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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/561

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MR. MALLOCK ON OPTIMISM.

logians attack the problem of "constructing a life of perfect happiness," does it follow that the liberal thinkers of the present day must follow them on that ground, like the magicians of Pharaoh, imitating, to the best of their considerable ability, the miracles of Moses and Aaron? It would be much to Mr. Mallock's benefit if he could only be persuaded, once for all, that the distinguishing mark of the whole evolutionary school is that they take the world as they find it, and expect no more from it than it is adapted to render. If human history as a whole is predestined to be a failure, that is none of their affair; they are not in the business of insuring worlds or universes or even civilizations. All they can say—and this they do on the ground of experience—is that, taking the world and the human consciousness as they are, there seems to be one line of conduct which best subserves human interests; and which, therefore, they will both follow themselves and recommend to others. That line consists in practicing the lessons that Nature and history have taught us, using our faculties for the acquisition of real knowledge and our powers of foresight for a wise adjustment of present action to future needs and results. If the man who is filthy spurns this humble, unpretentious philosophy, and determines to be filthy still, he must be allowed to exercise his preference, as he has done under other dispensations. Wisdom will still be justified of her children, though the gospel of science should be hid to them that are lost.

Mr. Mallock is much concerned over what the future of humanity will be if his principles do not prevail. He can not "feel any pleasure in the thought of a Humanity 'shut up in infinite content,' when once it had secured itself three meals a day, and smiling every morning a satisfied smile at the universe, its huge lips shining with fried eggs and bacon." Well, if the time should ever come when humanity has nothing to be satisfied with save abundance of food and a good digestion, Mr. Mallock's delicately chosen image may be in some measure realized; but why it should be necessary to imagine such a future for society, merely because knowledge is growing and superstition waning, it is not easy to say. Why should not "knowledge grow from more to more," and yet "more of reverence in us dwell," so that—

". . . mind and heart, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster"?

It is hard to conceive any reason except such as might be supplied by the petulance of a disappointed partisan. Mr. Mallock would fain persuade us that, save on his principles, life is not worth living; but, despite his elaborate argumentation, the modern world, while departing ever more widely from his favorite