Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/538

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

cess of the element which is the principle of the distinction of classes." Whenever any part of mankind has too much of anything, whether it be of material goods or intellectual qualities, the rest of the race immediately finds itself having too little, and both parties suffer equally from the excess and from the lack. But Nature seems to desire to avenge herself for such violations of her laws, and cruelly afflicts the elect and fortunate ones, chastising them "to the fourth and seventh generation."

The laws of Nature are immutable, and woe to the man who violates them! "Every privilege a man accords himself is a step toward degeneracy, mental decline, and the death of his race." By abasing whoever tries to raise himself above the common level of mankind, by chastising the haughty, by exacting satisfaction for excess of pleasure, Nature appoints the privileged ones themselves the scourges of their race. "Too much fortune offends and irritates the gods," the ancients thought, and the medical study of the consequences of all intellectual or moral distinction, and of all selection, leads us to the same conclusion. "Humana imprudentia impares esse voluit quos Deus æquaverat" ("Human folly desires to make unequal those whom God has made equal"), said Pope Clement IV, but, if this is the case, can the Darwinians complain that philanthropy is trying to diminish in some degree the inequalities that are born of the social régime? Does it not, in this case, act in the same direction with Nature, and according to its design?

We should, besides, be less pessimist than Mr. Jacoby in respect to distinctions and selections of every kind. The theory which Mr. Jacoby has deduced from Darwinism, if pushed to the extreme without making necessary distinctions and restrictions, would go to the extent of destroying even the principles from which it is drawn, and would overthrow the laws postulated by Darwin; in effect, all superiority, requiring an expenditure of force, might, by that fact itself, become in the struggle for existence a germ of degeneracy instead of a germ of improvement. There would be nothing really durable except what did not rise above the common level, and living beings would resemble those corals, the madrepores, which grow to form the basis of continents as long as they do not pass the level of the sea, and are not brought to die above the level of its surface. It is necessary to distinguish here between useful and injurious inequalities, between natural and acquired ones; among the last, also, must be distinguished those which are in accord with Nature, and those which are opposed to her. These distinctions, too much neglected by Mr. Jacoby, are the very ones, in our opinion, which scientific philanthropy ought always to have in view. Its aim should be to re-establish, so far as possible, a degree of equality at those points where social arrangements have created artificial inequalities, injurious and contrary to Nature. To spread and equalize general instruction, the moral sen-