Department of History
University of California, Irvine
Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker


excerpts from
Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity.  Collected from the Appearances of Nature. (1802)
by William Paley, D.D., Late Archdeacon of Carlisle (1743-1805)



IN crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer.  But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given--that, for any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there.  Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? why is it not as admissible in the second case, as in the first? 

For this reason, and for no other, viz., that, when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it.... 

We see a cylindrical box containing a coiled elastic spring, which, by its endeavour to relax itself, turns round the box.  We next observe a flexible chain (artificially wrought for the sake of flexure) communicating the action of the spring from the box to the fusee.  We then find a series of wheels, the teeth of which catch in, and apply to, each other, conducting the motion from the fusee to the balance, and from the balance to the pointer, and, at the same time, by the size and shape of those wheels, so regulating that motion, as to terminate in causing an index, by an equable and measured progression, to pass over a given space in a given time. 

We take notice that the wheels are made of brass, in order to keep them from rust; the springs of steel, no other metal being so elastic; that over the face of the watch there is placed a glass, a material employed in no other part of the work, but in the room of which, if there had been any other than a transparent substance, the hour could not be seen without opening the case.  This mechanism being observed..., the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker:  that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.

I.  Nor would it ... weaken the conclusion, that we had never seen a watch made; that we had never known an artist capable of making one; that we were altogether incapable of executing such a piece of workmanship ourselves, or of understanding in what manner it was performed....  Ignorance of this kind exalts our opinion of the unseen and unknown artist's skill, if he be unseen and unknown, but raises no doubt in our minds of the existence and agency of such an artist, at some former time, and in some place or other....

II.  Neither, secondly, would it invalidate our conclusion, that the watch sometimes went wrong, or that it seldom went exactly right.  The purpose of the machinery, the design, and the designer, might be evident, and, in the case supposed, would be evident, in whatever way we accounted for the irregularity of the movement, or whether we could account for it or not.  It is not necessary that a machine be perfect, in order to show with what design it was made....

III.  Nor, thirdly, would it bring any uncertainty into the argument, if there were a few parts of the watch, concerning which we could not discover, or had not yet discovered, in what manner they conduced to the general effect; or even some parts, concerning which we could not ascertain whether they conduced to that effect in any manner whatever....

IV.  Nor, fourthly, would any man in his senses think the existence of the watch, with its various machinery, accounted for, by being told that it was one out of possible combinations of material forms; that whatever he had found in the place where he found the watch, must have contained some internal configuration or other; and that this configuration might be the structure now exhibited, viz., of the works of a watch, as well as a different structure.

V.  Nor, fifthly, would it yield his inquiry more satisfaction, to be answered, that there existed in things a principle of order, which had disposed the parts of the watch into their present form and situation....

VI.  Sixthly, he would be surprised to hear that the mechanism of the watch was no proof of contrivance, only a motive to induce the mind to think so:

VII.  And not less surprised to be informed, that the watch in his hand was nothing more than the result of the laws of metallic nature.  It is a perversion of language to assign any law, as the efficient, operative cause of any thing.  A law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds:  it implies a power; for it is the order according to which that power acts.  Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing; is nothing....

VIII.  Neither, lastly, would our observer be driven out of his conclusion, or from his confidence in its truth, by being told that he knew nothing at all about the matter.  He knows enough for his argument:  he knows the utility of the end:  he knows the subserviency and adaptation of the means to the end....


SUPPOSE, in the next place, that the person who found the watch, should, after some time, discover that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing, in the course of its movement, another watch like itself (the thing is conceivable); that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts, a mould, for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, files, and other tools, evidently and separately calculated for this purpose; let us inquire, what effect ought such a discovery to have upon his former conclusion.

I.  The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver....

II.  He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense , the maker of the watch, which was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that, in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair--the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use.  With respect to these, the first watch was no cause at all to the second; in no such sense as this was it the author of the constitution and order, either of the parts which the new watch contained, or of the parts by the aid and instrumentality of which it was produced.  We might possibly say, but with great latitude of expression, that a stream of water ground corn; but no latitude of expression would allow us to say, no stretch of conjecture could lead us to think, that the stream of water built the mill, though it were too ancient for us to know who the builder was.  What the stream of water does in the affair is neither more nor less than this; by the application of an unintelligent impulse to a mechanism previously arranged, arranged independently of it, and arranged by intelligence, an effect is produced, viz., the corn is ground.  But the effect results from the arrangement....

III.  Though it be now no longer probable that the individual watch which our observer had found was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth not this alteration in anywise affect the inference, that an artificer had been originally employed and concerned in the production.  The argument from design remains as it was.  Marks of design and contrivance are no more accounted for now than they were before.  In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties.  We may ask for the cause of the colour of a body, of its hardness, of its heat; and these causes may be all different.  We are now asking for the cause of that subserviency to a use, that relation to an end, which we have remarked in the watch before us.  No answer is given to this question, by telling us that a preceding watch produced it.

There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office, in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it.

Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind.  No one, therefore, can rationally believe, that the insensible, inanimate watch, from which the watch before us issued, was the proper cause of the mechanism we so much admire in it;--could be truly said to have constructed the instrument, disposed its parts, assigned their office, determined their order, action, and mutual dependency, combined their several motions into one result, and that also a result connected with the utilities of other beings.  All these properties, therefore, are as much unaccounted for, as they were before.

IV.  Nor is anything gained by running the difficulty farther back, i.e., by supposing the watch before us to have been produced from another watch, that from a former, and so on indefinitely.  Our going back ever so far, brings us no nearer to the least degree of satisfaction upon the subject.  Contrivance is still unaccounted for.  We still want a contriver. 

A designing mind is neither supplied by this supposition, nor dispensed with.  If the difficulty were diminished the further we went back, by going back indefinitely we might exhaust it....  The machine which we are inspecting demonstrates, by its construction, contrivance and design.  Contrivance must have had a contriver; design, a designer; whether the machine immediately proceeded from another machine or not.  That circumstance alters not the case.  That other machine may, in like manner, have proceeded from a former machine:  nor does that alter the case; the contrivance must have had a contriver....

The question is not simply, How came the first watch into existence?...  As it is, the metaphysics of that question have no place:  for, in the watch which we are examining, are seen contrivance, design; an end, a purpose; means for the end, adaptation to the purpose.  And the question which irresistibly presses upon our thoughts, is, Whence this contrivance and design?  The thing required is the intending mind, the adapting hand, the intelligence by which that hand was directed....


...I know no better method of introducing so large a subject, than that of comparing a single thing with a single thing:  an eye, for example, with a telescope.  As far as the examination of the instrument goes, there is precisely the same proof that the eye was made for vision, as there is that the telescope was made for assisting it.  They are made upon the same principles; both being adjusted to the laws by which the transmission and refraction of rays of light are regulated.

I speak not of the origin of the laws themselves; but such laws being fixed, the construction, in both cases, is adapted to them.  For instance; these laws require, in order to produce the same effect, that the rays of light, in passing from water into the eye, should be refracted by a more convex surface, than when it passes out of air into the eye.  Accordingly we find that the eye of a fish, in that part of it called the crystalline lens, is much rounder than the eye of terrestrial animals.  What plainer manifestation of design can there be than this difference?...

To some it may appear a difference sufficient to destroy all similitude between the eye and the telescope, that the one is a perceiving organ, the other an unperceiving instrument.  The fact is, that they are both instruments.  And, as to the mechanism ... being employed, and even as to the kind of it, this circumstance varies not the analogy at all....

[T]he formation of an image at the bottom of the eye is necessary to perfect vision.  The image itself can be shown.  Whatever affects the distinctness of the image, affects the distinctness of the vision.  The formation then of such an image being necessary (no matter how) to the sense of sight, and to the exercise of that sense, the apparatus, by which it is formed, is constructed and put together, not only with infinitely more art, but upon the self-same principles of art, as in the telescope or the camera-obscura....  The end is the same; the means are the same.  The purpose in both is alike; the contrivance for accomplishing that purpose is in both alike.  The lenses of the telescope, and the humours of the eye, bear a complete resemblance to one another, in their figure, their position, and in their power over the rays of light, viz., in bringing each pencil to a point at the right distance from the lens; namely, in the eye, at the exact place where the membrane is spread to receive it. 

How is it possible, under circumstances of such close affinity, and under the operation of equal evidence, to exclude contrivance from the one; yet to acknowledge the proof of contrivance having been employed, as the plainest and clearest of all propositions, in the other?...

Pencils of light, in passing through glass lenses, are separated into different colours, thereby tinging the object, especially the edges of it, as if it were viewed through a prism.  [I]n the eye, the evil was cured by combining lenses composed of different substances, i.e., of substances which possessed different refracting powers.  Our artist borrowed thence his hint; and produced a correction of the defect by imitating, in glasses made from different materials, the effects of the different humours through which the rays of light pass before they reach the bottom of the eye.  Could this be in the eye without purpose, which suggested to the optician the only effectual means of attaining that purpose?

...Two things were wanted to the eye, which were not wanted (at least in the same degree), to the telescope; and these were, the adaptation of the organ, first, to different degrees of light; and, secondly, to the vast diversity of distance at which objects are viewed by the naked eye, viz., from a few inches to as many miles.  These difficulties present not themselves to the maker of the telescope.  He wants all the light he can get; and he never directs his instrument to objects near at hand.  In the eye, both these cases were to be provided for; and for the purpose of providing for them, a subtile and appropriate mechanism is introduced:

I.  In order to exclude excess of light, when it is excessive, and to render objects visible under obscurer degrees of it, when no more can be had, the hole or aperture in the eye, through which the light enters, is so formed, as to contract or dilate itself for the purpose of admitting a greater or less number of rays at the same time....

II.  The second difficulty which has been stated, was the suiting of the same organ to the perception of objects that lie near at hand, within a few inches ... of the eye, and of objects which are placed at a considerable distance from it....  Now this, according to the principles of optics ... could not be done without the organ itself undergoing an alteration, and receiving an adjustment, that might correspond with the exigency of the case....  Rays issuing from points placed at a small distance from the eye, and which consequently must enter the eye in a spreading or diverging order, cannot, by the same optical instrument in the same state ... be made to form an image in the same place with rays proceeding from objects situated at a much greater distance....  It requires a rounder lens to do it.... 

Some very late discoveries, deduced from a laborious and most accurate inspection of the structure and operation of the organ, seem at length to have ascertained the mechanical alteration which the parts of the eye undergo.  It is found, that by the action of certain muscles ... that, whenever the eye is directed to a near object, three changes are produced in it at the same time, all severally contributing to the adjustment required.  The cornea, or outermost coat of the eye, is rendered more round and prominent; the crystalline lens underneath is pushed forward; and the axis of vision, as the depth of the eye is called, is elongated....  Can any thing be more decisive of contrivance than this is?  The most secret laws of optics must have been known to the author of a structure endowed with such a capacity of change....

Shall, therefore, a structure which differs from it, chiefly by surpassing it, be accounted no contrivance at all? or, if it be a contrivance, that it is without a contriver!

...[C]omparing the eyes of different kinds of animals, we see, in their resemblances and distinctions, one general plan laid down, and that plan varied with the varying exigences to which it is to be applied....

Sturmius held, that the examination of the eye was a cure for atheism.  Beside that conformity to optical principles which its internal constitution displays..., there is to be seen, in every thing belonging to it and about it, an extraordinary degree of care, an anxiety for its preservation, due, if we may so speak, to its value and its tenderness.  It is lodged in a strong, deep, bony socket....  Within this socket it is imbedded in fat, of all animal substances the best adapted both to its repose and motion.  It is sheltered by the eyebrows; an arch of hair, which, like a thatched penthouse, prevents the sweat and moisture of the forehead from running down into it.

But it is still better protected by its lid....

In order to keep the eye moist and clean (which qualities are necessary to its brightness and its use), a wash is constantly supplied by a secretion for the purpose....

One question may possibly have dwelt in the reader's mind during the perusal of these observations, namely, Why should not the Deity have given to the animal the faculty of vision at once?  Why this circuitous perception; the ministry of so many means; an element provided for the purpose; reflected from opaque substances, refracted through transparent ones; and both according to precise laws; then, a complex organ, an intricate and artificial apparatus, in order, by the operation of this element, and in conformity with the restrictions of these laws, to produce an image upon a membrane communicating with the brain?  Wherefore all this?  Why make the difficulty in order to surmount it?  If to perceive objects by some other mode than that of touch, or objects which lay out of the reach of that sense, were the thing proposed; could not a simple volition of the Creator have communicated the capacity?  Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent?  Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection.  To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power. 

This question belongs to the other senses, as well as to sight; to the general functions of animal life, as nutrition, secretion, respiration; to the economy of vegetables; and indeed to almost all the operations of nature.  The question, therefore, is of very wide extent; and amongst other answers which may be given to it; beside reasons of which probably we are ignorant, one answer is this:  It is only by the display of contrivance, that the existence, the agency, the wisdom of the Deity, could be testified to his rational creatures.  This is the scale by which we ascend to all the knowledge of our Creator which we possess, so far as it depends upon the phænomena, or the works of nature.  Take away this, and you take away from us every subject of observation, and ground of reasoning; I mean as our rational faculties are formed at present. 

Whatever is done, God could have done without the intervention of instruments or means:  but it is in the construction of instruments, in the choice and adaptation of means, that a creative intelligence is seen.  It is this which constitutes the order and beauty of the universe.  God, therefore, has been pleased to prescribe limits to his own power, and to work his end within those limits. 

The general laws of matter have perhaps the nature of these limits; its inertia, its re-action; the laws which govern the communication of motion, the refraction and reflection of light, the constitution of fluids non-elastic and elastic, the transmission of sound through the latter; the laws of magnetism, of electricity; and probably others, yet undiscovered.  These are general laws; and when a particular purpose is to be effected, it is not by making a new law, nor by the suspension of the old ones, nor by making them wind, and bend, and yield to the occasion (for nature with great steadiness adheres to and supports them); but it is, as we have seen in the eye, by the interposition of an apparatus, corresponding with these laws, and suited to the exigency which results from them, that the purpose is at length attained. 

As we have said, therefore, God prescribes limits to his power, that he may let in the exercise, and thereby exhibit demonstrations of his wisdom....  It has been said, that the problem of creation was, attraction and matter being given, to make a world out of them:  and, as above explained, this statement perhaps does not convey a false idea....


III. ...I desire no greater certainty in reasoning, than that by which chance is excluded from the present disposition of the natural world.  Universal experience is against it.  What does chance ever do for us?  In the human body, for instance, chance ... may produce a wen, a wart, a mole, a pimple, but never an eye.  Amongst inanimate substances, a clod, a pebble, a liquid drop might be; but never was a watch, a telescope, an organized body of any kind, answering a valuable purpose by a complicated mechanism, the effect of chance.  In no assignable instance hath such a thing existed without intention somewhere.

IV.  There is another answer which has the same effect as the resolving of things into chance; which answer would persuade us to believe, that the eye, the animal to which it belongs, every other animal, every plant, indeed every organized body which we see, are only so many out of the possible varieties and combinations of being, which the lapse of infinite ages has brought into existence; that the present world is the relict of that variety:  millions of other bodily forms and other species having perished, being by the defect of their constitution incapable of preservation, or of continuance by generation. 

Now there is no foundation whatever for this conjecture in any thing which we observe in the works of nature; no such experiments are going on at present:  no such energy operates, as that which is here supposed, and which should be constantly pushing into existence new varieties of beings.  Nor are there any appearances to support an opinion, that every possible combination of vegetable or animal structure has formerly been tried. 

Multitudes of conformations, both of vegetables and animals, may be conceived capable of existence and succession, which yet do not exist.  Perhaps almost as many forms of plants might have been found in the fields, as figures of plants can be delineated upon paper.  A countless variety of animals might have existed, which do not exist. 

Upon the supposition here stated, we should see unicorns and mermaids, sylphs and centaurs, the fancies of painters, and the fables of poets, realized by examples.  Or, if it be alleged that these may transgress the limits of possible life and propagation, we might, at least, have nations of human beings without nails upon their fingers, with more or fewer fingers and toes than ten, some with one eye, others with one ear, with one nostril, or without the sense of smelling at all. 

All these, and a thousand other imaginable varieties, might live and propagate.  We may modify any one species many different ways, all consistent with life, and with the actions necessary to preservation, although affording different degrees of conveniency and enjoyment to the animal.  And if we carry these modifications through the different species which are known to subsist, their number would be incalculable.  No reason can be given why, if these deperdits [lost or destroyed beings] ever existed, they have now disappeared.  Yet, if all possible existences have been tried, they must have formed part of the catalogue.

But, moreover, the division of organized substances into animals and vegetables, and the distribution and sub-distribution of each into genera and species, which distribution is not an arbitrary act of the mind, but founded in the order which prevails in external nature, appear to me to contradict the supposition of the present world being the remains of an indefinite variety of existences; of a variety which rejects all plan.  The hypothesis teaches, that every possible variety of being hath, at one time or other, found its way into existence (by what cause or in what manner is not said), and that those which were badly formed, perished; but how or why those which survived should be cast, as we see that plants and animals are cast, into regular classes, the hypothesis does not explain; or rather the hypothesis is inconsistent with this phænomenon.

The hypothesis, indeed, is hardly deserving of the consideration which we have given to it.  What should we think of a man who, because we had never ourselves seen watches, telescopes, stocking-mills, steam-engines, &c. made, knew not how they were made, or could prove by testimony when they were made, or by whom,--would have us believe that these machines, instead of deriving their curious structures from the thought and design of their inventors and contrivers, in truth derive them from no other origin than this; viz., that a mass of metals and other materials having run when melted into all possible figures, and combined themselves in all possible forms, and shapes, and proportions, these things which we see, are what were left from the accident, as best worth preserving; and, as such, are become the remaining stock of a magazine, which, at one time or other, has by this means, contained every mechanism, useful, and useless, convenient and inconvenient, into which such like materials could be thrown?  I cannot distinguish the hypothesis as applied to the works of nature, from this solution which no one would accept, as applied to a collection of machines.

V.  To the marks of contrivance discoverable in animal bodies, and to the argument deduced from them, in proof of design, and of a designing Creator, this turn is sometimes attempted to be given, namely, that the parts were not intended for the use, but that the use arose out of the parts.  This distinction is intelligible.  A cabinet-maker rubs his mahogany with fish-skin; yet it would be too much to assert that the skin of the dog-fish was made rough and granulated on purpose for the polishing of wood, and the use of cabinet-makers.  Therefore the distinction is intelligible.  But I think that there is very little place for it in the works of nature.  When roundly and generally affirmed of them, as it hath sometimes been, it amounts to such another stretch of assertion, as it would be to say, that all the implements of the cabinet-maker's work-shop, as well as his fish-skin, were substances accidentally configurated, which he had picked up, and converted to his use; that his adzes, saws, planes, and gimlets, were not made, as we suppose, to hew, cut, smooth, shape out, or bore wood with; but that, these things being made, no matter with what design, or whether with any, the cabinet-maker perceived that they were applicable to his purpose, and turned them to account.

But, again.  So far as this solution is attempted to be applied to those parts of animals the action of which does not depend upon the will of the animal, it is fraught with still more evident absurdity.  Is it possible to believe that the eye was formed without any regard to vision; that it was the animal itself which found out, that, though formed with no such intention, it would serve to see with:  and that the use of the eye, as an organ of sight, resulted from this discovery, and the animal's application of it?  The same question may be asked of the ear; the same of all the senses.  None of the senses fundamentally depend upon the election of the animal; consequently, neither upon his sagacity, nor his experience.  It is the impression which objects make upon them, that constitutes their use.  Under that impression, he is passive.  He may bring objects to the sense, or within its reach; he may select these objects:  but over the impression itself he has no power, or very little; and that properly is the sense.

Secondly; there are many parts of animal bodies which seem to depend upon the will of the animal in a greater degree than the senses do, and yet with respect to which, this solution is equally unsatisfactory.  If we apply the solution to the human body, for instance, it forms itself into questions, upon which no reasonable mind can doubt; such as, whether the teeth were made expressly for the mastication of food, the feet for walking, the hands for holding?  or whether, these things being as they are, being in fact in the animal's possession, his own ingenuity taught him that they were convertible to these purposes, though no such purposes were contemplated in their formation?

All that there is of the appearance of reason in this way of considering the subject is, that in some cases the organization seems to determine the habits of the animal, and its choice to a particular mode of life; which, in a certain sense, may be called the use arising out of the part.  Now to all the instances, in which there is any place for this suggestion, it may be replied, that the organization determines the animal to habits beneficial and salutary to itself; and that this effect would not be seen so regularly to follow, if the several organizations did not bear a concerted and contrived relation to the substance by which the animal was surrounded.  They would, otherwise, be capacities without objects; powers without employment.  The web-foot determines, you say, the duck to swim:  but what would that avail, if there were no water to swim in?  The strong, hooked bill, and sharp talons, of one species of bird, determine it to prey upon animals; the soft, straight bill, and weak claws, of another species, determine it to pick up seeds:  but neither determination could take effect in providing for the sustenance of the birds, if animal bodies and vegetable seeds did not lie within their reach.  The peculiar conformation of the bill, and tongue, and claws of the woodpecker, determines that bird to search for his food amongst the insects lodged behind the bark, or in the wood, of decayed trees:  but what would this profit him, if there were no trees, no decayed trees, no insects lodged under their bark, or in their trunk?  The proboscis with which the bee is furnished, determines him to seek for honey:  but what would that signify, if flowers supplied none?  Faculties thrown down upon animals at random, and without reference to the objects amidst which they are placed, would not produce to them the services and benefits which we see:  and if there be that reference, then there is intention.

Lastly; the solution fails entirely when applied to plants.  The parts of plants answer their uses, without any concurrence from the will or choice of the plant.

VI.  Others have chosen to refer every thing to a principle of order in nature.  A principle of order is the word:  but what is meant by a principle of order, as different from an intelligent Creator, has not been explained either by definition or example:  and, without such explanation, it should seem to be a mere substitution of words for reasons, names for causes.  Order itself is only the adaptation of means to an end:  a principle of order therefore can only signify the mind and intention which so adapts them.  Or, were it capable of being explained in any other sense, is there any experience, any analogy, to sustain it?  Was a watch ever produced by a principle of order? and why might not a watch be so produced, as well as an eye?

Furthermore, a principle of order, acting blindly, and without choice, is negatived, by the observation, that order is not universal; which it would be, if it issued from a constant and necessary principle:  nor indiscriminate, which it would be, if it issued from an unintelligent principle.  Where order is wanted, there we find it; where order is not wanted, i.e., where, if it prevailed, it would be useless, there we do not find it.  In the structure of the eye (for we adhere to our example), in the figure and position of its several parts, the most exact order is maintained.  In the forms of rocks and mountains, in the lines which bound the coasts of continents and islands, in the shape of bays and promontories, no order whatever is perceived, because it would have been superfluous.  No useful purpose would have arisen from moulding rocks and mountains into regular solids, bounding the channel of the ocean by geometrical curves; or from the map of the world, resembling a table of diagrams in Euclid's Elements, or Simpson's Conic Sections.

VII.  Lastly; the confidence which we place in our observations upon the works of nature, in the marks which we discover of contrivance, choice, and design; and in our reasoning upon the proofs afforded us; ought not to be shaken, as it is sometimes attempted to be done, by bringing forward to our view our own ignorance, or rather the general imperfection of our knowledge of nature.  Nor, in many cases, ought this consideration to affect us, even when it respects some parts of the subject immediately under our notice.  True fortitude of understanding consists in not suffering what we know, to be disturbed by what we do not know.  If we perceive a useful end, and means adapted to that end, we perceive enough for our conclusion.  If these things be clear, no matter what is obscure.  The argument is finished.  For instance; if the utility of vision to the animal which enjoys it, and the adaptation of the eye to this office, be evident and certain (and I can mention nothing which is more so), ought it to prejudice the inference which we draw from these premises, that we cannot explain the use of the spleen?  Nay, more:  if there be parts of the eye, viz., the cornea, the crystalline, the retina, in their substance, figure, and position, manifestly suited to the formation of an image by the refraction of rays of light, at least, as manifestly as the glasses and tubes of a dioptric telescope are suited to that purpose; it concerns not the proof which these afford of design, and of a designer, that there may perhaps be other parts, certain muscles for instance, or nerves in the same eye, of the agency or effect of which we can give no account; any more than we should be inclined to doubt, or ought to doubt, about the construction of a telescope, viz., for what purpose it was constructed, or whether it were constructed at all, because there belonged to it certain screws and pins, the use or action of which we did not comprehend.  I take it to be a general way of infusing doubts and scruples into the mind, to recall to its own ignorance, its own imbecility:  to tell us that upon these subjects we know little; that little imperfectly; or rather, that we know nothing properly about the matter.  These suggestions so fall in with our consciousness, as sometimes to produce a general distrust of our faculties and our conclusions.  But this is an unfounded jealousy.  The uncertainty of one thing does not necessarily affect the certainty of another thing.  Our ignorance of many points need not suspend our assurance of a few.  Before we yield, in any particular instance, to the scepticism which this sort of insinuation would induce, we ought accurately to ascertain, whether our ignorance or doubt concern those precise points upon which our conclusion rests.  Other points are nothing.  Our ignorance of other points may be of no consequence to these, though they be points, in various respects, of great importance.  A just reasoner removes from his consideration, not only what he knows, but what he does not know, touching matters not strictly connected with his argument, i.e., not forming the very steps of his deduction:  beyond these, his knowledge and his ignorance are alike relative.

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