Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/131

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THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE

taneous interest and emotional attitude have been practically ignored. We have been trying to educate pieces of children.

We choose for discussion here one phase of the educational situation, education touching the living world. We choose this not because it is of transcendent value as compared with other aspects, but because the writer happens to be a biologist and a teacher.

Why is it that so few persons even among the educated are genuinely and broadly interested in and informed about plants and animals? Of course everybody cares for plants to the extent of wanting good table vegetables and fruits, and nearly everybody cares for flowers. Everybody, too, is interested in the domestic products of the animal world; and most of us have more or less fondness for a few pet animals. After this much has been said it will be allowed, I think, that nine tenths of all grown persons in Christian lands are quite indifferent to the myriads of plants and animals by which they are surrounded. Why is this? Perhaps some one asks what sense there is in such a question. To justify the contention that the great rank and file of mortals ought not to be thus indifferent, we must reflect a bit on the state of being alive, on its nature and scope.

Are you fond of living? Are you one of that great number of human beings who assent to the saying that life is the most interesting thing in the world, the thing to be most sought after, most watchfully tended? What life is it which you thus appraise? Human life, you say promptly; and that is well, so far. But what is human life? Is it something wholly apart from the living things round about you? Surely you have noted some elements in common between the human life you love so dearly and the lowly life you care so little for. And you have heard something of what the learned have made out about "Man's place in Nature."

I ask you to summon the best thought of which you are capable, and tell me if you have no feeling of selfishness, of smallness, of meanness, when you assert your love of life and mean by "life" nothing more than your own life and that of your family and friends, or even of humanity generally. On the other hand, tell me with equal candor, do you not have a sense of largeness, of generosity, of outgoing to all about you, when your love of life encompasses everything that lives?

By asking the question, Why are most persons so indifferent toward most living things, we approach the answer to the question: It is because our theory of life does not include all life, and because it is not made by our whole selves. It is made by the intellectual side of our natures; the affective, the emotional side having almost no part in the process.

I am sure that if the development of our race and our civilization goes on normally, man will reach after a time a synthesis of himself