EVOLUTION IN GENERAL
THE last romance of Science, the most daring it has ever tried to pen, is the Story of the Ascent of Man. Withheld from all the wistful eyes that have gone before, whose reverent ignorance forbade their wisest minds to ask to see it, this final volume of Natural History has begun to open with our century's close. In the monographs of His and Minot, the Embryology of Man has already received a just expression; Darwin and Haeckel have traced the origin of the Animal-Body; the researches of Romanes mark a beginning with the Evolution of Mind; Herbert Spencer has elaborated theories of the development of Morals; Edward Caird of the Evolution of Religion. Supplementing the contributions of these authorities, verifying, criticizing, combating, rebutting, there works a multitude of others who have devoted their lives to the same rich problems, and already every chapter of the bewildering story has found its editors.
Yet, singular though the omission may seem, no connected outline of this great drama has yet been given us. These researches, preliminary reconnaissances though they be, are surely worthy of being looked upon as a whole. No one can say that this multitude of observers is not in earnest, nor their work honest, nor their methods competent to the last powers of science. Whatever the uncertainty of the field, it is due to these pioneer minds to treat their labour with respect. What they see in the unexplored land in which they travel belongs to the world. By just such methods, and by just such men, the map of the world of thought is filled in--here from the tracing up of some great river, there from a bearing taken roughly in a darkened sky, yonder from a sudden glint of the sun on a far-off mountain-peak, or by a swift induction of an adventurous mind from a momentary glimpse of a natural law. So knowledge grows; and in a century which has added to the sum of human learning more than all the centuries that are past, it is not to be conceived that some further revelation should not await us on the highest themes of all.
The day is for ever past when science need apologize for treating Man as an object of natural research. Hamlet's "being of large discourse, looking before and after" is withal a part of Nature, and can be made neither larger nor smaller, anticipate less nor prophesy less, because we investigate, and perhaps discover, the secret of his past. And should that past be proved to be related in undreamed-of ways to that of all other things in Nature, "all other things" have that to gain by the alliance which philosophy and theology for centuries have striven to win for them. Every step in the proof of the oneness in a universal evolutionary process of this divine humanity of ours is a step in the proof of the divinity of all lower things. And what is of infinitely greater moment, each footprint discovered in the Ascent of Man is a guide to the step to be taken next. To discover the rationale of social progress is the ambition of this age. There is an extraordinary human interest abroad about this present world itself, a yearning desire, not from curious but for practical reasons, to find some light upon the course; and as the goal comes nearer the eagerness passes into suspense to know the shortest and the quickest road to reach it. Hence the Ascent of Man is not only the noblest problem which science can ever study, but the practical bearings of this theme are great beyond any other on the roll of knowledge.
Now that the first rash rush of the evolutionary invasion is past, and the sins of its youth atoned for by sober concession, Evolution is seen to be neither more nor less than the story of creation as told by those who know it best. "Evolution," says Mr. Huxley, "or development is at present employed in biology as a general name for the history of the steps by which any living being has acquired the morphological and the physiological characters which distinguish it. Though applied specifically to plants and animals this definition expresses the chief sense in which Evolution is to be used scientifically at present. We shall use the word, no doubt, in others of its many senses; but after all the blood spilt, Evolution is simply "history," a "history of steps," a "general name" for the history of the steps by which the world has come to be what it is. According to this general definition, the story of Evolution is narrative. It may be wrongly told; it may be coloured, exaggerated, over- or under-stated like the record of any other set of facts; it may be told with a theological bias or with an anti-theological bias; theories of the process may be added by this thinker or by that; but these are not of the substance of the story. Whether history is told by a Gibbon or a Green the facts remain, and whether Evolution be told by a Haeckel or a Wallace we accept the narrative so far as it is a rendering of Nature, and no more. It is true, before this story can be fully told, centuries still must pass. At present there is not a chapter of the record that is wholly finished. The manuscript is already worn with erasures, the writing is often blurred, the very language is uncouth and strange. Yet even now the outline of a continuous story is beginning to appear--a story whose chief credential lies in the fact that no imagination of man could have designed a spectacle so wonderful, or worked out a plot at once so intricate and so transcendently simple.
This story will be outlined here partly for the story and partly for a purpose. A historian dare not have a prejudice, but he cannot escape a purpose--the purpose, conscious or unconscious, of unfolding the purpose which lies behind the facts which he narrates. The interest of a drama--the authorship of the play apart--is in the players, their character, their motives, and the tendency of their action. It is impossible to treat these players as automata. Even if automata, those in the audience are not. Hence, where interpretation seems lawful, or comment warranted by the facts, neither will he withheld.
To give an account of Evolution, it need scarcely be remarked, is not to account for it. No living thinker has yet found it possible to account for Evolution. Mr. Herbert Spencer's famous definition of Evolution as "a change from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity through continuous differentiations and integrations" --the formula of which the Contemporary Reviewer remarked that "the universe may well have heaved a sigh of relief when, through the cerebration of an eminent thinker, it had been delivered of this account of itself"--is simply a summary of results, and throws no light, though it is often supposed to do so, upon ultimate causes. While it is true, as Mr. Wallace affirms in his latest work, that "Descent with modification is now universally accepted as the order of nature in the organic world," there is everywhere at this moment the most disturbing uncertainty as to how the Ascent even of species has been brought about. The attacks on the Darwinian theory from the outside were never so keen as are the controversies now raging in scientific circles, over the fundamental principles of Darwinism itself. On at least two main points--sexual selection and the origin of the higher mental characteristics of man--Mr Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer with Darwin of the principle of Natural Selection though he be, directly opposes his colleague. The powerful attack of Weismann on the Darwinian assumption of the inheritability of acquired characters has opened one of the liveliest controversies of recent years, and the whole field of science is hot with controversies and discussions. In his `GermPlasm,' the German naturalist believes himself to have finally disposed of both Darwin's "gemmules" and Herbert Spencer's "primordial units," while Eimer breaks a lance with Weismann in defence of Darwin, and Herbert Spencer replies for himself, assuring us that "either there has been inheritance of acquired characters or there has been no evolution."
It is the greatest compliment to Darwinism that it should have survived to deserve this era of criticism. Meantime all prudent men can but hold their judgment in suspense both as to that specific theory of one department of Evolution which is called Darwinism, and as to the factors and causes of Evolution itself. No one asks more of Evolution at present than permission to use it as a working theory. Undoubtedly there are cases now before Science where it is more than theory--the demonstration from Yale, for instance, of the Evolution of the Horse; and from Steinheim of the transmutation of Planorbis. In these cases the missing links have come in one after another, and in series so perfect, that the evidence for their evolution is irresistible. "On the evidence of Palaeontology," says Mr. Huxley in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "the evolution of many existing forms of animal life from their predecessors is no longer an hypothesis but an historical fact." And even as to Man, most naturalists agree with Mr. Wallace who "fully accepts Mr. Darwin's conclusion as to the essential identity of Man's bodily structure with that of the higher mammalia and his descent from some ancestral form common to man and the anthropoid apes," for "the evidence of such descent appears overwhelming and conclusive. But as to the development of the whole Man it is sufficient for the present to rank it as a theory, no matter how impressive the conviction be that it is more. Without some hypothesis no work can ever be done, and, as everyone knows, many of the greatest contributions to human knowledge have been made by the use of theories either seriously imperfect or demonstrably false. This is the age of the evolution of Evolution. All thoughts that the Evolutionist works with, all theories and generalizations, have been themselves evolved and are now being evolved. Even were his theory perfected, its first lesson would be that it was itself but a phase of the Evolution of further opinion, no more fixed than a species, no more final than the theory which it displaced. Of all men the Evolutionist, by the very nature of his calling, the mere tools of his craft, his understanding of his hourly shifting place in this always moving and ever more mysterious world, must be humble, tolerant, and undogmatic.
These, nevertheless, are cold words with which to speak of a Vision--for Evolution is after all a Vision---which is revolutionizing the world of Nature and of thought, and, within living memory, has opened up avenues into the past and vistas into the future such as science has never witnessed before. While many of the details of the theory of Evolution are in the crucible of criticism, and while the field of modern science changes with such rapidity that in almost every department the textbooks of ten years ago are obsolete to-day, it is fair to add that no one of these changes, nor all of them together, have touched the general theory itself except to establish its strength, its value, and its universality. Even more remarkable than the rapidity of its conquest is the authority with which the doctrine of development has seemed to speak to the most authoritative minds of our time. Of those who are in the front rank, of those who by their knowledge have, by common consent, the right to speak, there are scarcely any who do not in some form employ it in working and in thinking. Authority may mean little; the world has often been mistaken; but when minds so different as those of Charles Darwin and of T. H. Green, of Herbert Spencer and of Robert Browning, build half the labours of their life on this one law, it is impossible, and especially in the absence of any other even competing principle at the present hour, to treat it as a baseless dream. Only the peculiar nature of this great generalization can account for the extraordinary enthusiasm of this acceptance. Evolution has done for Time what Astronomy has done for Space. As sublime to the reason as the Science of the Stars, as overpowering to the imagination, it has thrown the universe into a fresh perspective, and given the human mind a new dimension. Evolution involves not so much a change of opinion as a change in man's whole view of the world and of life. It is not the statement of a mathematical proposition which men are called upon to declare true or false. It is a method of looking upon Nature. Science for centuries devoted itself to the cataloguing of facts and the discovery of laws. Each worker toiled in his own little place--the geologist in his quarry, the botanist in his garden, the biologist in his laboratory, the astronomer in his observatory, the historian in his library, the archaeologist in his museum. Suddenly these workers looked up; they spoke to one another; they had each discovered a law; they whispered its name. It was Evolution. Henceforth their work was one, science was one, the world was one, and mind, which discovered the oneness, was one.
Such being the scope of the theory, it is essential that for its interpretation this universal character be recognized, and no phenomenon in nature or in human nature be left out of the final reckoning. It is equally clear that in making that interpretation we must begin with the final product, Man. If Evolution can be proved to include Man, the whole course of Evolution and the whole scheme of Nature from that moment assume a new significance The beginning must then be interpreted from the end, not the end from the beginning. An engineering workshop is unintelligible until we reach the room where the completed engine stands. Everything culminates in that final product, is contained in it, is explained by it. The Evolution of Man is also the complement and corrective of all other forms of Evolution. From this height only is there a full view, a true perspective, a consistent world. The whole mistake of naturalism has been to interpret Nature from the standpoint of the atom --to study the machinery which drives this great moving world simply as machinery, forgetting that the ship has any passengers, or the passengers any captain, or the captain any course. It is as great a mistake, on the other hand, for the theologian to separate off the ship from the passengers as for the naturalist to separate off the passengers from the ship. It is he who cannot include Man among the links of Evolution who has greatly to fear the theory of development. In his jealousy for that religion which seems to him higher than science, he removes at once the rational basis from religion and the legitimate crown from science, forgetting that in so doing he offers to the world an unnatural religion and an inhuman science. The cure for all the small mental disorders which spring up around restricted applications of Evolution is to extend it fearlessly in all directions as far as the mind can carry it and the facts allow, till each man, working at his subordinate part, is compelled to own, and adjust himself to, the whole.
If the theological mind be called upon to make this expansion, the scientific man must be asked to enlarge his view in another direction. If he insists upon including Man in his scheme of Evolution, he must see to it that he include the whole Man. For him at least no form of Evolution is scientific or is to be considered, which does not include the whole Man, and all that is in Man, and all the work and thought and life and aspiration of Man. The great moral facts, the moral forces so far as they are proved to exist, the moral consciousness so far as it is real, must come within its scope. Human History must be as much a part of it as Natural History. The social and religious forces must no more be left outside than the forces of gravitation or of life. The reason why the naturalist does not usually include these among the factors in Evolution is not oversight, but undersight. Sometimes, no doubt, he may take at their word those who assure him that Evolution has nothing to do with those higher things, but the main reason is simply that his work does not lie on the levels where those forces come into play. The specialist is not to be blamed for this; limitation is his strength. But when the specialist proceeds to reconstruct the universe from his little corner of it, and especially from his level of it, he not only injures science and philosophy, but may fatally mislead his neighbours. The man who is busy with the stars will never come across Natural Selection, yet surely must he allow for Natural Selection in his construction of the world as a whole. He who works among star-fish will encounter little of Mental Evolution, yet will he not deny that it exists. The stars have voices, but there are other voices; the star-fishes have activities, but there are other activities. Man, body, soul, spirit, are not only to be considered, but are first to be considered in any theory of the world. You cannot describe the life of kings, or arrange their kingdoms, from the cellar beneath the palace. "Art," as Browning reminds us,
"Must fumble for the whole, once fixing on a part,
However poor, surpass the fragment, and aspire
To reconstruct thereby the ultimate entire."
THE MISSING FACTOR IN CURRENT THEORIES
But it is not so much in ignoring Man that evolutionary philosophy has gone astray; for ,of that error it has seriously begun to repent. What we have now to charge against it, what is a main object of these pages to point out, is that it has misread Nature herself. In "fixing on a part" whereby to "reconstruct the ultimate," it has fixed upon a part which is not the most vital part, and the reconstructions, therefore, have come to be wholly out of focus. Fix upon the wrong "part," and the instability of the fabric built upon it is a foregone conclusion. Now, although reconstructions of the cosmos in the light of Evolution are the chief feature of the science of our time, in almost no case does even a hint of the true scientific standpoint appear to be perceived. And although it anticipates much that we should prefer to leave untouched until it appears in its natural setting, the gravity of the issues makes it essential to summarize the whole situation now.
The root of the error lies, indirectly rather than directly, with Mr. Darwin. In 1859, through the publication of the Origin of Species, he offered to the world what purported to be the final clue to the course of living Nature. That clue was the principle of the Struggle for Life. After the years of storm and stress which follow the intrusion into the world of all great thoughts, this principle was universally accepted as the key to all the sciences which deal with life. So ceaseless was Mr. Darwin's emphasis upon this factor, and so masterful his influence, that, after the first sharp conflict, even the controversy died down. With scarce a challenge the Struggle for Life became accepted by the scientific world as the governing factor in development, and the drama of Evolution was made to hinge entirely upon its action. It became the "part" from which science henceforth went on "to reconstruct the whole," and biology, sociology, and teleology, were built anew on this foundation.
That the Struggle for Life has been a prominent actor in the drama is certain. Further research has only deepened the impression of the magnitude and universality of this great and far-reaching law. But that it is the sole or even the main agent in the process of Evolution must be denied. Creation is a drama, and no drama was ever put upon the stage with only one actor. The Struggle for Life is the "Villain" of the piece, no more; and, like the "Villain" in the play, its chief function is to re-act upon the other players for higher ends. There is, in point of fact, a second factor which one might venture to call the Struggle for the Life of Others, which plays an equally prominent part. Even in the early stages of development, its contribution is as real, while in the world's later progress--under the name of Altruism-- it assumes a sovereignty before which the earlier Struggle sinks into insignificance. That this second form of Struggle should all but have escaped the notice of Evolutionists is the more unaccountable since it arises, like the first, out of those fundamental functions of living organisms which it is the main business of biological science to investigate. The functions discharged by all living things, plant and animal, are two in number. The first is Nutrition, the second is Reproduction. The first is the basis of the Struggle for Life; the second, of the Struggle for the Life of Others. These two functions run their parallel course--or spiral course, for they continuously intertwine--from the very dawn of life. They are involved in the fundamental nature of protoplasm itself. They affect the entire round of life; they determine the whole morphology of living things; in a sense they are life. Yet, in constructing the fabric of Evolution, one of these has been taken, the other left.
Partly because of the limitations of its purely physical name, and partly because it has never been worked out as an evolutionary force, the function of Reproduction will require to be introduced to the reader in some detail. But to realize its importance or even to understand it, it will be necessary to recall to our minds the supreme place which function generally holds in the economy of life.
Life to an animal or to a Man is not a random series of efforts. Its course is set as rigidly as the courses of the stars. All its movements and changes, its apparent deflections and perturbations are guided by unalterable purposes; its energies and caprices definitely controlled. What controls it are its functions. These and these only determine life; living out these is life. Trace back any one, or all, of the countless activities of an animal's life, and it will be found that they are at bottom connected with one or other of the two great functions which manifest themselves in protoplasm. Take any organ of the body-- hand or foot, eye or ear, heart or lung--or any tissue of the body--muscle or nerve, bone or cartilage--and it will be found to be connected either with Nutrition or with Reproduction. Just as everything about an engine, every bolt, bar, valve, crank, lever, wheel, has something to do with the work of that engine, everything about an animal's body has something to do with the work prescribed by those two functions. An animal, or a Man, is a consistent whole, a rational production. Now the rationale of living stands revealed to us in protoplasm. Protoplasm sets life its task. Living can only be done along its lines. There start the channels in which all life must run, and though the channels bifurcate endlessly as time goes on, and though more life and fuller is ever coursing through them, it can never overflow the banks appointed from the beginning.
But this is not all. The activities even of the higher life, though not qualitatively limited by the lower, are determined by these same lines. Were these facts only relevant in the domain of physiology, they would be of small account in a study of the Ascent of Man. But the more profoundly the Evolution of Man is investigated the more clearly is it seen that the whole course of his development has been conducted on this fundamental basis. Life, all life, higher or lower, is an organic unity. Nature may vary her effects, may introduce qualitative changes so stupendous as to make their affinities with lower things unthinkable, but she has never re-laid the foundations of the world. Evolution began with protoplasm and ended with Man, and all the way between, the development has been a symmetry whose secret lies in the two or three great crystallizing forces revealed to us through this first basis.
Having realized the significance of the physiological functions, let us now address ourselves to their meaning and connotations. The first, the function of Nutrition, on which the Struggle for Life depends, requires no explanation. Mr. Darwin was careful to give to his favourite phrase, the Struggle for Life, a wider meaning than that which associates it merely with Nutrition; but this qualification seems largely to have been lost sight of-- to some extent even by himself--and the principle as it stands to-day in scientific and philosophical discussion is practically synonymous with the Struggle for Food. As time goes on this Struggle --at first a conflict with Nature and the elements, sustained by hunger, and intensified by competition --assumes many disguises, and is ultimately known in the modern world under the names of War and Industry. In these later phases the early function of protoplasm is obscured, but on the last analysis, War and Industry--pursuits in which half the world is now engaged--are seen to be simply its natural developments.
The implications of the second function, Reproduction, lie further from the surface. To say that Reproduction is synonymous with the Struggle for the Life of Others conveys at first little meaning, for the physiological aspects of the function persist in the mind, and make even a glimpse of its true character difficult. In two or three chapters in the text, the implications of this function will be explained at length, and the reader who is sufficiently interested in the immediate problem, or who sees that there is here something to be investigated, may do well to turn to these at once. Suffice it for the moment to say that the physiological aspects of the Struggle for the Life of Others are so overshadowed even towards the close of the Animal Kingdom by the psychical and ethical that it is scarcely necessary to emphasize the former at all. One's first and natural association with the Struggle for the Life of Others is with something done for posterity--in the plant the Struggle to produce seeds, in the animal to beget young. But this is a preliminary which, compared with what directly and indirectly rises out of it, may be almost passed over. The significant note is ethical, the development of Other-ism, as Altruism--its immediate and inevitable outcome. Watch any higher animal at that most critical of all hours--for itself, and for its species--the hour when it gives birth to another creature like itself. Pass over the purely physiological processes of birth; observe the behaviour of the animal-mother in presence of the new and helpless life which palpitates before her. There it lies, trembling in the balance between life and death. Hunger tortures it; cold threatens it; danger besets it; its blind existence hangs by a thread. There is the opportunity of Evolution. There is an opening appointed in the physical order for the introduction of a moral order. If there is more in Nature than the selfish Struggle for Life the secret can now be told. Hitherto, the world belonged to the Food-seeker, the Self-seeker, the Struggler for Life, the Father. Now is the hour of the Mother. And, animal though she be, she rises to her task. And that hour, as she ministers to her young, becomes to the world the hour of its holiest birth.
Sympathy, tenderness, unselfishness, and the long list of virtues which make up Altruism, are the direct outcome and essential accompaniment of the reproductive process. Without some rudimentary maternal solicitude for the egg in the humblest forms of life, or for the young among higher forms, the living world would not only suffer, but would cease. For a time in the life history of every higher animal the direct, personal, gratuitous, unrewarded help of another creature is a condition of existence. Even in the lowliest world of plants the labours of Maternity begin, and the animal kingdom closes with the creation of a class in which this function is perfected to its last conceivable expression. The vicarious principle is shot through and through the whole vast web of Nature; and if one actor has played a mightier part than another in the drama of the past, it has been self-sacrifice. What more has come into humanity along the line of the Struggle for the Life of Others will be shown later. But it is quite certain that, of all the things that minister to the welfare and good of Man, of all that make the world varied and fruitful, of all that make society solid and interesting, of all that make life beautiful and glad and worthy, by far the larger part has reached us through the activities of the Struggle for the Life of Others.
How grave the omission of this supreme factor from our reckoning, how serious the effect upon our whole view of nature, must now appear. Time was when the science of Geology was interpreted exclusively in terms of the action of a single force --fire. Then followed the theories of an opposing school who saw all the earth's formations to be the result of water. Any Biology, any Sociology any Evolution, which is based on a single factor, is as untrue as the old Geology. It is only when both the Struggle for Life and the Struggle for the Life of Others are kept in view, that any scientific theory of Evolution is possible. Combine them, contrast them, assign each its place, allow for their inter-actions, and the scheme of Nature may be worked out in terms of them to the last detail. All along the line, through the whole course of the development, these two functions act and react upon one another; and continually as they co-operate to produce a single result, their specific differences are never lost.
The first, the Struggle for Life, is, throughout, the Self-regarding function; the second, the Other-regarding function. The first, in lower Nature, obeying the law of self-preservation, devotes its energies to feed itself; the other, obeying the law of species-preservation, to feed its young. While the first develops the active virtues of strength and courage, the other lays the basis for the passive virtues, sympathy, and love. In the later world one seeks its end in personal aggrandizement, the other in ministration. One begets competition, self-assertion, war; the other unselfishness, self-effacement, peace. One is Individualism, the other, Altruism.
To say that no ethical content can be put into the discharge of either function in the earlier reaches of Nature goes without saying. But the moment we reach a certain height in the development, ethical implications begin to arise. These, in the case of the first, have been read into Nature, lower as well as higher, with an exaggerated and merciless malevolence. The other side has received almost no expression. The final result is a picture of Nature wholly painted in shadow--a picture so dark as to be a challenge to its Maker, an unanswered problem to philosophy, an abiding offence to the moral nature of Man. The world has been held up to us as one great battlefield heaped with the slain, an Inferno of infinite suffering, a slaughter-house resounding with the cries of a ceaseless agony.
Before this version of the tragedy, authenticated by the highest names on the roll of science, humanity was dumb, morality mystified, natural theology stultified. A truer reading may not wholly relieve the first, enlighten the second, or re-instate the third. But it at least re-opens the inquiry; and when all its bearings come to be perceived, the light thrown upon the field of Nature by the second factor may be more impressive to reason than the apparent shadow of the first to sense.
To relieve the strain of the position forced upon ethics by the one-sided treatment of the process of Evolution, heroic attempts have been made. Some have attempted to mitigate the amount of suffering it involves, and assure us that, after all, the Struggle, except as a metaphor, scarcely exists. "There is," protests Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, "good reason to believe . . . that the supposed `torments ` and `miseries ` of animals have little real existence, but are the reflection of the imagined sensations of cultivated men and women in similar circumstances; and that the amount of actual suffering caused by the Struggle for Existence among animals is altogether insignificant. Mr. Huxley, on the other hand, will make no compromise. The Struggle for Life to him is a portentous fact, unmitigated and unexplained. No metaphors are strong enough to describe the implacability of its sway. "The moral indifference of nature" and "the unfathomable injustice of the nature of things" everywhere stare him in the face. "For his successful progress, as far as the savage state, Man has been largely indebted to those qualities which he shares with the ape and the tiger. That stage reached, "for thousands and thousands of years, before the origin of the oldest known civilizations, men were savages of a very low type. They strove with their enemies and their competitors; they preyed upon things weaker or less cunning than themselves; they were born, multiplied without stint, and died, for thousands of generations, alongside the mammoth, the urus, the lion, and the hyaena, whose lives were spent in the same way; and they were no more to be praised or blamed, on moral grounds, than their less erect and more hairy compatriots.... Life was a continual free fight, and beyond the limited and temporary relations of the family, the Hobbesian war of each against all was the normal state of existence. The human species, like others, plashed and floundered amid the general stream of evolution, keeping its head above water as it best might, and thinking neither of whence nor whither.
How then does Mr. Huxley act--for it is instructive to follow out the consequences of an error--in the face of this tremendous problem? He gives it up. There is no solution. Nature is without excuse. After framing an indictment against it in the severest language at his command, he turns his back upon Nature--sub-human Nature, that is --and leaves teleology to settle the score as best it can. "The history of civilization," he tells us, "is the record of the attempts of the human race to escape from this position." But whither does he betake himself? Is he not part of Nature, and therefore a sharer in its guilt? By no means. For by an astonishing tour de force--the last, as his former associates in the evolutionary ranks have not failed to remind him, which might have been expected of him--he ejects himself from the world-order, and washes his hands of it in the name of Ethical Man. After sharing the fortunes of Evolution all his life, bearing its burdens and solving its doubts, he abandons it without a pang, and sets up an imperium in imperio, where, as a moral being, the `cosmic' Struggle troubles him no more. "Cosmic Nature," he says, in a parting shot at his former citadel, "is no school of virtue, but the head-quarters of the enemy of ethical nature. So far from the Ascent of Man running along the ancient line, "Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who may happen to be the fittest, in respect of the whole of the conditions which exist, but of those who are ethically the best.
The expedient, to him, was a necessity. Viewing Nature as Mr. Huxley viewed it there was no other refuge. The "cosmic process" meant to him the Struggle for Life, and to escape from the Struggle for Life he was compelled to turn away from the world-order, which had its being because of it. As it happens, Mr. Huxley has hit upon the right solution, only the method by which he reaches it is wholly wrong. And the mischievous result of it is obvious --it leaves all lower Nature in the lurch. With a curious disregard of the principle of Continuity, to which all his previous work had done such homage, he splits up the world-order into two separate halves. The earlier dominated by the `cosmic ` principle-- the Struggle for Life; the other by the `ethical ` principle--virtually, the Struggle for the Life of Others. The Struggle for Life is thus made to stop at the `ethical ` process; the Struggle for the Life of Others to begin. Neither is justified by fact. The Struggle for the Life of Others, as we have seen, starts its upward course from the same protoplasm as the Struggle for Life; and the Struggle for Life runs on into the `ethical' sphere as much as the Struggle for the Life of Others. One has only to see where Mr. Huxley gets his `ethical ` world to perceive the extent of the anomaly. For where does he get it, and what manner of world is it? "The history of civilization details the steps by which men have succeeded in building up an artificial world within the cosmos. An artificial world within the cosmos?
This suggested breach between the earlier and the later process, if indeed we are to take it seriously, is scientifically indefensible, and the more unfortunate since the same result, or a better, can be obtained without it. The real breach is not between the earlier and the later process, but between two rival, or two co-operating processes, which have existed from the first, which have worked together all along the line, and which took on `ethical ` characters at the same moment in time. The Struggle for the Life of Others is sunk as deep in the "cosmic process" as the Struggle for Life; the Struggle for Life has a share in the "ethical process" as much as the Struggle for the Life of Others. Both are cosmic processes; both are ethical processes; both are both cosmical and ethical processes. Nothing but confusion can arise from a cross-classification which does justice to neither half of Nature.
The consternation caused by Mr. Huxley's change of front, or supposed change of front, is matter of recent history. Mr. Leslie Stephen and Mr. Herbert Spencer hastened to protest; the older school of moralists hailed it almost as a conversion. But the one fact everywhere apparent throughout the discussion is that neither side apprehended either the ultimate nature or the true solution of the problem. The seat of the disorder is the same in both attackers and attacked--the one-sided view of Nature. Universally Nature, as far as the plant, animal, and savage levels, is taken to be synonymous with the Struggle for Life. Darwinism held the monopoly of that lower region, and Darwinism revenged itself in a manner which has at least shown the inadequacy of the most widely accepted premise of recent science.
That Mr. Huxley has misgivings on the matter himself is apparent from his Notes. "Of course," he remarks, in reference to the technical point, "strictly speaking, social life and the ethical process, in virtue of which it advances towards perfection, are part and parcel of the general process of Evolution. And he gets a momentary glimpse of the "ethical process" in the cosmos, which, if he had followed it out, must have modified his whole position. "Even in these rudimentary forms of society, love and fear come into play, and enforce a greater or less renunciation of self-will. To this extent the general cosmic process begins to be checked by a rudimentary ethical process, which is, strictly speaking, part of the former, just as the `governor' in a steam-engine is part of the mechanism of the engine.
Here the whole position is virtually conceded; and only the pre-conceptions of Darwinism and the lack of a complete investigation into the nature and extent of the "rudimentary ethical process" can have prevailed in the face of such an admission. Follow out the metaphor of the `governor,' and, with one important modification, the true situation almost stands disclosed. For what appears to be the `governor' in the rudimentary ethical process becomes the `steam-engine' in the later process. The mere fact that it exists in the "general cosmic process" alters the quality of that process; and the fact that, as we hope to show, it becomes the prime mover in the later process, entirely changes our subsequent conception of it. The beginning of a process is to be read from the end and not from the beginning. And if even a rudiment of a moral order be found in the beginnings of this process it relates itself and that process to a final end and a final unity.
Philosophy reads end into the earlier process by a necessity of reason. But how much stronger its position if it could add to that a basis in the facts of Nature? "I ask the evolutionist," pertinently inquires Mr. Huxley's critic, "who has no other basis than the Struggle for existence, how he accounts for the intrusion of these moral ideas and standards which presume to interfere with the cosmic process and sit in judgment upon its results. May we ask the philosopher how he accounts for them? As little can he account for them as he who has "no other basis than the Struggle for existence." Truly, the writer continues, the question "cannot be answered so long as we regard morality merely as an incidental result, a by-product, as it were, of the cosmical system." But what if morality be the main product of the cosmical system--of even the cosmical system? What if it can be shown that it is the essential and not the incidental result of it, and that so far from being a by-product, it is immorality that is the by-product?
These interrogations may be too strongly put. `Accompaniments' of the cosmical system might be better than `products'; `revelations through that process' may be nearer the truth than `results' of it. But what it is intended to show is that the moral order is a continuous line from the beginning, that it has had throughout, so to speak, a basis in the cosmos, that upon this, as a trellis-work, it has climbed upwards to the top. The one--the trelliswork--is to be conceived of as an incarnation; the other--the manifestation--as a revelation; the one is an Evolution from below, the other an Involution from above. Philosophy has long since assured us of the last, but because it was never able to show us the completeness of the first, science refused to believe it. The defaulter nevertheless was not philosophy but science. Its business was with the trellis-work. And it gave us a broken trellis-work, a ladder with only one side, and every step on the other side resting on air. When science tried to climb the ladder it failed; the steps refused to bear any weight. What did men of science do? They condemned the ladder and, balancing themselves on the side that was secure, proclaimed their Agnosticism to philosophy. And what did philosophy do? It stood on the other half of the ladder, the half that was not there, and rated them. That the other half was not there was of little moment. It was in themselves. It ought to be there; therefore it must be there. And it is quite true; it is there. Philosophy, like Poetry, is prophetic: "The sense of the whole," it says, "comes first.
But science could not accept the alternative. It had looked, and it was not there; from its standpoint the only refuge was Agnosticism-- there were no facts. Till the facts arrived, therefore, philosophy was powerless to relieve her ally. Science looked to Nature to put in her own ends, and not to philosophy to put them in for her. Philosophy might interpret them after they were there, but it must have something to start from; and all that science had supplied her with mean time was the fact of the Struggle for Life. Working from the standpoint of the larger Nature, Human Nature itself, philosophy could put in other ends; but there appeared no solid backing for these in facts, and science refused to be satisfied. The position was a fair one. The danger of philosophy putting in the ends is that she cannot convince everyone that they are the right ones.
And what is the valid answer? Of course, that Nature has put in her own ends if we would take the trouble to look for them. She does not require them to be secretly manufactured upstairs and credited to her account. By that process mistakes might arise in the reckoning. The philosophers upstairs might differ about the figures, or at least in equating them. The philosopher requires fact, phenomenon, natural law, at every turn to keep him right; and without at least some glimpse of these, he may travel far afield. So long as Schopenhauer sees one thing in the course of Nature and Rousseau another, it will always be well to have Nature herself to act as referee. The end as read in Nature, and the end as re-read in, and interpreted by, the higher Nature of Man may be very different things; but nothing can be done till the End-in-the-phenomenon clears the way for the End-in-itself--till science overtakes philosophy with facts. When that is done, everything can be done. With the finding of the other half of the ladder, even Agnosticism may retire. Science cannot permanently pronounce itself "not knowing," till it has exhausted the possibilities of knowing. And in this case the Agnosticism is premature, for science has only to look again, and it will discover that the missing facts are there.
Seldom has there been an instance on so large a scale of a biological error corrupting a whole philosophy. Bacon's aphorism was never more true: "This I dare affirm in knowledge of Nature, that a little natural philosophy, and the first entrance into it, doth dispose the opinion to atheism, but on the other side, much natural philosophy, and wading deep into it, will bring about men's minds to religion. Hitherto, the Evolutionist has had practically no other basis than the Struggle for Life. Suppose even we leave that untouched, the addition of an Other-regarding basis makes an infinite difference. For when it is then asked on which of them the process turns, and the answer is given `On both,' we perceive that it is neither by the one alone, nor by the other alone, that the process is to be interpreted, but by a higher unity which resolves and embraces all. And as both are equally necessary to the antinomy, even that of the two which seems irreconcilable with higher ends is seen to be necessary. Viewed simpliciter, the Struggle for Life appears irreconcilable with ethical ends, a prodigious anomaly in a moral world; but viewed in continuous reaction with the Struggle for the Life of Others, it discloses itself as an instrument of perfection the most subtle and far-reaching that reason could devise.
The presence of the second factor therefore, while it leaves the first untouched, cannot leave its implications untouched. It completely alters these implications. It has never been denied that the Struggle for Life is an efficient instrument of progress; the sole difficulty has always been to justify the nature of the instrument. But if even it be shown that this is only half the instrument, teleology gains something. If the fuller view takes nothing away from the process of Evolution, it imports something into it which changes the whole aspect of the case. For even from the first that factor is there. The Struggle for the Life of Others, as we have seen, is no interpolation at the end of the process, but radical, engrained in the world-order as profoundly as the Struggle for Life. By what right, then, has Nature been interpreted only by the Struggle for Life? With far greater justice might science interpret it in the light of the Struggle for the Life of Others. For, in the first place, unless there had been this second factor, the world could not have existed. Without the Struggle for the Life of Others, obviously there would have been no Others. In the second place, unless there had been a Struggle for the Life of Others, the Struggle for Life could not have been kept up. As will be shown later the Struggle for Life almost wholly supports itself on the products of the Struggle for the Life of Others. In the third place, without the Struggle for the Life of Others, the Struggle for Life as regards its energies would have died down, and failed of its whole achievement. It is the ceaseless pressure produced by the exuberant fertility of Reproduction that creates any valuable Struggle for Life at all. The moment "Others" multiply, the individual struggle becomes keen up to the disciplinary point. It was this, indeed-- through the reading of Malthus on Over-population--that suggested to Mr. Darwin the value of the Struggle for Life. The law of Over-population from that time forward became the foundation-stone of his theory; and recent biological research has made the basis more solid than ever. The Struggle for the Life of Others on the plant and animal plane, in the mere work of multiplying lives, is a final condition of progress. Without competition there can be no fight, and without fight there can be no victory. In other words, without the Struggle for the Life of Others there can be no Struggle for Life, and therefore no Evolution. Finally, and all the reasons already given are frivolous beside it, had there been no Altruism--Altruism in the definite sense of unselfishness, sympathy, and self-sacrifice for Others, the whole higher world of life had perished as soon as it was created. For hours, or days, or weeks in the early infancy of all higher animals, maternal care and sympathy are a condition of existence. Altruism had to enter the world, and any species which neglected it was extinguished in a generation.
No doubt a case could be made out likewise for the imperative value of the Struggle for Life. The position has just been granted. So far from disputing it, we assume it to be equally essential to Nature and to a judgment upon the process of Evolution. But what is disputed is that the Struggle for Life is either the key to Nature, or that it is more important in itself than the Struggle for the Life of Others. It is pitiful work pitting the right hand against the left, the heart against the head; but if it be insisted that there is neither right hand nor heart, the proclamation is necessary not only that they exist, but that absolutely they are as important and relatively to ethical Man of infinitely greater moment than anything that functions either in the animal or social organism.
But why, if all this be true of the Struggle for the Life of Others, has a claim so imperious not been recognized by science? That a phenomenon of this distinction should have attracted so little attention suggests a suspicion. Does it really exist?
Is the biological basis sound? Have we not at least exaggerated its significance? The biologist will judge. Though no doubt the function of Reproduction is intimately connected in Physiology with the function of Nutrition, the facts as stated here are facts of Nature; and some glimpse of the influence of this second factor will be given in the sequel from which even the non-biological reader may draw his own conclusions. Difficult as it seems to account for the ignoring of an elemental fact in framing the doctrine of Evolution, there are circumstances which make the omission less unintelligible. Foremost, of course, there stands the overpowering influence of Mr. Darwin. In spite of the fact that he warned his followers against it, this largely prejudged the issue. Next is to be considered the narrowing, one had almost said the blighting, effect of specialism. Necessary to the progress of science, the first era of a reign of specialism is disastrous to philosophy. The men who in field and laboratory are working out the facts, do not speculate at all. Content with slowly building up the sum of actual knowledge in some neglected and restricted province, they are too absorbed to notice even what the workers in the other provinces are about. Thus it happens that while there are many scientific men, there are few scientific thinkers. The complaint is often made that science speculates too much. It is quite the other way. One has only to read the average book of science in almost any department to wonder at the wealth of knowledge, the brilliancy of observation, and the barrenness of idea. On the other hand, though scientific experts will not think themselves, there is always a multitude of onlookers waiting to do it for them. Among these what strikes one is the ignorance of fact and the audacity of the idea. The moment any great half-truth in Nature is unearthed, these unqualified practitioners leap to a generalization; and the observers meantime, on the track of the other half, are too busy or too oblivious to refute their heresies. Hence, long after its foundations are undermined, a brilliant generalization will retain its hold upon the popular mind; and before the complementary, the qualifying, or the neutralizing facts can be supplied, the mischief is done.
But while this is true of many who play with the double-edged tools of science, it is not true of a third class. When we turn to the pages of the few whose science is adequate and whose sweep is over the whole vast horizon, we find, as we should expect, some recognition of the altruistic factor. Though Mr. Herbert Spencer, to whom the appeal in this connection is obvious, makes a different use of the fact, it has not escaped him. Not only does the Other-regarding function receive recognition, but he allots it a high place in his system. Of its ethical bearings he is equally clear. "What," he asks, "is the ethical aspect of these [altruistic] principles? In the first place, animal life of all but the lowest kinds has been maintained by virtue of them. Excluding the Protozoa, among which their operation is scarcely discernible, we see that without gratis benefits to offspring, and earned benefits to adults, life could not have continued. In the second place, by virtue of them life has gradually evolved into higher forms. By care of offspring, which has become greater with advancing organization, and by survival of the fittest in the competition among adults, which has become more habitual with advancing organization, superiority has been perpetually fostered and further advances caused. Fiske, Littre, Romanes, Le Conte, L. Buchner, Miss Buckley, and Prince Kropotkin have expressed themselves partly in the same direction; and Geddes and Thomson, in so many words, recognize "the co-existence of twin-streams of egoism and altruism, which often merge for a space without losing their distinctness, and are traceable to a common origin in the simplest forms of life. The last named--doubtless because their studies have taken them both into the fields of pure biology and of bionomics--more clearly than any other modern writers, have grasped the bearings of this theme in all directions, and they fearlessly take their standpoint from the physiology of protoplasm. Thus, "in the hunger and reproductive attractions of the lowest organisms, the self-regarding and other-regarding activities of the higher find their starting-point. Though some vague consciousness is perhaps co-existent with life itself, we can only speak with confidence of psychical egoism and altruism after a central nervous system has been definitely established. At the same time, the activities of even the lowest organisms are often distinctly referable to either category.... Hardly distinguishable at the outset, the primitive hunger and love become the starting-points of divergent lines of egoistic and altruistic emotion and activity.
That at a much earlier stage than is usually supposed, Evolution visibly enters upon the "rudimentary ethical" plane, is certain, and we shall hope to outline the proof. But even if the thesis fails, it remains to challenge the general view that the Struggle for Life is everything, and the Struggle for the Life of Others nothing. Seeing not only that the second is the more important, but also this far more significant fact--which has not yet been alluded to--that as Evolution proceeds the one Struggle waxes, and the other wanes, would it not be wiser to study the drama nearer its denouement before deciding whether it was a moral, a non-moral, or an immoral play?
Lest the alleged waning of the Struggle for Life convey a wrong impression, let it be added that of course the word is to be taken qualitatively. The Struggle in itself can never cease. What ceases is its so-called anti-ethical character. For nothing is in finer evidence as we rise in the scale of life than the gradual tempering of the Struggle for Life. Its slow amelioration is the work of ages, may be the work of ages still, but its animal qualities in the social life of Man are being surely left behind; and though the mark of the savage and the brute still mar its handiwork, these harsher qualities must pass away. In that new social order which the gathering might of the altruistic spirit is creating now around us, in that reign of Love which must one day, if the course of Evolution holds on its way, be realized, the baser elements will find that solvent prepared for them from the beginning in anticipation of a higher rule on earth. Interpreting the course of Evolution scientifically, whether from its starting-point in the first protoplasm, or from the rallying-point of its two great forces in the social organism of to-day, it becomes more and more certain that only from the commingled achievement of both can the nature of the process be truly judged. Yet, as one sees the one sun set, and the other rise with a splendour the more astonishing and bewildering as the centuries roll on, it is impossible to withhold a verdict as to which may be most reasonably looked upon as the ultimate reality of the world. The path of progress and the path of Altruism are one. Evolution is nothing but the Involution of Love, the revelation of Infinite Spirit, the Eternal Life returning to Itself. Even the great shadow of Egoism which darkens the past is revealed as shadow only because we are compelled to read it by the higher light which has come. In the very act of judging it to be shadow, we assume and vindicate the light. And in every vision of the light, contrariwise, we resolve the shadow, and perceive the end for which both light and dark are given.
"I can believe, this dread machinery
Of sin and sorrow, would confound me else,
Devised--all pain, at most expenditure
Of pain by Who devised pain--to evolve,
By new machinery in counterpart,
The moral qualities of Man--how else?--
To make him love in turn, and be beloved,
Creative and self-sacrificing too,
And thus eventually Godlike.
WHY WAS EVOLUTION THE METHOD CHOSEN?
One seldom-raised yet not merely curious question of Evolution is, why the process should be an evolution at all? If Evolution is simply a method of Creation, why was this very extraordinary method chosen? Creation tout d'un coup might have produced the same result; an instantaneous act or an age-long process would both have given us the world as it is? The answer of modern natural theology has been that the evolutionary method is the infinitely nobler scheme. A spectacular act, it is said, savours of the magician. As a mere exhibition of power it appeals to the lower nature; but a process of growth suggests to the reason the work of an intelligent Mind. No doubt this intellectual gain is real. While a catastrophe puts the universe to confusion at the start, a gradual rise makes the beginning of Nature harmonious with its end. How the surpassing grandeur of the new conception has filled the imagination and kindled to enthusiasm the soberest scientific minds, from Darwin downwards, is known to everyone. As the memorable words which close the Origin of Species recall: "There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on, according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.
But can an intellectual answer satisfy us any more than the mechanical answer which it replaced? As there was clearly a moral purpose in the end to be achieved by Evolution, should we not expect to find some similar purpose in the means? Can we perceive no high design in selecting this particular design, no worthy ethical result which should justify the conception as well as the execution of Evolution?
We go too far, perhaps, in expecting answers to questions so transcendent. But one at least suggests itself, whose practical value is apology enough for venturing to advance it. Whenever the scheme was planned, it must have been foreseen that the time would come when the directing of part of the course of Evolution would pass into the hands of Man. A spectator of the drama for ages, too ignorant to see that it was a drama, and too impotent to do more than play his little part, the discovery must sooner or later break upon him that Nature meant him to become a partner in her task, and share the responsibility of the closing acts. It is not given to him as yet to bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or to unloose the bands of Orion. In part only can he make the winds and waves obey him, or control the falling rain. But in larger part he holds the dominion of the world of lower life. He exterminates what he pleases; he creates and he destroys; he changes; he evolves; his selection replaces natural selection; he replenishes the earth with plants and animals according to his will. But in a far grander sphere, and in an infinitely profounder sense, has the sovereignty passed to him, For, by the same decree, he finds himself the guardian and the arbiter of his personal destiny, and that of his fellow-men. The moulding of his life and of his children's children in measure lie with him. Through institutions of his creation, through Parliaments, Churches, Societies, Schools, he shapes the path of progress for his country and his time. The evils of the world are combated by his remedies; its passions are stayed, its wrongs redressed, its energies for good or evil directed by his hand. For unnumbered millions he opens or shuts the gates of happiness, and paves the way for misery or social health. Never before was it known and felt with the same solemn certainty that Man, within bounds which none can pass, must be his own maker and the maker of the world. For the first time in history not individuals only but multitudes of the wisest and the noblest in every land take home to themselves, and unceasingly concern themselves with, the problem of the Evolution of Mankind. Multitudes more, philanthropists, statesmen, missionaries, humble men and patient women, devote themselves daily to its practical solution, and everywhere some, in a God-like culmination of Altruism, give their very lives for their fellow-men. Who is to help these Practical Evolutionists--for those who read the book of Nature can call them by no other name, and those who know its spirit can call them by no higher--who is to help them in their tremendous task? There is the will--where is the wisdom?
Where but in Nature herself. Nature may have entrusted the further building to Mankind, but the plan has never left her hands. The lines of the future are to be learned from her past, and her fellow-helpers can most easily, most loyally, and most perfectly do their part by studying closely the architecture of the earlier world, and continuing the half-finished structure symmetrically to the top. The information necessary to complete the work with architectural consistency lies in Nature. We might expect that it should be there. When a business is transferred, or a partner assumed, the books are shown, the methods of the business explained, its future developments pointed out. All this is now done for the Evolution of Mankind. In Evolution Creation has shown her hand. To have kept the secret from Man would have imperilled the further evolution. To have revealed it sooner had been premature. Love must come before knowledge, for knowledge is the instrument of Love, and useless till it arrives. But now that there is Altruism enough in the world to begin the new era, there must be wisdom enough to direct it. To make Nature spell out her own career, to embody the key to the development in the very development itself, so that the key might be handed over along with the work, was to make the transference of responsibility possible and rational. In the seventeenth century, Descartes, who with Leibnitz already foresaw the adumbration of the evolutionary process, almost pointed this out; for speaking, in another connection, of the intellectual value of a slow development of things he observes, "their nature is much more easy to conceive when they are seen originating by degrees in this way, than when they are considered as entirely made.
The past of Nature is a working-model of how worlds can be made. The probabilities are there is no better way of making them. If Man does as well it will be enough. In any case he can only begin where Nature left off, and work with such tools as are put into his hands. If the new partner had been intended merely to experiment with world-making, no such legacy of useful law had been ever given him. And if he had been meant to begin de novo on a totally different plan, it is unlikely either that that should not have been hinted at, or that in his touching and beautiful endeavour he should be embarrassed and thrown off the track by the old plan. As a child set to complete some fine embroidery is shown the stitches, the colours, and the outline traced upon the canvas, so the great Mother in setting their difficult task to her later children provides them with one superb part finished to show the pattern.
EVOLUTION AND SOCIOLOGY
The moment it is grasped that we may have in Nature a key to the future progress of Mankind, the study of Evolution rises to an imposing rank in human interest. There lies the programme of the world from the first of time, the instrument, the charter, and still more the prophecy of progress. Evolution is the natural directory of the sociologist, the guide through that which has worked in the past to what--subject to modifying influences which Nature can always be trusted to give full notice of--may be expected to work in the future. Here, for the individual, is a new and impressive summons to public action, a vocation chosen of Nature which it will profit him to consider, for thereby he may not only save the whole world, but find his own soul. "The study of the historical development of man," says Prof. Edward Caird, "especially in respect of his higher life, is not only a matter of external or merely speculative curiosity; it is closely connected with the development of that life in ourselves. For we learn to know ourselves, first of all, in the mirror of the world: or, in other words, our knowledge of our own nature and of its possibilities grows and deepens with our understanding of what is without us, and most of all with our understanding of the general history of man. It has often been noticed that there is a certain analogy between the life of the individual and that of the race, and even that the life of the individual is a sort of epitome of the history of humanity. But, as Plato already discovered, it is by reading the large letters that we learn to interpret the small.... It is only through a deepened consciousness of the world that the human spirit can solve its own problem. Especially is this true in the region of anthropology. For the inner life of the individual is deep and full, just in proportion to the width of his relations to other men and things; and his consciousness of what he is in himself as a spiritual being is dependent on a comprehension of the position of his individual life in the great secular process by which the intellectual and moral life of humanity has grown and is growing. Hence the highest practical as well as speculative interests of men are connected with the new extension of science which has given fresh interest and meaning to the whole history of the race.
If, as Herbert Spencer reminds us, "it is one of those open secrets which seem the more secret because they are so open, that all phenomena displayed by a nation are phenomena of Life, and are dependent on the laws of Life," we cannot devote ourselves to study those laws too earnestly or too soon. From the failure to get at the heart of the first principles of Evolution the old call to "follow Nature" has all but become a heresy. Nature, as a moral teacher, thanks to the Darwinian interpretation, was never more discredited than at this hour; and friend and foe alike agree in warning us against her. But a further reading of Nature may decide not that we must discharge the teacher but beg her mutinous pupils to try another term at school. With Nature studied in the light of a true biology, or even in the sense in which the Stoics themselves employed their favourite phrase, it must become once more the watchword of personal and social progress. With Mr. Huxley's definition of what the Stoics meant by Nature as "that which holds up the ideal of the supreme good and demands absolute submission of the will to its behests . . . which commands all men to love one another, to return good for evil, to regard one another as citizens of one great state, the phrase, "Live according to Nature," so far from having no application to the modern world or no sanction in modern thought, is the first commandment of Natural Religion.
The sociologist has grievously complained of late that he could get but little help from science. The suggestions of Bagehot, the Synthetic Philosophy of Herbert Spencer, the proposals of multitudes of the followers of the last who announced the redemption of the world the moment they discovered the "Social Organism," raised great expectations. But somehow they were not fulfilled. Mr. Spencer's work has been mainly to give this century, and in part all time, its first great map of the field. He has brought all the pieces on the board, described them one by one, defined and explained the game. But what he has failed to do with sufficient precision, is to pick out the King and Queen. And because he has not done so, some men have mistaken his pawns for kings; others have mistaken the real kings for pawns; every ism has found endorsement in his pages, and men have gathered courage for projects as hostile to his whole philosophy as to social order. Theories of progress have arisen without any knowledge of its laws, and the ordered course of things has been done violence to by experiments which, unless the infinite conservatism of Nature had neutralized their evils, had been a worse disaster than they are. This inadequacy, indeed, of modern sociology to meet the practical problems of our time, has become a by-word. Mr. Leslie Stephen pronounces the existing science "a heap of vague empirical observation, too flimsy to be useful"; and Mr. Huxley, exasperated with the condition in which it leaves the human family, protests that "if there is no hope of a large improvement" he should "hail the advent of some kindly comet which would sweep the whole affair away."
The first step in the reconstruction of Sociology will be to escape from the shadow of Darwinism-- or rather to complement the Darwinian formula of the Struggle for Life by a second factor which will turn its darkness into light. A new morphology can only come from a new physiology, and vice versa, and for both we must return to Nature. The one-sided induction has led Sociology into a wilderness of empiricism, and only a complete induction can reinstate it among the sciences. The vacant place is there awaiting it; and every earnest mind is prepared to welcome it, not only as the coming science, but as the crowning Science of all the sciences, the Science, indeed, for which it will one day be seen every other science exists. What it waits for meantime is what every science has had to wait for, exhaustive observation of the facts and ways of Nature. Geology stood still for centuries waiting for those who would simply look at the facts. Men speculated in fantastic ways as to how the world could have been made, and the last thing that occurred to them was to go and see it making. Then came the observers, men who, waiving all theories of the process, addressed themselves to the natural world direct, and in watching its daily programme of falling rain and running stream laid bare the secret for all time. Sociology has had its Werners; it awaits its Huttons. The method of Sociology must be the method of all the natural sciences. It also must go and see the world making, not where the conditions are already abnormal beyond recall, or where Man, by irregular action, has already obscured everything but the conditions of failure; but in lower Nature which makes no mistakes, and in those fairer reaches of a higher world where the quality and the stability of the progress are guarantees that the eternal order of Nature has had her uncorrupted way.
It cannot be that the full programme for the perfect world lies in the imperfect part. Nor can it ever be that science can find the end in the beginning, get moral out of non-moral states, evolve human societies from ant-heaps, or philanthropies from protoplasm. But in every beginning we get a beginning of an end; in every process a key to the single step to be taken next. The full corn is not in the ear, but the first cell of it is, and though `it doth not yet appear' what the million-celled ear shall be, there is rational ground for judging what the second cell shall be. The next few cells of the Social Organism are all that are given to Sociology to affect. And, in dealing with them, its business is with the forces; the phenomena will take care of themselves. Neither the great forces of Nature, nor the great lines of Nature, change in a day, and however apparently unrelated seem the phenomena as we ascend--here animal, there human; at one time non-moral, at another moral--the lines of progress are the same. Nature, in horizontal section, is broken up into strata which present to the eye of ethical Man the profoundest distinctions in the universe; but Nature in the vertical section offers no break, or pause, or flaw. To study the first is to study a hundred unrelated sciences, sciences of atoms, sciences of cells, sciences of Souls, sciences of Societies; to study the second is to deal with one science--Evolution. Here, on the horizontal section, may be what Geology calls an unconformability; there is overlap; changes of climate may be registered from time to time, each with its appropriate reaction on the things contained; upheavals, depressions, denudations, glaciations, faults, vary the scene; higher forms of fossils appear as we ascend; but the laws of life are continuous throughout, the eternal elements in an ever temporal world. The Struggle for Life, and the Struggle for the Life of Others, in essential nature, have never changed. They find new expression in each further sphere, become coloured to our eye with different hues, are there the rivalries or the affections of the brute, and here the industrial or the moral conflicts of the race; but the factors themselves remain the same, and all life moves in widening spirals round them. Fix in the mind this distinction between the horizontal and the vertical view of Nature, between the phenomena and the law, between all the sciences that ever were and the one science which resolves them all, and the confusions and contradictions of Evolution are reconciled. The man who deals with Nature statically, who catalogues the phenomena of life and mind, puts on each its museum label, and arranges them in their separate cases, may well defy you to co-relate such diverse wholes. To him Evolution is alike impossible and unthinkable. But these items that he labels are not wholes. And the world he dissects is not a museum, but a living, moving, and ascending thing. The sociologist's business is with the vertical section, and he who has to do with this living, moving, and ascending thing must treat it from the dynamic point of view.
The significant thing for him is the study of Evolution on its working side. And he will find that nearly all the phenomena of social and national life are phenomena of these two principles--the Struggle for Life, and the Struggle for the Life of Others. Hence he must betake himself in earnest to see what these mean in Nature, what gathers round them as they ascend, how each acts separately, how they work together, and whither they seem to lead. More than ever the method of Sociology must be biological. More urgently than ever "the time has come for a better understanding and for a more radical method; for the social sciences to strengthen themselves by sending their roots deep into the soil underneath from which they spring; and for the biologist to advance over the frontier and carry the methods of his science boldly into human society, where he has but to deal with the phenomena of life, where he encounters life at last under its highest and most complex aspect.
Would that the brilliant writer whose words these are, and whose striking work appears while these sheets are almost in the press, had "sent his roots deep enough into biological soil" to discover the true foundation for that future Science of Society which he sees to be so imperative. No modern thinker has seen the problem so clearly as Mr. Kidd, but his solution, profoundly true in itself, is vitiated in the eyes of science and philosophy by a basis wholly unsound. With an emphasis which Darwin himself has not excelled, he proclaims the enduring value of the Struggle for Life. He sees its immense significance even in the highest ranges of the social sphere. There it stands with its imperious call to individual assertion, inciting to a rivalry which Nature herself has justified, and encouraging every man by the highest sanctions ceaselessly to seek his own. But he sees nothing else in Nature; and he encounters therefore the difficulty inevitable from this standpoint. For to obey this voice means ruin to Society, wrong and anarchy against the higher Man. He listens for another voice; but there is no response. As a social being he cannot, in spite of Nature, act on his first initiative. He must subordinate himself to the larger interest, present and future, of those around him. But why, he asks, must he, since Nature says "Mind thyself"? Till Nature adds the further precept, "Look not every man on his own things, but also on the things of Others," there is no rational sanction for morality. And he finds no such precept. There is none in Nature. There is none in Reason. Nature can only point him to a strenuous rivalry as the one condition of continued progress; Reason can only endorse the verdict. Hence he breaks at once with reason and with Nature, and seeks an "ultra-rational sanction" for the future course of social progress.
Here, in his own words, is the situation. "The teaching of reason to the individual must always be that the present time and his own interests therein are all-important to him. Yet the forces which are working out our development are primarily concerned not with those interests of the individual, but with those widely different interests of a social organism subject to quite other conditions and possessed of an indefinitely longer life. . . . The central fact with which we are confronted in our progressive societies is, therefore, that the interests of the social organism and those of the individuals comprising it at any time are actually antagonistic; they can never be reconciled; they are inherently and essentially irreconcilable. Observe the extraordinary dilemma. Reason not only has no help for the further progress of Society, but Society can only go on upon a principle which is an affront to it. As Man can only attain his highest development in Society, his individual interests must more and more subordinate themselves to the welfare of a wider whole. "How is the possession of reason ever to be rendered compatible with the will to submit to conditions of existence so onerous, requiring the effective and continual subordination of the individual's welfare to the progress of a development in which he can have no personal interest whatever?
Mr. Kidd's answer is the bold one that it is not compatible. There is no rational sanction whatever for progress. Progress, in fact, can only go on by enlisting Man's reason against itself. "All those systems of moral philosophy, which have sought to find in the nature of things a rational sanction for human conduct in society, must sweep round and round in futile circles. They attempt an inherently impossible task. The first great social lesson of those evolutionary doctrines which have transformed the science of the nineteenth century is, that there cannot be such a sanction. . . . The extraordinary character of the problem presented by human society begins thus slowly to come into view. We find man making continual progress upwards, progress which it is almost beyond the power of the imagination to grasp. From being a competitor of the brutes he has reached a point of development at which he cannot himself set any limits to the possibilities of further progress, and at which he is evidently marching onwards to a high destiny. He has made this advance under the sternest conditions, involving rivalry and competition for all, and the failure and suffering of great numbers. His reason has been, and necessarily continues to be, a leading factor in this development; yet, granting, as we apparently must grant, the possibility of the reversal of the conditions from which his progress results, those conditions have not any sanction from his reason. They have had no such sanction at any stage of his history, and they continue to be as much without such sanction in the highest civilizations of the present day as at any past period.
These conclusions will not have been quoted in vain if they show the impossible positions to which a writer, whose contribution otherwise is of profound and permanent value, is committed by a false reading of Nature. Is it conceivable, a priori, that the human reason should be put to confusion by a breach of the Law of Continuity at the very point where its sustained action is of vital moment? The whole complaint, which runs like a dirge through every chapter of this book, is founded on a misapprehension of the fundamental laws which govern the processes of Evolution. The factors of Darwin and Weismann are assumed to contain an ultimate interpretation of the course of things. For all time the conditions of existence are taken as established by these authorities. With the Struggle for Life in sole possession of the field no one, therefore, we are warned, need ever repeat the gratuitous experiment of the past, of Socrates, Plato, Kant, Hegel, Comte, and Herbert Spencer, to find a sanction for morality in Nature. "All methods and systems alike, which have endeavoured to find in the nature of things any universal rational sanction for individual conduct in a progressive society, must be ultimately fruitless. They are all alike inherently unscientific in that they attempt to do what the fundamental conditions of existence render impossible." And Mr. Kidd puts a climax on his devotion to the doctrine of his masters by mourning over "the incalculable loss to English Science and English Philosophy" because Herbert Spencer's work "was practically complete before his intellect had any opportunity of realizing the full transforming effect in the higher regions of thought, and, more particularly, in the department of sociology, of that development of biological science which began with Darwin, which is still in full progress, and to which Professor Weismann has recently made the most notable contributions. Whether Mr. Spencer's ignorance or his science has been at the bottom of the escape, it is at least a lucky one. For if Mr. Kidd had realized "the full transforming effect" of the following paragraph, much of his book could not have been written. "The most general conclusion is that in order of obligation, the preservation of the species takes precedence of the preservation of the individual. It is true that the species has no existence save as an aggregate of individuals; and it is true that, therefore, the welfare of the species is an end to be subserved only as subserving the welfare of individuals. But since disappearance of the species, implying absolute disappearance of all individuals, involves absolute failure in achieving the end, whereas disappearance of individuals, though carried to a great extent, may leave outstanding such numbers as can, by continuance of the species, make subsequent fulfilment of the end possible; the preservation of the individual must, in a variable degree according to circumstances, be subordinated to the preservation of the species, where the two conflict.
What Mr. Kidd has succeeded, and splendidly succeeded, in doing is to show that Nature as interpreted in terms of the Struggle for Life contains no sanction either for morality or for social progress. But instead of giving up Nature and Reason at this point, he should have given up Darwin. The Struggle for Life is not "the supreme fact up to which biology has slowly advanced." It is the fact to which Darwin advanced; but if biology had been thoroughly consulted it could not have given so maimed an account of itself. With the final conclusion reached by Mr. Kidd we have no quarrel. Eliminate the errors due to an unrevised acceptance of Mr. Darwin's interpretation of Nature, and his work remains the most important contribution to Social Evolution which the last decade has seen. But what startles us is his method. To put the future of Social Science on an ultra-rational basis is practically to give it up. Unless thinking men have some sense of the consistency of a method they cannot work with it, and if there is no guarantee of the stability of the results it would not be worth while.
But all that Mr. Kidd desires is really to be found in Nature. There is no single element even of his highest sanction which is not provided for in a thorough-going doctrine of Evolution--a doctrine, that is, which includes all the facts and all the factors, and especially which takes into accounts that evolution of Environment which goes on pari passu with the evolution of the organism and where the highest sanctions ultimately lie. With an Environment which widens and enriches until it includes--or consciously includes, for it has never been absent--the Divine; and with Man so evolving as to become more and more conscious that that Divine is there, and above all that it is in himself, all the materials and all the sanctions for a moral progress are for ever secure. None of the sanctions of religion are withdrawn by adding to them the sanctions of Nature. Even those sanctions which are supposed to lie over and above Nature may be none the less rational sanctions. Though a positive religion, in the Comtian sense, is no religion, a religion that is not in some degree positive is an impossibility. And although religion must always rest upon faith, there is a reason for faith, and a reason not only in Reason, but in Nature herself. When Evolution comes to be worked out along its great natural lines, it may be found to provide for all that religion assumes, all that philosophy requires, and all that science proves.
Theological minds, with premature approval, have hailed Mr. Kidd's solution as a vindication of their supreme position. Practically, as a vindication of the dynamic power of the religious factor in the Evolution of Mankind, nothing could be more convincing. But as an apologetic, it only accentuates a weakness which scientific theology never felt more keenly than at the present hour. This weakness can never be removed by an appeal to the ultra-rational. Does Mr. Kidd not perceive that anyone possessed of reason enough to encounter his dilemma, either in the sphere of thought or of conduct, will also have reason enough to reject any "ultra-rational" solution? This dilemma is not one which would occur to more than one in a thousand; it has tasked all Mr. Kidd's powers to convince his reader that it exists; but if exceptional intellect is required to see it, surely exceptional intellect must perceive that this is not the way out of it. One cannot, in fact, think oneself out of a difficulty of this kind; it can only be lived out. And that precisely is what Nature is making all of us, in greater or less degree, do, and every day making us do more. By the time, indeed, that the world as a whole is sufficiently educated to see the problem, it will already have been solved. There is little comfort, then, for apologetics in this direction. Only by bringing theology into harmony with Nature and into line with the rest of our knowledge can the noble interests given it to conserve retain their vitality in a scientific age. The first essential of a working religion is that it shall be congruous with Man; the second that it shall be congruous with Nature. Whatever its sanctions, its forces must not be abnormal, but reinforcements and higher potentialities of those forces which, from eternity, have shaped the progress of the world. No other dynamic can enter into the working schemes of those who seek to guide the destinies of nations or carry on the Evolution of Society on scientific principles. A divorce here would be the catastrophe of reason, and the end of faith. We believe with Mr. Kidd that "the process of social development which has been taking place, and which is still in progress, in our Western civilization, is not the product of the intellect, but the motive force behind it has had its seat and origin in the fund of altruistic feeling with which our civilization has become equipped." But we shall endeavour to show that this fund of altruistic feeling has been slowly funded in the race by Nature, or through Nature, and as the direct and inevitable result of that Struggle for the Life of Others, which has been from all time a condition of existence. What religion has done to build up this fund, it may not be within the scope of this introductory volume to inquire; it has done so much that students of religion may almost be pardoned the oversight of the stupendous natural basis which made it possible. But nothing is gained by protesting that "this altruistic development, and the deepening and softening of character which has accompanied it, are the direct and peculiar product of the religious system." For nothing can ever be gained by setting one half of Nature against the other, or the rational against the ultra-rational. To affirm that Altruism is a peculiar product of religion is to excommunicate Nature from the moral order, and religion from the rational order. If science is to begin to recognize religion, religion must at least end by recognizing science. And so far from religion sacrificing vital distinctions by allying itself with Nature, so far from impoverishing its immortal quality by accepting some contribution from the lower sphere, it thereby extends itself over the whole rich field, and claims all--matter, life, mind, space, time--for itself. The present danger is not in applying Evolution as a method, but only in not carrying it far enough. No man, no man of science even, observing the simple facts, can ever rob religion of its due. Religion has done more for the development of Altruism in a few centuries than all the millenniums of geological time. But we dare not rob Nature of its due. We dare not say that Nature played the prodigal for ages, and reformed at the eleventh hour. If Nature is the Garment of God, it is woven without seam throughout; if a revelation of God, it is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; if the expression of His Will, there is in it no variableness nor shadow of turning. Those who see great gulfs fixed--and we have all begun by seeing them--end by seeing them filled up. Were these gulfs essential to any theory of the universe or of Man, even the establishment of the unity of Nature were a dear price to pay for obliterating them. But the apparent loss is only gain, and the seeming gain were infinite loss. For to break up Nature is to break up Reason, and with it God and Man.