Page:Garden Cities.djvu/15

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6
GARDEN CITIES

obligation to further development is a heavy one. The ignorance of the past has loaded us with more than our share of difficulty, in providing for the intelligent life of the present. We have much leeway to make up before we are even at the starting point for further progress, for we must always remember that degeneration is as much a law of nature as evolution. The complacent conviction that Nature can be relied upon to set right the results of our own ignorance and folly rests on a fundamental error. We have to find the right conditions of social life and establish them, or take the consequences, and the penalty of failure is extinction. We may retard the execution of nature's sentence, but we cannot avert it.

If then I have carried you with me to the present point, you will have realised why it is that we can no longer with easy consciences maintain the same attitude towards social questions as our forefathers did. Natural law will lend itself as readily to the fulfilment of its purpose, the gradual perfection of the human race, as to the exaction of the penalties which follow in the train of the misapprehension and misuse of it, and from this point of view the study of Sociology becomes not only important but obligatory. Man being essentially social in his requirements it is only through the scientific adjustment of the conditions of the society in which he lives that you can act upon or modify him in the mass. It is at this point that the analogy between human societies and living organisms so often insisted upon breaks down. If Society were a true organism the degradation or destruction of individuals comprised in it would be of small importance so long as the State was thereby advantaged. But man is in truth of infinitely greater importance than the form of the society in which he lives. The one is divine, the work of the Creator, the other a mere device of the creature for his own benefit.