Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion HTML version

After DEMEA's departure, CLEANTHES and PHILO continued the conversation
in the following manner. Our friend, I am afraid, said CLEANTHES, will have little
inclination to revive this topic of discourse, while you are in company; and to tell
truth, PHILO, I should rather wish to reason with either of you apart on a subject
so sublime and interesting. Your spirit of controversy, joined to your abhorrence
of vulgar superstition, carries you strange lengths, when engaged in an
argument; and there is nothing so sacred and venerable, even in your own eyes,
which you spare on that occasion.
I must confess, replied PHILO, that I am less cautious on the subject of Natural
Religion than on any other; both because I know that I can never, on that head,
corrupt the principles of any man of common sense; and because no one, I am
confident, in whose eyes I appear a man of common sense, will ever mistake my
intentions. You, in particular, CLEANTHES, with whom I live in unreserved
intimacy; you are sensible, that notwithstanding the freedom of my conversation,
and my love of singular arguments, no one has a deeper sense of religion
impressed on his mind, or pays more profound adoration to the Divine Being, as
he discovers himself to reason, in the inexplicable contrivance and artifice of
nature. A purpose, an intention, a design, strikes every where the most careless,
the most stupid thinker; and no man can be so hardened in absurd systems, as
at all times to reject it. That Nature does nothing in vain, is a maxim established
in all the schools, merely from the contemplation of the works of Nature, without
any religious purpose; and, from a firm conviction of its truth, an anatomist, who
had observed a new organ or canal, would never be satisfied till he had also
discovered its use and intention. One great foundation of the Copernican system
is the maxim, That Nature acts by the simplest methods, and chooses the most
proper means to any end; and astronomers often, without thinking of it, lay this
strong foundation of piety and religion. The same thing is observable in other
parts of philosophy: And thus all the sciences almost lead us insensibly to
acknowledge a first intelligent Author; and their authority is often so much the
greater, as they do not directly profess that intention.
It is with pleasure I hear GALEN reason concerning the structure of the human
body. The anatomy of a man, says he [De formatione foetus], discovers above
600 different muscles; and whoever duly considers these, will find, that, in each
of them, Nature must have adjusted at least ten different circumstances, in order
to attain the end which she proposed; proper figure, just magnitude, right
disposition of the several ends, upper and lower position of the whole, the due
insertion of the several nerves, veins, and arteries: So that, in the muscles alone,
above 6000 several views and intentions must have been formed and executed.
The bones he calculates to be 284: The distinct purposes aimed at in the
structure of each, above forty. What a prodigious display of artifice, even in these