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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/279

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

tofore wisdom has been largely won through suffering; but we may hope that, with the wider establishment and recognition of sound principles of conduct, this will more and more cease to be the case. There does not seem any very good reason why men might not be taught to love right conduct just as they may be, and are, taught to prefer temperate and wholesome to intemperate and unwholesome eating and drinking. To tell the truth an advance of science is more wanted to-day in the sphere of conduct than in the mechanical arts. We could get on very well for the next quarter of a century without traveling any faster, or without any further cheapening of cotton goods; but every day we feel directly or indirectly the need of greater wisdom in the conduct of life; for daily we suffer either through our own errors or those of others. Ancient codes of ethics are very well—some of them at least—as far as they go; but it will be a good day for the world when it is universally recognized that the true canons of conduct are deducible by sound reasonings upon the facts of life and the relations of individuals, and that, so deduced, they have the highest authority that any moral code can possess.

 

 

A SCIENTIST, BUT NOT A PHILOSOPHER.

Among the papers contributed to the World's Congress of Religions was one by Sir William Dawson, of Montreal, entitled Religlo Scientiæ (the Religion of Science), This eminent geologist never loses an opportunity of attacking the doctrine of evolution, and it is not surprising, therefore, that he should have done so on this occasion. No evidence has ever been afforded, however, that Sir William Dawson has taken proper pains to ascertain what evolution, as understood and taught by the leading believers in the doctrine, means. Speaking of man's moral nature, he says: "On this point a strange confusion, produced apparently by the doctrine of evolution, seems to have affected some scientific thinkers, who seek to read back moral ideas into the history of the world at a time when no mundane moral agent is known to have been in existence. They forget that it is no more immoral for a wolf to eat a lamb than for a lamb to eat grass." Now, it would be simply impossible for any one who had read even so brief a treatise as Spencer's Data of Ethics with any attention to have made such a remark. Let any one to whom that treatise is in the least familiar try to imagine Spencer forgetting that "it is no more immoral for a wolf to eat a lamb than for a lamb to eat grass"! A man with Sir William Dawson's reputation should really not commit himself in this way. Not only is there not one word in Spencer's writings to indicate that he thinks it immoral for a wolf to eat a lamb, but his whole method of treating the subject of the development of morality shows that he utterly repudiates such a view. What Spencer does attempt to do is to prove that the conduct we now call moral must be regarded as a development from conduct to which it is impossible to apply the term. He traces for us in the most careful manner every stage of the process; and if Sir William Dawson would undertake to point out where the line of succession fails, or, to express it otherwise, where the evolution of one stage from that immediately preceding it has been incorrectly assumed, he would then be grappling seriously with the ethical side of the doctrine of evolution. To do this, however, he would have to study Mr. Spencer's Principles of Ethics with careful attention, and this would probably not be agreeable to him. It would be easy to note other points in Sir William's address to which, from a scientific point of view, exception might betaken. Our purpose, however, on the present occasion is sufficiently served by showing that this really able geologist allows