Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/489

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY



APRIL, 1902.



IS THIS A DEGENERATE AGE?
By Professor J. J. STEVENSON,
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY.

TOO many writers and speakers, in discussing the intellectual and social conditions of our time, find little of good and a superabundance of bad. Everywhere they discover evidence of individual and social degeneracy. The love of literature and of pure science is disappearing; college training is debased in that the purely intellectual side is neglected for the practical; everything is dominated by an intense commercialism, which destroys men's finer instincts and lowers the general moral tone of the community.

One may not ignore these utterances; nor may he dismiss them flippantly as wailings of disappointed or unsuccessful men, who would make a virtue of necessity. Men's goals may differ, but their ambition is the same; it ill becomes one to scoff at another; scoffing is bred of ignorance as much in the fortune-chaser who ridicules the student as in the student who contemns the man with the muckrake. The indictment against our age has been drawn by men, who, from their standpoint, have been successful and have no grievance against the world. Many of them belong to the class which, for a long period, dominated thought and controlled the policy of nations. Their statements deserve such careful consideration that one does well to inquire whether or not the conditions are as represented and to what extent they are evidence of either intellectual or social degeneracy. The subject is a broad one and, in treating it, one may adopt only the rambling method of the essay, that he may move hither and yon as necessity may dictate.

Prior to the Civil War, our colleges, modeled for the most part