If the reader will now open Cosmic Philosophy, he is told in vigorous language (vol. ii, p. 405) that "if there exist a personal Creator of the universe who is infinitely intelligent and powerful, he can not be infinitely good; if, on the other hand, he be infinite in goodness, then he must be lamentably finite in power or in intelligence. By this two-edged difficulty, theology has ever been foiled." Then (vol. ii, p. 406) Mr. Fiske, quoting from Mill, expresses his entire concurrence with the views of this eminent thinker, and adds (vol. ii, p. 407), "With Mr. Mill, therefore, 'I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow-creatures.' And, going a step further, I will add that it is impossible to call that being good who, existing prior to the phenomenal universe and creating it out of the plenitude of infinite power and foreknowledge, endowed it with such properties that its material and moral development must inevitably be attended by the misery of untold millions of sentient creatures for whose existence their Creator is ultimately alone responsible."
No comment of mine can show more clearly than the passages cited above the "conversion" of Mr. Fiske, against which imputation so much subtle ingenuity is expended in the preface to The Idea of God.
That Mr. Fiske is merely reviving gross anthropocentric views he himself admits. To him, man is "the goal toward which Nature's work has been tending from the first." But might not also some pithecoid ancestors of ours have deemed themselves the "goal toward which Nature had been tending from the first"? What is Nature's goal in the endless cycle of evolution in which life is but an infinitesimal part? But with Huxley I believe that "it would be a new thing in history if a priori philosophers were daunted by a factious opposition of experience." Mr. Fiske's latest writings, as all theodicies, bear testimony to the truth of Huxley's scathing remark.
But granting, for the sake of the argument, that "in the deepest sense it is as true as it ever was held to be, that the world was made for man," there is an objection to be raised on moral grounds stronger than any that could be founded on scientific arguments. Had this world been created for man, entailing, as it does, the "misery of untold millions of sentient creatures," who but the crassest egotist could worship this Fiskean God of iniquity?
The careful student of Thomas Huxley's works may be surprised to find Through Nature to God "consecrated" to the memory of him whose life work was devoted to "untiring opposition to that ecclesiastical spirit" that shines through every page of Mr. Fiske's latest writings. I echo Mr. Fiske's words: "I can never cease to regret that Huxley should have passed away without seeing my [Mr. Fiske's] arguments and giving me the benefit of his comments." The last stroke of Huxley's pen was giving Mr. Balfour "the benefit of his comments"; would that he could have given them to the author of the excursion Through Nature to God!
|B. A. Behrend.|
|Erie, Pa., December 5, 1899.|
Editor Popular Science Monthly:
Sir: Your trenchant criticism of Mr. John Fiske's discussion of the mystery of evil recalls Mr. Spencer's reminder that "there is a soul of truth in all things erroneous."
Mr. Fiske certainly has not made it plain that the meaning of the universe is to be found (exclusively) in the higher developments of love and self-sacrifice; but is it not equally a mistake to say inferentially that "on a broad view of the world-wide struggle for life there are no moral elements to be seen"? If we define morality as the equivalent merely of love and self-sacrifice, the ever-present love of mother and, in a degree, of father for the offspring imperatively negatives such a conclusion.
But morality is something more than love and self-sacrifice. Morality is right conduct, and right conduct in the last analysis is conformity to the conditions of existence. The nearer the conformity, the more complete the life, and life approaches completeness only as the activities of men cease to be impeded by each other's aggressions, the highest life being reached when men help to complete one another's lives.
Conversely, evil must be defined as nonconformity to the conditions of existence. Slowly but surely man is learn-