Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/409

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CIVILIZATION AND SCIENCE.

ning, "Light was," because then the first eye opened, so "Darkness will be," because then the last eye closes.

But from this fate millions of years still separate our race. A young man does not allow himself to be thwarted either in his pleasures or in his ambitions by thoughts of the infirmities of age which await also him, or of the inevitableness of death. So, too, we are but little concerned about the fate that threatens our unimaginably remote posterity. Should we feel greater alarm for the immeasurably nearer danger which threatens our present civilization in the exhaustion of our coal-fields within a calculable period of time? No one, who knows how difficult it is to substitute another source of power, can contemplate without solicitude our scandalous waste of coal. The present demands of manufacturing industry are not very easily checked, it is true; besides, "the living are always in the right,"[1] and later generations must find out for themselves a means of navigating the ocean without coal; nevertheless, the British Parliament would be better employed in devising measures to prevent the waste of coal (which is greater in England than elsewhere), than in busying itself with questions of experimental physiology, as it has lately been doing to the injury of science and the impairment of its own dignity.[2]

Civilization is also threatened in another quarter. In the face of a new barbaric invasion, it need have no fear; but in the heart of every great city, in the busy hives of industry, civilization has itself brought forth a race which, misguided by insane or reprobate leaders, may be to it a source of greater danger, by their ignorance and brutality, than were the Huns and Vandals to the civilization of the ancient world. So wrote Macaulay, and Macaulay did not live to see the year 1871. Again, he takes too dark a view. In point of fact, these dangers are confined to certain points in time and space. Culture in general has nothing to fear even from the Red Internationale. The Servile War, the War of the Peasants, and the Revolt of the Anabaptists, were class psychoses of the same character as the present disturbances. As we regard the former, so will future generations regard the insurrection of June and the Commune; and they will themselves have to deal with the same disease under other forms.

The peril of which I would here speak is not one which directly threatens the stability of civilization. We are concerned rather about the questionable form which civilization tends to assume, judging from the direction in which it is at present developing. It is not easy to define this peril, inasmuch as it is the product of a multitude of trivial circumstances, amid which we ourselves live, and whose influence steals

  1. โ†‘ "Der Lebende hat Recht."โ€”Schiller.
  2. โ†‘ See Ludimar Hermann, "Die Vivisectionsfrage," Leipzig, 1877. Translated into English by Archibald Dickson, under the title of "The Vivisection Question popularly discussed," London, 1877. E. Du Bois-Reymond, "Der physiologische Unterricht sonst und jetzt," Berlin, 1878, ยง 21-23.