment? I know that such a supposition makes me to be in fact my own father, or some one of my own great great grandfathers, and I humbly submit that that is sufficiently absurd.

But it is asked, does what we suppose might have been then imply any greater absurdity than what we see at present? It is absurd that any man should live without a father, and equally so that any race should live without food, that food could exist without growth, that growth should possess correspondence without adaptation, and succession in such a sense be without a beginning. And apart altogether from the evidence of beginning furnished by Geology,

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