Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/569

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any one even moderately acquainted with the course of modern thought can hardly fail to know that these things are so; and it is difficult to understand how a writer vouched for by the Times as a person of very superior acquirements could have managed to remain ignorant of them. Possibly he is one of those "specialists" whose information is so very special that virtually they may be said to go about with blinkers over their eyes that shut out all side views. But in that case the man who wears the blinkers should not constitute himself a judge of what he does not and can not see.

Another objection which our critic raised was that the laws of evolution embodied in Mr. Spencer's system had never served as the basis for prediction, and so far lacked full confirmation. This criticism was singularly pointless. Prediction, in the sense understood in the sciences say of astronomy and chemistry, is not to be expected in connection with a general system of philosophy—the aim of which is to correlate diverse phenomena under a few very general laws. In another sense Mr. Spencer's system does lend itself to prediction, inasmuch as it has traced for us the laws of development of the individual mind and of society, and so far enabled us to anticipate what would fall under our observation in newly discovered societies—could there be such—given one or two leading facts as to their environment and the stage of civilization they had reached. We credit the science of geology with a power of prediction when the geologist in an Old Red-sandstone country is able to say positively that there is no use in prospecting there for coal. Why not allow the evolutionist equal credit if he is able to say beforehand of a given community that the mathematical faculty will be found to be very feebly developed in it, but that the poetic may be found to have made some advance; or if, taking two widely separated stages of a nation's history, he is able in a general way to fill in the intervening course of events, very much as Mendeleef describes a certain set of elements yet to be discovered?

When Mr. Spencer says, "With the repression of militant activities and decay of militant organizations will come amelioration of political institutions as of all other institutions," he makes a prediction founded on the general principles of his system—a prediction in which many who take their ideas from poetry and romance might not be disposed to concur. It remains to be seen whether the evolutionist is right, or whether those are right who hold that without war the higher civic and personal virtues would decline and wither. The difference between the two opinions is that the one is founded on a long course of study, and is correlated with a multitude of established facts; while the other is rather a matter of sentiment than of reasoned conviction.

We do not intend, however, to pursue further a controversy which was carried on to considerable length in the columns of the Times, and which developed so much of sympathy with, and so little of decided opposition to, Spencer as to cause the editor of that paper to exclaim, "Where are the foes of Spencer?" and to express his surprise at the backwardness of certain persons, who are supposed to regard the doctrine of evolution as false and dangerous in the extreme, in availing themselves of the opportunity of stating and defending their convictions. It remains but to say that the value of the synthetic philosophy is not bound up with the accuracy of every scientific or historical statement its author may have made, nor yet with the absolute solidity of his metaphysics. It is a great colligation of the laws of life and development. It teaches us to understand the world and human society, and gives to every one who studies it a superior power of discernment in many fields of observation. The evolutionist can predict in this sense