cover of book

Of the Plurality of Worlds: A facsimile of the first edition of 1853; plus previously unpublished material excised by the author just before the book went to press; and Whewell's dialogue rebutting his critics, reprinted from the second edition
by William Whewell
edited by Michael Ruse
University of Chicago Press, 2001
Paper: 978-0-226-89436-2 | Cloth: 978-0-226-89435-5
Library of Congress Classification QB54.W47 2001
Dewey Decimal Classification 576.839

Is there intelligent life on other worlds? William Whewell, one of the most influential British intellectuals of the nineteenth century, weighed in on this question with Of the Plurality of Worlds. Writing anonymously, Whewell argued that there was no life anywhere else in the universe. Admitting such a possibility, he feared, would threaten humanity's special relationship with God, and open the door to supporters of evolution.

The publication of Plurality in 1853 ignited a bitter Victorian debate on science and religion. This book reprints the first edition in facsimile, together with a vigorous response to his critics that Whewell added later and new introductory and bibliographic material by noted Darwin scholar Michael Ruse. This edition also includes 84 typeset pages—never before published—that Whewell cut from the original book at the last moment. Showing clearly the theological underpinnings of Whewell's thinking, these chapters also reveal the difficulties facing any Victorian who tried to reconcile traditional Christian thought with the findings of modern science.

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