FROM age to age science has given mankind a new world, and the latest newness — which will not be the last — is perhaps strangest of all. Many of us who were eager students of science forty or fifty years ago have ceased to feel at home in the universe, it has become so new. What are the salient features in this newness?
Before attempting an answer, let us illustrate very briefly the historical fact that from time to time the whole world has appeared to man in a new light. We do not refer mainly to the great scientific discoveries, for many of these have never touched the imagination of the great body of educated people; we refer to disclosures which thrilled mankind. And we must let our thoughts travel back to the first of all these disclosures, which came when prehistoric man began to discover from the seasons and from the stars the basal fact of the Order of Nature. As Poincaré points out, a beclouding of the earth, sufficient to hinder the discovery of astronomical uniformities, might have involved a permanent beclouding of man’s intellect; for it is doubtful if science could ever have begun without the help of the stars. And, apart from the foundation of a stable system of knowledge, it must have been a liberating relief when thoughtful men discovered that there is no capriciousness in the routine of the physical universe. It is difficult for us to realize how many centuries had to pass before it was discovered that living creatures are also ‘under the Reign of Law,’ as the old phrase termed it. Even in the twentieth century, men who would never dream of indulging ‘ hopes ’ in a matter of bridge building, or the like, are often expectant of evading in their own bodies the consequences of breaking the laws of health.
How new the world became when Galileo resolved the Milky Way into a galaxy of separate stars, and when a geocentric picture of our solar system was changed by Copernicus and others into a heliocentric one! How new the world became in the early seventeenth century when the pioneer microscopists revealed the invisible structures, activities, and beings on which the visible in large measure depends! Again the world became new and newly unified when Lavoisier, victim of the extremists of the French Revolution, placed the panting mouse beside the burning candle, and declared that all living, in one of its chemical aspects, is a process of combustion or oxidation, one of the first ‘legitimate materialisms’ in biology, showing that, unique as living creatures are, they may be studied as the seats of chemical and physical processes in line with those that occur in the non-living domain.
How new the world became when Newton’s genius linked the falling apple to the distant moon, discovering the most widely applicable, and, within certain modern limitations, the most perfect of all the formulæ that sum up the routine of our experience! Well might the poet say,
God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light.
A new unity means a new world; and another signal instance of this may be found in the doctrine of the Conservation of Energy which will be always associated with the work of Joule, a Manchester brewer, a maker of new knowledge if there ever was one. For we owe to Joule, and to others like Mayer and Helmholtz, whom we must associate with him, the establishment of the generalization that no energy (or power of doing work) can go lost, but can at most suffer transformation from one guise to another. The sun raises the water of the ocean to form clouds and sets loose the wind that shepherds these across the sky; the water vapor condenses into runlets on the mountains and the cascade drives wheels which generate electricity in abundance. Thence man may send powerful electric arcs through the air and fix the free nitrogen into ammonium nitrite or the like, and thus may produce the valuable artificial fertilizers of the wheat lands. So that man makes bread out of the thin air! Or the electricity generated by the waterfall may be used to light the distant city, or warm its houses, or drive its street cars. From one expression to another, like the Proteus of old mythology, the power may change, sinking down eventually to unavailable diffuse heat, but no energy can go lost, so to speak, in any closed system of dynamic operations. The law of the Conservation of Energy, requiring saving clauses to-day, suggested a world in which nothing real — unless it be individuality — can ever be lost. Bound up with the idea of conservation was the idea of the transformability of energy from one mode to another, and, as this began at once to influence practical inventions, it had widespread popular recognition and is a good instance of the way in which science has from time to time made the world new for large masses of the people.
Illustrations might be multiplied, but perhaps those we have recalled are sufficient to obviate the fallacy that the newness of the outlook to-day is in any way unique. The newness of today is perhaps preëminent in its degree, but it is of a kind that has had many heralds. We should perhaps have included the evolutionist outlook as one of the gains of the past, but there is something to be said for regarding its full acceptance among the general body of educated people as distinctively modern. In any case, since science in its making and in its diffusion is somewhat like an organic growth, it is a mistake to try to demarcate too firmly, and there is usually, as in the case of Darwinism, a long succession of anticipators, precursors, demonstrators, corroborators, expositors, and so forth.
The World To-day
I. One of the greatest unifications that science has ever made is expressed in the electronic theory of matter — that all the different kinds of matter differ from one another only in the number and disposition of their component electrons (unit charges of negative electricity) and hydrogen nuclei or protons (each carrying a charge of positive electricity). The simplest of all the atoms is that of hydrogen, which is pictured as consisting of a single proton and of a single electron revolving around it at a high velocity. But this is too simple to be a good sample, so we may take in contrast the atom of uranium, the most complex as yet known. It seems to have (1) a core of 238 hydrogen nuclei or protons; (2) along with these, 146 inner electrons; and (3), outside these again, 92 outer electrons. Thus, if we think of the centre of the uranium atom (the core and the inner electrons) as a sun, we may think of the 92 outer electrons as so many planets. The poet Blake spoke of seeing a world in a grain of sand, and that is what modern science has verified; the atom of matter is like a constellation. The picture of the complex atom as a constellation seems to be already in need of change, and the electron is no longer regarded as the last word in atomic analysis, but these and similar questions are for experts and far beyond our scope here; they do not affect the great new conclusion that all the different kinds of matter, such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, chlorine, mercury, iron, silver, gold, radium, and uranium, differ only in the numbers and arrangements of their component electrons and protons — the tenuous building stones of the universe, ‘the stuff out of which worlds have been spun.’ Thus, starting with the discovery of radioactivity by Becquerel, science has given us a newworld.
II. Another salient feature in the newness of the outlook to-day is the unification of the radiant energies. The first great step toward this was when Faraday unified electricity and magnetism, and cautiously expressed his expectation that other forms of energy would fall into line. This was in part fulfilled when Clerk Maxwell showed that light is also electrical in nature; and other unifications followed. Today we picture an impressive gamut of electromagnetic radiotrons, differing in their measured wave lengths from those of very long wave length, some of which are used in broadcasting, to those of very short wave length, some of which are used in radiotherapy. If the visible light waves that we are most pleasantly familiar with in the sunshine be ranked as one octave, then there is a known gamut of 61 other octaves of electromagnetic radiations, or ether waves, as some would call them. This is one of the grandest unifications that the mind of man has achieved, and it should be noticed that by means of one of the octaves — namely, light — man has come to know all he knows.
From the time of Joule onward, it was clear to all thoughtful minds that the sun is the source of almost all the energy or power on the earth. But when they were asked how the sun, or any other luminous star, was able to continue for so long pouring forth light and heat, they gave answers which were not very satisfactory—for example, that the sun was burning itself away like a colossal fiery furnace, and that it made good its losses by contracting in volume. But such answers proved more and more unworkable, and it was reserved for the twentieth century to discover the source of all the power in our world. However the experts may still differ in regard to details, there seems to be general agreement that the source of all the radiant power in the universe of stars is atomic. According to some authorities, there is a release of energy by some transmutation of elements, such as occurs in the disintegration of the atoms of radioactive substances. According to others, there is generation of energy in sun and star when an electron and a proton, jerked off from atoms, annihilate one another in headlong collision. As regards the radiant energies, our world picture has a new unity and coherence.
III. We have referred to the unification of the different forms of matter and energy (hardly separable concepts to-day), and now we turn to the unification that has come about in the realm of organisms. A new unity has become so familiar that we can hardly realize that it was an achievement of little more than a century ago. Aristotle knew some five hundred different kinds of animals, and he had anticipations of the fact that they were not all so different from one another as they seemed at first sight. Thus in his insight he indicated that scales, feathers, and hairs had a common nature, and he had a grasp of the fact that apparently different organs may be homologous — that is to say, closely alike in fundamental structure and development. Thus he knew that whales are mammals, not fishes. Other recognitions of the unity amid manifoldness were expressed later on in the relationships worked out by the comparative anatomists and the classifiers; and there was a prescient wisdom in Linné’s application of the term Organisata to include both plants and animals. For this was a recognition of the important commonplace that plants and animals — so far apart to the ordinary observer — are more alike than they are different.
Yet it was not till 1838—39 that Schwann and Schleiden, soon supported by Virchow and Goodsir, formulated the cell theory or cell doctrine. This expressed three fundamental conclusions: (1) that all living creatures are either single cells or aggregates of cells and modifications of cells; (2) that every many-celled organism, if reproduced in the ordinary way, begins its individual life as a fertilized egg cell, which divides and redivides to build up an embryonic body; and (3) that the life of a multicellular organism is the sum total of the life of its component cells, and yet a little more, because of that integration which makes the living whole more than the sum of its parts. This cell theory made the world of life new.
Yet it is a remarkable historical fact that it was not until about 1861 that even biologists began to realize that there is a common physical basis of life in all living creatures. The more or less clear and viscid ‘sarcode’ of animal cells had been recognized, as when Dujardin studied the movements of the pinhead-like chalk-forming animals (Foraminifera) and noticed that the viscid outflowings adhered to his manipulating needles; but the idea that all animals are built up of a similar kind of living substance had not dawned. One reason for this was that the living matter of cells is very apt to be masked by inclusions and products which make the cells appear much more different than they really are; but the deeper reason was that the times were not ripe for the idea that life could be thought of in terms of a physical basis. It seems nowadays extraordinary that investigators could carefully describe the ‘protoplasm’ of the plant cell with von Mohl and the ‘sarcode’ of the animal cell with Dujardin without realizing that these were in essentials the same, though in each and every case specific. For along with the unity there has also to be recognized an individuality or specificity. As Saint Paul said, there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fishes.
It was an epoch-making step when Max Schultze in 1861 realized that there is a definite kind of stuff at the foundation of all forms of life — protoplasm, which Huxley tersely described as ‘the physical basis of life.’ This was what Sir Michael Foster called the beginning of ‘the protoplasmic movement,’ the fruitful idea that the particular kind of activity which we call ‘life’ has its home, so to speak, in an intricate mixture of carbon compounds (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and so forth), and expresses itself in disruptions and constructions, downbreakings and upbuildings, katabolisms and anabolisms of this material. The great French physiologist, Claude Bernard, has the credit of being one of the first to focus the idea of a balanced twofold process of waste and repair which is characteristic of life. It was a legitimate materialism, and the fulcrum for the powerful biochemical lever, yet soon it became necessary to ask — as we are still asking — whether protoplasm is not always, more or less, psychoplasm as well.
The student must be lacking in the historical sense who is not thrilled by the fact that just about a century ago (1828) Wöhler synthesized urea, a characteristic organic compound, occurring even in some plants; and Hennell about the same time did the same for alcohol. Why is this to be regarded as epoch-making? Because it had been previously supposed that organic compounds could not arise apart from the touch of life; but in 1828 the barricade was broken forever, and almost at one assault. It is now a familiar fact that the creative chemist can build up not only sugars, but even amino acids, and subtle carbon compounds like thyroxin and adrenalin — the hormones of the thyroid gland and the suprarenal bodies respectively. The synthetic chemist is hammering at the portals of life’s citadel, and there is promise in (he experiments of Baly and his collaborators, in which the action of light on a mixture of carbon dioxide and water serves to synthesize formaldehyde and then sugar, while the addition of some ordinary nitrogenous salt may bring about, still with the help of light, the formation of a nitrogenous carbon compound, approaching an amino acid.
Relatively modern are two important adjuncts to the idea of protoplasm, that it has the properties of a colloid, and that many of its activities are indissolubly bound up with fermentations; but our main point is that the idea of protoplasm made the world of life new. Apart from technicalities, the importance of the colloidal nature of protoplasm lies in the fact that innumerable ultramicroscopic particles and unmixing droplets are in suspension in a fluid medium, and that they present, like an archipelago of hundreds of islands with an enormous coast line, a large surface in proportion to their total volume — a large surface on which physical and chemical changes can go on apace, like trading on the coasts of the countless islands of our imaginary archipelago. As to the importance of those elusive substances known as ferments or enzymes, which can do so much though present in minimal quantities, and can do so much without being themselves exhausted, we cannot apart from them even begin to understand the rapidity and tirelessness of the chemical processes which go on in every living cell. Pasteur may be taken as one of the great initiators along this line of investigation.
What is the significance of all this?
1. It means that we have a unified view of the whole realm of organisms, since they are all built up of the same kind of material — namely, protoplasm. Here we get a glimpse of the genius of Nature (or of the Creator), that a fabric of at first bewildering diversity and intricacy is seen to be woven out of only two or three different kinds of thread. For what does the Common Denominator of the world include besides (a) atoms (electrons and protons), (b) electromagnetic radiotrons, and (c) mind?
2. It pleases our desire for unity to know that there is a legitimate materialism — namely, a promiseful chemistry and physics of the living body — in which much certainly goes on that is in line with the processes that take place in the domain of nonliving things. At the same time, though keeping to a factual basis, we hold by the autonomy of biology — that is to say, that there is much in the life of organisms that requires categories or concepts peculiar to biological science. Thus the organism is a ‘historic being,’ enregistering the past and using it to influence the future, often purposively, sometimes purposefully.
3. For the life of man — and not on its lower reaches only — it means much that his biochemical nature is being widely recognized, not merely as a theoretical proportion, but as a practical reality, to be supplemented, of course, by an acknowledgment of his biopsychical nature. He must not, to use Walt Whitman’s phrase, lie awake in the dark and weep for his sins, when he should be undergoing thyroid treatment under the physician’s orders. In the opposite direction, he must not allow himself to be so preoccupied with some deficiency in his calcium metabolism that he never asks himself whether he is not possibly starving himself as regards beauty.
But our present point is simply that the progress of biological science along the lines of the protoplasmic movement has opened up the prospect of a new world. Thus we know how the hormones or chemical messengers secreted by the ductless glands and distributed through the body by the blood are fundamentally important in securing the health and regulating the harmony of the body — whose activities, both protoplasmic and psychical, they may be said to orchestrate. Two of the most important of these hormones, the thyroxin made by the thyroid gland and the adrenalin made by the suprarenal bodies, can now be synthesized artificially in the laboratory, and thence introduced, with often miracle-like effects, into the body of the patient who is suffering from deficiency in the natural supply. Where no artificial synthesis has been effected, the hormone that the patient needs must be introduced from some other organism, as in the well-known case of insulin.
And just as a recognition of the rôle of hormones has changed the whole face of physiology, and is fast changing several departments of medicine, so the theory and practice of dietetics have been deeply modified by some recognition of the role of vitamins or accessory foodstuffs, which, though present in minimal amount in most natural foods, are now proved to be more necessary than the necessaries. Their importance in health and growth and development is not merely an interesting piece of new information; it puts into man’s hands a new method of combating disease and fostering vigor. Sailors need no longer have scurvy or children rickets, for the counteractive vitamins are readily available in natural foods properly balanced.
To some it may seem an exaggeration to call this view of man as a remediable organism a new feature in our world to-day, but we cannot yield the point. To take an illustration, one of the heaviest mundane clouds that have ever darkened the human sky in warm countries is hookworm disease, due to various threadworms (Anchylostomum and Necator) which live in the food canal of man and suck blood from the walls. They produce anæmia and weakness, depression and despair, and are often fatal. They are the cause of the widespread ‘tropical depression’ familiar to missionaries, explorers, and employers of labor in many hot countries; and until recently the attempts to counter the disease have not met with much success. It has been shown, however, by the strenuous campaigners of the Rockefeller Institution that hookworm is conquerable. Doses of carbon tetrachloride quickly eliminate the deadly parasites, and simple sanitary measures prevent reinfection. The heavy cloud has already lifted in many places. Our proposition is that the possession of a common protoplasm makes all organic nature kin; and the proposition has far-reaching implications. Thus man, unique and apart as he is, especially at his best, is solidary with the rest of creation. He has language and reason (the capacity for conceptual inference or working with general ideas), he is in some measure aware of his past and able to control his future, he builds up around him a potent social heritage; but the fact remains that he has prehuman strands in the fabric of his being, that he illustrates the laws of heredity like the beasts of the field, that he illustrates with differences the ordinary evolutionary factors, such as variation and selection, and that he, as protoplast, is part of that quivering web of interrelations which is yet another expression of the Unity of Life. This modern idea insists on correcting the fact of man’s apartness by the facts of his solidarity, and so the world is becoming new.
IV. Another new feature of farreaching importance, though not as yet very widely appreciated, is the Unity of Mind, meaning by this phrase that to an extent previously unsuspected there is evidence of a mental aspect throughout the whole animal world. Evading in this article the difficult question of the mental aspect in plants, — where, however, it seems almost self-evident to the distinguished investigator Sir J. C. Bose, — we claim for the animal world that there are expressions of an inner subjective life almost from the first. In simple types like amœbæ, it is possible enough that consciousness is only in flashes at critical moments; but as we ascend the series there is a more and more undeniable indication of a continuous mental aspect, until we find ourselves face to face with the clear intelligence of types like dog and horse, elephant and ape.
If we hold an ostrich plume in our left hand in front of us, with the axis slightly tilted, and so that the barbs of one side are pointing upward and those of the other side downward, we may arrange on this the very diverse modes of animal and human behavior. Perhaps the outer or convex surface of the axis and its barbs might usefully represent the objective, physiological, neural, or metabolic aspect of behavior, while the inner or concave surface might usefully represent the subjective, psychological, mental, or psychical aspect, in model or symbol as it were; but we need not go into this at present. Our point here is that the uppointing barbs may be taken to represent all the initiative or experimental modes of behavior — for instance, trying various reactions, experimenting at non-intelligent levels, profiting by experience, learning to associate an antecedent and a consequent, utilizing intelligence or the power of perceptual inference, and, finally, rising to reason in the strict sense, or the power of conceptual inference, which seems to be confined to man, though possibly dawning in some of the doings of the higher apes. On the other side, the down-pointing barbs may be taken to represent all the outcomes of engrained reactions, inborn reflexes, enregistered tropisms and rhythms, instinctive behavior at various levels, conditioned reflexes established by the individual organism, the habituation of intelligent actions, the normal activities of the unconscious, and possibly unconscious cerebration at a very high level, as illustrated by some mathematicians and other thinkers. From a common stem of evolving brain-and-mind there have arisen specialized forms of behavior in a long gamut, and, although no individual form directly gives rise to its successor in the ascent, there is a long graduated series from the amœba, exploring for food, to the biochemist, experimenting with new ways of solving the problem of nutrition in mankind.
There is no possibility of describing the higher reaches of thinking, feeling, and purposing among men and women without allowing for the mental aspect as a vera causa that counts; and, despite the extreme behaviorists, it is impossible to draw any hard and fast line, above which there is ideation, emotion, and purposing, but below which there is none. This would be an untenable evolutionary position, and it is also at variance with what is familiar fact in the individual development of every human embryo, infant, and child.
Thus there is dawning a new view that the whole of life and the whole ascent of life are interpenetrated with ‘mind.’ No doubt there was and is dim awareness before percepts and concepts, diffuse joie de vivre before defined emotion, and the bent bow of endeavor before clear-cut purposefulness; but throughout there is and has been ‘mind,’ even though it slumber in tree and coral, with no more than occasional thrills of excitement ina few, and dreamsmiles, which we call beauty, in all. To the monistic evolution-philosophers it is indeed necessary to go further and to credit the original nebulæ with something more than would have met the eye had there been any eye to see — something analogous to mind, out of which mind could have evolved. For it cannot be juggled out of matter and energy. It is interesting to find that some of the leaders in modern physical investigation seem more willing than their predecessors to leave room for a breath of spontaneity in their deterministic schemes. After a long circuit there is a return toward the old truth: In the beginning was Mind.
But, keeping to the scientific ‘universe of discourse,’ we maintain that the largest fact in evolution is the growing ascendancy and emancipation of mind. In this there is great hopefulness for mankind, for who dare say that this evolutionary trend has reached its limit ?
We should also have spoken of the new outlook which is implied in the immense size of the canvas on which modern astronomers depict the universe or the universes around us. It brings obvious difficulties of its own that the only living creatures we are sure of are those that have this earth as their home, and that no protoplasmic organisms such as we are aware of could live in an environment where water is not present in liquid form. This fact greatly reduces the possibilities of life on any other planet; and, although we cannot assert that there might not be somewhere else a population of entirely different body-and-mind integrates, they interest us but little, since we cannot imagine them in the least. Yet it seems difficult to be satisfied that we are quite right in supposing that man in a little cold corner of the inconceivable immense universe is the only creature who can interpret anything. If this is so, it is with a new catch in our breath that we echo the old words: ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?’
Some reference might have been expected to the modern idea of relativity, which has deeply changed the outlook of those who have understood it. We have omitted it partly because of its difficulty, but mainly because no one can say that it has as yet gripped a large body of the people and made their world new. But we claim that this is true of the four great conclusions which have just been emphasized: (1) the unity of matter, (2) the unification of the radiant energies, (3) the unity and solidarity of life, and (4) the pervasiveness of mind.
The Old Giving Place to the New
Another way of appreciating the situation is to compare the old times and outlooks with the new. The world is vaster, grander, more orderly, more translucent, more wonderful than ever it was before.
1. Gone is the old fear of forces leagued against man, and of evil spirits waiting greedily for his destruction. Truly there is room in the world without for reasonable fear and still more in the world within. ‘Fear not them which kill the body . . . but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body.’ This second fear remains, but gone is the old fear of an inimical Nature and of daimonic powers that grudge man his short-lived happiness. What liberation of spirit this driving away of devils has meant! ‘Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers.’
2. Gone is the old sense of bewildering confusion, for almost everywhere there is order. A phantasmagoria has given place to a cosmos. Even discords like disease have their laws and can be reckoned with reasonably. The old notion of a disease as some mysterious enemy reaching out of the darkness unpredictably and seizing poor men by the throat may linger in regard to obscure maladies like cancer, but the causes of most diseases can be stained and microscopically examined. Storms can be predicted and famines prepared for. The fundamental mysteriousness of nature does not grow less, but the secondary mysteries disappear like clouds before the sun. Every year discloses some new orderliness in the universe.
3. Gone is the old bogey of the capricious. The poet almost finished it with his caustic line: ‘Shall gravitation cease when you go by?’ How many real laws of nature man has discovered as yet is a very difficult question, but he has at any rate shown that there are many great uniformities of experience that can be tersely formulated and entirely trusted to. Wherever there is individuality there is an element of the unpredictable, and some of the recent discoveries in physics suggest that we should not be in a hurry to set dogmatic limits to the emergence of spontaneity, even in the world of atoms; but the indeterminateness of complex individualities is neither capricious nor disorderly. Given a reasonable acquaintance with the facts, it is safer to predict the return of a comet than to tell how the cat will jump; yet there are laws of cat-jumping, and the Mendelian counts and describes his chickens before they are hatched!
4. Gone too is the phobia of the old apsychism, the fear of what Comte has called ‘illegitimate materialisms.’ There is a chemistry and physics of the living organism, and this is a legitimate materialism of indubitable fruitfulness; but it is illegitimate to say that nothing is done to or done by a living creature which cannot be adequately described in chemical and physical — that is, theoretically, mechanistic — terms. ‘Illegitimate,’ because exclusively mechanistic biology does not work; it involves a false simplicity which does not grip the major facts of life such as development and behavior. When it is pushed to the extreme of regarding the psychical life as a flow of unmeaning and entirely negligible bubbles on the stream of metabolism, or as the mere whirr of the cerebral engine wheels, the mechanistic theory becomes a contradiction in terms, since a machine cannot possibly concoct a theory that it is merely a machine. We are, of course, aware that it is painfully easy to lose the esprit de corps in the details of colloidal chemistry, the individuality in the details of reflexes and tropisms, the mind in the body and the soul in the mind; yet it seems safe to say that an end has come to the old dread that science necessarily involves a mechanized theory of life. One must not, indeed, argue against a scientific conclusion because it seems to us to threaten some more sacred ‘vested interest,’ but it is always a sound method to ask whether this or that formulation is adequately covering all the known facts of the case. Illegitimate materialism remains a real danger, practical as well as theoretical, but we need not make a bogey of it. We need not be superstitious in regard to what was largely a superstition — the old materialism.
5.Another of the dispiriting phobias that we are warranted in leaving behind is the picture of an eternal worldeddy— ‘nothing new but has already been, and nothing new under the sun.’ For the story of the past is a story of emergent evolution — an evolution that deserves to be called creative, since it has gone on from novelty to novelty almost always excelling itself. No doubt masterpieces have been evolved and have passed away without leaving any descendants to-day; no doubt there have been retrogressions and degenerations. These are minor problems of much interest. But the large fact is the general advance of life, an advance in whose momentum we live. It is an ascent, not a descent, that we have behind us. Progress is, of course, a human and modern concept, but if birds and mammals have not made progress as compared with their extinct reptilian ancestors, then we must invent some other word for this kind of advance; and so is it for Homo Sapiens as compared with tentative men like Pithecanthropus.
6. Gone too is the inhibiting belief that there are certain evils which cannot be got rid of. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The poor are always with us, we are told, and whoring, which has been from the beginning, will continue even unto the end. Disease has tentacles like Hydra, we are told, and to lop them off merely means that they grow again. The serpent of sin lies coiled and uncoiling forever at the roots of the tree Yggdrasill. ‘You cannot change human nature’ is one of the most frequently reiterated falsities. These widespread, strongly clutching beliefs as to the conservation of evils must be left behind. The history of modern medicine and hygiene is enough to give them the lie; and, although education cannot make silk purses out of sows’ ears, it can make decent citizens out of very unpromising materials. The fact is that evolution is going on, and, on the whole, integratively.
7. Gone too from the minds of many is the old view of science as a kind of bed-rock knowledge which has the last word to say about everything, the one and only right of way to reality. Science has no such exalted métier. It proposes to describe and formulate the measurable and impersonally verifiable facts of experience, to which certain methods of observation and experiment can be applied, and also to give a historical account of the actual way in which things and organisms have come to be as they are. Its questions are What, Whence, and How? But it declines to ask the question Why? For it is not its business — that is, not in the line of its methods of descriptive analysis — to inquire into the purpose or significance of the evolving world as a whole. The word ultimate does not occur in the scientific dictionary, and science leaves interpretation to philosophy and religion. On the one hand, science must state its conclusions scientifically, without other than scientific implications; on the other hand, religion and philosophy must not clothe their interpretations in terms which cannot be accepted by the scientific intelligence. Hence particular conflicts must. long continue, but they are coming to have more utility since the old idea has been relinquished that the scientific description and the religious interpretation are alternatives. To oppose them is to make a false antithesis; they are complementary, not competitive. Yet it has to be granted that those in whom the scientific mood is peculiarly strong and resolute have sometimes very little organic inclination to be interested in anything approaching the mystical, which is by hypothesis ‘beyond science.’ Contrariwise, it is very unlikely that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, to select an attractive saint, could ever have become a great scient, for it is told of him that he rode all day along the shores of Lake Leman and then asked in the evening when they were coming to the water.
Science is a particular way of looking at the world, but it is not the only way. For its own purposes it must remain of single eye, but will man ever cease to demand a synoptic vision? We learn by feeling and living as well as by scientifically knowing. Science is one of the pathways toward the truth, but there are other pathways. Vivendo discimus. By certain methods, determinedly abstract and partial, methods of weighing and measuring, analyzing and reducing, science formulates the fractions of reality which it grips. But by hypotheses it only gets at fractions of reality, since it is too daring a postulate to suppose that scientific methods are always able to exhaust the manifoldness of a situation — especially when we are dealing with complexities of a high order, such as organism, man, and society. Scientific inquiry may be likened to fishing in the sea of reality with a particular kind of tackle. This tackle has well-known excellences, but it has also recognized limitations; and there may be much in the sea that the net used will not catch, being of too wide a mesh. On the whole, science aims at description in terms of the Lowest Common Denominators available; while religion and philosophy aim at interpretation in terms of the Greatest Common Measure.
The loggerhead turtle lays its eggs on a sandy shore, and when the young ones are hatched out they dig their way to the surface and make for the sea. By careful experiments Professor G. H. Parker of Harvard has shown that the young loggerheads are not guided by hearing or smelling the sea, nor do its waters in the strict sense come within their vision. But the loggerheads have an inborn bias to make for the more illumined horizon. If an upward slope is artificially arranged, they will creep uphill if it is toward the opener light; if a barrier like a fence is arranged so that the more illumined horizon is inland, then inland they will go. On the floor of a tub the little creatures crawl about at random, for the prospect is equally dull all around; but if the tub is inverted and the adventurers are placed on the platform, they will make unerringly in the right direction and topple over toward the sea! Comparing great things with little, we may liken man to these loggerheads; he has, on the whole, a bias for making toward the more illumined horizon. The question we wish to ask is: What new prospects are before us?
Of a truth there cannot be anything fundamentally new, for evolution, as Samuel Butler said, is like a fugue in music, in which, when the subject and the counter-subject have been announced, thenceforward there can be nothing that is new, though all must be new. Now hunger and love correspond to the subject and counter-subject in the evolution-fugue. Since man began to come to his own he has been seeking for more life, more love, more light, and more luxury — always the same.
Yet there are novel features in the outlook of to-day, and the first of these is expressed in the distinctively modern rallying cry: ‘Science for Life.’ As man resolutely faces the remediable facts of life with the torch of science, what rewards may he not expect in a few centuries of this new habit — new as a general principle, though familiarly old here and there, for instance in some corners of medical practice? Occupational diseases are fast disappearing, parasitic and microbic diseases are being rapidly conquered, there is likely to be an improvement of public conscience that will mean a full stop to many constitutional defects and disharmonies. A fresh enthusiasm for positive health — as different from the absence of disease as positive peace is from the cessation of war — is spreading in the more civilized countries of the world. It is possible that some way of escape may be found from the disharmonies and pathologies of sex.
To many it seems that well-advised, not merely selfish and unadventurous, birth control will increase the walfare and happiness of families, will lessen the severity of the struggle for existence, still so often reproachfully tragic, will reduce the risks of war, and will evade the debacle of a world in which, if the absolute increase of its population continues at its present rate, there will soon be need, it has been well said, for mankind to hoist the placard, ‘Standing Room Only.’
For centuries there has been experimenting with education, but the new outlook is psychology for education, or education as applied psychology. No doubt the ideal of eupsychics, held in a vague way, is as old as that of eugenics; what is new is a growing awareness of scientifically thought-out methods, by which the ideals can be more adequately attained. Traditionalism has ruled us for too long, and we have been tyrannized by minds which we mistakenly thought to be our own. Too little attention has been paid to the results reached by daring experimenters, pioneers before the time was ripe. Fair play in opportunities will certainly find abundant extension, but the biologically fallacious doctrine of equalitarianism will be left behind, so that classes in school will be no longer futilized by allowing the tail to become a tedious drag on the head. Besides systematic, though joyous, education of the senses (for example, of observation); besides the education of asthetic feeling through beauty feasts, and of ethical feeling through telling the noble stories of the past; besides all sorts of indispensable brain-stretching disciplines or intellectual gymnastics, which should vary with individual teachers and pupils (for instance, mathematics for most and Greek verse for a few), what will be the essentials of informative instruction? We believe that the pupils of the future will leave school with (a) a dramatic picture of the events that have counted for most in the history of their race; (b) some ability to find their way about — just a little, but that clearly and sincerely — in the world in which they are going to live; and (c) some vivid realization of the laws of health and happiness, with awareness of the rewards and joys of knowing more. As our successors thus become less miseducated, there will be progress indeed.
While in our opinion there is likely to be a loss of all belief in the possibility of the direct entailment of individual gains, — physical, intellectual, and emotional, — there will be compensating realization of the wonders that ‘nurture’ in the widest sense may effect for the individual. Heredity is the strongest factor in life, but surroundings and functionings are probably much more powerful than is as yet imagined, and they are capable of unlimited modification for the better.
Perhaps it will come to be realized that the inborn quality that means most for the progress of mankind — the quality, therefore, which is to be most persistently selected or bred for — is the individual’s power of taking advantage of the most evolutionary elements in the social heritage, which is as supreme as the germ plasm is fundamental. Perhaps it is here that we come nearest the open secret of social, as distinguished from organic, progress.
And as to progress, known as yet only in particulate or piecemeal expression, and often checkered, will it not be more fully actualized when mankind becomes more discontented with one-sided views of life — for instance, sympathy without synthesis, or both without synergy? Like children who grow away from their toys and eagerly seize the realities of life, so will mankind pass more and more from the lower to the higher values, which give more lasting satisfaction and a deeper happiness. For, given positive health in abundant measure, and a reasonable possession of wealth (meaning command of food and other energies), what is progress but a fuller and more allround embodiment of the true, the beautiful, and the good, on all of which even organic evolution has set its seal of approval? Nothing else is more than very piecemeal progress.
Speaking for ourselves, we cannot say that we see on the horizon — on the best-illumined horizon of the human loggerhead — any new understanding of what is meant by the relation of mind and body, or of the relation between body-MIND, like the philosopher thinking, and the mindBODY, like the same philosopher taking exercise. The continuance of this obscurity is one of the greatest hindrances to firm-footed progress. Yet it is a scientific fact, not a wish-fathered thought, that in the course of the ascent of life, during hundreds of millions of years, there have been a slowly growing ascendancy and emancipation of the mental aspect of organisms. The higher organisms, such as birds and mammals, are more integrated unities than the lower — ‘more perfect wholes,’ as General Smuts would say; but at the same time there is a rounding-off of the inner life, which becomes less ‘thirled’ to the body, through which, however, it never ceases to be thrilled. Just as a yellow bunting on its furze bush is beginning to have a very definite subjective individuality, above which the dog and the horse, humanized by sharing responsible tasks with man, are reaching forward to a personality, which those who know them best are slowest to deny them, so there may be an integration evolving in mankind beyond the ordinary human mind and character. Is he not a bold evolutionist who would close the door of hope to those who believe that men and women at their best may rise to a yet higher integration — and even gain an ‘immortable’ soul?