Imatges de pÓgina
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"wbat becomes of this seminal extract when the organs of any of the parents are defective; when their limbs are amputated; or when there are no eye-balls in their orbits ? Are the organs of their offspring equally defective ? Surely not, if we can trust to daily experience; but they certainly ought to be according to this old and vulgar bypothesis. Farther we may also be entitled to ask, what particles of the male parent, or what of the female, had ever been the particles of a placenta, a chorion, an amnios, .or a liquor amnii? It is in vain for the author to reply that these are formed of superfluous particles. On his present hypothesis, they must form parts similar to those from which they are derived; or if he recur to a former hypothesis, they should meet together in fortuitous assemblage and form tape-worms, ascarides, and other different species of vermes ; but on all the hypotheses which he has devised, they are incapable of forming a placenta, or any of the membranes peculiar to the foetus."

Most of our readers bave heard of the mad scheme of Pa. racelsus for making a human being, by shutting up in the belly of a horse a certain preparation, which we do not choose to describe. At the end of forty days, we are assured, it will have some resemblance to a man, but will still be pellucid, and without a body. If after this, however, it be daily, cautiously, and prudently nourished and fed with the arcanum of human blood, and kept for forty weeks in the constant and equable heat of the horse's belly, it will then become a true and living infant, having all its members similar to those of an infant that is born of a woman, but much smaller. “This production," says Paracelsus, “ we term an homunculus; and it must afterwards be reared with the utmost care and attention, till it grow to full stature, and begin to bave wisdom and understanding. This," adds the crazy physician, " is one of the greatest secrets which the Deity has revealed to a mortal and sinful man."

Amatus Lusitanus, as quoted by Blumenbach, gravely mentions, as an established and well known fact, that a human foetus bad been actually produced by the chemical art, although it died as soon as taken out of the bottle. “ Certo scimus," says be," chemico artificio puerum conflatum esse, et sua omnia membra perfecta contraxisse, ac motum habuisse; qui cum a vase ubi continebatur, extractus esset, moveri desiit. Novit bæc accuratius Julius Camilus, vir singularis doctrine, et rerum occultarum et variarum, magnus scrutator," &e. &c.

It was the opinion of Epicurus, and some other ancients, that nature herself required some experience before she sacceeded in making a complete man; and every novice in physiology is aware that attempts are still made, from time to time, to trace the origin of the buman race to some lucky bit in the combination of her organic particles, or in the co-operation of her chemical affinities. The title of Robinet's book, of which the object was to call in the aid of modern science to illustrate the Epicurean notion of fortuitous structure, bears openly this atheistical doctrine ; for it runs “ Considerations Philosophiques de la Gradation Naturelle des Formes de l'Etre, ou les Essais de la Nature qui apprend a faire l'Homme.” From observing that several species of minerals and plants bear a distant resemblance to some parts of the human body, this most absurd author supposes that the main, or rather the sole object of nature, from the very commencement of her operations, was to make man; and that accordingly the various definite forms which meet our eyes in the animal

, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, are nothing more than the casual results of her numerous experiments whilst aiming, by a great variety of means, at the accomplishment of what he calls her chef d'æuvre. Such minerals as have been likened to the human heart, the brain, the ear, the eye, the kidneys, or the foot, are to be regarded as the first approach to the great object of nature's ambition-the formation of an intellectual biped : wbilst the ape and oran-outang may be viewed as marking the last stage in the progress of experiment, and as affording a decisive proof that the mighty desideratum was about to be realized. Robinet fancies that, during these empirical and tentative operations, he sees nature in labour, groping her way through all the prodigiously diversified series of forms and structures, making experiments, collecting observations, and serving a long and tedious apprenticeship in learning the difficult art of manmaking. "Dans la suite prodigieusement variée des animaux inferieurs, je vois la nature en travail avancer en tâtonnant vers cet étre excellent qui couronne son cuvre :-et je crois pouvoir appeller la collection de ces etudes, l'apprentissage de la nature, ou les essais de la nature qui apprend a faire l'bomme."

But, as Dr. Barclay very justly asks, how does it happen that now, when she has actually learned the art, nature continues to work like an apprentice? We can easily conceive, says he, that a being of the character which is here ascribed to her, might in a number of her earlier attempts have produced monsters; and that these monsters, although they fell short of her expectations, might have been the means of correcting many previous mistakes, of acquiring dexterity in operation, of suggesting new and important ideas, and of thus facilitating the attainment of her object. But the object once attained, what farther use for any experiments ? What pretence either for ignorance or want of dexterity? In short, since the main object of nature was to make man, why does she, now that she has found out the method, ever condescend to engage herself in a meaner employment ? Notwithstanding her great discovery, she continues, we find, to produce, as of old, those abortions in minerals, plants, and animals which were understood merely to point out the end that she was desirous to attain; and, in consequence of this anaccountable adherence to former habits, we may still perceive among her works not only irrational animals, such as pigs and turkeys, but also the numerous species of insects and zoophytes, together with those mocking resemblances in stone and metals to which fanciful men have given the names of encephalites, lithocardites, ophthalmolites, olites, padolites, and chirites.

Often since we began this article have we thought upon that expression in the Psalms, “ He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh ; the Lord shall hold them in derision :” and assuredly, if on any subject the presumption and folly of men could excite a feeling of contempt among beings of a higher order, it could not fail to be directed towards most of the speculations now current on life and organization.

The name of Cuvier stands bigh as an anatomist, a natu-, ralist, and we believe as a proficient also in general physics. In the branch of physiology, however, now under our consideration, he wriies not with more intelligence or precision than Democritus, or the author of the Essais de la Nature qui apprend a faire l'homme. He rejects indeed with scorn . the indestructible munads, pre-existing germs, organic par. ticles, and seminu rerum, as altogether unworthy of notice, whilst he ascribes the organization of plants and animals to what he calls a vital force, a vital impulse, or, varying the phrase, to a certain species of motion, or finally to nothing but to life itself. Here we have words and nothing more. We have a description of the effect without any explanation of the cause ; for the terms“ vital force” and “ vital impulse" denote merely the action of a principle already in operation, and afford no light whatever as to the bistory or the nature of that principle considered apart from its effects. The information supplied by the use of such technical language amounts simply to this—than an organized structure in plants and animals is the result of vital action ; and vital action proceeds from life ; and life itself can neither be detined nor

comprehended. The vital principle is manifested in all organic stractures by certain phenomena, such as digestion, circulation, respiration, and excretion, and in animals by voluntary motion and the exhibition of various degrees of sentiment and susceptibility; but these, properly speaking, do not constitute the principle in question, any more than the revolution of a planet, or the descent of an aërolite constitutes the principle of gravity. The cessation of any one of the functions now named will destroy life, or rather, perhaps, indicate that life is impaired, or about to cease ; and yet life is neither circulation nor respiration. In short, like other simple and general ideas, the idea attached to the word life becomes the more obscure the longer it is detained before the mind for examination : and Cuvier accordingly, with the aid of as much anatomical and physiological knowledge as any man ever brought to the inquiry, bas by his varied labours in this important branch of the subject proved nothing but his own ignorance, and perhaps the utter hopelessness of suc-, cess even in the most favourable circumstances.

Of Mr. Lawrence, and his opinions, Dr. Barclay does not say much, except that these are taken, with very little acknowledgment, from Bichat, Blumenbach, and Cuvier. The chief source of error and of self-contradiction in the writ. ings of this author, may be traced to bis practice of con-' founding life with the mere instruments or manifestations of life; but as this has been pointed out at great length by several accomplished authors, and particularly by Mr. Rennell, in his Remarks on Scepticism, we sball not detain our readers by repeating familiar statements and exploded heresies.

The last chapter of this “ Inquiry” is devoted to a con.. sideration of the " opinions of those who suppose a living internal principle distinct from the body, and likewise the cause of organization.” The writers named under this head are Aristotle, Harvey, Willis, Hunter, Abernethy, Deleuze, and Grew; to which we may add the laborious and respected author of the work now before us.

In regard to Aristotle, we may be permitted to observe that bis arguments for the existence of a vuxn, or soul, distinct from matter and superior to it, are much tou comprebensive to be applicable with any decisive effect to the particular case of the human subject. They apply generally to all organized substances, and even to such as are not organized. The soul or predominating principle for which he contends, is that which retaios in combination the four elements, the earth, the air, the fire, and the water; and as its power is chiefly manifested in restraining the natural tendencies of the

most active of these elements, the fire and the air, and in preventing their separation from the more sedative and sluggish, it follows that wherever these constituent parts meet together, in one body, whether animal, mineral, or vegetable, there must be present a soul to regulate and confine their energies. On this ground be himself proceeds to inquire, whether or not are all souls of the same species; or if there be different species of souls, whether or not there are different genera. He asks wbether every species would not require a separate and distinct definition, as the soul of the horse, of the dog, of the man, of the god, of the plant, and of the wild beast. As every soul, be adds, is characterized by one or more of the following faculties, the nutritive, sensi. tive, cogitative, and motive, whether or not, when two or more are found in conjunction, ought we to view them as so many souls, or only as so many parts of a sogl? Can one, for instance, be restricted to the brain, another to the thorax, and a third to the cavity of the abdomen ?

We deny not that Aristotle held the notion of a vital principle as subsisting in animals and vegetables ; but maintain that, from a reference to the operation of that principle, as described by himself, it might also have been extended to inert, inorganic matter; for, as it was employed to prevent “ fire from ascending and earth from going downwards," when they happened to be combined in one body, we can see no reason why a piece of flint or a diamond should not have a soul as well as a carrot or an oyster. In fact, the yogin of Aristotle's system seems to have been nothing more than a portion of the anima mundi, the principle which animated and pervaded all things.

Harvey, whose name is illustrated by the discovery of the circulation of the blood, ascribes organization to an animating principle, and in this differs from the materialists or hylozoists, who attempt to account for the phenomena of life upon the ground of impulse, motion, chemical action, or some other physical property. In following out his views, bowever, he falls into those gross absurdities from which no physiologist, it should appear, is permitted to escape. He first places his animating principle in the blood, and next supposes the blood itself to be that animating principle. This liquid, says he, while flowing in the veins, and perfused with a species of divine heat, which is totally different from ordinary heat, though somewbat analogous to the element of the stars, exhibits properties so extraordinary that, viewed as a spirit, it may justly be termed the hearth-fire, the vesta, the household divinity, the sun of the microcosm, the caledum innatum, the

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