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Good Words 1860
God's Glory in the Heavens


Lunar Landscape

Paley holds that astronomy does not afford such striking proofs of a Divine intelligence, as the wonderful adaptation of means to ends presented everywhere in the animal and vegetable kingdoms; but that, a Divine intelligence being granted, no field presents such impressive views of the grandeur and power of God. Every one must feel the force of this observation when, in thought, he wanders over the barren surface of the moon, and fails to discover such proofs of design as are abundantly strewn over the surface of our globe.

It is the fact of life that furnishes those innumerable adaptations which irresistibly impress the mind with a superintending intelligence, and raises the devout heart to the contemplation of Him who made and ruleth over all. Did we find life in the moon, we would, at the same time, find inexhaustible and novel illustrations of a designing mind. On our globe everything is delicately adjusted to the cosmical laws that have sway over it as a member of the solar system. The very curve of the snow-drop, as it bends its head, is regulated by the attractive power of the globe. The flower could not thrive in a world which attracted more or less. A slight change in the constitution of the atmosphere, or in the alternation of night and day, would be fatal to many forms of life. Did a comet come into collision with our earth, so as to change its axis, new conditions, wholly destructive to a wide range of animal and vegetable life, would be introduced. If life exists in the moon, there must be special adaptations corresponding to its physical constitution. The fact that bodies are more than five times lighter in the moon than on the earth, would admit of their being on a much more colossal scale. Trees, for example, on our globe, throw out their branches timidly, lest they break with their own weight. They carefully keep within the breaking point, and so nicely is this adjusted, that when, from any extraneous cause, they become overloaded, they are apt to come away with a crash; as in the case of the ancient forest in Italy, which, a few weeks ago, had every tree stripped of its branches by the icicles with which they were loaded. A slight wind was all that was necessary to convert into bare poles the stately trees of a forest that had stood for ages. In the moon, however, trees could safely throw out their branches to a much greater extent, simply for the reason that they are so much lighter. It is a great feat in architecture to construct a spire or factory chimney a few hundred feet high, and when such structures exceed a certain height, there is danger of their toppling over, or of being crushed by their own weight. But in the moon, the colossal chimney of Glasgow would be altogether dwarfed, standing side by side with the chimneys of the lunar factories. Then, as to the alternation of day and night, how singularly constituted must the forms of life be to bear a fortnight of unmitigated sunshine, and then a long dreary night of similar length. Scorching is avoided, on our globe, by our turning away from the central fire after twelve hours' exposure. During the night we are agreeably cooled, and prepared once more to hail the genial light and heat of the sun. But were our summer days doubled in length, the heat would be intolerable, and all things would languish and die. How strangely constituted must animal and vegetable life be in the moon, to bear the long scorching of a day equal to fourteen of the earth's days. Did we discover living creatures adapted to these and the other strange conditions existing in the moon, we, no doubt, would be filled with adoring wonder at such manifestations of God's wisdom and goodness.

But is the survey of the moon's surface devoid of interest, and does it fail to point to a Divine intelligence, because we can discover none of these special adaptations that so abound on the surface of our globe? Paley would answer that it is barren in theological results, and that, unless we can establish a use, we cannot turn that strangely-diversified surface to any account, as proving a Divine intelligence. Natural theology has made an advance since Paley's time, inasmuch as it recognises as proofs of intelligence, order, symmetry, arrangement, type, as well as the adaptation of means to special ends. It is not necessary to prove a use in order to recognise intelligence. It is very much the fashion, at the present day, to disparage the argument of Paley, and to resolve all into mere order. But it is by no means necessary to do this, so that we may be able to recognise mere order as a proof of intelligence. Paley's argument as to special ends will ever retain its distinct, substantive character, while it, in no degree, interferes with the argument from mere order or arrangement,

The necessity of extending the argument beyond that of mere use was seen, when there were found, in the animal structure, parts which appeared to serve no purpose, but were there merely as indicating a general pattern, after which the class was constructed. In vertebrate animals, there is discoverable a general type, amidst the infinite diversity of form. There are undeveloped limbs which are of no use to the particular animal in which they are found, but which point to a Divine intelligence by indicating the fact, that all vertebrate animals were constructed after the same general pattern. Owen imagines that we have not, in this globe, all the diversities of which this general pattern or archetype is susceptible, and that limbs, which are found only in an undeveloped state in this world, may be fully developed in the other planetary bodies.

We have not been able to discover any living forms in the moon, and we cannot, therefore, say whether the pattern that prevails here is also the lunar model. We can, however, detect on the surface of the moon, a configuration that conforms to the plan on which the earth's surface is modelled. We have undeveloped forms on our earth which we find fully developed in the moon. There are terrestrial configurations the meaning of which we could not understand, without studying the lunar analogues.

It is to German thought that we owe very much of those generalisations which have resulted in the recognition of typical forms in nature. It appears very marvellous that men, possessed of very limited acquaintance with science, and often grossly ignorant of its simplest truths, should, as if by inspiration, obtain glimpses of general laws which have escaped the scrutiny of the most diligent collectors of facts. Oken records the very hour when, reclining on a green-sloping bank, and gazing on the bleached skull of a deer, the truth suddenly flashed upon him, that the bones of the skull were only the repetition of the vertebrae; and this momentary inspiration revolutionised the science of anatomy. But there is another remarkable anticipation of the same philosopher, for which, as far as we know, he has not yet got credit. He declared that the planets and the sun were mutually polar, and that this held also in the case of satellites and their primaries. He gives no intelligible reasons for holding that the sun and moon are magnets; but quite recent investigations have proved the correctness of the oracular dictum of this German dreamer. He died long before this verification of science; but probably such testimony would move him little, as his own transcendental grounds of belief were far more satisfactory to his mind, than the empirical inductions of science. It was also a favourite idea of Oken, that the earth is a great crystal, and that the moon also partakes of this character. Science has, as yet, thrown no light on Oken's meaning. Possibly all that is meant by a crystal is, that it is the symbol of form, apart from organic structure. The notion of a crystal has been adopted by most of the German cultivators of science from the ideal side. Thus Hegel holds that the moon is a "material crystallisation, without atmosphere, and without formative processes." He defines a crystal to be a "mute life." Again, speaking of crystalline form, he says, "It is the silent geometer in the interior of the body, which, independently of external impulse, organises it within and without." By the "silent geometer," the Christian means the Divine intelligence which shapes it into symmetry and beauty. And, though we can discover no organic forms in the moon, yet the footsteps of the Creator can be detected. Viewing the moon as an individual crystal, we can detect symmetry, and, as one of a group, we can recognise type. But, leaving these abstract views, let us now deal with the reality.

When you first look at the moon through a telescope, even though it be an excellent one, you can hardly fail to be disappointed. No doubt, the surface of the moon will excite surprise by its curious and novel aspect, but it will fail to give you any idea of magnitude. You may tell the beholder that the little specks of light he sees at the edge are mountains higher than Mont Blanc, but he has no feeling of the reality. And many a one who has looked through a telescope comes away as incredulous as ever. The objects descried through the telescope are not seen to be mountains. It is only by a process of thought that the mind is convinced that they are mountains. The maps in relief, hung up in the hotels in Switzerland, though faithful models of the Alps, do not convey the impression of magnitude. Even the gigantic model in the library of Zurich, with its glass lakes, fails to give you this impression. But look through the library windows at the actual mountains before you, and you fully realise the magnitude, even though the picture on the retina is larger, in the case of the model, than in that of the actual mountains. Now, the perspective we have of the moon is such that it produces only the effect of a model, and, when looking through a telescope, we have the same difficulty in transmuting the stucco-like prominences into mountains, as we would have in converting the hotel model into a real Alpine range.

We must call in the aid of imagination, before the landscape of the moon can stand out before us with the reality of a terrestrial scene. Let the reader join us in a lunar excursion, and we shall endeavour to trace out the points of resemblance and contrast in the scenery of the earth and moon. Let us wing our flight from this globe, and mark the changes in the aspect of the moon as we gradually approach. We are soon able to discover a diversity of colour. From the earth's surface the blaze of light is so great, that only difference of shade can be discerned; but as we approach, things assume the aspect of real mountains, valleys, and plains. We soon discover that the dark parts in the moon, which fancy shapes into the eyes, nose, and mouth of the face-in-the-moon, are vast plains. They are not, now, uniformly dark, for one region assumes the aspect of ploughed fields, another that of a vast savanna. The district known as the Sea of Serenity, and corresponding to the left eye of the face, has a rich green, as if clothed with luxuriant grass, or covered with vast forests of pine. We shall not alight upon the forest, but shall choose rather the Sea of Showers —the darkest part of the moon's surface, and corresponding to the right eye. We find here good footing, for it is neither a forest nor a sea. For hundreds of miles on all sides there is a dead flat. Here and there, solitary peaks, like that of Teneriffe, start from the plain, unconnected with any mountain-range. They rise from the vast prairie as abruptly as the pyramids do from the sands of Egypt.

But as we travel on, we descry mountain-ranges rising in the horizon. Before alighting on the moon, we could distinctly note the contour of these ranges. While some stretched for hundreds of miles in nearly straight lines, there were others, and these the most numerous, that formed a vast circle. We shall make for one of the most regular of this last class, viz., Eratosthenes. But, before reaching the foot of this range, we must pass over bright rays, radiating from the circular mountain, Copernicus. These rays are one of the most marked features of the moon, as seen through a telescope. Oken speaks of mountains as the organs of a planet, and certainly these mountains may not inaptly be represented by a star-fish with its diverging rays. But now we can examine the mystery, and we find that the rays are trap-dikes, rising little, if at all, above the level of the general surface. They appear as bright rays through the telescope, merely because they reflect the light better than the rest of the plain. No mould or verdure has covered them up, as the lava of Vesuvius has been by the vine-clad slopes. Not even does the lichen grow upon them, and hence they are clearly discernible from the earth. We can even discover where one dike cuts another, and tell which is the older of the two. We can thus draw up a chronological scale for the convulsions of the moon.

But let us pursue our journey onwards to our destination, Eratosthenes. This circular mountain, or rather range of mountains, is thirty-seven miles in diameter; and we know its dimensions more accurately than those of the mountains of our globe. The ascent is by a comparatively easy slope. We do not feel the want of mules, for we combine the strength of a man with the weight of a child. We can bound from rock to rock more lightly than the chamois, and can leap across chasms six and a half times broader than any we could venture to take on the surface of the earth. Were it not for this convenient lightness, the task would be impracticable. The rocks have all their natural angularity. There has been no weathering to mitigate the roughness ; and chasms and sharp peaks face us at every turn. We at last gain the summit, 7,500 feet above the plain outside. An astounding spectacle presents itself when we view the interior of this vast volcanic crater. The rise on the outside of the rim is gradual, but in the inside it is almost perpendicular. As we cautiously creep to the edge, we see plumb down 15,800 feet, which is the height of Mont Blanc above the sea. Let us take a stone—a large block can easily be lifted—and drop it over. How long it hovers in the air! It descends so slowly—five times slower than upon the earth—and it has so far to descend. Did we listen ever so long, we would hear no reverberation from that profound depth. In many places around this circular mountain wall, there are traces of terraces. In fact, the whole is a vast amphitheatre seated with terraces. In the centre of this crater a mountain rises many thousand feet in height. Let us transport ourselves to the summit ; and, as you look around, you find yourself imprisoned within a perpendicular wall, 15,800 feet in height, and eighteen miles distant on all sides, with no possibility of egress. There is no gap in the wall, no outlet by which you may escape. On the summit of the central cone on which you stand, there is a lesser cavity, through which the ashes and lava, of which the cone consists, were ejected. But all activity is past, and eternal silence reigns. You stand on volcanic ashes, but you do not suffer the inconvenience of ascending the cone of Vesuvius. Thanks to the weak attraction of the moon, you can tread on the treacherous slope without sinking.

Now this singular formation is not singular in the moon. It is the grand feature of the lunar surface. That surface is divided into the dark plains and the bright alpine regions, and, in the latter, the grand characteristic is the circular form with the Central cone. These craters are of various dimensions. Some are fifty or sixty miles across, others are only a few hundred yards. Now, do we find anything corresponding to this on the earth ? It is plain that our active volcanoes only feebly represent the lunar craters. The volcanic apertures on the earth are only small craters at the top of volcanic mountains of no great dimensions, such as Vesuvius. The terrestrial approximations to the typical form are only like the undeveloped limbs of animals, pointing to the more perfect. Among the older formations, however, we find indications of the lunar circularity. In Auvergne, for example, there are some illustrations, and probably, at one time, they might have been very numerous. Successive upheavals, however, and various denuding influences have obliterated the distinctive features, and it is only in a few cases that we can trace the typical form. Monte Venere, at Rome, presents a very fair specimen, being the central cone of a large crater.

As in the morphology of plants, we detect, amidst diversity, the same typical form of the leaf, so we find in the moon endless repetitions of the typical crater with the central cone. There are, for example, walled plains of vast extent, some of them being as much as 150 miles in diameter. They differ from the typical crater only in this, that the enclosed part is a plain, instead of a concavity, and that there is no central peak. Again, extensive ranges of mountains assume a semicircular form, and when the vast dark plains were regarded these semicircular forms were called bays or gulfs. But this semicircular form evidently points to the circular typical form. Again, some of the craters are without any walls or rims, and, in others, the floor of the crater is convex, though in all cases it is sunk below the level of the surrounding country. But it is not merely the more prominent features that conform to the crater type. On minute inspection, we find that the whole surface has a crateriform structure. When you take a large crystal of calc spar, and break it into numerous pieces, you find that the large rhomboid is made up of innumerable small ones. So, in the case of the lunar craters, you find the large ones studded over with small ones, and these, again, have craters of a third order of smallness. If you throw successive handfuls of pebbles into a pond, you will see, at the same time, circles interlacing with one another, and smaller ones diversfying, in every imaginable way, the larger ones. Precisely such a spectacle is presented by the structure of the moon. Theories of volcanic action have been proposed to explain all this; but we cannot linger longer on the summit of the central peak, and as there is no other mode of egress, we shall take an imaginary flight over the encircling wall, and again alight on the vast savanna from which we ascended.

We studiously avoided making any remarks upon the nature of this surface when we previously passed over it, as we could really offer no plausible account of it. But so rapid is the advance of science, even in the department of astronomy, that, in the interval between the ascent and descent we have learned that Father Secchi, of the observatory at Rome, has made a curious discovery on the subject. Surfaces reveal their nature, to a certain extent, by reflecting certain colours in preference to others, but they also give a clue to their character by the various ways in which they polarise light. Now, Secchi has found equally polarised light in the whole smooth, dark plains of the moon, whatever be the inclination of the incident and reflected rays. The only substance we are acquainted with that gives practically the same result, is glass paper, used in the arts for polishing, and he thinks that this may be made to explain the corona encircling the moon in total eclipses. This, after all, does not give a very definite notion of the nature of the surface, but it dissipates the idea that Arago had lately revived, that these dark plains were really seas, so shallow that the unevenness of the bottom might be detected through the transparent water.

Let us direct our steps to the lunar Alps, a very lofty range of mountains skirting the Mare Imbrium. In passing along the plain, we come to interruptions like the crevasses in a glacier, only they are much wider, more regularly formed, and of unfathomable depth. They present exactly the appearance a trap-dike would do, if quarried out. These rents, or rills, as they are termed, cross each other in such a way as to produce fantastic forms. In one plain the letter H can be plainly detected, and in another Z. There are, besides, many Chinese-like characters. The first observers imagined that they were roads or canals. The most probable explanation is, that they are rents in the moon's surface, which have never been filled up with lava. They correspond to the white radiating streams which we have already noticed, and which are universally held to be pushed up through the rents. We can readily conceive the cracking of the surface without a subsequent filling up. The trap-dikes in the crust of the earth, in many cases, plainly indicate that the lava with which they are filled up was not the disruptive power by which the rents were caused.

With our newly-acquired buoyancy, we may attempt to clear the rill, as it is a small one ; and, now that we are on the other side, we pursue our journey to the base of the Alps, and the first thing that strikes us is, that the cliffs, fronting the plain, rise, almost perpendicularly, from the base. When, however, we go round, and take them in the rear, we find that the ascent is comparatively easy. This leads us at once to a remarkable analogy. On the surface of the earth we find that the precipitous sides of all great mountain-ranges face the sea. The terrestrial Alps, for example, have their steep side towards the Mediterranean. Those who have crossed the Alps, for example, by the St Gothard, will remember the long, gradual ascent from Fluelen, through the canton of Uri, and the sudden descent and terrific zig-zags down the Val Tremola to the plains of Italy. All the ranges in the moon have their steep sides, in like manner, towards the so-called seas. If we cannot admit that they are seas now, is it not probable that they may have once been seas? If all our seas and oceans were drained, the surface of the earth would present precisely the same spectacle that the moon does. But do we know of any draining cause ? The reader will remember that, in our last article, we saw that science had clearly established the fact, that if any water existed on the nearest side of the moon, it would necessarily flow to the other side. Let us only suppose that the centres of figure and gravity were at one time coincident, that it was internal convulsions, of which we have such numerous proofs, that, at a subsequent epoch, changed the centre of gravity, and we have at once a cause adequate to the effect.

Short as our survey has been, we have seen enough to reveal the "silent Geometer within"— the supreme Intelligence, who manifests His presence in symmetry and type, as well as in the special adaptation of means to ends. We reserve the direct uses of the moon to a future occasion.


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