Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/December 1889/Editor's Table

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

 
EVERY-DAY SCIENCE.

IF, on the one hand, we have frequent cause for astonishment at the rapidity with which modern life is being transformed under the influence of scientific invention and discovery, we are, on the other, sometimes compelled to wonder at the extreme slowness with which certain useful and entirely practicable reforms, plainly indicated by acknowledged scientific principles, are adopted by the public. There is a law in these matters which has perhaps never been very clearly formulated, but which it would certainly be desirable to understand. The telephone makes its way everywhere without pause or check, and the same is true of electric lighting and traction; while scientific cookery, though its general principles may be said to be fully established, lags painfully behind. That the latter is a matter of the utmost importance, economically and hygienically considered, needs no laborious demonstration; yet how to interest the public in it seems to be a most difficult problem. People who go wild over the New Jerusalem of "Looking Backward" listen with cold indifference when it is explained to them how they can introduce here and now a most important amelioration in their own lives by economizing at once their worldly substance and the wear and tear of their physical organs. The fact that the reform in question would be particularly beneficial to the so-called "working classes" fails to commend it to those who want a revolution or nothing. It is probably the case that men in general are more interested in spending than in saving, just as they have more admiration to bestow on a great warrior than on a great philanthropist; and that, consequently, inventions that represent and call for expenditure are more attractive than those which simply promote economy. More than one modern "improvement," we doubt not, has been adopted by many, as much from the pleasure of spending and—perhaps a more potent consideration still—of appearing to be able to spend the money required to procure it, as from a sense of its utility.

However this may be, and whatever the law may be which regulates public interest in the practical applications of science, there can be no doubt that reform in culinary operations is deserving of far more attention than it has hitherto received. As we showed last month, it deals with a prime—may we not say the prime? necessity of human life. It undertakes to substitute for a wasteful and hurtful empiricism in diet a scientific, economical, and wholesome method of preparing food for consumption. It shows us how we may save our pockets, how we may save our tissues, how we may lengthen our lives, and how we may increase our enjoyments. It promises to improve our tempers by decreasing the internal friction of our physical systems; and, of course, decrease of internal friction means increase in our efficiency for all good purposes. Unlike some reforms that exist only on paper, and that attract sentimental people for the very reason that they are never likely to have more than a paper basis, this particular reform has been tried and realized. Its results are known and can be exhibited at any moment. What is now required is that people should be persuaded that the thing is worth doing, and should be roused to shake off that lazy love of established routine which alone stands in the way of their doing it. The ordinary cooking-stove has so long been a kind of domestic Joss that its worship is hard to overthrow. That it is not a purely beneficent divinity many a sweltering attendant and many a dyspeptic partaker at the altar are prepared to attest; but pure beneficence, as every one knows, is not a quality that votaries always exact of their deities. Thus, just as long ago, at Ephesus, there were shrine-makers who stoutly withstood the new-fangled ideas broached by Paul, so to-day there are shrine-makers i. e., stove-makers who can not be expected to take very kindly to the ideas of our modern apostles of scientific cookery. We can not blame them if they are not in a hurry to break their molds and send their castings to the junk-shop; but, all the same, a reform so deeply founded in common sense must come in time, and it would be well to prepare for its coming by gradually approximating to the type of cooking apparatus required.

It is not in the matter of cookery alone that science is prepared to lend a helping hand in every-day life. There are a hundred reforms remaining to be accomplished, each one of which would do something to make our lives more worthy of rational beings. The most important and beneficent ones are those that can only be wrought by the earnest co-operation of each individual. "What we have to do is to see that a duty lies in making the most of our knowledge; and it can nowhere be caused to yield a larger return than in its application to those ordinary affairs of life with which all are concerned.

 

 
A COMPARISON IN RACIAL DEVELOPMENTS.

Colonel Garriok Mallery's address on "Israelite and Indian," which is concluded in this number of the "Monthly," presents an unusually lucid and interesting study in comparative civilization and religion. The author's purpose in selecting these two particular peoples for comparison is, as he declares in the beginning, not because

there is any special resemblance between them more than between any two other peoples at corresponding stages of civilization, but because they offer convenient types illustrative of a general principle. We are familiar with both with the Israelites, through the universal habitual study of the Bible; and with the Indians, by virtue of our historical intercourse with them; and the illustrative incidents do not have to be explained, as they would be in the case of any other two peoples that might have been selected. The principle, which has been reached by anthropologists and students of religion generally, and is admitted by many eminent theologians that religion is a thing of growth, and subject to continual development and refinement, and keeping pace with the advance of each nation in civilization and knowledge is well set forth in the examples cited. The article bears the marks throughout that the author has studied the subject carefully and to the bottom. On the Israelite side he displays a critical knowledge of the Bible and the environment within which it was composed; besides which, he has brought to bear upon his argument the results of the investigations of that band of eminent scholars whose conclusions, under the name of the "higher criticism," have deeply moved the theological world. On the Indian side, he is at home in his own special field of research. Taking the two peoples at those periods in their history when they had reached nearly equivalent stages in civilization, he holds up the parallelisms in their religious opinions, particularly their ideas of God and a future state, their myths and their social usages, which, he assumes, were not peculiar to them, but could be found also among other bodies of people in the same stages of culture. That similar parallelisms are to be found among other nations of like civilization is a fact familiar to students of Oriental archæology.

The weight of interest will center upon Colonel Mallery's demonstration that the Israelites, at the period under examination, were polytheists. The interest is heightened by the appearance, in the "Jewish Quarterly Review" (London) for October, 1889, of a learned and exhaustive article by the Rev. Prof. A. H. Sayce, under the title "Polytheism in Primitive Israel," which comes to the same conclusion. Most of the points mentioned by Colonel Mallery in this regard are also brought out by Prof. Sayce, of course independently and with much greater elaboration. Some of his more striking passages may be quoted. He speaks of "the Israelites who first ventured to use the plural Elohim of their national God," and adds: "The fact that the Israelites never forgot that it [Elohim] was a plural term, that up to the last they often employed it in a plural sense, proves that the earliest users of it were worshipers of many deities. . . . We may gather from the history of Micah, in Judges xviii, that the worship of the teraphim was the necessary accompaniment of the tribal worship of Yahveh, as represented by a 'carved image,' and in the case of the tribe of Dan, at all events, it lasted 'until the day of the captivity.' . . . Yahveh was not yet conceived of as the sole god. ... It was in Judah that the older cult first died out of the popular belief. After the division of the kingdom, Judah with its central capital at Jerusalem formed a compact and organized community, in which the earlier tribal distinctions which had marked it off from Simeon, or Dan and Benjamin, were soon obliterated. The dynasty of David welded the community together, and the Temple of Solomon became more and more the center of the common faith. The worship that was carried on in it, the belief of which it was the outward expression, the religious teaching and influence which emanated from it, gradually affected the ideas and convictions of the Jewish people. A time came at length when Josiah could venture to destroy the 'high places' where the old local cults had been carried on for unnumbered generations, and order his subjects to 'worship before the altar' at Jerusalem alone." Prof. Sayce also denies that the Semites were fundamentally monotheistic.

This publication by one of the most learned of living Oriental scholars, who is a professor in the University of Oxford and a clergyman of the Church of England, is important as corroborating the statements of fact from which Colonel Mallery has drawn anthropologic lessons.