Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/22

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12
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

one is treated as being at all points not only coextensive but also cointensive with the other. Two noteworthy results of this indiscrimination are: first, that Darwin is habitually regarded as the author of the modern doctrine of evolution at large; and, secondly, that this doctrine has, ever since the publication of his great work on the Origin of Species, become so intimately bound up with the special views therein contained, that by the correctness or incorrectness of those special views the whole theory of evolution is supposed to stand or fall.

That this confusion, like all such confusions, has been fraught with many and varied philosophic drawbacks and dangers is a point which we need not here pause to emphasize; such drawbacks and dangers must be sufficiently patent to all. Here we are principally concerned with the entirely unjust and erroneous estimate of the historical significance of Mr. Spencer's work, and consequently of the relations of Mr. Spencer himself to the greatest of modern generalizations, which originated from or which at least has been largely kept alive by the misconception of which I speak.

To what extent this unjust and erroneous estimate has taken root, even in more cultivated thought, may be shown briefly and conclusively by one or two quotations. For example, we find the London Saturday Review remarking, in the course of an article on Prof. Tyndall's famous Belfast address, that "what Darwin has done for physiology[!] Spencer would do for psychology, by applying to the nervous system particularly the principles which his teacher had already enunciated for the physical system generally." In much the same strain, and obviously under the same impression that Mr. Spencer's ideas were all obtained at second hand,[1] a gentleman whom we are sorry to detect in such carelessness — Colonel Higginson — writes, "It seems rather absurd to attribute to him [Spencer] as a scientific achievement any vast enlargement or further generalization of the modern scientific doctrine of evolution." Once more, sketching out the college life of his friend, the late lamented Prof. Clifford, with whose untimely death so many brilliant promises came to naught, Mr. Frederick Pollock says, "Meanwhile, he [Clifford] was eagerly assimilating the ideas which had become established as an assured possession of science by Mr. Darwin, and were being applied to the systematic grouping and gathering together of human knowledge by Mr. Herbert Spencer." And, finally (not to weary by needlessly

  1. There has perhaps never been so original a thinker as Mr. Spencer who has had such a hard struggle to get or keep possession of the credit due to his own ideas. Not only is he thus reduced to the position of a mere aide-de-camp of Darwin, but manv of his critics are never weary in insisting, spite of all disproof of their assertions, upon his vital indebtedness to Augusts Comte.