Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/141

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129
SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

only reason why the man whom our author supposes as preying upon his fellows can be presumed to succeed at all in his career is that he would he alone in a community which had a different moral code. If we suppose him to he surrounded by men like himself, as many depredations would be committed upon him as he committed upon others, and he would quickly abandon his policy as unprofitable. To accept the dictum that nothing but a belief in reward or punishment after death can keep a man from taking every possible advantage of his fellows is to put human beings lower than the beasts. It is not a hope of immortal happiness that causes ants of the same colony or bees of the same swarm to be just, considerate, and even generous toward one another, that constrains the old males of herbivorous quadrupeds to stand guard over the rest of the herd, or that makes it practicable for certain carnivores to hunt in packs. Experience, individual or inherited, has given them a controlling sense of what conduct pays best in the long run. Those creatures which do not co-operate in communities are yet far from trespassing upon others of the same species in the manner of our author's "poor laborer." If the beasts can perceive so much of the order of the universe as to keep their conduct from becoming unduly egoistic, is not man capable of learning the same lesson? The ethics of the scientists is far from being such an empty husk as our author represents. It is imperfect, to be sure, but can a complete solution of so great a problem be expected in a few short years? Moreover, some allowance for any partial failure that may be observed in its application should be made on account of the frailty of human nature and the disturbing influence of unsympathetic associates.

Nordau being one of the scientists who upholds the new ethical theory must, his critic thinks, have a bias against the adherents of revealed religion. The critic claims to find evidence of such a bias in Nordau's book, and a large part of his criticism is based upon this claim. Regeneration is largely an effort to impeach the fairness of Nordau's judgment, and to discredit his diagnosis by an appeal to religious prejudice. As such it should be estimated.




Scientific Literature.

SPECIAL BOOKS.

Dr. A. F. Chamberlain has chosen for a folklore study a field made doubly attractive by the newly aroused interest in the psychology of the child.[1] Truly he has garnered an abundant harvest. It would be difficult to think of any activity or relation of children that is not represented in the thirty-three chapters in which he has arranged his material. From the cry that it utters and the more or less ceremonial care that it receives on its entrance into the world up to its admission to the society of adults, each phase of childish thought or action and of parental care has its wealth of customs and sayings. Thus Dr. Chamberlain tells us, on the authority of

  1. The Child and Childhood in Folk-thought. By Alexander Francis Chamberlain. Pp. 464, 8vo. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Price, $3.