Popular Science Monthly/Volume 45/September 1894/Ethical Relations Between Man and Beast
|ETHICAL RELATIONS BETWEEN MAN AND BEAST.|
By Prof. E. P. EVANS.
ETHNOCENTRIC geography, which caused each petty tribe to regard itself as the center of the earth, and geocentric astronomy, which caused mankind to regard the earth as the center of the universe, are conceptions that have been gradually out-grown and generally discarded—not, however, without leaving distinct and indelible traces of themselves in human speech and conduct. But this is not the case with anthropocentric psychology and ethics, which treat man as a being essentially different and inseparably set apart from all other sentient creatures, to which he is bound by no ties of mental affinity or moral obligation. Nevertheless, all these notions spring from the same root, having their origin in man's false and overweening conceit of himself as the member of a tribe, the inhabitant of a planet, or the lord of creation.
It was upon this sort of anthropocentric assumption that teleologists used to build their arguments in proof of the existence and goodness of God as shown by the evidences of beneficent design in the world. All their reasonings in support of this doctrine were based upon the theory that the final purpose of every created thing is the promotion of human happiness. Take away this anthropocentric postulate, and the whole logical structure tumbles into a heap of unfounded and irrelevant assertions leading to lame and impotent conclusions.
Thus Bernardin de Saint-Pierre states that garlic, being a specific for maladies caused by marshy exhalations, grows in swampy places, in order that the antidote may be easily accessible to man when he becomes infected with malarious disease. Also the fruits of spring and summer, he adds, are peculiarly juicy, because man needs them for his refreshment in hot weather; on the other hand, autumn fruits, like nuts, are oily, because oil generates heat and keeps men warm in winter. It is for man's sake, too, that in lauds where it seldom or never rains there is always a heavy deposition of dew. If we can show that any product or phenomenon of Nature is useful to us, we think we have discovered its sufficient raison d'être, and extol the wisdom and kindness of the Creator; but if anything is harmful to us we can not imagine why it should exist. How much intellectual acuteness and learning have been expended to reconcile the fact that the moon is visible only a very small part of the time, with the theory that it was intended to illuminate the earth in the absence of the sun, for the benefit of its inhabitants!
Gennadius, a Greek presbyter, who flourished at Constantinople about the middle of the fifth century remarks in his commentary on the first chapter of Genesis, that God created the beasts of the earth and the cattle after their kind on the same day on which he created man, in order that these creatures might be there ready to serve him.
But it would be superfluous to multiply examples of the influence of this anthropocentric idea as it has worked itself out in the history of mankind. Every science has had to encounter its opposition, and it has been a stumbling-block in the way of every effort to enlarge human knowledge and to promote human happiness. It has tended to check the progress of hygienic research and sanitary reform; for if man is of such exceptional importance that his conduct or misconduct can bring down epidemics upon whole communities and vast continents as visitations of divine wrath, whoever seeks to ward off or to stay these punishments is guilty of a sacrilegious attempt to parry the blow aimed at the wicked by the arm of the Almighty, and, by thus setting himself in antagonism to God, becomes in fact an ally and adversary of the devil. Thus vaccination was denounced, not on the ground taken by its present opponents, that it is useless as a preventive of smallpox and a prolific source of other diseases, but on account of its real or supposed prophylactic effectiveness, since it impiously wrenched from the hand of the Deity one of his most fatal weapons of retribution.
To what absurdities of presumption the anthropocentric conception has paved the way is evident from the belief, once universally entertained, that the sun, moon, and stars were placed in the firmament with express reference to man, and exerted a benign or baleful influence upon his destiny from the cradle to the grave. Owen Glendower's bombastic boast—
". . . At my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
Of burning cressets; and at my birth
The frame and huge foundation of the earth
Shaked like a coward"—
was well answered by Hotspur: "Why, so it would have done at the same season if your mother's cat had but kittened, though yourself had ne'er been born." And yet this fulsome brag of the Welsh swashbuckler was only an extravagant statement of what the captious Henry Percy and his contemporaries all held to be virtually true. Poe embodies the same sentiment in his youthful poem, Al Aaraaf, and would fain preserve this brighter world of his fancy from the contagion of human evil—
"Lest the stars totter in the guilt of man."
Astrology and horoscopy, from which even the keen intellects of Kepler and Tycho de Brahe could not disentangle themselves, and to which the still more modern genius of Goethe paid a characteristic tribute in the story of his nativity, were only this anthropocentric conceit masquerading as science, and leaving vestiges of itself in such common words as "ill-starred" and "lunatic."
Comets were universally regarded as portents of disasters, sent expressly as warnings for the reproof and reformation of mankind; tempests and lightnings were feared as harbingers of divine wrath and instruments of punishment for human transgression. According to the Rev. Increase Mather, God took the trouble to eclipse the sun in August, 1673, merely to prognosticate the death of the President of Harvard College and of two colonial governors, all of whom "died within a twelvemonth after." This is but a single example of the wide prevalence and general acceptance of a popular superstition constantly tested and easily proved by the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc. Bayle, in his Divers Thoughts on Comets (Pensées Diverses sur les Comètes), ridicules the foolish pride and vanity of man, who imagines that "he can not die without disturbing the whole course of Nature and compelling the heavens to put themselves to fresh expense in order to light his funeral pomp."
Not only were the fruits of the earth made to grow for human sustenance, but the flowers of the field were supposed to bud and blossom, putting on their gayest attire and emitting their sweetest perfume, solely as a contribution to human happiness; and it was deemed one of the mysteries and mistakes of Nature, never too much to be puzzled over and wondered at, that these things should spring up and expend their beauty and fragrance in remote places untrodden by the foot of man. Gray expresses this feeling in the oft-quoted lines:
"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
Science has finally and effectually taken this conceit out of man by showing that the flower blooms not for the purpose of giving him agreeable sensations, but for its own sake, and that it presumed to put forth sweet and beautiful blossoms long before he appeared on the earth as a rude cave-haunting and flint-chipping savage.
The color and odor of the plant are designed not so much to please man as to attract insects, which promote the process of fertilization and thus insure the preservation of the species. The gratification of man's aesthetic sense and taste for the beautiful does not enter into Nature's intentions; and although the flower may bloom unseen by any human eye, it does not on that account waste its sweetness, but fully accomplishes its mission, provided there is a bee or a bug abroad to be drawn to it. That the fragrance and variegated petals are alluring to a vagrant insect is a condition of far more importance in determining the fate of the plant than that they should be charming to man.
Plants, on the other hand, which depend upon the force of the wind for fructification, are not distinguished for beauty of color or sweetness of odor, since these qualities, however agreeable to man, would be wasted on the wind. This is an illustration of the prudent economy of Nature, which never indulges in superfluities or overburdens her products with useless attributes; but the test of utility which "great creating Nature" sets up in such cases is little flattering to man, and has no reference to his tastes and susceptibilities, but is determined solely by the serviceableness of certain qualities of the plant itself in the struggle for existence.
According to Schopenhauer, anthropocentric egoism is a fundamental and fatal defect in the psychological and ethical teachings of both Judaism and Christianity, and has been the source of untold misery to myriads of sentient and highly sensitive organisms. "These religions," he says, "have unnaturally severed man from the animal world, to which he essentially belongs, and placed him on a pinnacle apart, treating all lower creatures as mere things; whereas Brahmanism and Buddhism insist not only upon his kinship with all forms of animal life, but also upon his vital connection with all animated Nature, binding him up into intimate relationship with them by metempsychosis."
In the Hebrew cosmogony there is no continuity in the process of creation, whereby the genesis of man is in any wise connected with the genesis of the lower animals. After the Lord God, by his fiat, had produced beasts, birds, fishes, and creeping things, he ignored all this mass of protoplastic and organic material, and took an entirely new departure in the production of man, whom he formed out of the dust of the ground. Science shows him to have been originally a little higher than the ape, out of which he was gradually and painfully evolved; Scripture takes him out of his environment, severs him from his antecedents, and makes him a little lower than the angels. Upon the being thus arbitrarily created absolute dominion is conferred over every beast of the earth, and every fowl of the air, which, are to be to him "for meat." They are given over to his supreme and irresponsible control, without the slightest injunction of kindness or the faintest suggestion of any duties or obligations toward them.
Again, when the earth is to be renewed and replenished after the deluge, the same principles are reiterated and the same line of demarcation is drawn and even deepened. God blesses Noah and his sons, bids them "be fruitful and multiply," and then adds, as regards the lower animals: "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things."
This tyrannical mandate is not mitigated by any intimation of the merciful manner in which the human autocrat should treat the creatures thus subjected to his capricious will. On the contrary, the only thing that he is positively commanded to do with reference to them is to eat them. They are to be regarded by him simply as food, having no more rights and deserving no more consideration as means of sating his appetite than a grain of corn or a blade of grass.
The practical working of this decree has been summed up by Shelley, with his wonted force and succinctness, when he says, "The supremacy of man is, like Satan's, a supremacy of pain." Burns regrets the fatal effect of the sovereignty thus conferred upon the human race in destroying the mutual sympathy and confidence which should exist between the lord of creation and the lower animals in the lines addressed To a Mouse, on turning her up in her Nest with the Plow, November, 1785:
"I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
In the subsequent annals of the world we have ample commentaries on this primitive code written in the blood of helpless, innocent, and confiding creatures, which, although called dumb and incapable of recording their sufferings, yet
". . . have long tradition and swift speech.
Can tell with touches and sharp-darting cries
Whole histories of timid races taught
To breathe in terror by red-handed man."
Indeed, ever since Abel's firstlings of the flock were more acceptable than Cain's bloodless offerings of the fruits of the fields, priests have performed the functions of butchers, converting sacred shrines into shambles in their endeavors to pander to the gross appetites of cruel and carnivorous gods. Cain's offering was rejected, says Dr. Kitto, because "he declined to enter into the sacrificial institution." In other words, he would not shed the blood of beasts to gratify the Lord—a refusal which we can not but regard as exceedingly commendable in Adam's firstborn.
"I do not remember," observed Mrs. Jameson, "ever to have heard the kind and just treatment of animals enforced on Christian principles or made the subject of a sermon." George Herbert was a man of gentle spirit and ready hand for the relief of all forms of human distress, and in his book entitled A Priest to the Temple, or the Country Parson, lays down rules and precepts for the guidance of the clergyman in all relations of life, even to the minutest circumstances and remotest contingencies incident to parochial care. But this tender-hearted man does not deem it necessary for the parson to take the slightest interest in animals, and does not utter a word of counsel as to the manner in which his parishioners should be taught their duties toward the creatures so wholly dependent upon them. Indeed, no treatise on pastoral theology ever touches this topic, nor is it ever made the theme of a discourse from the pulpit, or of systematic instruction in the Sunday school.
Neither the synagogue nor the church, neither sanhedrin nor ecclesiastical council, has ever regarded this subject as falling within its scope, and sought to inculcate as a dogma or to enforce by decree a proper consideration for the rights of the lower animals. One of the chief objections urged by Celsus more than seventeen centuries ago against Christianity was that it "considers everything as having been created solely for man." This stricture is indorsed by Dr. Thomas Arnold, of Rugby, who also animadverts on the evils growing out of the anthropocentric character of Christianity as a scheme of redemption and a system of theodicy. "It would seem," he says, "as if the primitive Christian, by laying so much stress upon a future life in contradistinction to this life, and placing the lower creatures out of the pale of hope, placed them at the same time out of the pale of sympathy, and thus laid the foundation for this utter disregard of animals in the light of our fellow-creatures. The definition of virtue among the early Christians was the same as Paley's—that it was good performed for the sake of insuring eternal happiness—which of course excluded all the so-called brute creatures. Kind, loving, submissive, conscientious, much-enduring, we know them to be; but because we deprive them of all stake in the future, because they have no selfish, calculated aim, these are not virtues; yet if we say 'a vicious horse,' why not say 'a virtuous horse'?"
We are ready enough, adds Dr. Arnold, to endow animals with our bad moral qualities, but grudge them the possession of our good ones. The Germans, whose natural and hereditary sympathy with the brute creation is stronger than that of any other Western people, speak of horses as "fromm," pious, not in the religious, but in the primary and proper sense of the word, meaning thereby kind and docile. The English "gentle" and the French "gentil" which are used in the same connection, refer to good conduct as the result of fine breeding.
Archdeacon Paley's definition of virtue, to which Dr. Arnold adverts, is essentially anthropocentric and intensely egoistic. "Virtue," he says, "is the doing good to mankind in obedience to the will of God, for the sake of everlasting happiness." In order to be virtuous, according to this extremely narrow and wholly inadequate conception of virtue, we must, in the first place, do good to mankind, our conduct toward the brute creation not being taken into the account; secondly, our action must be in obedience to the will of God, thus ruling out all generous impulses originating in the spontaneous desire to do good; thirdly, we must have an eye single to our own supreme personal advantage—in other words, our conduct must be utterly selfish, spring not merely from momentary pleasure or temporary profit, but from far-seeing calculations of the effect it may have in securing our eternal happiness. Thus the virtuous man becomes the incarnation of the intensest self-love and self-seeking, and virtue the synonym of excessive venality. From a moral point of view, there is no greater merit in "otherworldliness" than in worldliness, and no reason why the endeavor to attain personal happiness in a future life should differ in quality from the effort to make everything minister to our personal happiness in the present life.
"The whole subject of the brute creation," says Dr. Arnold, "is to me one of such painful mystery that I dare not approach it," The mental distress experienced in such cases arises from the fact that the subject is approached from the wrong side and surveyed from a false point of view. Traditional theology and anthropocentric ethics are brought into conflict with the better impulses of a broad and generous nature and the sharp antagonism could hardly fail to be a source of perplexity and pain. "Charity," says Lord Bacon, "will hardly water the ground, where it must first fill a pool"; and of all pools the hardest to fill is that which is dug in the dry, gravelly soil of human egotism.
Theocritus, the father of Greek idyllic poetry, represents Hercules as exclaiming, after he had slain the Nemean lion, "Hades received a monster soul"; and he saw nothing incongruous in the spirit of the dead beast joining the company of the departed spirits of men in the lower world. Sydney Smith says, in speaking of the soul of the brute, "To this soul some have impiously allowed immortality." Why such a belief should be deemed impious it is difficult to discover. The question which the psychologist has to consider is not whether the doctrine is impious, but whether it is true. No scientific opinion has ever been advanced that has not seemed impious to some minds, and been denounced and persecuted as such by ecclesiastical authorities.
Bishop Butler, on the contrary, in his work on The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature, declares that "we can not find anything throughout the whole analogy of Nature to afford us even the slightest presumption that animals ever lose their living powers." He admits that his argument in support of the doctrine of a future life proves the immortality of brutes as well as that of man, and thus recognizes their spiritual kinship.
An eminent Scotch physician and anatomist, Dr. John Barclay, in his Inquiry into the Opinions, Ancient and Modern, concerning Life and Organization (1825), urges the probable immortality of the lower animals, which, he thinks, are "reserved, as forming many of the accustomed links in the chain of being, and by preserving the chain entire, contribute in the future state, as they do here, to the general beauty and variety of the universe, a source not only of sublime but of perpetual delight." The author seems to infer the continued existence of the brute creation from the fact that it forms an essential part of universal being, and that its total disappearance would mar the perfection of the next world, which should be more perfect than this world. He assumes, however, that the lower animals are endowed with immortality, not so much from psychological necessity or for their own sake as sentient and intelligent creatures, as for man's sake, in order that their presence may minister to his pleasure by forming an attractive feature in the heavenly landscape. It is, therefore, solely from anthropocentric considerations that they are granted this lease of eternal life; just as "the poor Indian" is represented by the poet as looking forward to the possession of happy hunting fields after death, where he may follow with keener enjoyment his favorite pursuit, and "his faithful dog shall bear him company."
More than fifty years ago Henry Hallam made the following observations, which are remarkable as an anticipation of the ethical corollary to the doctrine of evolution: "Few at present, who believe in the immortality of the human soul, would deny the same to the elephant; but it must be owned that the discoveries of zoölogy have pushed this to consequences which some might not readily adopt. The spiritual being of a sponge revolts a little our prejudices; yet there is no resting place, and we must admit this or be content to sink ourselves into a mass of medullary fiber. Brutes have been as slowly emancipated in philosophy as some classes of mankind have been in civil polity; their souls, we see, were almost universally disputed to them at the end of the seventeenth century, even by those who did not absolutely bring them down to machinery. Even within the recollection of many, it was common to deny them any kind of reasoning faculty, and to solve their most sagacious actions by the vague word instinct. We have come in late years to think better of our humble companions; and, as usual in similar cases, the preponderant bias seems rather too much of a leveling character." During the half century that has elapsed since these words were written, not only has zoölogy made still greater progress in the direction indicated, but a new science of zoöpsychology has sprung up, in which the mental traits and moral qualities of the lower animals have been, not merely recorded as curious and comical anecdotes, but systematically investigated and philosophically explained. In consequence of this radical change of view, human society in general has become more philozoic, not upon religious or sentimental but upon strictly scientific grounds, and developed a sympathy and solidarity with the animal world, having its sources less in the tender and transitory emotions of the heart than in the profound and permanent convictions of the mind.
In an essay published a few years ago in The Dublin Review (October, 1887, p. 418), the Right Rev. John Cuthbert Hedley, Bishop of Newport and Menevia, asserts that animals have no rights, because they are not rational creatures and do not exist for their own sake. "The brute creation have only one purpose, and that is to minister to man, or to man's temporary abode." This is the doctrine set forth more than six centuries ago by Thomas Aquinas, and recently expounded by Dr. Leopold Schutz, professor in the theological seminary at Treves, in an elaborate work entitled The So-called Understanding of Animals or Animal Instinct. This writer treats the theory of the irrationality of brutes as a dogma of the Church, denouncing all who hold that the mental difference between man and beast is one of degree, and not of kind, as "enemies of the Christian faith"; whereas those who cling to the old notion of instinctive or automatic action in explaining the phenomena of animal intelligence are extolled as "champions of pure truth."
If it was the Creator's intention that the lower animals should minister to man, the divine plan has proved to be a failure, since the number of animals which, after centuries of effort, he has succeeded in bringing more or less under his dominion is extremely small. Millions of living creatures fly in the air, crawl on the earth, dwell in the waters, and roam the fields and the forests, over which he has no control whatever. Not one in twenty thousand is fit for food, and of those which are edible he does not actually eat more than one in ten thousand. In explanation of this lack of effectiveness in the enforcement of a divine decree, it has been asserted that man lost his dominion over the lower world to a great extent when he lost dominion over himself; but this view is wholly untenable even from a biblical standpoint, inasmuch as the promise of universal sovereignty was renewed after the deluge and expressed in even stronger terms than before the fall.
Dugald Stewart admits "a certain latitude of action, which enables the brutes to accommodate themselves in some measure to their accidental situations." In this arrangement he sees a design or purpose of "rendering them, in consequence of this power of accommodation, incomparably more serviceable to our race than they would have been if altogether subjected, like mere matter, to the influence of regular and assignable causes." Of the value of this power of adaptation to the animal itself in the struggle for existence the Scotch philosopher had no conception.
In the great majority of treatises on moral science, especially in such as base their teachings on distinctively Christian tenets, there is seldom any allusion to man's duty toward animals. Dr. Wayland, who has perhaps the most to say on this point, sums up his remarks in a note apologetically appended to the body of his work. He denies them the possession of "any moral faculty," and declares that in all cases "our right is paramount and must extinguish theirs." We are to treat them kindly, feed and shelter them adequately, and "kill them with the least possible pain." To inflict suffering upon them for our amusement is wrong, since it tends to harden men and render them brutal and ferocious in temper.
Dr. Hickok takes a similar view and broadly asserts that "neither animate nor inanimate Nature has any rights," and that man is not bound to it "by any duties for its own sake. . . . In the light of his own worthiness as end. . . . he is not permitted to mar the face of Nature, nor wantonly and uselessly to injure any of her products." Maliciously breaking a crystal, defacing a gem, girdling a tree, crushing a flower, painting flaming advertisements on rocks, and worrying and torturing animals are thus placed in the same category as acts tending to degrade man ethically and aesthetically, rendering him coarse and rude, and making him not only a very disagreeable associate, but also, in the long run, "an unsafe member of civil society." These things are considered right or wrong solely from the standpoint of their influence upon human elevation or degradation. "Nature possesses no product too sacred for man. All Nature is for man, not man for it."
Man is as truly a part and product of Nature as any other animal, and this attempt to set him up on an isolated point outside of it is philosophically false and morally pernicious. It makes fundamental to ethics a principle which once prevailed universally in politics and still survives in the legal fiction that the king can do no wrong. Louis XIV of France firmly believed himself to be the rightful and absolute owner of the lives and property of his subjects. He held that his rights as monarch were paramount and extinguished theirs, that they possessed nothing too sacred for him, and the leading moralists and statists of his day confirmed him in this extravagant opinion of his royal prerogatives. All the outrages which the mad Czar, Ivan the Terrible, perpetrated on the inhabitants of Novgorod and Moscow, man has felt and for the most part still feels himself justified in inflicting on domestic animals and beasts of venery.
It is only within the last century that legislators have begun to recognize the claims of brutes to just treatment and to enact laws for their protection. Torturing a beast, if punished at all, was treated solely as an offense against property, like breaking a window, barking a tree, or committing any other act known in Scotch law as "malicious mischief." It was regarded, not as a wrong done to the suffering animal, but as an injury done to its owner, which could be made good by the payment of money. Not until a little more than a hundred years ago was such an act changed from a civil into a criminal offense, for which a simple fine was not deemed a sufficient reparation. It was thus placed in the category of crimes which, like arson, burglary, and murder, are wrongs against society, for which no pecuniary restitution or compensation can make adequate atonement.
Even this legislative reform is by no means universal. The criminal code of the German Empire still punishes with a fine of not more than fifty thalers any person "who publicly, or in such wise as to excite scandal, maliciously tortures or barbarously maltreats animals." This sort of cruelty is classified with drawing plans of fortresses, using official stamps and seals, and putting royal or princely coats of arms on signs without permission, making noises, which disturb the public peace, and playing games of hazard on the streets or market places. The man is punished, not because he puts the animal to pain, but because his conduct is offensive to his fellow-men and wounds their sensibilities. The law sets no limit to his cruelty, provided he may practice it in private.
Again, in all enactments regulating the transportation of live stock our legislation is still exceedingly defective. The great majority of people have no conception of the unnecessary and almost incredible suffering inflicted by man upon the lower animals in merely conveying them from one place to another in order to meet the demands of the market. It is well known that German shippers of sheep to England often lose one third of their consignment by suffocation, owing to overcrowding and imperfect ventilation. Beasts are still made to endure all the horrors to which slavers were once wont to subject their cargoes of human chattels in stifling holds on the notorious "middle passage."
The late Henry Bergh states that the loss on cattle by "shrinkage" in transporting them from the Western to the Eastern portion of the United States is from ten to fifteen per cent. The average shrinkage of an ox is one hundred and twenty pounds, and that of a sheep or hog from fifteen to twenty pounds; and the annual loss in money arising from this cause is estimated at more than forty million dollars. The amount of animal suffering which these statistics imply is fearful to contemplate. Here and there a solitary voice is heard in our legislative halls protesting against the horrors of this traffic, but so powerful is the lobby influence of wealthy corporations that no law can be passed to prevent them. Not a word ever falls from the pulpit in rebuke of such barbarity; meanwhile the railroad magnates pay liberal pew rents out of the profits, and listen with complacency one day in the week to denunciations of Jeroboam's idolatry and the wicked deeds of Ahab and Ahaziah, as recorded in the chronicles of the kings of Israel.
The horse, one of the noblest and most sensitive of domestic animals, is put to all kinds of torture by docking, pricking, clipping, peppering, and the use of bearing reins solely to gratify human vanity. As a reward for severe and faithful toil he is often fed with unwholesome and insufficient fodder on the economical principle announced by the manager of a New York tramway that "horses are cheaper than oats." It is an actual fact, verified by Henry Bergh, that the horses of this large corporation were fed on a mixture of meal, gypsum, and marble dust, until the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals interfered and finally succeeded in putting a stop to the practice.
The Americans, as a people, are notorious for the recklessness with which they squander the products of Nature, of which their country is so exceedingly prolific. This extravagance extends to all departments of public, social, and domestic life. No land less rich in material resources could have borne for any length of time the wretched mismanagement of its finances to which the United States has been subjected ever since and even before the close of the civil war. There is not a government in Europe that would not have been broken down and rendered bankrupt by the tremendous and wholly unnecessary strain put upon it by crass ignorance of the most elementary principles of finance and demagogical tampering with the public credit. The same wasteful spirit involves also, as we have seen, immense suffering to animals on the part of soulless and unscrupulous corporations, in which intense greed of gain is not mitigated by the influence of individual kindness, and by which. horses are treated as mere machines, to be worked to their utmost capacity at the smallest expense, and neat cattle as so much butcher's meat to be brought to market in the quickest and cheapest manner.
Erasmus Darwin, in his Phytologia, or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening (London, 1800), endeavors to vindicate the goodness of God in permitting the destruction of the lower by the higher animals on the ground that "more pleasurable sensation exists in the world, as the organic matter is taken from a state of less irritability and less sensibility and converted into a greater." By this arrangement, he thinks, the supreme sum of possible happiness is secured to sentient beings. Thus it may be disagreeable for the mouse to be caught and converted into the flesh of the cat, for the lamb to be devoured by the wolf, for the toad to be swallowed by the serpent, and for sheep, swine, and kine to be served up as roasts and ragouts for man; but in all such cases, he argues, the pain inflicted is far less than the amount of pleasure ultimately procured. But how is it when a finely organized human being, with infinite capabilities of happiness in its highest forms, is suddenly transmuted into the bodily substance of a boa constrictor or a tiger? No one will seriously assert that the drosera, Dionæa iniuscipula, and other insectivorous and carnivorous plants are organisms superior in sensitiveness to those which they devour, or that this transformation of animal into vegetable structure increases the sum of pleasurable sensation in the world. The doctrine of evolution, which regards these antagonisms as mere episodes in the universal struggle for existence, has forever set aside this sort of theodicy and put an end to all teleological attempts to infer from the nature and operations of creation the moral character of the Creator.