Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/341

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329
EVOLUTION IN PROFESSOR HUXLEY.

very heart of goodness"; the explicit denial that evolution can teach us why good is to be preferred to evil, and the representation of the ethical combating the cosmic process—mean no more than that a difference has been established essentially similar to that which exists between social and solitary caterpillars.

I am confident that in my interpretation I can only be doing the right honorable professor justice, for who out of Bedlam would call the gregarious mode of growth of a patch of mercury grass an ethical process? We might just as truly attribute "calculation" to crystals, and "amorousness" to oxygen.

Of course, evolution will cause a social organism so to grow or so to act as not to destroy itself. To do this is one thing, to see that it is its duty so to act is quite another.

Prof. Huxley informs us[1] that to his knowledge no one

professes to doubt that, so far as we possess a power of bettering things, it is our paramount duty to use it and to train all our intellect and energy to the service of our kind.

But it is questionable whether some pessimists would not only doubt, but even deny, this assertion; and it is only too plain that, without professing to doubt it, multitudes of men and women by their actions practically deny it. Prof. Huxley's assertion is an uncompromising "categorical imperative," and, of course, will receive the support of absolute morality; but whence does he derive such an ethical ideal? Man did not voluntarily and consciously invent it. It was in him, but not of him. To this it may be replied that only developed man has such perceptions, and that the thoughtless brains of a savage are devoid of all ethical intuitions, while every one must admit that the infant gives no evidence of their presence. But to say that because the infant does not manifest them it does not possess them, would be as reasonable as to say that because a field shows no sprouting corn there can be no corn beneath its surface! As to savages, I have elsewhere[2] stated my reason for believing they have essentially the same nature that we have ourselves. If I were wrong in this, I should not regard them as men. I should not care if it could be proved that intellect and ethical perception did not anywhere exist a hundred years ago. I know that they exist now, and I know that a being who possesses them is, and must be, of an absolutely different nature from one who does not. As a fact, I think few will dispute that most infants which live to adult age and many savages who come in close contact with Europeans clearly demonstrate that their "nature" was rational, however tardy and impeded may have been their manifestation of rationality.


  1. [December Monthly, p. 187.]
  2. See On Truth (Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.), chapter xix, pp. 282-294.