William Paley, Natural theology: or, Evidences
of the existence and attributes of the Deity, collected from
the appearances of nature by William Paley, 1802.
In 1802, Paley published a full account of his
Natural Theology, in which he proposed that God could be best
understood by studying the natural world. Although Paley is
best known for his metaphor of God as the ultimate “Watchmaker,”
the holistic economy of nature lies at the heart of his view
respiration, flame, putrefaction, air is rendered unfit for
the support of animal life. By the constant operation of these
corrupting principles, the whole atmosphere, if there were no
restoring causes, would come at length to be deprived of its
necessary degree of purity. Some of these causes seem to have
been discovered; and their efficacy ascertained by experiment.
And so far as the discovery has proceeded, it opens to us a
beautiful and a wonderful economy. Vegetation proves to be one
of them. A sprig of mint, corked up with a small portion of
foul air placed in the light, renders it again capable of supporting
life or flame. Here therefore is a constant circulation of benefits
maintained between the two great provinces of organized nature.
The plant purifies what the animal has poisoned; in return,
the contaminated air is more than ordinarily nutritious to the