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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/94

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

place, did not seem to him to be quite fairly stated. People speak as though vivisection were a recent practice, just introduced by a hard-hearted scientific generation. But, in point of fact, vivisection had been going on for many centuries. The thing which was new was the objection to it. The stock argument in favor of vivisection—that by it the discovery of the circulation of the blood was made—is only one of many instances.

"It had been remarked by a previous speaker, with whom he was inclined to agree, that there had been a great increase in humanity in modern times, and that this increase is to be attributed to the growth of science. It is not true, for instance, to say that the abolition of excessive and cruel punishments has been due to the action of a few energetic but unscientific individuals. They were, on the contrary, put down by the growth of the scientific spirit of the age—a spirit closely allied to humanity, and which showed itself in the philosophy of the eighteenth century, especially in the writings of Hume and Bentham. They gave up the idea of punishment as simply a revenge to gratify the feelings of the punishers, and took the utilitarian ground that it must only be administered in so far as it is beneficial to society. They were thus inevitably drawn into denouncing excessive punishments. Romilly, who had been cited by the other side, was probably a pupil of that school; and certainly Bentham and Mill were, who really spread the principles which led to the abolition of excessive punishment. And those principles were only the principles of science applied to morality.

"Though he admired our ancestors of the sixteenth century, he felt bound to admit that they were a brutal lot. An instance of how far we have improved in point of humanity is to be seen in 'Roderick Random.' After having reduced his young, amiable, and beloved hero to very great straits through 'dissipation,' Smollett makes him go to India to purchase a lot of slaves, whom he sells in America at a large profit. This we should consider brutal and degrading conduct, and the fact that we do so consider it marks the great improvement which has taken place in our morality. It is quite true that it is not merely the growth of science, but the general intellectual development of the country, which has put a stop to cruelty; but it is equally true that the growth of science is an integral part of that development, and one that can not be separated from it. None of these things would have been possible unless the intellect had widened; and science has helped to do this. We may hope for similar good results from the application of science to other things; for example, to politics, where there is little enough of scientific principles at present.

"On the religious question I can only say this," Mr. Stephen remarked in conclusion, "that you have got this plain dilemma to face, which can not be avoided. In the first place, if any religion, or religious belief, is true, what can the holders of it have to fear from the