Little did Antonie van Leeuwenhoek know, but when he placed scrapings from his teeth underneath a microscope for the first time and gazed upon the microscopic creatures that inhabited his mouth, he called man’s theological superiority into question, and created a universe of new demons.
The advent of the microscopic age not only transformed science and medicine, but forced Christians to ask, if humans were the ultimate purpose of the Creator, why would God create so many things that we can’t see? In the centuries that passed before germ theory solidified their role in disease, nature’s smallest creatures became their era’s “daemons and faeries”.
In previous ages, natural philosophers had attributed the causes of processes to invisible, occult forces and emanations — vague and insensible agencies. The new mechanistic philosophers of the 17th century argued that nature worked like a machine, filled with levers, hooks, mills, pins and other familiar devices too small to be seen. As Hooke put it: ‘Those effects of Bodies, which have been commonly attributed to Qualities, and those confess’d to be occult, are perform’d by the small Machines of Nature.’
It took hundreds of years for man to reconcile that a universe beyond the macro existed, with forms and forces completely unrelated to our own. And we may be equally challenged in the digital age.
One of the most fascinating things I’ve read in a while.