Page:American Journal of Sociology Volume 6.djvu/65
THE SCOPE OF SOCIOLOGY 51
forms, is suspended in the special spheres where men buy and sell and compete and contract and legislate and pursue political and social rivalries, or cultivate the aesthetic arts and carry on scientific research and promote spirituality. The physical forces are all prescribing the thus-far-and-no-farther for each and every one of these activities. Whether we are concerned with an indi- vidual teacher or preacher threatened with nervous prostration, or a football team unabl-e to win games, or a slum population showing an abnormally high death-rate, or an industrial class developing peculiar types or numbers of physical or mental diseases, or the multiplication of degenerates in certain strata of society, or the alleged decadence of a nation, or the apparent retrogression of one of the great races in either case we encounter the same primary condition, as the first factor to be estimated. Whether the facts are viewed as social or indi- vidual, one line of evidence to be traced out is that which concerns sanitation, shelter, dietary, physical habits, physical surroundings, physical antecedents.
It is not implied that the sociologist must assume conclu- sions upon such questions as those which have been in debate between Spencer and Weismann. Whether heredity or environ- ment is the more forcible factor in human evolution is more of a mystery to the biologist today than he has ever acknowledged before. Whatever laymen or biological middlemen may assert, very little is known about the ratio of the functions of these two factors. The point to be urged is that the same forces which have reduced the universe from formless star-dust to a stupendous system of organized processes are still the under currents of every human life. Through the facts of food and sex, for example, we are indissolubly united from the past and toward the future with the ceaseless operation of the physical forces that have laid course after course in the structure of the worlds, and of the organic products upon the world. We may never unravel the methods of the physical forces that make the ultimate conditions of life, but we may know them as facts, and may make somewhat appropriate account of them in our calcula- tions of the possibilities of practical conduct.