Popular Science Monthly/Volume 26/February 1885/Evolution and the Destiny of Man
|←The Larger Import of Scientific Education||Popular Science Monthly Volume 26 February 1885 (1885)
Evolution and the Destiny of Man
By William Dawson Le Sueur
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"THE Destiny of Man viewed in the Light of his Origin" is the important and interesting subject to which Professor Fiske devotes the last work that has issued from his pen. It is as true to-day as it was in the days of that Northumbrian king whose reason for hearing the Christian missionaries has so often been cited with approval, that men have a longing to know what may lie beyond the portal of death which closes so solemnly and, as it would seem, mysteriously upon all the activities of life. The Christian religion has been answering the question in its own way for well-nigh nineteen hundred years, and it might not be too much to say that upon that answer, authoritatively given, more than upon anything else, its wonderful and prolonged vitality has depended. What troubles the minds of many to-day is a doubt as to whether there are solid and reasonable grounds for what has so long been taught with authority. Was the tone of certainty assumed by Christian teachers at the outset anything more than a strong persuasion due to the workings of imagination? Does the answer so confidently given, and so devoutly accepted by countless multitudes in past ages, still hold good? Is the soul of man something altogether apart from bis bodily frame? Does it maintain its individuality, its elemental purity, while the body falls asunder? Does it necessarily endure eternally? And is it true that, the coil of earthly life once shaken off, every human soul departs into a condition either of everlasting bliss or of everlasting and unspeakable torment? To all of these questions the Christian religion has answered, and must still answer, "Yes." In what respect, then, it may be asked, does Professor Fiske seek to modify the Christian message; or does he simply state over again, on the authority of Science, what Christianity had affirmed on the authority of supernatural revelation?
In reply to these queries it may be briefly stated that Professor Fiske confines himself to asserting, in the name of Science, and particularly of the doctrine of evolution, the separate and essentially independent existence of the human soul. Whether, such being the case, he can claim to have thrown any light on the destiny of man, is perhaps a debatable point. It seems to me that he has rather dealt with the statics of human nature than with the question of the final outcome of human activity. It may be doubted whether, if the Christian missionaries at the court of the Northumbrian king had contented themselves with announcing that man had a soul, and that the soul was imperishable, they would have made much impression on their heathen listeners. Animistic interpretations of the phenomena of human life have been common in all ages—so common that, from their apparent universality, Mr. Spencer deduces the conclusion that all religion is based on primeval ghost-worship. Mr. Fiske comes forward to-day to say, in effect, that animism has the warrant of Science. Well and good! It may have; that all depends upon the interpretation of facts. But establish the point, and we shall at once want to know what are the fortunes of the soul after it leaves the body. Does it repair to happy hunting-grounds? Does it wander in a meadow of asphodel? Does it flit about in eternal twilight? Does it repair to the court of Minos and Rhadamanthus? Does it take on other animal forms and so revolve through a ceaseless round of changes? Or does a judgment await it that will place it irrevocably on one side or the other of the eternal dividing line, the everlasting gulf, which shall separate the saved from the lost? Unless some one will answer these questions for us, it seems almost vain to pretend that any light has been thrown on the "destiny of man" (beyond the present life) by the mere assertion, on whatever grounds, that the "soul" is something essentially distinct from the body.
It may be further affirmed that even the latter statement, when taken by itself, will prove unsatisfactory, unless a clear delimitation is established between what belongs to the soul and what to the body. It is to be feared that there is much the same uncertainty and vagueness in the use of the word "soul," which Matthew Arnold, in his "Literature and Dogma," has signalized in the case of the word "God." People think they know what they mean, and that they all mean the same thing, when they use the word "soul." But do they? If we are to attach importance to the doctrine that the soul is not of the same nature as the body, and exists, or can exist, apart from the body, it is surely above all things necessary that we should hold some orthodox creed as to what the soul is in itself, and what the body is in itself— what, in a word, each is that the other is not. It might have been expected that a writer of the scientific habit of mind of Mr. Fiske would have presented some definition of the word "soul" in the work before us; but I fail to find that he has done so. We are left in this matter entirely to our own more or less vague preconceptions. It would have been satisfactory could we have been informed whether the soul, in parting from the body, carries away with it any elements or influences derived from the body, or whether it simply reverts to the condition in which it existed before its union with the body. Some information of this nature is necessary before we can be sure that our knowledge is much advanced by being told that the soul continues to exist after the body has been dissolved. What, exactly, continues to exist? How much of what we now reckon as ourselves? Then, again, though it might not, strictly speaking, form part of the discussion as to the destiny of man, it would seem proper that a scientific expounder of animism should at least hazard some conjecture as to where or what souls are before their union with bodies; whether they exist individually or whether they are but parts of some homogeneous soul-substance, and only become individualized as the result of their union with individual bodies. Especially might we look for this when the subject discussed is "the destiny of man viewed in the light of his origin," If there be the sharp distinction affirmed between man's soul and his body, we should hardly expect the natural history of his body to throw much light on the destiny of his soul. We should certainly be better prepared to form an opinion or a belief as to the course of the soul after it leaves the body, if we could have some grounds for an opinion or belief as to the mode of its existence before it joined the body. If it be held that it had no previous existence, it may not be evident to all why it should survive that body at a certain point in the development of which it would seem to have had its birth.
These are preliminary considerations. Mr. Fiske has not given us all that might have been expected in a treatise bearing the title he has chosen, and pointing to the conclusions he indicates. Still, he has given us something, and it may repay us to examine what the actual content of his work is. To say that the work is written with grace and charm and skill, is only to say over again that it proceeds from the pen of Mr. Fiske. What we want to know now is, what it teaches us apart from lessons in literary style and arrangement.
In examining this work, small as it is, we seem to discover, as it were, traces of collaboration. It has the appearance of having been written not by one Mr. Fiske, but by two Mr. Fiskes. The first is Mr. Fiske, the simple student of science and recorder of scientific facts; the second is an author who apparently can not rest content with facts as they are, but constantly strives to view them in the light of some foreign hypothesis. The second Mr. Fiske would appear to have edited the first rather than the first the second; yet the work has been done in such a way that the diverse elements can easily be distinguished and separated.
The scientific Mr. Fiske discourses thus: As the Copernican theory destroyed the notion that the earth was infinitely larger than all the heavenly bodies, and was the center of the universe, thus giving a violent shock to the theological beliefs of the period, so the Darwinian theory to-day has destroyed the notion, prevalent up to the present time, that man occupies a position wholly apart from the rest of the animal creation. It enables us to state that "man is not only a vertebrate, a mammal, and a primate, but [that] he belongs, as a genus, to the catarrhine family of apes"; further, that "the various genera of platyrrhine and catarrhine apes, including man, are doubtless descended from a common stock of primates, back to which we may also trace the converging pedigrees of monkeys and lemurs, until their ancestry becomes indistinguishable from that of rabbits and squirrels." There is no more reason for supposing that this conclusion will ever be overthrown than there is for supposing that the Copernican theory will be banished and the Ptolemaic restored. The facts which once furnished support to the "argument from design" have received at the hands of Mr. Darwin a very different interpretation. It is "that simple but wasteful process of survival of the fittest," which is now invoked to explain the marvels of adaptation with which Nature abounds. "The scientific Darwinian theory alleges development only as the result of certain rigorously defined agencies. The chief among these agencies is natural selection." A point, however, arrived, in the development of the brute ancestor of man, when psychical changes began to be of more use to him than physical changes; in other words, when better-developed brains began to have the advantage over better-developed muscles. From that point onward the brains of our progenitors steadily increased "through ages of ceaseless struggle," not only in size but in complexity of structure. So far, therefore, as man was concerned, "the process of zoölogical change had come to an end, and a process of psychological change was to take its place." A difference in kind was thus established between man and the lower animals, the result of the accumulation of differences of degree. In the same way we see a difference in kind established between a nebula and a solid sphere through the operation of a gradual process of cooling and contraction. Upon this point there should be no mistake, for it is thus that all differences in kind are brought about. The result of the increasing size and complexity of the human brain, and the corresponding variety in human life, was that human beings could no longer be born in possession of full adult faculties. Infancy thus supervened as an accompaniment of increasing intellectuality. During infancy and youth the child learns what inheritance has not yet incorporated in its organization. Infancy, however, as a stage in individual life, is not confined to the human species. The man-like apes of Africa begin life as helpless babies, and are unable to walk, to feed themselves, or to grasp objects with precision until they are two or three months old. The difference between these and man is that the latter has a much increased cerebral surface, while the infancy of his progeny is correspondingly prolonged. Our earliest human ancestors lived, during an entire geologic æon, "a fierce and squalid existence." Yet even during that time was there progress; cerebral surface was increasing and babyhood was lengthening. "The process of evolution is excessively slow, and its ends are achieved at the cost of enormous waste of life"; still, for innumerable ages its direction has been toward the enriching, the diversifying, and the ennobling of human existence.
Discussing "the origins of society and morality," the exponent of the Darwinian theory tells us that "the psychical development of humanity since its earlier stages has been largely due to the reaction of individuals upon one another, in those various relations which we characterize as social." Infancy created the family, and the family, by taming, in a measure, individual selfishness, founded morality. The individual once brought under the law of the family, must begin to judge of his conduct by some standard outside of himself; "hence the germs of conscience and of the idea of duty." Society has thus led to a great improvement in the quality of individual life; it has made it possible for the world to have a Shakespeare, the difference between whose brain, taking creasing into account, and that of an Australian savage, "would doubtless be fifty times greater than the difference between the Australian's brain and that of an orang-outang." Such is the measure of our intellectual progress. On the moral side humanity can boast such leaders as Howard and Garrison. Yet the psychical development of man is not at an end. It is destined to go on, making not only intelligence greater, but sympathy stronger and more profound. It is true that the eliminating of strife "has gone on with the extreme slowness that marks all the world of evolution." Still, such a process is in operation, and upon it we build our hopes for the perfection of humanity.
So far the expounder of science. It will be observed that the statements he makes are either indisputable, or rest upon grounds of much apparent solidity. In connection with everything that he advances, there is an implicit appeal to verification. "If these things are not so," he seems to say, "then what are the facts?" It will be observed, also, that we are presented with no strained conclusions, with no glosses on the text, with no doubtful or misleading metaphors, with no unwarranted suggestions. We have intelligible views, plainly and candidly expressed. The destiny of man is fairly considered in the light of his origin; bat, as his origin occurred on earth, so in what precedes his "destiny" is discussed as a question of development and progress on the earth. It is modestly suggested, by no means dogmatically affirmed—the author herein agreeing with Mr, Spencer—that the influences that have raised mankind from brutehood to his present condition have not yet expended their force, but will carry him forward to further and indefinite developments of intelligence and morality.
Pass we now to consider the ideas presented, as it would almost seem, by a second Mr. Fiske, who undertakes the task of rendering innocuous or even edifying all that the first has put forward. Here we find what may perhaps best be described as a constant attempt to cut a larger garment than the cloth will. allow. It is science that is supposed to supply the cloth, but, when science stints the measure, poetry and sentiment are laid under contribution. Much is done by way of suggestion, and points are so skillfully made that we need to be constantly on our guard lest we be led to mistake for knowledge what in reality is mere conjecture, or the expression of emotional longing.
But to proceed. In the preface we have a full admission that the question of a future life lies "outside the range of legitimate scientific discussion." At the same time it is maintained that we may have an "opinion" on the subject, and that our opinion on such a question "must necessarily be affected by the total mass of our opinions on the questions which lie within the scope of scientific inquiry." Here issue may be joined. If "the total mass of our opinions" on questions lying "within the scope of scientific inquiry" can guide us to an opinion on the question of a future life, then that question itself can not be said to lie "outside the range of legitimate scientific discussion." If, on the other hand, the laws and analogies which science reveals do not bear upon this question, then it is vain to talk of our conclusions thereon being affected by the total mass of our opinions, upon matters falling within the domain of science. In other words, there either is or is not a bridge between such questions as science commonly deals with and this question of immortality. If there is, let us walk over it and possess the farther land; if there is not, let us recognize the fact, and not pretend that the laws of the physical region throw any light on questions lying beyond that region. An "opinion" on such a matter, moreover, is not worth entertaining unless we can hope for some verification of it; and we only cheat ourselves by framing "opinions" and trying to think that in some remote way they have the sanction and support of science. It might also, with some show of reason, be maintained that mere opinions on such a point are likely to do a great deal of harm, since they are apt to stand in the way of the following out of a consistent line of thought and conduct. A man who has merely an "opinion" is not bound by it one way or another. He may neglect the future life in the interest of the present, or the present in the alleged interest of the future, just as the inclination of the moment may lead him. The great works of the past were not wrought on the strength of an "opinion" in regard to this matter; nor will opinion lead to any great works in the present day. The work of the world in all ages has called for convictions, and it calls for them still. It is a somewhat singular thing that our author should have used the expression, "the total mass of our opinions on the questions which lie within the scope of scientific inquiry." The word "knowledge," I respectfully submit, was required in this place. It is our knowledge that can guide us to opinions, or, in other words, that can determine for us questions as to preponderance of evidence. An opinion that is based upon an opinion is too unsubstantial a thing to deserve any attention. The only advantage I can see in the use of the word "opinions" in the place indicated is, that it seems in a manner to help to bridge over the gap between the scientific and the non-scientific regions. The bridge, however, will not hold: it may be pretty to look at, but it has no firm anchorage.
As we have already seen, the Copernican theory destroyed the notion that man's abode, the earth, was the center of the universe. The very foundations of theology seemed at the time to have been shaken; but to-day "the speculative necessity for man's occupying the largest and most central spot in the universe is no longer felt." Upon this it may be observed that what disturbed our forefathers was not the conflict between the Copernican teaching and any speculative necessity of the period, but the conflict between that teaching and the plain declarations of the Scriptures. That was the trouble. Mr. Fiske tells us that the alarm was unnecessary—that the foundations of Christian theology have not really been shaken thereby. Possibly that is the best view to take of it, seeing that the matter can not be mended.
The reason why atheism is so abhorrent to us, why "we are wont to look upon it with unspeakable horror and loathing," is that "on its practical side it would remove humanity from its peculiar position in the world, and make it cast in its lot with the grass that withers and the beasts that perish." Can this statement, I ask, be soberly made by a man of science speaking in the name of science? In what sense does atheism—a form of belief with the truth or falsity of which we need not at present concern ourselves—remove humanity from any peculiar position distinctly, and on scientific grounds, shown to belong to it? The fact is, that if atheism went counter simply to any established tenet of science, it would excite not "unspeakable loathing and horror," but simply feelings of mingled amusement, pity, and contempt. There was unspeakable "horror and loathing" at Athens when it was found one morning that the statues of the god Hermes had been mutilated during the preceding night; but no such feelings had stood in the way of the order given a few years earlier for the massacre of the whole male population of the flourishing city of Mytilene, or (though that order was rescinded on grounds of policy) of the putting to death in cold blood of one thousand Mytilenian prisoners! It is an unfortunate circumstance that "horror and loathing" have too generally been bestowed not upon atrocious crimes against humanity, but upon alleged offenses against the higher powers—in reality, upon affronts offered to theological opinion or prejudice.
The "peculiar position" of humanity is what it is, and neither atheism nor any other "ism" can make it other than it is. It is for us to discover, as far as may be, what our position is, and calmly to abide by our conclusions in the matter as long as they continue to recommend themselves to our reason. If we find that certain contrary views inspire us with "unspeakable horror and loathing" instead of with a sense of error and a desire to remove the error, we shall do well to examine ourselves as to whether we really be in the faith, whether we are not trying to atone by "horror and loathing" for indeterminateness of conviction and a deficient sense of intellectual wholeness and integrity. Such tempestuous emotions are not generally of good omen.
We can dispense, we are told, with the idea that our earth is the great cosmical center, because science now re-establishes our dignity by showing that the sun is but our Titan-like servant. Can it truly be said that science reveals this? I doubt very much that science establishes a servant-like relation of the sun to the earth. Poetry may do it; theology may try it as a pis aller; but science, unless my ignorance on such subjects is even greater than I take it to be, tells us no more than that the sun and the earth are parts of one system, fragments of one original nebula in different stages of evolution; and that, while the sun nourishes life upon our planet, it leaves the moon an arid waste; that, while it scorches Mercury with unbearable heat and shrouds it in almost impenetrable splendor, it sends to Uranus and Neptune but faintest pulses of light and warmth, not sufficient for any maintenance of life. Looking at the general arrangement of the solar system and the general action of terrestrial forces, it seems but trifling to pretend that human life is in any sense an explanation of the scheme as a whole, or that man's interests have been studied in any especial manner. Such a statement may seem to border on that doctrine which, as our author tells us, justly excites "unspeakable horror and loathing"; but, with all respect, I venture to express the contrary opinion, that it is a doctrine calculated to have a better moral effect than the one he labors to support. It is a doctrine which, while it tends to abate human egotism, tends also to increase our sense of responsibility. If our life is the grand culmination of creation, and if the creative power has special designs concerning us, our destinies are largely, if not wholly, taken out of our own hands. We become at once "a royal priesthood. a peculiar people." Nothing henceforth is too good for us, no "waiting upon Providence" unjustifiable. If, on the other hand, we have no guarantee that we are in any special sense the nurslings of Heaven, then it rests with us to make the best of whatever endowments we find ourselves actually possessing. We dismiss conceit from our minds, and apply ourselves simply to know what is, in order that we may be able to exert the widest and most potent influence possible on our environment.
In further illustration of the superior dignity of our planet, it is observed that "that divine spark, the soul, as it takes up its brief abode in this realm of fleeting phenomena, chooses not the central sun where elemental forces forever blaze and clash, but selects an outlying terrestrial nook," etc. Admitting that the soul had a free choice in the matter, we must credit it with a good deal of sense in not betaking itself to a globe in which it could never by any possibility have found a body. But again, I ask, is this the voice of Science? No; it is the voice of the non-scientific and theological Mr. Fiske, who has undertaken to edit, much to the latter's hurt, the scientific Mr. Fiske. I really do not believe that the scientific Mr. Fiske knows anything about any exercise of choice by the soul as to what sphere it should inhabit. The latter simply knows that, under certain terrestrial conditions, what we commonly call "soul" manifests itself — no more.
A fine sentiment is uttered in the following passage: "To pursue unflinchingly the methods of science requires dauntless courage and a faith that nothing can shake. Such courage and such loyalty to Nature brings its own reward." Then what is the "own reward" of such admirable conduct? It is that we are enabled to see distinctly "for the first time how the creating and perfecting of man is the goal toward which Nature's work has all the while been tending." Here I must enter a respectful protest. I can not conceive that any special conclusion whatever, however edifying or comfortable, can be correctly spoken of as the natural (for that is the force here of "own") reward of loyalty to truth. If loyalty to truth brings its own reward, that reward can only consist in a confirmed habit of intellectual sincerity, and whatever of other moral excellence springs from such loyalty. Surely the strict scientific stand-point which our author promised to maintain has been badly deserted, when we are told that, if we are only loyal to truth, all our conclusions will come out in the most satisfactory shape. "Be loyal to truth," I should prefer to say, "and your reward will be that you will discover the truth in larger measure than you would otherwise do, and will have the signal advantage of being able to adapt your life to the truth instead of to fiction." That, in connection with strengthened moral character, seems to me to be the appropriate reward of loyalty to the truth, not the confirmation of any cherished theories. "The Darwinian theory," we are told, "makes it (human life) seem more than ever the chief object of that creative activity which is manifested in the physical universe." But really from the scientific stand-point we are not much concerned with what things can be made to seem; we are concerned with what they can be proved to be. Opinion can not take the place of knowledge, nor yet of belief; and, in regard to all such questions, only knowledge and belief are of any avail. Prove to us that such and such things are so: well and good—our minds yield to evidence. Persuade us that they have been supernaturally revealed: well and good also— our minds take the desired set. But give us only probable opinions, the product of a kind of pseudo-scientific casuistry, and you do nothing for us at all, except perhaps diminish in some degree our sense for truth and reality.
The word "seem," above emphasized, may be said to furnish the key-note of the whole of what may be called the apologetic element in the work before us. The first Mr. Fiske tells us what things are, and how they have come to be what they are. The second tells us what they seem like to those who wish to think that the foundations of Christian theology have not been disturbed either by the Copernican astronomy or the Darwinian theory of the origin of species. The weakness of this kind of thing is that it may be worked in any direction and in any interest. Say what you want things to seem like, and they can easily be made to assume the desired complexion. Take an example. After animals have been devouring one another and starving one another out of existence for long ages, there appears an animal who assumes a predominance which he never afterward loses, and who goes on increasing his power and improving his position from century to century. Well, if one wishes to believe that the object toward which all this inter-mastication and inter-starvation of the myriad tribes of earth and air and sky was tending was the production of man, himself for long ages one of the most hideous of animals, there is no obstacle in the way except the complete lack of evidence in a positive sense plus the fact that the inter-mastication and inter-starvation are still going on now that man has come. If any one chooses to describe natural selection as a "simple and wasteful process," and then to say that it is "a slow and subtile" one, there is no obstacle in the way except the contrast which common sense establishes between simplicity and subtilty. If any one chooses to say that "the whole creation has been groaning and travailing together in order to bring forth that last consummate specimen of God's handiwork, the human soul," let him; for the phrase, if not scientific, is at least apostolic. Under the régime of "seems," a great deal can be done that is quite impossible under the unaccommodating rule of "is."
Take, for a moment, this expression of the creation "groaning and travailing together." What idea does it convey to which science gives the faintest confirmation? So far as we have any acquaintance with the facts, they are better expressed by the Lucretian idea of endless combinations in endless series. There was groaning enough to be sure, by the way, but who can tell us, as a sober fact, that this groaning was an expression of Nature's effort to produce man, or that Nature is capable of any " effort," as we understand the word? Let us not mix up our poetry with our science. If we wish to think of Nature as groaning and travailing, we are at liberty to do so; but let us remember that in indulging such a conception we are poetizing, not adhering to scientific facts. " We are not dealing," says our author, " with vague general notions of development, but with the scientific Darwinian theory." All right, belay! Keep the sails just in that trim, and we shall get to some port of scientific truth, provided always the strict Darwinian theory is itself based on truth. As far as I am aware, Darwin himself had not caught sight, up to the time of his death, of any groaning and travailing of Nature over the work of producing the human soul.
There are a great many phrases and suggestions throughout the volume before us, besides those already noted, which might be quoted as showing the intention of the writer to make a kind of' Darwinian philosophy à l'usage des families. My space, however, is so nearly exhausted that I must pass over all but one of these. On page 117 we read that "the greatest philosopher of modern times, the master and teacher of all who shall study the process of evolution for many a day to come, holds that the conscious soul is not the product of a collocation of material particles, but is, in the deepest sense, a divine effluence." This I do not hesitate to say is a misrepresentation, involuntary, no doubt, of Mr, Spencer's position. If there is any meaning in language, it makes Mr. Spencer ascribe a special divinity to mind. Mr. Spencer, however, does nothing of the kind; he holds that there is one unknowable, unconditioned being, and that this manifests itself in the two conditioned forms of mind and matter. The material particles, therefore, can claim, according to his system of thought, just as much divinity of origin as the mind or soul itself. The word "divine," moreover, is not a word to the use of which Mr. Spencer is prone, and I could not readily turn to any passage in which he employs it to express any idea of his own. He speaks in his recent articles of " an Infinite and Eternal Energy "; but of the mind, in particular, as " a divine effluence," he does not speak. To say, therefore, so positively that Mr. Spencer regards the mind as " in the deepest sense a divine effluence," and that in distinction to the body, is not fair, to say the least, to the distinguished philosopher to the exposition of whose views Mr. Fiske has devoted his own most serious labors.
The conclusion of the whole matter appears to be this, that there is nothing to be gained by trying to read old theology into new science. It may be, as Mr, Fiske affirms, that the foundations of Christian theology have not been shaken—no one needs to be dogmatic on that point—but, as theology is a matter of revelation and science a matter of observation, it is well to keep the two as separate as possible. The method of science is a gradual method: little by little, we widen the circle of our knowledge; little by little, we improve our hypotheses. Theology makes from the first the most comprehensive statements, and offers solutions of the profoundest problems. To apply, therefore, the dicta or the general conceptions of theology to the province of science is to run much risk of injuring the work of science by the forcing of premature conclusions; admitting that theology has nothing to teach that is positively erroneous. That loyalty to truth so fittingly referred to by our author requires us to content ourselves with such conclusions as we can reach by lawful and appropriate methods. If we see a law of natural selection at work, let us try to get as clear an understanding as possible of the manner of its working; but let us be very careful how we personify it, and how we impute to our personification feelings and purposes which correspond with nothing in the facts as we know them. Nothing could be more opposed to the human idea of "work" than the process of natural selection as described by our author himself, yet he constantly speaks of the "work" of natural selection. He tells us that "in the desperate struggle for existence no peculiarity has been too insignificant for natural selection to seize and enhance"; just as if natural selection were some vigilant intelligence watching for opportunities to advance its designs. The same fact which is thus expressed in, as I think, misleadingly metaphorical language could have been expressed in honest prose by saying that "in the desperate struggle for existence no peculiarity was too insignificant to contribute to survival or destruction as the case might be." There we have the fact without any illegitimate implications; and it is thus, as it strikes me, that scientific facts should be described. Species were formed, if the theory of natural selection is sound, in very much the same way in which the corners are ground off bowlders carried down by glaciers or swept away by torrents. Whatever projections happen to be in the way are knocked off; finally, the stone is reduced to a shape in which it is comparatively safe from further injury by friction. So with species. Darwin has discovered no law in nature by which good qualities (as such) are produced; he has simply discovered a law by which all kinds of qualities (differentiations), good, bad, and indifferent, are produced, and by which the bad ones (bad, i. e., in relation to the environment) are knocked off, like so many projecting angles, by the destruction of the individuals manifesting them. Mr. Fiske tells us that, for a Ions: time past, so far as man is concerned, natural selection has been unable by itself to "rectify any particular unfitness." It never could rectify unfitness at any time; as Mr. Fiske tells us, on the very next page, "it always works by death." We might compare it to a physician who went about "rectifying" diseases by cutting the throats of his patients. Such drastic surgery might doubtless improve the average health of the community, but the process could scarcely be called curative or rectifying.
If, therefore, we believe in natural selection, let us believe in it as it is, and be content to speak of it as it is. Let us not make a god of what is, in its essence, the very negation of intelligent action. In regard to the doctrine of immortality, there is little need for alarm, so far as the teachings of science are concerned. Science does not attack it; and if the theological grounds on which it has been received hold good, then the doctrine holds good. Let us have our own teleology if we will, only let us not mix it up with our science, seeing that it can only embarrass the growth of the latter. All will be well if we keep everything in its own place, observing proper metes and bounds.
- Compare Maudsley's theory of an all-pervading mentiferous ether, "Body and Will," p. 101.