Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 75.djvu/79

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75
SOCIAL EVOLUTION

DARWINISM IN THE THEORY OF SOCIAL EVOLUTION[1]
By FRANKLIN H. GIDDINGS, LL.D.

REVOLUTIONIZING as the life work of Charles Darwin was in the fields of biology and psychology, one may doubt if his writings disturbed the intellectual peace anywhere more profoundly than in the "Sweet Jerusalem" of pre-Darwinian social philosophy. Borrowing a shocking thought from the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus, Mr. Darwin, in due course of time, gave it back to Malthusians and Godwinites, to Ricardians and Ruskinites, to Benthamites and Owenites, with a new and terrific voltage.

Nine years before "The Origin of Species" was published, Herbert Spencer, in the concluding chapters of "Social Statics," had offered an explanation of society in terms of a progressive human nature, adapting itself to changing conditions of life. These chapters are the germ of that inclusive conception and theory of evolution which were elaborated in the ten volumes of the "Synthetic Philosophy." Five years later, or four years before "The Origin of Species" saw the light, Mr. Spencer, in the first edition of his "Principles of Psychology," set forth an original interpretation of life, including mental and social life, as a correspondence of internal relations to external relations, initiated and directed by the external relations. Finally, in April, 1857, Mr. Spencer published, in The Westminster Review, his epoch-marking paper on "Progress: Its Law and Cause," in which his famous law of evolution was partially formulated, and evolution was declared to be the process of the universe and of all that it contains.

Mr. Spencer thus had seen evolution in its whole extent, as adaptation and differentiation. He had not yet mentally grasped the universal redistribution of energy and matter, wherein every finite aggregate of material units, radiating energy into surrounding space, or absorbing energy therefrom, draws itself together in order-making, coherence, or distributes itself abroad in riotous disintegration. That universal equilibration, which in fact is the beginning and the end of evolution, was the aspect of the world which in thought Mr. Spencer arrived at last of all.

It is not given to any one human intellect to discover all truth, and there is more in evolution than even Mr. Spencer perceived, either at the beginning of his great work, or in the fulness of his powers. Intent upon the broader aspects of cosmic transformation, his mind did not

  1. A lecture in the course on "Charles Darwin and his Influence on Science," delivered at Columbia University, April 16, 1909.