Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/248
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
social connections, at once disgorged more money. To one person she was a great literary character; to another, of royal descent; to another she had immense expectations; to another, she was a stern religionist."
This woman must have been as smart as she was unscrupulous. Her capacity of imposture was as marked as the deficiency of moral sense; she was as shrewd and long-headed as she was knavish. The art of her conduct, the consummate calculation, and the skillful adaptation of means to ends in dealing with others, implicate the whole intellectual sphere of action which was at the same time exempt from the control of conscience. Yet the force of moral considerations was implied throughout as she had to deal with people who were influenced by them, and to give good reasons for her various claims and representations. It was a sufficiently obvious case of cool criminal depravity, and most people would have little difficulty in deciding what was to be done about it. But current theories of conduct stop with mental effects. Mind being regarded as having a sphere of its own, and the mental world being held as an independent world, where all that goes on is purely psychical, there is no interest or requirement to look beyond the open manifestations of mind to their causes in another sphere. If we should say that this woman had something more than a mind, something more than an immaterial responsible soul, that we must look deeper than the mental manifestations displayed in conduct, that she had a brain made up of cells, fibres, tissues, and circulating blood, subject to the laws of nutrition, waste, and repair, debility, degeneration, and disease, and that all these things must be taken into account as controlling conditions of mental effects, we should be met immediately by the cry of materialism! And if we should furthermore say that these three or four pounds of nervous matter must come into consideration before society can proceed to decide upon such a case, a cry of denunciation would be raised against a destructive materialism that threatens to subvert the order of society.
Nevertheless, the question of mind in this case was an organic problem of the brain, as the further facts will show. This woman had lived a quiet but honest and uneventful life up to the time that she suddenly struck out into her sensational career. A year of lying, cheating, and scheming practices ended in the development of marked insanity and brain-disease, when she was taken to the Royal Edinburgh Asylum for the Insane, where she soon died. The victims of her cunning and mendacity were simply the dupes of a lunatic, and the question of her character and accountability resolves itself into a problem of brain-derangement, of morbid material conditions, and is therefore a question of practical materialism which the physician cannot escape.
It is significant that nearly all the divines who have spoken, in reply to Prof. Huxley, commit themselves to some form of the doctrine of Evolution. While, however, they admit that there is some truth in it, there is a common protest against the idea that it contains much truth—not by any means so much as is claimed by Prof. Huxley. He said that the evidence for it is demonstrative, and that it is as well based in its proofs as the Copernican theory of astronomy. This is thought to be quite absurd. It is said that Huxley may know a great deal about animals and fossils, but that obviously he knows very little about logic. His facts being admitted, a great deal of effort has been expended to show that he does not understand how to reason from them.