Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/149

This page has been validated.
137
THE TRANSITION OF INSTITUTIONS.

ting commences show a nominal belief in an immediate divine guidance, the votes with which the sitting ends, given in pursuance of reasons which the speeches assign, show us a real belief that the effects will be determined by the agencies set to work.

Still it is clear that the old conception, while it qualifies the new but little in the regulating of actions, qualifies it very much in the formation of theories. There can be no complete acceptance of Sociology as a science so long as the belief in a social order not conforming to natural law survives. Hence, as already said, considerations touching the study of Sociology, not very influential even over the few who recognize a Social Science, can have scarcely any effects on the great mass to whom a Social Science is an incredibility.


I do not mean that this prevailing imperviousness to scientific conceptions of social phenomena is to be regretted. As implied in a foregoing paragraph, it is part of the required adjustment between existing opinions and the forms of social life at present requisite. With a. given phase of human character there must, to maintain equilibrium, go an adapted class of institutions, and a set of thoughts and sentiments in tolerable harmony with those institutions. Hence, it is not to be wished that, with the average human nature we now have, there should be a wide acceptance of views natural only to a more highly-developed social state, and to the improved type of citizen accompanying such a state. The desirable thing is, that a growth of ideas and feelings tending to produce modification shall be joined with a continuance of ideas and feelings tending to preserve stability. And it is one of our satisfactory social traits, exhibited in a degree never before paralleled, that along with a mental progress which brings about considerable changes, there is a devotion of thought and energy to the maintenance of existing arrangements, and creeds, and sentiments—an energy sufficient even to reinvigorate some of the old forms and beliefs that were decaying. When, therefore, a distinguished statesman, anxious for human welfare as he ever shows himself to be, and holding that the defense of established beliefs must not be left exclusively to its "standing army" of "priests and ministers of religion," undertakes to combat opinions at variance with a creed he thinks essential, the occurrence may be taken as adding another to the many signs of a healthful condition of society. That, in our day, one in Mr. Gladstone's position should think as he does, seems to me very desirable. That we should have for our working-king one in whom a purely-scientific conception of things had become dominant, and who was thus out of harmony with our present social state, would probably be detrimental, and might be disastrous.

For it cannot be too emphatically asserted that this policy of compromise, alike in institutions, in actions, and in beliefs, which especially characterizes English life, is a policy essential to a society going