Edinburgh Review,  1 (1802–03), 287–305.

Art. III. [Review of Natural Theology, by William Paley ]




Publications reviewed:

Paley 1802


Natural Theology, Design, Creation, Unbelief, Natural History, Botany, Zoology, Heredity, Evolution

People mentioned:

Marcus T Cicero, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, John Ray, William Derham, Georges L Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Erasmus Darwin

    Observes: 'With less learning and less originality than some of his distinguished predecessors, it would be difficult, perhaps, to point out his superior in soundness of judgement, or in vigilant and comprehensive sagacity. With great strength of reasoning and power of decision, he has also united more moderation and liberality of sentiment, than is usually to be found among disputants; and added weight to his argument by a certain plainness and sobriety of manner, that is infinitely better calculated to produce conviction than the sallies of an ambitious eloquence' (287). Asserts: 'No thinking man, we conceive, can doubt that there are marks of design in the universe, and any enumeration of the instances in which this design is manifest, appear, at first sight, to be both unnecessary and impossible. A single example seems altogether as conclusive as a thousand; and he that cannot discover any trace of contrivance in the formation of an eye, will probably retain his atheism at the end of a whole system of physiology' (289). States that whilst there are a number published works that 'promote pious meditation' on the subject of natural theology, 'a work was still wanted [...] in which the evidences of a wise and beneficent Creator might be detailed with sufficient amplitude, while every thing was omitted that the most scrupulous of scepticism could challenge, and in which the fallacy of every atheistical hypothesis might be distinctly exposed' (291). Praises William Paley's use of Mechanical phenomena as opposed to human intelligence to support his arguments. States: 'The unbeliever always finds his advantage in referring to a principle of which it must be admitted that he and his antagonist are equally ignorant [...]. To Mechanical phenomena the same evasive reasoning cannot be applied' (296). Discusses Paley's arguments against the assertion that the 'whole system of the universe may be explained from 'a law' or 'the mechanism of its parts'. States that '[a] law presupposes an agent; for it is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; and mechanism can produce nothing, unless there be a power to whose operations it is subservient. The same censure is passed upon those who would substitute such words as "principle, process, or generation," for a real explanation of cause of any existing phenomena. The internal moulds, by which Buffon keeps his organic particles from running into new combinations, meet with no better treatment; and "the appetencies" of Dr Darwin are explained and disposed of in this manner' (300–01).

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <http://www.sciper.org> [accessed ]