Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/202

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192
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
EVOLUTIONARY ETHICS.

THE preceding article concludes Prof. Huxley's famous Romanes Address, the first part of which was given in The Popular Science Monthly for November. As bearing on the author's main contention that the ethical progress of society is opposed to the cosmic process of evolution, the following letter will be read with interest. — Ed.


To the Editor of The Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: He who crosses swords with Prof. Huxley in a dialectical encounter takes his life in both hands. I am not unaware, therefore, of my temerity in entering the lists against a scholar so fully equipped on all subjects; and my timidity is greatly increased when I venture to question his interpretation of the law of the "survival of the fittest," a subject upon which he is universally recognized as an authority. Yet it is because of what I deem to be a misinterpretation of that law that goes to the very marrow of a recent discussion by him that I venture to differ with him.

In his exceedingly thoughtful and suggestive Romanes Lecture on Evolution and Ethics, Prof. Huxley maintains that the cosmic process of evolution is directly opposed to the ethical development of mankind, "that the cosmic process has no sort of relation to moral ends" [see this number of the Monthly, p. 189], and that the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest can never help man toward ethical perfection. "Social progress," he says, "means a checking of the cosmic process at every step, and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who may happen to be the fittest, in respect of the whole of the conditions which exist, but of those who are ethically the best. As I have already urged, the practice of that which is ethically best — what we call goodness or virtue — involves a course of conduct which, in all [the Italics are mine] respects, is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic struggle for existence. In place of ruthless self-assertion it demands self-restraint; in place of thrusting aside, or treading down, all competitors, it requires that the individual shall not merely respect, but shall help his fellows; its influence is directed not so much to the survival of the fittest, as to the fitting of as many as possible to survive" [pp. 188, 189]. Holding these views it is to be expected that Prof. Huxley should describe man's development in the following words: "Man, the animal, in fact, has worked his way to the headship of the sentient world, and has become the superb animal