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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/336

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ETHICS IN NATURAL LAW.[1]
By Dr. LEWIS G. JANES.

RESTING recently for a brief while, apart from the stress and turmoil of metropolitan life, close to the heart of Nature, in a tree-embowered home in a quiet New Jersey hamlet, whence the eye wandered across green fields to a distant wooded crest, inviting conquest by its promise of entrancing views—the sun flickering here and there through the overhanging boughs of the clustering maples which furnished grateful protection from its intenser heats—the earth-goddess wooed me irresistibly to optimistic contemplation of her supreme beneficence. But anon, in cyclonic rage, she hid the mountain crest in blinding mists, tossed the over-hanging branches until they swayed like ocean waves before the blast, hurled limbs and fruit to earth, and through the long vigil of the night aroused the most lively feelings of apprehension for the safety of life and property. Again, treading the wooded crest in thoughtful contemplation, beneath its peaceful summer dress I found evidences of the Titanic struggles of former ages—huge columns of basaltic rock upheaved by Plutonic forces, and here, where the stream runs so gently and falls so musically to the lower level of the plain, was once the crater of a now long-extinct volcano.

From ages dim and remote, when the earth was a molten ball, the theater of fierce Plutonic activities, to the present time, when it woos and buffets man by turns as he applies his energies to its conquest, the "struggle for existence" has gone forward, determining in partnership with Nature's other evolutionary conditions the form and structure of continents and seas, the birth and growth of animal and vegetable life upon the planet, the origin of the human race out of brute ancestral conditions, and its progress toward a higher civilization.

Taking man as he is at his best, with a high sense of ethical obligation dominant in his consciousness, and aspirations for a nobler personality and better social conditions guiding his actions, what shall we say of the rational attitude of his mind toward the cosmic process which has given him birth, and upon which he is. still dependent for the physical conditions of life? What of his moral nature as related to this process? What of the ethical attitude of the universe to man?

Upon this problem Prof. Huxley, one of the most versatile and virile writers among the modern Apostles of the doctrine of evolution, has recently exercised his trenchant pen; and the outcome


  1. Read before the Congress of Evolutionists, Chicago, September 30, 1893.