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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/647

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THE WASTES OF MODERN CIVILIZATION.

intellectual exercise vaunted in the arguments of its advocates, but, on the contrary, almost the worst of all possible systems of mental training—a dead-lift of memory, exercising the lower at the expense of the higher mental faculties. Nor is there a shadow of a doubt that in natural history, astronomy, geography, physiology, and mathematics, the achievements of Greece and Rome have been distanced as far as their own writers eclipsed the wiseacres of Scythia and Abyssinia. Yet the New World continues to emulate the Old in wooing the specters of the past, and thousands of American parents encumber the memory of their children with a mass of antiquarian rubbish that leaves no room for the culture of progressive science, too often not even for the adequate study of their own mother-tongue.

A cardinal tenet of mediæval ethics was the belief in the merit of mental prostitution—the duty of submitting to dogmas which their professors did not and could not believe, and which the exigencies of daily life obliged them practically to repudiate.

A logical consequence of that doctrine was the antagonism of theory and practice, which continues to involve an enormous waste in our method of moral education. A million pulpits still preach a gospel that inculcates the vanity of industrial pursuits. "Take no thought of the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." "Take no thought, saying. What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these do the Gentiles seek." As a practical comment on the wisdom of those precepts, nations, cities, and corporations vie in the restless pursuit of wealth, and a thousand lessons of daily life admonish the young citizen of our industrial world to take earnest and constant thought of the morrow; nay, the mere attempt to disregard those lessons would be followed by the punishment of the shiftless vagrant.

Loss of health and wealth, loss of working capacity—in fact, every form of temporal affliction—the disciples of our moral exemplar are instructed to consider as proofs of divine favor. Yet the prevention of such favors is the legally encouraged purpose of dozens of fire and life insurance companies and mutual aid associations with their omnipresent agencies.

Our ethical text-books in the plainest terms teach the possibility of curing diseases by prayer and mystic ceremonies. "If any man is sick among you, let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." "And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up." "And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal all manner of disease." Yet in at least forty-five of the fifty most civilized countries of Chris-