Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/428

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several of these birds should be fastened to the same perch or placed in the same cage they will certainly fight each other, and in all probability the conqueror will eat his vanquished foe! Such an event has actually occurred, the victrix—for it was a female—killing and devouring her intended spouse." A naturalist, writing in the "Field" newspaper, gives a very interesting account of the proceedings of "this handsome little hawk," showing it to be a most vicious wretch, and thus sums up its character: "The sparrow-hawk is, in my opinion, the wildest, in some sense the most intractable, the most ungrateful, the most provoking and temper-trying of all birds or beasts that ever were taken under the care of man from the beginning of the world."

"Now," Dr. Coues might say to Mr. Bergh, "if it be true, as Professor Agassiz always maintained, that animals are but embodiments of Divine ideas, we must consider this hawk, with its destructive weapons and murderous instincts, as representing the Divine conception of the sort of discipline to which sparrows should be subjected. It is divinely designed that their numbers should be kept down, so that other birds may have a chance. You thwart the Divine intention by artificially fostering them, and bringing about an unnatural state of things that is injurious. I would leave them to the Creator's universal and fundamental law of natural selection, which is a safer guide than blind, impulsive philanthropy, and I merely included street boys, with hawks, parasites, and a thousand other destructive agencies as the means of preserving the great balance among the orders of life."

The difficulty with Mr. Bergh is, that he puts behind his philanthropy, and as an impelling motive to it, an erroneous view of nature. The doctrine of Divine designs is a dangerous one to handle, because it cuts both ways, and proves too much. If the beneficent indications in nature are to be accounted for on the hypothesis of "intentions," so must the maleficent indications, and how are we to escape from the conclusion that cruelty also is designed? If we should say that the world was constructed and is administered on the principle of the "prevention of cruelty to animals," would it be quite true? Are not the means and appliances of destructive cruelty universal, and, if "intended" at all, were they not intended for their cruel uses? It would require an extensive museum to show us all the exquisite contrivances with which living creatures have been furnished to torment and kill each other. They were not made each with a gland to secrete chloroform that might be used in producing painless death. But, in place of any such kindly contrivance, there are claws, talons, beaks, tusks, fangs, hooks, saws, blades, stings, and malignant poisons in infinite variety of modification and adaptation for crushing, rending, tearing, lacerating, and torturing living and sensitive creatures; and these grim implements are furnished to all the grades of animate beings on the earth, in the sea, and in the air, from microscopic infusoria to colossal beasts that range the forests. Nor is this all: the creatures that are armed with these weapons of destruction are animated by the deadliest instincts to use them; in fact, they are driven to it by the very law of self-preservation. "Kill, that you may live," is the mandate of universal necessity.

But the roots of all this pitiless carnage strike still deeper into the method of nature. Life is wasted through these sanguinary devices with an infinite prodigality. Sensitive organisms to be sacrificed by suffering seem to be the cheapest things in the universe. The amount of inanimate matter is limited; but creatures formed out of it, and capable of pain, are boundlessly unlimited. Space restricts the material, but living organisms are multiplied for-