Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/250

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
240
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

As an advanced science implies an advanced art—the progress of the two being ever conditioned upon each other—so the great advances of the sciences and arts imply a corresponding development of human intelligence. The principle of action and reaction prevails in the world of mind as in the world of matter, and while the human intellect, by cogent applications of its powers, has established multitudinous differentiations in things once inextricably intermingled, a corresponding differentiation and specialization of its own powers has inevitably resulted. But specialization of functions being the direct evidence of its greater perfection, it is incontrovertible that the multiplication of specializations of knowledge by human inquiry has resulted in improvements of the powers of the human mind. The strain now put on human power to keep pace with the advances already made is an assurance that there will be in the future no lack of occasion for continued mental development. Air departments of human enterprise have in truth been already so marvelously developed as to defy the complete grasp of any but specialists of more than ordinary capacity. Croakers may find fault and stigmatize the advance of the age as mainly material. Never did carping criticism have poorer ground for its averments. The material advance is fully matched by the moral advance. Proofs of it are so multiplied as scarcely to deserve enumeration. Liberty to think boldly and to give free utterance to honest convictions is fast becoming a sacred principle of society. Liberty of person, and equal justice—irrespective of rank and wealth—are now almost everywhere recognized as divinest principles of government. The sick and the unfortunate, instead of being left to die without aid or to pine through a miserable existence, are now everywhere provided for at the expense of those whom fortune has subjected to less severe trials. Sumptuary laws are now not only known to be useless but their principle is condemned. Private war has almost ceased to be waged; and the duty of revenge, once sanctioned by religion, has given place to the duty of forbearance and forgiveness. The well-being of one's neighbor is now universally felt to be the good fortune of one's self. Vast accumulations of wealth, instead of being squandered in the purchase of places and useless decorations for elevating one's self above his fellows, are now employed in educational, industrial, and eleemosynary foundations.

Nor is this true of individuals only. Governments, both monarchical and republican, instead of employing their resources in war and destruction, are now rivals in the most beneficent achievements for prolonging and ennobling human life. Slavery has been abolished in nearly every civilized country, and all forms of privileged oppression are rapidly meeting with the same condemnation. In truth, such has been the progress of morals and the general assimilation of the principles of equity, that the most important functions of life and society are now accomplished without the intervention of government,