« السابقةمتابعة »
similar to what it is now. All this, we would answer, has nothing to do with the question. What we want to know is, not what is his form, and what are his members, but has he, in his entire nature, degenerated or improved? Are his size, strength, or swiftness in the race, diminished or increased? Does he shew more or less sagacity, or is his average age lesser or greater than it was?
As it is obvious that these questions have no connection with the structure, form, and anatomy of the animal, so the question alluded to with regard to the degeneracy or improvement of man, is totally independent of any system we may happen to adopt with regard to the structure of his faculties.
Another remark that occurs on this part of Mr Combe's speculation, is this, that in his statement of the several systems, he mixes up two questions which are perfectly distinct. The one is, Has man, as he at present exists, degenerated from his original state; or is he, and has he always been, from the beginning, in a state of slow and gradual improvement? Another, and quite a separate question, is,-supposing it to be shewn that the human race is now in an improving state, what are the means by which that improvement has been brought about in time past, and what are the best means for promoting this improvement now, and for raising man to the highest perfection of which his nature is capable? Are his present faculties, such as they are, sufficient for this purpose? or does he require the aids of revelation, and of spiritual influences, to lead him to the ultimate ends of his being, and to open to him the sources of his highest happiness? These are different questions, and will require to be separately considered; and although, in regard to the last of them, there may be some colour for supposing that something may depend upon our possessing a true
system of mental philosophy, I think it may appear hereafter that Mr Combe places far too high a reliance upon his own views of our mental faculties, and very much undervalues the knowledge which divines, in common with the rest of mankind, have hitherto possessed on the subject.
I may here repeat my regret, that, in coming to the consideration of both these questions, Mr Combe had not confined himself to a statement of his own views, instead of going out of his way to attack those of others. If the first view given here of the constitution of the world had been the true one, and if it could have been established by fair logical deductions from a sufficient number of undoubted facts, Mr Combe needed not to have troubled himself with any other that could be proposed. He might have satisfied himself with maintaining his own doctrine, and trusted to the harmony which must ever subsist between all truths, to reconcile his conclusions with a correct interpretation of Scripture.
The geologists who maintained, from the appearances of the different rocks, and other materials forming the outer crust of the earth, that this world must have existed many thousand years before the period generally assigned to the creation, at first excited great alarm in many religious and well-meaning persons, from the apprehension that their speculations would undermine the authority of the Mosaic writings. This alarm was unfounded, and is now no longer entertained. The geologists attacked no doctrine connected with Christianity. They properly and philosophically confined themselves to the proof of a fact, which is now established by such an overwhelming mass of evidence, that it can no longer be questioned. Had Mr Combe followed their example, and employed himself in a diligent
investigation of the facts bearing upon the point at issue, he probably would have come to different conclusions from those which he has now adopted. At all events, while he confined himself strictly to facts, and to pure philosophical investigation, he need not have feared the hostility of the divines, and it was entirely out of his province to attack any of their doctrines.
When Sir Isaac Newton proposed his theory of universal gravitation as accounting for all the phenomena of the motions of the heavenly bodies, as well as of those on the surface of the globe, he did not encumber himself with attempting to disprove the vortices of Descartes, or the cycles and epicycles of other astronomers. He was quite satisfied with proving his own theory, which he placed upon the basis of a broad induction of wellobserved facts, and rigid mathematical demonstration, and he left the admirers and supporters of other systems to maintain their own opinions, or reconcile them to the facts, as they best might.
Mr Combe's procedure differs from this in two respects. He has attacked the opinions of others; and he has not established his own on any thing like a satisfactory basis.
I shall, in what follows, go more at large into an examination of his fundamental proposition, that the world has been constituted, with regard to man, on the principle of a progressive system; and, after a full examination of the evidence, I trust I shall be able to shew,—
1. That the analogy to be drawn from the geological facts, stated by Mr Combe himself, instead of supporting his general principle, leads to the very opposite conclusion.
2. That throughout the whole range of organic existence, from which any analogies can be drawn applicable to this question, these are uniformly adverse to
Mr Combe's theory, and in favour of the opinions he opposes.
3. That as far as any conclusion can be drawn from history, from the monuments of ancient art, and other remains of antiquity, we are led irresistibly to the belief, that the most ancient nations have been as far, or farther advanced in moral and intellectual attainments, than those which succeeded them.
4. That the course of civilization has, from the first dawn of history until now, proceeded uniformly and exclusively from those countries which were first inhabited, and that no instance can be adduced of any barbarous nation, which, by its own unassisted efforts, ever advanced a single step in the career of moral and intellectual improvement.
5. That the inhabitants of this island have only been raised from barbarism to civilization, by successive conquests and intermixture with other nations, and by other extraordinary stimulating influences operating on the national mind, and coming from without, including, as the most important, the influence of Christianity.
I shall then draw a closer comparison between the two opposite systems, — that of Mr Combe on the one hand, and that of our divines and theologians on the other, and shall endeavour to shew which of them is most consistent with the facts, as far as these can be ascertained by natural reason, and a careful examination of evidence. And, lastly, adverting to the accusations which Mr Combe has brought against our religious instructors, and their mode of teaching, I shall endeavour to shew, both on a larger and a more confined scale, what good has already been accomplished by their means, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions as to what is likely to be done, by a more extended application of the same means in future.
I.-Mr Combe's Analogies in support of his Hypothesis.
My first position then is, that the analogies relied on by Mr Combe to prove his general principle, do, if any thing, prove the reverse.
If we attend to the geological facts he enumerates, to what do they amount? Does it appear from them that the physical world, as originally constituted, "contained within itself the elements of improvement, which it required only time to bring to maturity?" The facts are directly in the teeth of such a supposition. I shall take the statement of them in Mr Combe's own words:
"The globe, in the first state in which the imagination can venture to consider it, says Sir H. Davy, appears to have been a fluid mass, with an immense atmosphere, revolving in space round the sun. By its cooling, a portion of its atmosphere was probably condensed into water, which occupied a part of its surface. In this state no forms of life, such as now belong to our system, could have inhabited it. The crystalline rocks, or, as they are called by geologists, the primary rocks, which contain no vestiges of a former order of things, were the result of the first consolidation on its surface. Upon the farther cooling, the water, which, more or less, had covered it, contracted; depositions took place; shell-fish and coral insests were created, and began their labours. Islands appeared in the midst of the ocean, raised from the deep by the productive energies of millions of zoophytes. These islands became covered with vegetables fitted to bear a high temperature, such as palms, and various species of plants, similar to those which now exist in the hottest parts of the world. The submarine rocks of these new formations of land became covered with aquatic vegetables, on which various