Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/654

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By Prof. E. P. EVANS.

ETHNOCENTRIC geography, which caused each petty tribe to regard itself as the center of the earth, and geocentric astronomy, which caused mankind to regard the earth as the center of the universe, are conceptions that have been gradually out-grown and generally discarded—not, however, without leaving distinct and indelible traces of themselves in human speech and conduct. But this is not the case with anthropocentric psychology and ethics, which treat man as a being essentially different and inseparably set apart from all other sentient creatures, to which he is bound by no ties of mental affinity or moral obligation. Nevertheless, all these notions spring from the same root, having their origin in man's false and overweening conceit of himself as the member of a tribe, the inhabitant of a planet, or the lord of creation.

It was upon this sort of anthropocentric assumption that teleologists used to build their arguments in proof of the existence and goodness of God as shown by the evidences of beneficent design in the world. All their reasonings in support of this doctrine were based upon the theory that the final purpose of every created thing is the promotion of human happiness. Take away this anthropocentric postulate, and the whole logical structure tumbles into a heap of unfounded and irrelevant assertions leading to lame and impotent conclusions.

Thus Bernardin de Saint-Pierre states that garlic, being a specific for maladies caused by marshy exhalations, grows in swampy places, in order that the antidote may be easily accessible to man when he becomes infected with malarious disease. Also the fruits of spring and summer, he adds, are peculiarly juicy, because man needs them for his refreshment in hot weather; on the other hand, autumn fruits, like nuts, are oily, because oil generates heat and keeps men warm in winter. It is for man's sake, too, that in lauds where it seldom or never rains there is always a heavy deposition of dew. If we can show that any product or phenomenon of Nature is useful to us, we think we have discovered its sufficient raison d'Ăªtre, and extol the wisdom and kindness of the Creator; but if anything is harmful to us we can not imagine why it should exist. How much intellectual acuteness and learning have been expended to reconcile the fact that the moon is visible only a very small part of the time, with the theory that it was intended to illuminate the earth in the absence of the sun, for the benefit of its inhabitants!

Gennadius, a Greek presbyter, who flourished at Constantino-