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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/339

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Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step, and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process. It depends (he tells us on the next page) not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it.

It is yet further said:[1]

The history of civilization details the steps by which men have succeeded in building up an artificial world within the Cosmos. Fragile reed as he may be, man, as Pascal says, is a thinking reed: there lies within him a fund of energy, operating intelligently, and so far akin to that which pervades the universe that it is competent to influence and modify the cosmic process.

I have always maintained that the cosmic process, since it often favors the ill-doer more than the virtuous man, could never by any possibility have evolved the ethical ideal.

Prof. Huxley now bears the most satisfactory witness to this truth, saying:[2]

The thief and the murderer follow Nature just as much as the philanthropist. Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before.

Just so! It would be difficult to declare more emphatically that ethics could never have formed part and parcel of the general process of evolution.

But with that change, whatever it may have been, which first introduced into this planet an intellectual, and therefore ethical, nature, it is no wonder that consequences thence resulted destructive of antecedent harmonies.

Many persons deplore the ravages which the one intellectual animal (man) has effected on the fair face of Nature. As a naturalist I feel this strongly, and the extinction of so many curious and beautiful forms of life which human progress occasions is very painful to contemplate. It seems to us hateful that the harmonious results of Nature's conflicting powers should be disturbed and upset to meet the vulgar needs of uncultured human life.

Yet reason should convince us that this sentiment is a mistaken one. We may, indeed, most reasonably regret the loss of species of animals and plants which greater care and foresight might have preserved; yet we should never forget that over the irrational world man legitimately holds sway, and that weighed in the balance with him the rest counts for nothing. The very poorest homestead, the ugliest row of cottages, the most common-

  1. [December Monthly, pp. 189, 190.]
  2. [December Monthly, p. 187.] The Italics are mine.