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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/64

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the fittest, as known to biology, ceased among men. Ever since, so far as there has been a struggle affecting the survival of the fittest, and that struggle continues to the present day in certain ways, it has been of a different sort, and one which must not be confounded with the biologic law of the survival of the fittest. Major Powell has admirably shown how the strictly biologic struggle has ceased in man, but he has not yet shown, as may be, the character of that struggle, largely intellectual, which still works out certain survivals of the fittest.

Having passed from the point where, if he survive, it must be at the expense of others, man began to recognize and to consider the desires of his fellows, and among others he counted not only his fellows, but mythical and supernatural beings. Thus appeared the greatest natural basis of religion. It is not strange, therefore, that religion should have existed from very early times, and that it should have taught its votaries especially to regard the needs of others. Its mission was to teach a race whose ancestors had been absorbed for untold ages in caring only for self, to adapt itself to a new environment by learning to care for the wants of others. In caring for others, the more powerful soon received superior recognition, so it came to pass that supernatural demands took precedence of the rest. When that point had become clear, men were easily tempted to profess to represent the gods in order that they might share the precedence. In this natural way became established the order of duty which was taught by every religion prior to Christianity, viz.:

1. To the gods and their representatives. 2. To self. 3. To others.

Early Christianity must be credited with changing the order of duty to the following: 1. To its one supernatural being. 2. To all others equally with self.

Even under this improved system many people are led to make great personal sacrifices in the belief that thereby they are living the noblest life possible to man; when, in reality, as it is the object of this paper to show, their sacrifices are either useless, or, what is worse, grossly injurious both to themselves and to the supposed beneficiaries.

During all the untold years in which it was a physical necessity to regard self even to the injury of others, our ancestors acquired a predisposition thereto which heredity has brought down the stream of time. As being no longer a necessity, its practice long since became one of the recognized evils of the world. We apply to it the opprobrious epithet of selfishness. There is a better term, and one which does not imply a moral quality, for there may be devotion to one's own interests which should not be so characterized. Egoism is such devotion to one's own interests;