Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/169

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THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY.
By HERBERT SPENCER.

II.—Is there a Social Science?

ALMOST every autumn may be heard the remark that a hard winter is coming, for that the hips and haws are abundant: the implied belief being that God, intending to send much frost and snow, has provided a large supply of food for the birds. Interpretations of this kind, tacit or avowed, prevail widely. Not many weeks since, one who had received the usual amount of culture said, in my hearing, that the swarm of lady-birds which overspread the country some summers ago had been providentially designed to save the crop of hops from the destroying aphides. Of course this theory of the divine government, extended to natural occurrences bearing but indirectly, if at all, on human welfare, is applied with still greater confidence to occurrences that directly affect us individually and socially. It is a theory carried out with logical consistency by the Methodist who, before going on a journey or removing to another house, opens his Bible, and, in the first passage his eye rests upon, finds an intimation of approval or disapproval from Heaven. And in its political applications it yields such appropriate beliefs as that the welfare of England, in comparison with Continental States, has been a reward for better observance of the Sunday, or that an invasion of cholera was consequent on the omission of Dei gratia from an issue of coins.

The interpretation of historical events in general after this same method accompanies such interpretations of less important events; and, indeed, outlives them. Those to whom the natural genesis of similar phenomena has been made manifest by increasing knowledge, still believe in the supernatural genesis of phenomena that are very much involved, and cannot have their causes readily traced. The attitude of mind which, in an official dispatch, prompts the statement that "it has pleased Almighty God to vouchsafe to the British arms the most successful issue to the extensive combinations rendered necessary for the purpose of effecting the passage of the Chenaub,"[1] is an attitude of mind which, in the records of the past, everywhere sees interpositions of the Deity to bring about results that appear to the interpreter the most desirable. Thus, for example, Mr. Schomberg writes:

"It seemed good to the All-beneficent Disposer of human events, to overrule every obstacle; and through His instrument, William of Normandy, to expurgate the evils of the land; and to resuscitate its dying powers."[2]
  1. Daily paper, January 22, 1849.
  2. The "Theocratic Philosophy of English History," vol. i., p. 49.