Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/436

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
420
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
BRAIN-WORK AND THE EMOTIONS.

AMONG the legitimate solaces of the toils of the modern biologist, there should certainly be reckoned the grim delight which he were less than human if he did not feel in terrifying Mrs. Grundy. Merely to hear a Huxley or a Spencer shout "Boh!" to a flock of the terrified orthodox is amusing, but to the man himself who makes it the fun must be even perilously fascinating. Doubtless, there is some danger of carrying the joke too far. One has heard of a philosopher, who, when courteously asked by a company of the most intelligent of the London clergy to explain some of the principal points of conflict between scientific data and conventional religious theory, began his speech by bluntly telling his audience that he was going to relate important facts, but that his hearers were such unimportant people that he did not care a button whether they believed the facts or not. Such rudeness gives even more pain to the truly scientific mind than it inflicts upon the immediate sufferers.

However, there really is legitimate amusement to be had, and even much good to be done, by the biologist, in shocking the theoretical prejudices of the metaphysicians. The irony of Von Hutten, and the delicate wit of Erasmus, when exposing the intellectual contemptibility of the opponents of the Reformation, were not more truly helpful to the progress of humanity, than are the assaults of those physiologists and physicists who are even now smashing the crockeryware of the metaphysicians and kicking the fragments about with a fury that one can easily see is partly fun. As for that large section of the clergy who persist in looking at the phenomena of mind only through the spectacles of Hamilton and Mansel, there really is no way of dealing with them at all except that of pelting them with incessant ridicule. It is inexpressibly comical, and yet provoking, to hear them keep chattering about the tendency of modern biology to degrade our ideas respecting mind; for one has only to look back some fifty or sixty years to remember the days when mind was considered exclusively the domain of theologians and metaphysicians, and mental diseases were treated according to "high priori" notions instead of medical science. One would think that the cruel and shameful failure of that old system, and the striking benefits that at once accrued to the mentally afflicted when physicians boldly declared that the mind could only be successfully treated by treating the brain—one would think that these and many other similar things would have taught the metaphysicians modesty; but such is not the case. It was but four years since that the Archbishop of York delivered himself of a most presumptuous and densely ignorant attack on modern biological speculation, and was promptly castigated by Dr. Maudsley. To this day,