Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 26, 1915.djvu/25

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15
Presidential Address.

tropical jungles, deserts, hill-country, islands, polar regions, and, generally, in isolated and unattractive portions of the globe, where stagnation or positive degeneration must inevitably obtain in default of the bracing effects of the struggle for existence. It does not follow in the least, because a tribe has persisted through the ages, that it has likewise been growing and improving through the ages. There are many modes of survival, and not all are equally creditable.

"Nam quaecumque vides vesci vitalibus auris,
Aid dolus aut virtus aut denique mobilitas est
Ex ineunte aevo genus id tutata reservans."[1]

Mobility, indeed, in the sense of the power of beating a wise retreat in time is largely responsible for the continuance of the milder varieties of man. An element of sheer luck, too, may well enter in, more especially when survival depends on merely lying low. As the Preacher says, "I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."[2] Nay, insignificance itself may confer a vital advantage. When adaptation takes the direction of greater simplicity of organization, as is seen, for example, in the typical parasite, we term the process one of degeneration. The simple reason is, however, that we who promulgate this judgment of value are ourselves committed to a policy of progress; such progress being definable in technical language as an elaboration of society involving at once an ever fuller differentiation of the component units and an ever closer integration of the group as a whole.[3] Nevertheless, if we put aside questions of value, and look in a scientific spirit at the bare facts of life, we

  1. Lucretius, v. 857.
  2. Ecclesiastes, ix. 11.
  3. Cf. G. Lloyd Morgan, Animal Life and Intelligence, 241.