A Theology of Space Travel 1.6

Anglican, Arian and later Baptist scholar William Whiston authored A New Theory of the Earth, From its Original to the Consummation of All Things. In it, he argues that it seems absurd that our vast universe is made only for the use of man, as on page 71:

But then as to the consequence, that therefore the Creation is no farther to be extended, or at least not so far as here it must otherwise be, to the Sun and Planets; nay, with the most to the inumberable Systems of the fix’d Stars; ‘tis to me so natural an necessary, that methinks ‘tis perfectly needless to go about the Proof of it. That so vast and noble a System, consisting of so many, so remote, so different, and so glorious Bodies, should be made only for the Use of Man, is so wild a Fancy, that it deserves any other Treatment sooner than a serious Confutation; and one may better think silently with one’s self, than with due deference and decency speak, what naturally arises in one’s Mind on this occasion.

If ‘tis an Instance of, or consistent with, the Divine Wisdom, to make thousands of glorious Bodies for the sole Use of a few fallen or rebellious Creatures, which were to live for a little while upon one of the most inconsiderable of them! To create an innumerable Multitude of Suns and Planets, and place them at prodigious Distances from us and from one another (the greatest part of which were never seen till the late Invention of the Telescope; and of such as are visible, the Sun excepted, the single Moon, as despicable a Body as it is, in comparison to the most of the others, is much more beneficial to us than they all put together) for the mere Convenience of one little Earth! If ‘tis wise and rational to make the Sun more than 220,000 times as big as that Globe it was to serve, only that it might be plac’d above 80 Millions of Miles of Miles off (for in a nearer Position it would have scorch’d and burnt, instead of warm’d and invigorated the Earth) when a small fiery Ball plac’d near us would have done as well! To make a vast Number of Planets (every way as capable of Creatures of their own) only for the Sake of us on Earth…

He also believed that the universe contained other beings who might have a different nature than our own on pages 93-94:

I cannot imagine that God is peculiarly fond of any particular Parts of the material Creation, or any more a Respecter of some Inanimate Bodies, than of Persons. He no doubt equally makes use of them all, according to their several Kinds and Capacities, in the Service of the various Species of intelligent Creatures, and in the bringing about the great Periods of Nature, and the Decrees of Heaven; which as they are in great measure unknown to us, so may they regard rational Beings very different and remote from us and our Concerns.

If we duly reflect on the infinite Nature, and unlimited Perfections, of the Divine Being, the Creator and Original of all Things; as well as on the Number, Vastness, and Glory of those his Works which are within our View, we shall see Reason to confess, there may be Millions of nobler intellectual Beings interposed between Man and God; and the whole World might be more reasonably suppos’d made at the Creation, and for the sole use of any one Species of those, than of Mankind. If therefore we be unwilling to be our selves excluded from a Share in the Intentions and Designs of Heaven, let us not exclude any other rational Creatures from the same; but be willing to suppose that as this Earth was form’d in six Days for the Sake of Man, so were the rest of the heavenly Bodies, form’d at other proper times for the Sake of other of God’s Creatures; for whom Providence ought to be allow’d to have taken a pro-portionable Care, and made a suitable Provision, as we our selves find has been done with regard to us and our Affairs.

References

New Theory of the Earth, From its Original to the Consummation of All Things. By William Whiston, M.A. London: Mr. Boyle’s Head, 1755.

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