Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/18

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
8
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

stages of social evolution, unscrupulous aggression outside of the society and cruel coercion within are the habitual concomitants of political development. The men of whom the better organized societies have been formed were at first, and long continued to be, nothing else but the stronger and more cunning savages; and even now, when freed from those influences which superficially modify their behavior, they prove themselves to be little better. If, on the one hand, we contemplate the utterly uncivilized Wood-Veddahs, who are described as "proverbially truthful and honest," "gentle and affectionate," "obeying the slightest intimation of a wish, and very grateful for attention or assistance," and of whom Pridham remarks, "What a lesson in gratitude and delicacy even a Veddah may teach!" and then if, on the other hand, we contemplate our own recent acts of international brigandage, accompanied by the slaughter of thousands who have committed no wrong against us—accompanied, too, by perfidious breaches of faith and by the killing of prisoners in cold blood—we can not but admit that, between the types of men classed as uncivilized and civilized, the differences are not necessarily of the kind commonly supposed. Whatever relation exists between moral nature and social type is not such as to imply that the social man is in all respects emotionally superior to the pre-social man.

 

"How is this conclusion to be reconciled with the conception of progress?" most readers will ask. "How is civilization to be justified if, as is thus implied, some of the highest of human attributes are exhibited in greater degrees by wild people who live scattered in pairs in the woods, than by the members of a vast, well-organized nation, having marvelously elaborated arts, extensive and profound knowledge, and multitudinous appliances to welfare?" The answer to this question will best be conveyed by an analogy.

As carried on throughout the animate world at large, the struggle for existence has been an indispensable means to evolution. Not simply do we see that, in the competition among individuals of the same kind, survival of the fittest has from the beginning furthered production of a higher type, but we see that to the unceasing warfare between species are mainly due both growth and organization. Without universal conflict there would have been no development of the active powers. The organs of perception and of locomotion have been little by little evolved during the interaction of pursuers and pursued. Improved limbs and senses have furnished better supplies to the viscera, and improved visceral structures have insured a better supply of aerated blood to the limbs and senses; while a higher nervous system has at each stage been required for duly coordinating the actions of these more complex structures. Among predatory animals death by starvation and among animals preyed upon death by destruction have carried off the least favorably modified individuals and varieties.