Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/179

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167
OUR GRANDFATHERS DIED TOO YOUNG.

eries. Yet they have already taken from theology what was formerly its strongest province, sweeping away from this vast field of human effort that belief in miracles which for more than twenty centuries has been the main stumbling-block in the path of-medicine; and, in doing this, they have cleared higher paths, not only for science, but for religion.[1]


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OUR GRANDFATHERS DIED TOO YOUNG.

By Mrs. H. M. PLUNKETT.

THE chronic pessimist, who is convinced that all true wisdom died long ago with some old moldering ancestor, and who believes that the world and all its arrangements are daily waxing worse and worse, is frankly warned to skip this article, for he will find nothing in it to sustain his cheerless and pestilent views, nor to comfort his grumbling and disagreeable soul.

All students of vital statistics are now thoroughly agreed as to the actual lengthening of the average period of human life, and facts will be adduced to show on what their faith is grounded; and an attempt will be made to point out the many and encouraging factors that have helped to achieve the result.

In discussing so lofty a topic as the steady lengthening of human life in all civilized countries in these later times — properly rated as the highest earthly interest — it is almost humiliating to learn that the earliest revelation of the cheerful fact came through a thrill in the pocket-nerve.

In England, at the close of the first quarter of this century, it began to be perceived that the Government was losing money in paying its annuities calculated on the same basis as those that

  1. For rescue of medical education from the clutch of theology, especially in France, see Rambaud, La Civilisation Contemporaine en France, pp. 682, C83. For miraculous cures wrought by imagination, see Tuke, Influence of Mind on Body, vol. ii. For the opposition to scientific study of hypnotism, see Hypnotismus und Wunder: ein Vortrag, mit Weiterungen, von Max Steigenberger, Domprediger, Augsburg, 1888, reviewed in Science, February 15, 1889, p. 127. For a recent statement regarding the development of studies in hypnotism, see Liégois, De la Suggestion et de Somnambulisme dans leurs Rapports avec la Jurisprudence, Paris, 1889, chap. ii. As to the miraculous in general, for perhaps the most remarkable of all discussions on the subject, see Conyers Middleton, D. D., A Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers which are supposed to have subsisted in the Christian Church, London, 1749. For probably the most complete and judicially fair discussion of it, see Lecky, History of European Morals, vol. i, chap, iii; also his Rationalism in Europe, vol. i, chaps, i and ii; and for, perhaps, the boldest and most suggestive of recent statements regarding it, see Max Müller, Physical Religion, being the Gifford Lectures before the University of Glasgow for 1890, London, 1891, lect. xiv. See also, for very cogent statements and arguments, Matthew Arnold's Literature and Dogma, especially chap, v, and, for a recent utterance of great clearness and force, Prof. Osier's address before the Johns Hopkins University, given in Science for March 27, 1891.