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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/125

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119
DEFINITION OF SOME MODERN SCIENCES.

which the economists have established their science. Self-preservation has always been the first law of nature, and that which best insures this is the greatest gain. So unerring is this law that it is easy to create a class of paupers or mendicants by simply letting it be known that food or alms will be given to those who ask. All considerations of pride or self-respect will give way to the imperious law of the greatest gain for the least effort. All ideas of justice which would prompt the giving of an equivalent vanish before it, and men will take what is proffered without thought of a return or sense of gratitude. In this respect men are like animals. In fact, this is precisely the principle that underlies the domestication of animals and the taming of wild beasts. So soon as the creature learns that it will not be injured or molested and that its wants will be supplied, it submits to the will of man and becomes a—parasite. Parasitism, indeed, throughout the organic world is only an application of the law of parsimony. Pauperism produced in the manner described is social parasitism. But parasitism always results in degeneracy, and pauperism, engendered in society by well-meaning persons ignorant of the law of parsimony, is social parasitic degeneracy.

While, therefore, in view of the number and variety of causes that combine to determine any single act, no law can be laid down as to how any individual will act under a given set of circumstances, we have a law which determines with absolute certainty how all men act under all circumstances. If there is any apparent exception to this law we may be sure that some element has been overlooked in the calculation. Just as, in the case of a heavenly body which is observed to move in a manner at variance with the established laws of gravitation and planetary motion, the astronomer does not doubt the universality of those laws, but attributes the phenomena to some undiscovered body in space of the proper size and in the proper position to cause the perturbation, and proceeds to search for that body; so in human society, if there are events that seem at variance with the fundamental sociological law of parsimony, the sociologist may safely trust the law and proceed to discover the cause of the social perturbation.