Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/570

This page has been validated.

the support of existence, but the keeping up of the social condition and the holding of advances already gained. By conflict, I mean not merely warfare and preparation for warfare, but all expenditure of mental power in seeking the gratification of desire at the expense of others and in resistance to such aggression. . . .

"Association in equality is the law of progress. Association frees mental power, for expenditure in improvement and equality (or justice or freedom, for the terms here signify the same thing, the recognition of the moral law) prevents the dissipation of this power in fruitless struggles. Here is the law of progress which will explain all diversities, all advances, all halts, and retrogressions."

Nothing can be more unsatisfactory than this. It sounds like last-century talk, before science had entered upon the investigation, and ignores a whole continent of facts that have been upheaved during the last two or three generations, and which are fundamental to any theory of human advancement. These scientific revelations force upon us the question of the improvement of man in his earlier stages, as an indispensable key to the understanding of his later advancement. Mr. George says, "Whether man was or was not gradually developed from an animal, it is not necessary to inquire." That depends entirely upon the thoroughness of the inquiry it is proposed to make. Is it so obvious that the progress of man has nothing to do with the development of man? Surely knowledge is preferable to ignorance in regard to man's early history, as well as most other things. It is not all the same, for the purposes of truth, what theory we adopt of man's mode of origin. If the universe was jerked into existence out of nothing and altogether, some six thousand years ago, and if the first man came along with it perfected in intelligence, and endowed with a language suitable for the purposes of a comprehensive zoƶlogical nomenclature, then, indeed, all inquiry respecting the emergence of man is unnecessary. But this childish theory of his first appearance was long since exploded, and the growth of modern knowledge compels the adoption of another. Mr. George says, "We know that there have been geological conditions under which human life was impossible on this earth"; and he here tacitly gives away his whole case, for the implication is of a great historic order in nature, of the antiquity of the earth, and of the course of life as a time-problem of vast import. The indubitable records of life go back millions of years, perhaps millions of ages, in terrestrial history. And this life not only had its progress, but its incontestable mental progress. There was a slow and gradual passage from the lower to the higher, with successive epochs of advancing intelligence, the creatures nearest to man in organization coming last before man himself appeared.

We have here the conception of progress deep in the constitution of Nature. We have her method, which is that of progress by the operation of natural law. There was a time when the human race did not exist upon the earth, although it had been for countless ages a theatre of developing life. Will Mr. George maintain that man did not come in conformity with the preƫxisting order? Does he deny that man is a part of Nature, the sequel of an organic series, and to be studied and interpreted in the light of the great unfolding law of this series? All the facts show not only that man has had a much greater antiquity upon this earth than was formerly supposed, but that he had a very low beginning. There was a prehistoric and primitive man, who dwelt in caves, made and used implements of stone, lived by hunting, and was the lowest kind of a savage. So much is established, whatever be the worth of speculations regarding his derivation from an