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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/235

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ETHICS AND THE STRUGGLE FOB EXISTENCE.

antecedent rights which another man may respect or neglect. But this has no meaning as between the abstraction "Nature" and the concrete facts which are themselves Nature. It is unjust to treat equal claims differently. But it is not "unjust" in any intelligible sense that one being should be a monkey and another a man, any more than that one part of me should be a hand and another a head. The question would only arise if we supposed that the man and the monkey had existed before they were created, and had then possessed claims to equal treatment. The most logical theologians indeed admit that as between creature and creator there can be properly no question of justice. The pot and the potter can not complain of each other. If the writer of Job had been able to show that the virtuous were rewarded and the vicious punished, he would only have transferred the problem to another issue. The judge might be justified but the creator would be condemned. How can it be just to place a being where he is certain to sin and then to damn him for sinning? That is the problem to which no answer can be given; and which already implies a confusion of ideas. We apply the conception of justice in a sphere where it is not applicable, and naturally fail to get any intelligible answer.

The question therefore resolves itself into a different one. We can neither explain nor justify the existence of pain; but of course we can ask whether, as a matter of fact, pain predominates over pleasure, and we can ask whether, as a matter of fact, the "cosmic processes" tend to promote or discourage virtuous conduct. Does the theory of the "struggle for existence" throw any new light upon the general problem? I am quite unable to see, for my own part, that it really makes any difference: evil exists; and the question whether evil predominates over good can only, I should say, be decided by an appeal to experience. One source of evil is the conflict of interests. Every beast preys upon others, and man, according to the old saying, is a wolf to man. All that the Darwinian theory can do is to enable us to trace the consequences of this fact in certain directions, but it neither reveals the fact nor makes it more or less an essential part of the process. It "explains" certain phenomena, in the sense of showing their connection with previous phenomena, but does not show why the phenomena should present themselves at all. If we indulge our minds in purely fanciful constructions, we may regard the actual system as good or bad, just as we choose to imagine for its alternative a better or a worse system. If everybody had been put into a world where there was no pain, or where each man could get all he wanted without interfering with his neighbors, we may fancy that things would have been pleasanter. If the struggle, which we all know to exist, had no effect in promoting the "sur-