(quoted from Bees)
“At this moment, Mr. Hurlbut, the teacher of the Academy, came up, and took the piece of comb in his hand. “ What a curious piece of workmanship!” said he.
“ Very,” said Isaac.
“ Do you know,” said Mr. Hurlbut, “that these cells are constructed on exact mathematical principles ?”
“ Do bees understand mathematics ?” said Isaac.
“ I can’t say that I think they do; still their work is in accordance with mathematical principles. Sir Isaac Newton undertook to determine in what way a number of vessels could be constructed so as, without leaving any vacant space, they should have the greatest strength. The result of his mathematical investigation was, that cells just such as the bee constructs have the greatest strength and capacity. It was not then known that the cells of the bee conformed to those principles ; that was a subsequent discovery.”
“ How do you explain it, sir ? Bees surely do not study mathematics.”
“ I suppose they are guided by instinct in their work.”
“ There is one thing connected with this subject,” said Isaac’s Father, “ which I should like to have explained. When we look on the works of nature, and see contrivance,—when we see manifest marks of design, we infer a designer. This is the way in which we prove the existence of God from the light of nature.”
“ Certainly.”
“ Well, now there is every mark of design in the honeycomb, and yet it does not prove the existence of a designing author. You confess that the bee does not act from design. Now if the marks of design in the comb of the bee, does not prove a designer, how do the marks of design all around us in nature, prove a designer?”
“Suppose,” said Mr. Hurlbut, “I should show you some intricate mathematical calculations in figures, and you find that they are all correct Should you not say that it proved the existence of a mathematician"
“ Certainly.”
“Suppose then, I show you that the calculations were the work of a machine, such a one as was constructed by Mr. Babbage in England ; would that destroy the proof of the existence of a mathematician ?’
“ No, I should infer that there was a mathematician who made the machine.”
“ On the same principle you would infer, that there was a designer who made the bee, which is in some respects, an animated mathematical machine."
“ I see it now."
Isaac did not at first understand the conversation, but by thinking it over, and asking his father some questions, he came to understand. It gave him an idea of reasoning — a most important idea for a young to gain.”
