Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/140

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which he does at length and with much vigor, our author shows that he can not or will not understand the ethics which the scientists are developing. He says: "As to morality, the religion of humanity seemed extremely untrustworthy; for the removal of all personal responsibility, and the certainty of complete annihilation after death, seemed to give the strong-minded and clever people the strongest possible inducement to make their fellow-beings tools for their own happiness." Going on, he draws a dreadful picture of the effect which the ethics of the scientists has produced upon ordinary mortals who, "caring little for what would happen to the next generation, or still less to generations thousands of years hence," have lived for self-gratification. He returns to this subject in a later chapter and instances "the case of a poor laborer who, in the usual course, will work and suffer during his whole life and die in poverty. To escape such a destiny," says our author, "many roads are open to him if he have courage, exceptional ability, and no belief in a hereafter. . . . He might even avoid violent and vulgar crimes and operate in a safer manner. He might blackmail a rich man. . . . He might turn first a usurer, then a financier. He might keep a degrading public house or a gigantic immoral place of amusement. He might issue a debasing newspaper, write corrupting books and dramatic pieces." A careful revision of his manuscript or a sense of humor, such as he denies to Max Nordau, ought to have shown our author that he has here created an impossible character. A "poor laborer" with the "courage" and "exceptional ability" to do any one of these things, would not "in the usual course work and suffer during his whole life and die in poverty" He could secure ease and a competency in many an entirely moral calling.

We feel well enough acquainted with the ethics of the scientists which our author denounces to say that one of its cardinal principles is the inevitable sequence of cause and effect. From this law it follows that no one can do evil without evil being returned. Circumstances may postpone the effects of his acts until after his death, but he can never count on this, and every one sees cases in which the reaction is swift and terrible. Even if he were sure that the consequences of his evil deeds would be borne mainly or wholly by the next generation, there would still be a restraining influence upon him. How can a more agonizing punishment be inflicted upon a mother than through her children, Or a stronger appeal be addressed to her than one for their welfare? And it is a question whether the love of a father for his offspring is not as strong as that of a mother, even if less intense. But aside from ties of blood we do care for those who are to survive or come after us. The conduct and labors of many a person have been avowedly governed by the desire that men should speak well of him after his death. Countless lives have been heroically sacrificed through devotion to fellow-creatures or native land, perhaps mingled with a wild delight in conquering obstacles, but without thought of reward hereafter.

The central idea of the ethics of the scientists, as we understand it, is conformity to the order of the universe. Any one who violates this order in his relations to his fellowmen is just as sure of provoking a punitive reaction as when he comes in conflict with the law of gravitation. This truth would be more evident if scientific ethics were more generally taken as a guide. The