Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/314

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.



of a century would be replaced—that is about all. During the few moments while the body was passing through the sun's atmosphere, there might be, and probably would be, phenomena of great interest and beauty to those who were on the watch; but it is very doubtful whether people generally would know anything about the occurrence until they read of it in the papers.



THE questions relating to public relief, population, and natural selection are so inseparable that, in our age, thought has been logically conducted from one to another of them, and has been led to important discoveries. It was the problem of public relief, and the observation of the effects produced by the poor-rates, that inspired Malthus to compose his "Law of Population"; it was the law of population, in turn, that led Darwin to the discovery, first, of the law of the "struggle for existence," and afterward of that of "natural selection." We may say, then (and the fact is worthy of remark), that it was a social and economical problem that provoked one of the greatest revolutions in natural history. Even before Darwin, Mr. Spencer, by studying in his "Social Statics" the influence of philanthropy on the movement of population, upon the artificial multiplication of the feeble in body or mind, and upon the deterioration of the race, had shown how vital competition might produce, by means of selection and elimination, sometimes progress, sometimes decadence, of a species. He thus anticipated Darwin; but he did not perceive, as Darwin did, the capital fact of the divergence from the primitive type which results from natural selection among living beings, and produces the final variation of species. Nevertheless, natural science and social science have shown an intimate connection in this respect, which exists no less in all the other problems. Thus, we are not able from this point to separate these two sciences. To reduce sociology to the category of moral, economical, and political sciences is to condemn it to remain an abstraction, and to treat its problems incompletely by ignoring essential data; the legist, the economist, and the politician, who take no account of the laws of biology, are like a doctor who is not acquainted with the structure or the functions of the organs, or, to use Mr. Spencer's comparison, resemble a blacksmith who would work in iron without knowing anything of its properties. We must, therefore, approve of labors which, like those of Messrs. Spen-

  1. Translated for "The Popular Science Monthly," from the "Revue des Deux Mondes."