Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion HTML version

But here, continued PHILO, in examining the ancient system of the soul of the
world, there strikes me, all on a sudden, a new idea, which, if just, must go near
to subvert all your reasoning, and destroy even your first inferences, on which
you repose such confidence. If the universe bears a greater likeness to animal
bodies and to vegetables, than to the works of human art, it is more probable that
its cause resembles the cause of the former than that of the latter, and its origin
ought rather to be ascribed to generation or vegetation, than to reason or design.
Your conclusion, even according to your own principles, is therefore lame and
Pray open up this argument a little further, said DEMEA, for I do not rightly
apprehend it in that concise manner in which you have expressed it.
Our friend CLEANTHES, replied PHILO, as you have heard, asserts, that since
no question of fact can be proved otherwise than by experience, the existence of
a Deity admits not of proof from any other medium. The world, says he,
resembles the works of human contrivance; therefore its cause must also
resemble that of the other. Here we may remark, that the operation of one very
small part of nature, to wit man, upon another very small part, to wit that
inanimate matter lying within his reach, is the rule by which CLEANTHES judges
of the origin of the whole; and he measures objects, so widely disproportioned,
by the same individual standard. But to waive all objections drawn from this topic,
I affirm, that there are other parts of the universe (besides the machines of
human invention) which bear still a greater resemblance to the fabric of the
world, and which, therefore, afford a better conjecture concerning the universal
origin of this system. These parts are animals and vegetables. The world plainly
resembles more an animal or a vegetable, than it does a watch or a knitting-
loom. Its cause, therefore, it is more probable, resembles the cause of the
former. The cause of the former is generation or vegetation. The cause,
therefore, of the world, we may infer to be something similar or analogous to
generation or vegetation.
But how is it conceivable, said DEMEA, that the world can arise from any thing
similar to vegetation or generation?
Very easily, replied PHILO. In like manner as a tree sheds its seed into the
neighbouring fields, and produces other trees; so the great vegetable, the world,
or this planetary system, produces within itself certain seeds, which, being
scattered into the surrounding chaos, vegetate into new worlds. A comet, for
instance, is the seed of a world; and after it has been fully ripened, by passing
from sun to sun, and star to star, it is at last tossed into the unformed elements