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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/218

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE RELATION OF BIOLOGY TO SOCIOLOGY.
By Dr. LEWIS G. JANES.

IN the preface to his recently published volume on Justice, Mr. Herbert Spencer newly emphasizes his conviction of the importance of the bearing of biological laws upon the study of sociological phenomena. Comparing the method of his present work with that of Social Statics, which covered a similar field of discussion, he asserts that "whereas, a biological origin for ethics was, in Social Statics, only indicated, such origin has now been definitely set forth; and the elaboration of its consequences has become a cardinal trait." The influence of this conviction is everywhere observable throughout the work.

It is not the purpose of the present writer, however, to discuss the applications which Mr. Spencer has made of this principle, except incidentally; but rather to reaffirm its importance, and to call attention to certain inferential dangers which spring from an unqualified acceptance of the conception that there is an entire identity of principle between the laws of social and organic growth.

While it is my firm conviction that Mr. Spencer has in no way exaggerated the importance of recognizing the bearing of biological principles in the study of societary evolution, it is equally important to guard at the outset against a fundamental though common misapplication of the analogy which would lead to results entirely divergent from the actual trend of social progress, as bearing upon the true scientific relations of the individual to the state.

On the one hand, it is undoubtedly true that nearly all our writers upon sociological, ethical, and economic topics are insufficiently grounded in a knowledge of the scientific method as revealed and illustrated in the physical and biological sciences. Their arguments rest largely upon an a priori and metaphysical basis of reasoning. They treat man as a being dissevered from the world. They fail to recognize the fact, demonstrated by the triumph of the doctrine of evolution, that man is one with the universe; that he can not be studied apart from his connection with the laws and principles which govern the physical world and the vital activities of the lower organisms. It may not be necessary for the sociologist, moralist, or political economist to be a complete master of physics and biology in all their branches—life is too short for such a preparation; but he should at least be sufficiently acquainted with these sciences to be thoroughly conversant with the scientific method of investigation, the tone and temper of mind requisite in the investigator, and have a