Nebulous History and the Plurality of Worlds
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The interpretation of nebulae as worlds in formation, implying the non-uniqueness of our planet, provoked theological anxieties about salvation and creation. In this chapter I show how the limited power of telescopes to penetrate nebulae and other areas of the heavens stimulated the imagination to fabulate other, still-invisible worlds, and that when spectrum analysis revealed equivalent chemical constitution in space as on Earth , the existence of variant, counterpart worlds seemed materially plausible. In the astronomical writing by Thomas Chalmers , William Whewell , Thomas De Quincey , Richard Proctor , and Camille Flammarion , positions in the plurality debate reflect on the relationship between historical knowledge and astronomy . The multiverse speculations of Friedrich Nietzsche and Louis Auguste Blanqui are means to critique what they see as the historical complacency of bourgeois scientific culture.