Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/433

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413
EDITOR'S TABLE.

duced to reject it. Now, we perceive that we all have a moral sense; but the moral sense of one individual, and still more of one race, may differ from that of another individual or race. Each is more or less fitted to its circumstances, and the best is ascertained by eventual success.

At the tail end of an article it is, of course, impossible to discuss the grounds or results of the Spencerian philosophy. To me it presents itself, in its main features, as unquestionably true; indeed, it is already difficult to look back and imagine how philosophers could have denied of the human mind and actions what is so obviously true of the animal races generally. As a reaction from the old views about innate ideas, the philosophers of the eighteenth century wished to believe that the human mind was a kind of tabula rasa, or carte blanche, upon which education could impress any character. But, if so, why not harness the lion, and teach the sheep to drive away the wolf? If the moral, not to speak of the physical characteristics of the lower animals, are so distinct, why should there not be moral and mental differences among ourselves, descending, as we obviously do, from different stocks with different physical characteristics?. . . . Many persons may be inclined to like the philosophy of Spencer no better than that of Mill. But, if the one be true and the other false, liking and disliking have no place in the matter. There may be many things which we can not possibly like; but, if they are, they are. It is possible that the principles of evolution, as expounded by Mr. Herbert Spencer, may seem as wanting in "geniality" as the formulas of Bentham. . . . Nevertheless, I fully believe that all which is sinister and ungenial in the philosophy of evolution is either the expression of unquestionable facts, or else it is the outcome of misinterpretation. It is impossible to see how Mr. Spencer, any more than other people, can explain away the existence of pain and evil. Nobody has done this; perhaps nobody ever shall do it; certainly systems of theology will not do it. A true philosopher will not expect to solve everything. But, if we admit the potent fact that pain exists, let us observe also the tendency which Spencer and Darwin establish toward its minimization. Evolution is a striving ever toward the better and the happier. There may be also infinite powers against us, but at least there is a deep-built scheme working toward goodness and happiness. So profound and widespread is this confederacy of the powers of good, that no failure, and no series of failures, can disconcert it. Let mankind be thrown back a hundred times, and a hundred times the better tendencies of evolution will reassert themselves. Paley pointed out how many beautiful contrivances there are in the human form tending to our benefit. Spencer has pointed out that the universe is one deep-laid framework for the production of such beneficent contrivances. Paley called upon us to admire such exquisite inventions as a hand or an eye; Spencer calls upon us to admire a machine which is the most comprehensive of all machines, because it is ever engaged in inventing beneficial inventions ad infinitum. Such, at least, is my way of regarding his philosophy.

Darwin, indeed, cautions us against supposing that natural selection always leads toward the production of higher and happier types of life. Retrogression may result as well as progression. But I apprehend that retrogression can only occur where the environment of a living species is altered to its detriment. Mankind degenerates when forced, like the Esquimaux, to inhabit the Arctic regions. Still in retrograding, in a sense, the being becomes more suited to its circumstances—more capable, therefore, of happiness. The inventing machine of evolution would be working badly if it worked otherwise. But, however this may be, we must accept the philosophy if it be true, and, for my part, I do so without reluctance.

According to Mill, we are little, self-dependent gods, fighting with a malignant and murderous power called Nature, sure, one would think, to be worsted in the struggle. According to Spencer, as I venture to interpret his theory, we are the latest manifestation of an all-prevailing tendency toward the good, the happy. Creation is not yet concluded, and there is no one of us who may not become conscious in his heart that he is no automaton, no mere lump of protoplasm, but the creature of a Creator.
 

 

RAILROAD CASUALTIES.

Our half century's experience with railroads is full of various instruction. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., has occupied himself with the lessons of railroad casualties. He has investigated them officially in Massachusetts, and studied them elsewhere, and he has made a little volume which he modestly calls