Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/322

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men: old age differs from youth and the age of maturity in being less active in production and less capable of resistance to destructive influences; men feeble in constitution, while they are still young, are in an analogous position. A society of enfeebled persons would, then, lead the kind of life that a society composed of old men, with no one to wait upon them, would lead. The resemblance becomes complete in the fact that in both groups life lacks the energy that renders labor easy and pleasure keen. The old man sees the causes that give him suffering increase and those that give him pleasure diminish, for physical exercise is the condition and the accompaniment of most pleasures. Thus is produced a languishing, monotonous, and dreary life. Finally, says Mr. Spencer, when the average type of the constitutions among any people has fallen to a certain level of vigor inferior to that which can without difficulty resist the ordinary strains, and perturbations, and dangers, mortality is still not diminished, and, on the other hand, life, ceasing to be an enjoyment, becomes a burden.

Such are the views of the Darwinians upon the physical deterioration of races by the operation of a mistaken philanthropy. These considerations show well that moralists, economists, legislators, and statesmen ought to come out from the traditional routine to study, in the light of the laws of contemporary biology and sociology, what will be the effects in the future of the measures they recommend or adopt. Nevertheless, we should beware of exaggerating the bearing and consequences of the theorem we have just postulated. There are distinctions to be made, and those who share the views of Darwin do not always make them. Let us first leave out of the account the really sick, who are taken care of at home, or in the hospitals. Diseases are, as a rule, generally accidental, except when they result from an original constitutional defect or from some willful excess. Evidently we are not rendering a bad service to society when we take care of workmen who have been afflicted with sickness or are the victims of some accident. Suppose the wife of a vigorous and efficient workman falls sick; if the workman is very poor and no one comes to his assistance, he will be obliged to overtax and exhaust himself to take care of her; and that would be a loss to the whole community. His children, of good constitutions, who would have lived if the mother had been assisted, will become ill or die if the family is reduced to want. Is it necessary to let those whom disease attacks die without pity, as armies are sometimes forced to abandon those who fall on the road? No Darwinian will in good faith maintain that. The theorem of Darwin can apply, then, only to the infirm properly so called, to whom philanthropy is accustomed to give assistance, as well as to men attacked with accidental diseases. We may, however, here first call attention to the fact that the infirm inmates of hospitals and those who are succored at home are a small part of the nation; and it is no great inconvenience to the sound to take care of them. Moreover, the