Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/38

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I believe, are only lingering superstitions that will probably pass away in another half century, and we shall hear nothing more of them; the fact being that the tendency to these delusions is being gradually grown out of.

Now, this is the point I would especially dwell upon. To the child-mind nothing is too strange to be believed. The young child knows nothing about the Laws of Nature; it knows no difference between what is conformable to principles, and what, on the other hand, is so strange that an educated man cannot believe it. To the child every new thing that it sees is equally strange; there is none of that power of discrimination that we acquire in the course of our education—the education given to us, and the education that we give ourselves. We gradually, in rising to adult years, grow out of this incapacity to distinguish what is strange from what is normal or ordinary. We gradually come to feel—"Well, I can readily believe that, because it fits in with my general habit of thought; I do not see any thing strange in this, although it is a little unusual." But, on the other hand, there are certain things we feel to be too strange and absurd to be believed; and that feeling we come to especially, when we have endeavored to cultivate our Common-Sense in the manner which I described to you in my last lecture. The higher our common-sense—that is, the general resultant of the whole character and discipline of our minds—the more valuable is the direct judgment that we form by the use of it. And it is the growth of that common-sense, which is the most remarkable feature in the progress of thought during the last century. The discoveries of science; the greater tendency to take rational and sober views of religion; the general habit of referring things to principles; and a number of influences which I cannot stop particularly to describe, have so operated on the public mind, that every generation is raised, I believe, not merely by its own culture, but by the acquired result of the experience of past ages; for I believe that every generation is born, I will not say wiser, but with a greater tendency to wisdom. I feel perfectly satisfied of this, that the child of an educated stock has a much greater power of acquiring knowledge than the child of an uneducated stock; that the child that is the descendant of a race in which high moral ideas have been always kept before the mind, has a much greater tendency to act uprightly than the child that has grown up from a breed that has been living in the gutter for generations past. I do not say that these activities are born with us, but the tendency to them—that is, the aptitude of mind for the acquirement of knowledge, the facility of learning, the disposition to act upon right principles—I believe is, to a very great degree, hereditary. Of course we have lamentable examples to the contrary, but I am speaking of the general average. I am old enough now to look back with some capacity of observation for forty years, and I can see in the progress of society a most marked evidence of the higher general intelligence, the