« 前へ次へ »
its centre. It is only in very large animals that the texture of this membrane can be discerned. In the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1800 (vol. i.), Mr. Everard Home has given some curious observations upon the ear, and the drum of the ear of an elephant. He discovered in it, what he calls a radiated muscle, that is, straight muscular fibres, passing along the membrane from the circumference to the centre ; from the bony rim which surrounds it towards the handle of the malleus to which the central part is attached. This muscle he supposes to be designed to bring the membrane into unison with different sounds; but then he also discovered, that this muscle itself cannot act, unless the membrane be drawn to a stretch, and kept in a due state of tightness, by what may be called a foreign force, viz. the action of the muscles of the malleus. Supposing his explanation of the use of the parts to be just, our author is well founded in the reflection which he makes upon it: “that this mode of adapting the ear to different sounds, is one of the most beautiful applications of muscles in the body; the mechanism is so simple, and the variety of effects so great."
In another volume of the Transactions above referred to, and of the same year, two most curious cases are related, of persons who retained the sense of hearing, not in a perfect, but in a very considerable degree, notwithstanding the almost total loss of the membrane we have been describing. In one of these cases, the use here assigned to that membrane, of modifying the impressions of sound by change of tension, was attempted to be supplied by straining the muscles of the outward ear. “ The external ear,” we are told, “had acquired a distinct motion upward and backward, which was observable whenever the patient listened to any thing which he did not distinctly hear; when he was addressed in a whisper, the ear was seen immediately to move; when the tone of voice was louder, it then remained altogether motionless.”
It appears probable, from both these cases, that a collateral, if not principal, use of the membrane, is to cover and protect the barrel of the ear which lies behind it. Both the patients suffered from cold: one, “a great increase of deafness from catching cold;" the other, “very considerable pain from exposure to a stream of cold air.” Bad effects therefore followed from this cavity being left open to the external air; yet, bad the Author of nature shut it up by any other cover than what was capable, by its texture, of receiving vibrations from sound, and, by its
connexion with the interior parts, of transmitting those vibrations to the brain, the use of the organ, so far as we can judge, must have been entirely obstructed.
ON THE SUCCESSION OF PLANTS AND ANIMALS.
The generation of the animal no more accounts for the contrivance of the eye or ear, than, upon the supposition stated in a preceding chapter, the production of a watch, by the motion and mechanism of a former watch, would account for the skill and attention evidenced in the watch, so produced; than it would account for the disposition of the wheels, the catching of their teeth, the relation of the several parts of the works to one another, and to their common end; for the suitableness of their forms and places to their offices, for their connexion, their operation, and the useful result of that operation. I do insist most strenuously upon the correctness of this comparison; that it holds as to every mode of specific propagation; and that whatever was true of the watch, under the hypothesis above mentioned, is true of plants and animals.
I. To begin with the fructification of plants. Can it be doubted but that the seed contains a particular organization ? Whether a latent plantule with the means of temporary nutrition, or whatever else it be, it encloses an organization suited to the germination of a new plant. Has the plant which produced the seed any thing more to do with that organization, than the watch would have had to do with the structure of the watch which was produced in the course of its mechanical movement? I mean, Has it any thing at all to do with the contrivance? The maker and contriver of one watch, when he inserted within it a mechanism suited to the production of another watch, was, in truth, the maker and contriver of that other watch. All the properties of the new watch were to be referred to his agency: the design manifested in it, to his intention: the art, to him as the artist : the collocation of each part, to his placing: the action, effect, and use, to his counsel, intelligence, and workmanship. In producing it by the intervention of a former watch, he was only working by one set of tools instead of another. So it is with the plant, and the seed produced by it. Can any distinction be
assigned between the two cases; between the producing watch, and the producing plant; both passive, unconscious substances; both, by the organization which was given to them, producing their like, without understanding or design; both, that is, instruments ?
II. From plants we may proceed to oviparous animals : from seeds to eggs.
Now I say, that the bird has the same concern in the formation of the egg which she lays, as the plant has in that of the seed which it drops; and no other, nor greater. The internal constitution of the egg is as much a secret to the hen, as if the hen were inanimate. Her will cannot alter it, or change a single feather of the chick. She can neither foresee nor determine of which sex her brood shall be, or how many of either: yet the thing produced shall be, from the first, very different in its make, according to the sex which it bears. So far, therefore, from adapting the means, she is not beforehand apprised of the effect. If there be concealed within that smooth shell a provision and a preparation for the production and nourishment of a new animal, they are not of her providing or preparing: if there be contrivance, it is none of hers. Although, therefore, there be the difference of life and perceptivity between the animal and plant, it is a difference which enters not into the account. It is a foreign circumstance. It is a difference of properties not employed. The animal function and the vegetable function are alike destitute of any design which can operate upon the form of the thing produced. The plant has no design in producing the seed, no comprehension of the nature or use of what it produces: the bird with respect to its egg, is not above the plant with respect to its seed. Neither the one nor the other bears that sort of relation to what proceeds from them, which a joiner does to the chair which he makes. Now a cause, which bears this relation to the effect, is what we want, in order to account for the suitableness of means to an end, the fitness and fitting of one thing to another; and this cause the parent plant or animal does not supply.
It is farther observable concerning the propagation of plants and animals, that the apparatus employed exhibits no resemblance to the thing produced ; in this respect holding an analogy with instruments and tools of art. The filaments, antheræ, and stigmata of flowers, bear no more resemblance to the young plant, or even to the seed, which is formed by their interven
tion, than a chisel or a plane does to a table or chair. What then are the filaments, antheræ, and stigmata of plants, but instruments strictly so called ?
III. We may advance from animals which bring forth eggs, to animals which bring forth their young alive ; and of this latter class, from the lowest to the highest ; from irrational to rational life, from brutes to the human species; without perceiving, as we proceed, any alteration whatever in the terms of the comparison. The rational animal does not produce its offspring with more certainty or success than the irrational animal: a man than a quadruped, a quadruped than a bird; nor (for we may follow the gradation through its whole scale) a bird than a plant; nor a plant than a watch, a piece of dead mechanism, would do, upon the supposition which has already so often been repeated. Rationality, therefore, has nothing to do in the busi
If an account must be given of the contrivance which we observe; if it be demanded, whence arose either the contrivance by which the young animal is produced, or the contrivance manifested in the young animal itself, it is not from the reason of the parent that any such account can be drawn. He is the cause of his offspring, in the same sense as that in which a gardener is the cause of the tulip which grows upon his parterre, and in no other. We admire the flower; we examine the plant; we perceive the conduciveness of many of its parts to their end and office: we observe a provision for its nourishment, growth, protection, and fecundity ; but we never think of the gardener in all this. We attribute nothing of this to his agency; yet it may still be true, that without the gardener, we should not have had the tulip: just so it is with the succession of animals even of the highest order. For the contrivance discovered in the structure of the thing produced, we want a contriver. The parent is not that contriver. His consciousness decides that question. He is in total ignorance why that which is produced took its present form rather than any other. It is for him only to be astonished, by the effect. We can no more look therefore to the intelligence of the parent animal for what we are in search of, a cause of relation, and of subserviency of parts to their use, which relation and subserviency we see in the procreated body, than we can refer the internal conformation of an acorn to the intelligence of the oak from which it dropped, or the structure of the watch to the intelligence of the watch which produced it; there being no difference, as far as argu
ment is concerned, between an intelligence which is not exerted and an intelligence which does not exist
APPLICATION OF THE ARGUMENT CONTINUED.
Every observation which was made in our first chapter concerning the watch, may be repeated with strict propriety, concerning the eye; concerning animals; concerning plants; concerning, indeed, all the organized parts of the works of nature. As,
I. When we are inquiring simply after the existence of an intelligent Creator, imperfection, inaccuracy, liability to disorder, occasional irregularities, may subsist in a considerable degree, without inducing any doubt into the question: just as a watch may frequently go wrong, seldom perhaps exactly right, may be faulty in some parts, defective in some, without the smallest ground of suspicion from thence arising that it was not a watch; not made; or not made for the purpose ascribed to it. When faults are pointed out, and when a question is started concerning the skill of the artist, or dexterity with which the work is executed, then indeed, in order to defend these qualities from accusation, we must be able, either to expose some intractableness and imperfection in the materials, or point out some invincible difficulty in the execution, into which imperfection and difficulty the matter of complaint may be resolved; or,
if we cannot do this, we must adduce such specimens of consummate art and contrivance proceeding from the same hand, as may convince the inquirer of the existence, in the case before him, of impediments like those which we have mentioned, although, what from the nature of the case is very likely to happen, they be unknown and unperceived by him. This we must do in order to vindicate the artist's skill, or, at least, the perfection of it; as we must also judge of his intention, and of the provisions employed in fulfilling that intention, not from an instance in which they fail, but from the great plurality of instances in which they succeed. But, after all, these are different questions from the question of the artist's existence: or, which is the same, whether the thing before us be a work of art or not; and the questions ought always to be kept separate in the mind. So likewise it is in the works of nature. Irregularities and imperfections are of little or no weight in the consideration, when