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Cosmogony

atoms, greek, motions, atomists, origin and worlds

COSMOGONY. From the Greek eatriairSvial meaning creation of the world. It is authenti cated by Philolaiis and Plutarch that Pythagoras himself used the word Kaerpor, to denote the order of the world, to which is added Yes'iat origin ; the word KooliorSvia.being first used as the title of a work by Parmenides (born 544 a.c.) who was the revered teacher of Plato. The term is now used to designate theories in regard to the origin and developments of the solar and stellar systems, and the universe in general.

From the earliest ages the subject of cos mogony has been considered so important for human thought that, by way of poetry and al legory, it usually enters Into the religious teachings of the different peoples, as the Greeks, the Hebrews, Egyptians, 'Persians and Hindus; in fact, it is almost as prevalent among primitive races as mythology and folklore, with, which, in early literature, it is usually con nected. The cosmogony of the Book of Gene sis may be considered the most advanced de velopment of Hebrew thought, as modified by the learning of the Chaldeans and Egyptians.

Among the Greeks cosmogony was first treated by the poets in a very primitive man ner, and afterward developed into more of a science by the natural philosophers,— such as Thales, Anaximenes, Anaximander, Xeno phanes, Parmenides, Empcdocles, Anaxagoras, Plato and Aristotle. The highly artistic doc teine set forth in Plato's (Timaeus probably represents the highest development of Greek thought on this subject, though from a mod ern point of view the theories of the school of Atomists, founded by Leucippus and Democri tus, are the most interesting because they pre dicted the development of vortices such as we find among the spiral or whirlpool nebula, disclosed by modern astronomical observations. Thus the Greeks were the first to attempt to explain the origin and motions of the heavenly bodies, and how these motions originated; and we shall therefore pass over the other early writings, and notice only the cosmogony of the Greek Atomists, since this alone approaches the requirements of modern astronomy.

In his 'Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy,) the late Prof. Edouard Zeller, of the University of Berlin, summarizes the views of the Atomistic School thus: account of their weight, all the atoms from eternity move downward in• infinite space; but according to the Atomists, the larger and therefore heavier atoms fall more quickly than the smaller and lighter, and strike against them; thus the smaller are impelled upwards, and from the collision of these two motions, from the con cussion and rebound of the atoms, a whirling movement is produced. In consequence of this, on the one hand the homogeneous atoms are brought together; on the other, through the entanglement of variously shaped atoms, com plexes of atoms, or worlds, segregated and eternally sundered, are formed. As motion has no beginning, and the mass of atoms and of empty space has no limits, there must always have been innumerable multitudes of such worlds existing under the most various condi tions, and having the most various forms. Of these innumerable worlds our world is one? (Cf. Zeller's (Outlines,) p. 79).

The theory of the Atomists here set forth is erroneous in ascribing the collisions to the more rapid fall of the heavier atoms; yet this accorded with the teachings of physits coming down from the time of Aristotle. This falla cious doctrine was first overthrown by Galileo's discovery of the true law of accelerative force, under which heavy and light bodies fall with the same velocity. Leaving out of account this defect in physical theory, the Greek explana tion of the origin of vortices is clear and is the first attempt of scientific character at explain ing the motions of rotation and revolution noticed among the heavenly bodies.