Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/552

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

"But, mother, the very nature of such imaginations!"

"What are such 'imaginations'?" Madame Guillaume went on, interrupting her daughter again. "Fine ones are his, my word! What possesses a man, that all on a sudden, without consulting a doctor, he takes it into his head to eat nothing but vegetables? There, get along! if he were not so grossly immoral, he would be fit to shut up in a lunatic asylum."

"O mother, can you believe?"

"Yes, I do believe. I met him in the Champs-Elysées. He was on horseback. Well, at one minute he was galloping as hard as he could tear, and then pulled up to a walk. I said to myself at that moment, 'There is a man devoid of judgment!'"


The main consideration which this paper aims to present, that of the responsibility of all men, be they great or be they small, to the same standards of social judgment, and to the same philosophical treatment, is illustrated in the very man to whose genius we owe the principle upon which my remarks are based—Charles Darwin; and it is singularly appropriate that we should also find the history of this very principle, that of variations with the correlative principle of selection, furnishing a capital illustration of my inferences. Darwin was, with the single possible exception of Aristotle, the man with the sanest judgment that the human mind has ever brought to the investigation of Nature. He represented, in an exceedingly adequate way, the progress of scientific method up to his day. He was disciplined in all the natural science of his predecessors. His judgment was an epitome of the scientific insight of the ages which culminated then. The time was ripe for just such a great constructive thought as his—ripe, that is, as far as the accumulation of scientific data was concerned. His judgment differed then from the judgment of his scientific contemporaries mainly in that it was sounder and safer than theirs. And with it Darwin was a great constructive thinker. He had the intellectual strength which put the judgment of his time to the strain—everybody's but his own. This is seen in the fact that Darwin was not the first to speculate in the line of his great discovery, nor to reach formulas; but with the others guessing took the place of induction. The formula was an uncriticised thought. The unwillingness of society to embrace the hypothesis was justified by the same lack of evidence which prevented the thinkers themselves from giving it proof. And if no Darwin had appeared, the problem of biological development would have been left about where it had been left by the speculation of the Greek mind. Darwin reached his conclusion by what that other great scientific genius in England, Newton, described as the essential of discovery, "patient