Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/757

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THE WHITE ANT: A THEORY.

despotism of the miserable German princelings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the reign of the Emperor William.

The gain is not simply that mankind has arrived at a clearer conception of law in the universe; not merely that thinking men see more clearly that we are part of a system not requiring constant patching and arbitrary interference; but perhaps best of all is the fact that science has cleared away one more series of dogmas which tend to debase rather than to develop man's whole moral and religious nature. In this emancipation from terror and fanaticism, as in so many other results of scientific thinking, we have a proof of the inspiration of those great words, "The truth shall make you free."

 

THE WHITE ANT: A THEORY.
By Professor HENRY DRUMMOND, F. R. S. E., F. G. S.,

AUTHOR OF "NATURAL LAW IN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD," ETC.

A FEW years ago, under the distinguished patronage of Mr. Darwin, the animal in vogue with scientific society was the worm. At present the fashionable animal is the ant. I am sorry, therefore, to have to begin by confessing that the insect whose praises I propose to sing, although bearing the honored name, is not entitled to consideration on account of its fashionable connections, since the white ant, as an ant, is an impostor. It is, in fact, not an ant at all, but belongs to a much humbler family—that of the Termitidæ—and, so far from ever having been the vogue, this clever but artful creature is hated and despised by all civilized peoples. Nevertheless, if I mistake not, there is neither among the true ants, nor among the worms, an insect which plays a more wonderful or important part in nature.

Fully to appreciate the beauty of this function, a glance at an apparently distant aspect of nature will be necessary as a preliminary.

When we watch the farmer at work, and think how he has to plow, harrow, manure, and humor the soil before even one good crop can be coaxed out of it, we are apt to wonder how Nature manages to secure her crops and yet dispense with all these accessories. The world is one vast garden, bringing forth crops of the most luxuriant and varied kind century after century, and millennium after millennium. Yet the face of Nature is nowhere furrowed by the plow, no harrow disintegrates the clods, no lime and phosphates are strewed upon its fields, no visible tillage of the soil improves the work on the great world's farm.

Now, in reality there can not be crops, or successions of crops, without the most thorough agriculture; and when we look more closely into nature we discover a system of husbandry of the most surprising