Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/240

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230
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
NATURAL SELECTION IN POLITICS.
By Prof. D. H. WHEELER.

WHATEVER may become of Darwin's theory of natural selection, its worst foes must at last concede it the rare honor of being reckoned the most fertile hypothesis ever proclaimed. It has created a library of books on species, selection, and evolution, and it enters more or less into most attempts at serious writing. It was to be expected that it should turn up in politics; but we were hardly prepared for so brave an entry on that field as it makes in Bagehot's "Physics and Politics."

It is refreshing to know that Darwinism puts a more cheerful aspect upon physics in the social life of man than has been given to it by Draper and Buckle.

To Mr. Bagehot, the principle of natural selection applied to politics suggests the hopeful and beneficent side of law; Dr. Draper's books were preachments upon its awful and relentless aspects.

There is a valuable truth in natural selection applied to politics; for it is conceded that history shows us a struggle of races, and we who survive are ready enough to believe that the strongest survive because they are the best.

The earlier attempts to put physical forces into their place in man's social institutions, claimed a monopoly for them. The Gulf Stream wrote "Paradise Lost" and Newton's "Principia." The new attempt to trace these lines of law seems to promise success by leaving a little for Newton and Milton to do.

Physics work in harmony with morals. Morality is not a base and ragged accident, nor is it a fated product of temperature; it has relations to the weather, but the most important of these is its power to make, through industry and thought, a pleasant summer in an icebound city, and a grateful coolness in the torrid zone.

The moralists are fertile in all forms of social power; that is an old truth, too stubborn to be talked down. Religion has value everywhere, even in making fighters. God-fearing armies are hard to beat; and a man with an honest faith in him is as ugly a customer to face in fight as thirty degrees below zero. I hope nobody supposes that politics are without law. I know nothing so absurd as to believe in God and deny law to history, unless it be to be atheist and deny it. In truth, all of us shiver a little when we remember that God is just, or take account of the consequences that attend our public errors.

But the value of a truth is generally to be measured by its relation to hope. The best conquer, the best live; what an inspiration to courageous effort to be the best nation!

All the moralities, decencies, cultures, worships, lift up, and strength-