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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/720

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in clear and lofty tones the one true religion, that which exalts the claims of humanity and of social duty." In defending his appointment in the Senate, the Minister of Public Instruction, after dwelling upon the intellectual qualifications of his nominee, paid the following tribute to his character: "Truly, if there is among us a modest man, a simple man, a man who has never courted notoriety, and who has reached his seventieth year without ever having asked anything of his country, it is M. Lafitte; and, for that reason, this modest and conscientious scholar, this savant, whose whole life has been devoted to disinterested study, appeared to us to present the moral as well as the intellectual characteristics necessary for the high dignity of a professor in the Collége de France." Again, speaking of positivism as a system, he observed: "This positivist doctrine, that people talk about and that some execrate, is an extremely tolerant doctrine; you may say that tolerance lies at its very base. Its absolute rule is to proceed by means of observation and experiment; to limit its conclusions and its affirmations to what is revealed to it by these special scientific methods; and, as regards what lies beyond verification, to treat with respect every belief and every hypothesis. Positivism is, therefore, from the philosophical point of view what the unsectarian, or lay state is from the political point of view; and I did not, therefore, think that M. Lafitte's profession of this doctrine should alarm or disturb men's consciences in this country, or prevent me from nominating him to a chair of which he was worthy."

These are notable words to have been spoken by a responsible minister in a country in which not long ago ecclesiasticism was so powerful. It is not necessary to have adopted, or to approve of, the peculiarities which mark positivism in its intellectual, and especially in its practical aspects, in order to rejoice that its most eminent teacher should have an opportunity of exhibiting its broader principles from the vantage-ground now afforded him, and of thus challenging for them, more openly than ever before, the criticism of the philosophical world. As to the action of the French Government, we can only applaud the determination it shows to place all competently represented systems of thought upon a footing of perfect equality.

 


LITERARY NOTICES.

Marriage and Disease. By S. A. K. Strahan, M. D. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 326. Price, $1.25.

A subject for which the progress of science is just beginning to obtain intelligent consideration is the transmission of defects from parents to offspring. While most persons have a hazy belief in the adage, "Like father, like son," comparatively few have any adequate conception of the remorseless certainty with which the physical and mental defects of parents produce degeneracy and early death in their children. The present work furnishes in a form available for the general reader an abundance of pertinent and well-authenticated facts concerning the above subject. The author states first what is known as to the general laws of heredity, and then proceeds to discuss in turn insanity, drunkenness, epilepsy, and other diseases and defects with relation to parenthood. "There is no class of diseases," he says, "so surely transmitted from parent to child as the nervous." While the chronically insane are not allowed to contract marriage, yet a young man, for instance, who inherits nervous instability may, in the intervals between acute attacks of insanity, marry and beget children. When, as probably happens, he goes to end his days in an asylum, he is very likely to be followed by some of the children whom he has burdened with his infirmity. The results are more surely disastrous when both parents belong to the neurotic or insane type. "The person, man or woman," says Dr. Strahan, "who has an epileptic, or choreic, or imbecile brother or sister, an insane uncle, aunt, or parent, or even grandparent,