With these images before your minds, you may well ask, what community of form, or structure, is there between the animalcule and the whale; or between the fungus and the fig-tree? And, a fortiori, between all four?
This is the notion which Voltaire himself three years afterwards illustrated in the witty fancies of Micromégas. The little animalcule in the square cap, who makes the giant laugh in a Homeric manner by its inflated account of itself as the final cause of the universe, is the type of the philosophy on which Catholicism is based.
The microscope cannot find the animalcule which is less perfect for being little. Eyes, ears, taste, smell, motion, resistance, appetite, and organs of reproduction that take hold on eternity, all find room to consist in the small creature. So do we put our life into every act. The true doctrine of omnipresence is, that God reappears with all his parts in every moss and cobweb.
Applying its cupping glass to the mason bee, the worm, without delay, began its meal, which lasts another fortnight. The reader knows the rest. Before taking leave of the animalcule, let us devote a few lines to its instinct. It has just awakened to life under the fierce kisses of the sun.
All the changes in structure, instinct, or intelligence, in the plants or animals, including man, descended from the primordial germ, or animalcule, have been brought about by unintelligent physical causes. On this point he leaves us in no doubt. He defines nature to be "the aggregate action and product of natural laws; and laws are the sequence of events as ascertained by us."
It would be a good joke enough to cause it to be circulated that they were performances of my own in early youth, and they would be looked on and bought up as curiosities. True it is that I took lessons of oil-painting in youth from a little Jew animalcule, a smouch called Burrell, a clever sensible creature though; but I could make no progress either in painting or drawing.
The animalcule that the marine polypus secretes live by millions at the bottom of their cells. Their calcareous deposits become rocks, reefs, and large and small islands. Here they form a ring, surrounding a little inland lake, that communicates with the sea by means of gaps. There they make barriers of reefs like those on the coasts of New Caledonia and the various Pomoton islands.
I am quite sure that there is not an instance on record of the spontaneous production of life, even down to the smallest animalcule in liquids, or the minutest plant life that is propagated by invisible spores. That the microscope does not reveal these spores or germs proves nothing, for the strongest microscope in the world has not begun to reach the final atom of which matter is composed.
That little animalcule there, which is living in that way, imagines no doubt that it is working all for itself, and yet it is united down the stem at whose extremity it stands, with the life of the whole madrepore or sponge to which it belongs. You have only to look at an ordinary tree to see the same thing going on.
In the cocoon invaded there is nothing but the larva of the mason bee; and the worm cannot make use of this before acquiring the sucker that comes with the second form. Nevertheless, this life of abstinence is not a life of idleness. The animalcule explores its dish, now here, now elsewhere; it runs all over it with looper strides; it pries into the neighborhood by lifting and shaking its head.