Back to Methuselah eBook

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Paley had put the argument in an apparently unanswerable form.  If you found a watch, full of mechanism exquisitely adapted to produce a series of operations all leading to the fulfilment of one central purpose of measuring for mankind the march of the day and night, could you believe that it was not the work of a cunning artificer who had designed and contrived it all to that end?  And here was a far more wonderful thing than a watch, a man with all his organs ingeniously contrived, cords and levers, girders and kingposts, circulating systems of pipes and valves, dialysing membranes, chemical retorts, carburettors, ventilators, inlets and outlets, telephone transmitters in his ears, light recorders and lenses in his eye:  was it conceivable that this was the work of chance? that no artificer had wrought here? that there was no purpose in this, no design, no guiding intelligence?  The thing was incredible.  In vain did Helmholtz declare that ’the eye has every possible defect that can be found in an optical instrument, and even some peculiar to itself,’ and that ’if an optician tried to sell me an instrument which had all these defects I should think myself quite justified in blaming his carelessness in the strongest terms, and sending him back his instrument.’  To discredit the optician’s skill was not to get rid of the optician.  The eye might not be so cleverly made as Paley thought, but it was made somehow, by somebody.

And then my argument with Father Addis began all over again.  It was easy enough to say that every man makes his own eyes:  indeed the embryologists had actually caught him doing it.  But what about the very evident purpose that prompted him to do it?  Why did he want to see, if not to extend his consciousness and his knowledge and his power?  That purpose was at work everywhere, and must be something bigger than the individual eye-making man.  Only the stupidest muckrakers could fail to see this, and even to know it as part of their own consciousness.  Yet to admit it seemed to involve letting the bogey come back, so inextricably had we managed to mix up belief in the bogey’s existence with belief in the existence of design in the universe.


Our scornful young scientific and philosophic lions of today must not blame the Church of England for this confusion of thought.  In 1562 the Church, in convocation in London ’for the avoiding of diversities of opinions and for the establishment of consent touching true religion,’ proclaimed in their first utterance, and as an Article of Religion, that God is ‘without body, parts, or passions,’ or, as we say, an Elan Vital or Life Force.  Unfortunately neither parents, parsons, nor pedagogues could be induced to adopt that article.  St John might say that ‘God is spirit’ as pointedly as he pleased; our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth might ratify the Article again and again; serious divines

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