Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/January 1896/Scientific Temperance



AMONG the exhibits at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 was a map illustrating the progress of "scientific temperance" in the United States. On this map those States of the Union in which scientific temperance was a compulsory study in the schools were shown in white. Those States which had not yet reached this condition were shaded in black. The Northern States generally were white in color, while dark shades covered much of the region south of the Ohio and Potomac. From this dark area, however, one long black tongue stretched itself to the northward from the Ohio River to Lake Michigan, separating the whiteness of Ohio and the Northeast from that of Illinois and the Northwest. Indiana alone in the North was a stumbling-block in the triumphal march of the cause, the only district in which "science" and "temperance" were not hand in hand.

This map leads one to consider for a moment the educational history of Indiana, and especially the conditions under which instruction in human physiology becomes changed into "scientific temperance."

With a view to lessening the cost of school books, the Legislature of Indiana in 1889 passed an act directing the State Board of Education to contract with competing publishers for a uniform series of text-books for the State. By the terms of this law the standards were made high and the prices low, the low prices to be made possible by the large sales of the books chosen. In putting this law into action, the State Board of Education, of which the present writer was a member, made a good deal of interesting history, most of which need not be discussed here.

In the subject of human physiology the series of text-books chosen as the best was one written for this competition at the instance of a local publishing house. The author of this series is a teacher of biology, familiar with methods and results of scientific research, and who has also a large interest in the teaching of children. In the judgment of the Board of Education, one of the points of superiority in this Indiana series over other works offered in competition was the scientific way in which the difficult question of temperance was treated. In other words, the reasons for temperate living were stated as truths of science in the proper relation to other truths. But, as events have proved, this statement did not contain the essence of "scientific temperance." It is as sign of condemnation of the series adopted by us that the State of Indiana appears in black on the white charts of the "National Woman's Christian Temperance Union."

Let us, therefore, examine the teachings which are thus placed under ban. On pages 289, 390, and 291 (Advanced Lessons in Human Physiology: Indiana State Series), we read:

"Alcoholic Drinks.—The most serious and widespread derangement of the natural tastes is that caused by alcoholic drinks. Alcohol has been demonstrated to be a poison. Its continued use, even in what are called moderate quantities, will pave the way for many diseases, some of which are sure to overtake those who have the habit of using drinks with alcohol in them.

"Examples of the effects of the excessive use of alcoholic drinks are numerous and revolting enough in most communities to make the strongest of appeals against their use.

"When it is seen that by the means of alcohol an intelligent man may act without reason; that a kind-hearted man may become brutal to his most loved friends; that it may cause an honorable man to become a dishonorable one; that it may make a noble nature become one with the most depraved of tastes; when its use has over and over again been the cause of bitter disappointments, of intense suffering, and of crime, it would seem that vastly stronger reasons existed against its use than that of the mere fact that some slight changes in the tissues occur which might possibly be demonstrated. It is to avoid these most serious results that the use of alcohol is to be shunned, and not simply to avoid a differently shaped liver.

"The physiological effects of poison are generally much greater than the visible changes which they produce in the tissues would lead us to expect. Indeed, such effects can seldom be detected by the changes seen in the tissue cells.

"Strychnine produces powerful spasms, which end in death. It acts, it is said, on the spinal cord, but it would be hard to show any changes that it produces in the cells. And a knowledge of the changes it produces in the cells could not make us fear the poison any more than we do who know that it results in suffering and death.

"The Moderate Use of Alcoholic Drinks.—The most serious results so well known are, of course, from the effects of excessive use. But in the moderate use of these drinks there is constant danger, as has been demonstrated a countless number of times, that the 'moderate' may grow into the immoderate use. "Even the continued moderate use of alcoholic drinks is, as has been said, almost certain to lead to some of the many forms of disease which are ready to invade some portion of the body that has had its processes of nutrition for a long time thus disturbed. If we now add to this the constant imminent danger of the growth of an already abnormal appetite for such drinks until it leads to excess in their use, which is so revolting in its every aspect, is there not enough to deter one from evert a moderate cultivation of this dangerous appetite?

"Narcotics.—There are a number of other poisons whose use the body at first endures, though with considerable protest, but which finally have the effect to cultivate a demand for the poison that generally ends seriously or fatally.

"Among the most dangerous of these is morphia, which appears in many forms of medicine. The morphine habit is fully as dangerous as the alcohol habit.

"The tobacco habit, while it does not compare with those just discussed in the seriousness of its results, is of no benefit, is of great and useless expense, and is often the direct cause of a derangement of the healthy actions of the body. Its use has been demonstrated to be very dangerous to the young. It is a habit easily avoided, and one that no one who has formed it would advise you to form."

As soon as this book with its associate (Primary Lessons in Human Physiology) came into use, agitation was begun against it, not because of any defect in its science, not because its stand was not strongly against the use of stimulants and narcotics, not because of any lack of fitness in its methods, but because it was not a book of "scientific temperance."

At last, after some four years of agitation, an act was passed in Indiana by which "scientific temperance" must be forced into those books, or the books themselves taken out of the schools.

I have not the text of the Indiana law at hand, but I understand that it is based on a law lately enacted under like influences in the State of New York. The full text of the New York law is as follows:

"To amend the consolidated school law providing for the study of the nature and effects of alcoholic drinks and other narcotics in connection with physiology and hygiene in the public schools.

"The people of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

"Section 1. Sections 19 and 30 of Article XV of the consolidated law are amended to read as follows:

"19. The nature of alcoholic drinks and other narcotics and their effects on the human system shall be taught in connection with the various divisions of physiology and hygiene as thoroughly as are other branches for not less than four lessons a week for ten or more weeks in each year in all grades below the second year of the high school in all schools under the State control or supported wholly or in part by public money, and also in all schools connected with reformatory institutions. All pupils must continue such study till they have passed satisfactorily the required primary, intermediate, or high school test in the same, according to their respective grades. All regents' examinations in physiology and hygiene shall include a due proportion of questions on the nature of alcoholic drinks, tobacco, and other narcotics, and their effects on the human system. The local school authorities shall provide facilities and definite time and place for this branch of the regular course of study. All pupils who can read shall study this subject from suitable text-books, but pupils unable to read shall be instructed in it orally by teachers using text-books adapted for such instruction as a guide and standard, and these text-books shall be graded to the capacities of primary, intermediate, and high school pupils. For students below high-school grade they shall give at least one fifth their space, and for students of high-school grade shall give not less than twenty pages to the nature and effects of alcoholic drinks and other narcotics, but pages on this subject in a separate chapter at the end of the book shall not be counted in meeting the minimum, No text-book on physiology not conforming to this act shall be used in the public schools except so long as may be necessary to fulfill the conditions of any contract existing on the passage of this act.

"20. In all normal schools, teachers' training classes, and teachers' institutes adequate time and attention shall be given to instruction in the best methods of teaching this branch, and no teacher shall be licensed who has not passed a satisfactory examination in the subject and the best methods of teaching it. No State school money shall be paid for the benefit of any district, city, normal, or other school herein mentioned until the officer or board having jurisdiction and supervision of such school has filed with the officer whose duty it is in each case to disburse the State school money for such school an affidavit made by such officer, or by the president or secretary of such board, that he has made thorough investigation as to the facts, and that to the best of his knowledge, information, and belief all the provisions of this act have been faithfully complied with during the preceding year.

"Sec. 2. This act shall take effect August first, eighteen hundred and ninety-five."

Thus it comes to pass that Indiana is at last in line with her sister States, and her children shall no longer be ignorant of "scientific temperance," if text-books can give them knowledge. And it seems that text-books must do so, for nowhere else in the world can this kind of knowledge be obtained.

What is "scientific temperance"? What it is not we know from the above quotation from the ill-fated Indiana physiology. A strong statement of the reasons for abstinence from the use of stimulants and narcotics evidently does not suffice. Whatever of science or temperance may be in the Indiana series, it is clearly not "scientific temperance," else these years of agitation have been in vain.

To decide what "scientific temperance" is we must do as the children do. We must turn the leaves of our text-books till we find the answer; for "scientific temperance," like "Christian science" or "manly art," is not an expression which defines itself. To find a definition we must go to the source of information. Let us, then, select a series of physiologies approved by the leaders in the movement for "scientific temperance"—books in undisturbed use in States more fortunate than Indiana.

Our Bodies and How we Live is one of the best written books of the class in question. We learn from its preface that "the author and publishers are under deep obligations to Mrs. Mary H. Hunt, the Superintendent of the Department of Scientific Instruction of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union, who has carefully revised the book." There is therefore no question that we have the right book for comparison with the Indiana series.

That which first impresses us is the strange new censorship which is imposed on scientific teaching. We find, to quote from the unpublished letter of a friend, that—

"A small group of people who have no scientific education or training in general, and not the slightest training in the specific science of physiology, one of the most complex and difficult of sciences, manages to become the dictators of both the matter and methods of teaching of this science in almost all the States of the Union. They do not profess to control this teaching for the sake of advancing the science of physiology or of the intellectual advancement of the student, but for the promulgation of a specific reform. This reform is no more naturally connected with physiology than it is with history. The effects of alcoholic drinks on the history of the country could be traced with more clearness and more reason than its effects on the bones. How is it that history has escaped?"

In this case physiology is used as the name under which attacks on the use of alcohol are brought into the schools. There is a science of physiology, a science which treats of the life action of cells and organs, but this science has scarcely found its way into our system of education. It has been obscured by the ignorance of text-book makers who have never heard of its laws and principles. It is obscured by the popular demand for its association with hygiene. The knowledge of rules of health is most valuable, but it is not physiology. The real bases on which such practical generalizations rest are never simple, and in most cases they are beyond the reach of elementary text-books. The rules of health ordinarily given are not deduced from physiological laws. They are rather the expression of the experience of the race. Their introduction into books on physiology is perhaps justified by their utility. But their presence interferes with the development of the science. In an ideal educational arrangement hygiene will have a place to itself, and will not crowd out physiology any more than it will chemistry or physics. The anti-alcoholic material demanded in "scientific temperance," in all its various grades, takes all form of scientific impartiality away from the discussion of hygiene, while physiology being mere science is crowded out altogether. In the book in hand all proportion of parts is lost sight of, while the effort to teach physiology as science is virtually abandoned.

If physiology is not wanted in the schools, let us give it up. But if hygiene is to be substituted, let us have it from pure sources. The rules of health should come from those who have made them a life study, using the methods and tests of science. If temperance is the sole important part of hygiene, let us again demand the words of the highest authorities. Let us incite to sobriety by the words of soberness, not by the battle-cries of the Crusaders.

By casting aside the orderly development of the science of physiology we may find place anywhere in our text-books for discussions of alcohol and its effects. In Our Bodies and How we Live we find sixty-seven pages devoted to it out of a total of four hundred and twelve. The corresponding book of the Indiana Series has but two pages in three hundred and one. And in the former work this matter is not gathered together in one place, where it might be disposed of in one lesson, or even omitted by the evil-minded teacher, but it is diffused throughout. the book, so that no topic or discussion is free from allusions to it. In no part of the volume can we escape from the contemplation of the ravages of alcohol.

For example, we have in the description of the bony framework (page 40) a discussion of "the effect of alcohol and tobacco on the bones," as follows:

"Since the bones constitute the framework of the body, a person's form depends upon the size and shape of his bones. The bones grow during childhood and youth; whatever growth one loses during that time can not be afterward made up. It is the testimony of sagacious physicians that alcoholic drinks and tobacco tend to check the growth of the bones.

"The smoking of cigarettes is especially hurtful to growing boys, because such a habit tends, besides other harmful things, to dwarf the growth of the bones, A well-developed form is something to be prized. No wise boy or girl Vill risk attaining it by indulging in filthy or injurious habits while young."

Under Physical Exercise (page 68) we have:

"The Effect of Alcoholic Liquors and Tobacco on Physical Exercise.—The main object of physical exercise is to get our bodies into such a condition, and to keep them in that condition, whereby the average amount of working power can be utilized at any time without harm to the bodily health. To keep up this amount of physical power and endurance we must be obedient to certain great laws of health.

"One of these laws, which never can be violated with impunity, is that which forbids the use of alcoholic liquors and tobacco. Strong drink and tobacco will put to naught the most elaborate system of physical training.

"Those who train athletes, baseball and football players, oarsmen, and all others who take part in severe physical contests understand this, and rigidly forbid their men to touch a drop of alcoholic drink, or even to smoke or chew tobacco. Experience has proved beyond all doubt that strong drink is a positive injury, either when men are in training for or undergoing contests demanding long-continued physical endurance.

"The same law holds good in the ordinary physical exercises of everyday life. Alcohol and tobacco act as poison to the nerve force which controls the muscles, and thus lessen the amount of muscular power and endurance.

"The demands of modern life call for a sound body rather than a strong body. Neither is possible to those who indulge in alcoholic drinks or tobacco.

In like manner, at the end of every chapter, the effect of alcohol and tobacco, like the refrain of a song, comes in to recall the real motive of the whole. There is a long and essentially accurate account of the origin and formation of alcohol. Another chapter gives experiments to be performed with this fluid. At the end of the book, in an appendix, are twenty pages of notes, collected from all sorts of authorities—some good, some doubtful, some worthless—"concerning the nature and effects of alcoholic drinks and other narcotics." A strong case is there made against these evil agencies, and no testimony in mitigation is allowed or even hinted at. For easy reference the following table of the chapters on alcohol is given (pages 329, 330), which shows the thorough saturation of the work with the alcohol idea:

1. The Bones (chap. ii, p. 13). Effect of alcohol and tobacco on the bones (35).
2. The Muscles (chap. iii, p. 42). 1. Effect of alcohol on the muscles (44).
2. Effect of alcohol on strength (45).
3. Effect of tobacco on the muscles (46).
3. Physical Exercise (chap. iv, p. 56). Effect of alcohol and tobacco on physical exercise (58).
4. Food and Drink (chap. V, p. 70). Effect of drinking tea and coffee (72).
5. Origin and Nature of Fermented Drinks (chap. vi, p. 81). 1. Change produced by fermentation (74).
2. Ferments and what they do (75).
3. Alcohol a poison (76).
4. Narcotic poisons (76).
5. The alcoholic appetite (77).
6. The evils of overdrinking (78).
7. Wine, and why it should be avoided (79).
8. Beer: Its origin. Relation to drunkenness (80).
9. Distilled liquors (81).
10. The cost of the alcoholic vice (note, p. 89).
6. Digestion (chap. vii, p. 92). 1. Effect of alcohol on the stomach digestion (99).
2. Effect of alcohol on the liver (100).
3. Effect of tobacco on digestion (101).
7. The Blood and its Circulation (chap. viii, p. 122). 1. How alcohol gets into the blood (117).
2. Effect of alcohol on the circulation (116).
3. Effect of alcohol on the heart (119).
4. Effect of tobacco on the heart (120).
8. Breathing (chap. ix, p. 142). 1. Effect of alcohol and tobacco upon the lungs (132).
2. Alcohol and the bodily heat (133).
3. Alcohol in hardship (note, p. 160).
9. How the Body is Covered (chap. x, p. 161). Effect of alcohol and tobacco upon the skin (145).
10. The Nervous System (chap. xi, p. 177). 1. Narcotics (162).
2. General effect of alcohol on the nervous system (163).
3. Effect of alcohol on the brain tissue (164).
4. Final result of alcoholic poisoning (165).
5. Inherited craving for alcohol (166).
6. Tobacco and its use (167).
7. Evil effect of tobacco (note, p. 203).
8. Effect of tobacco upon young people (168).
9. Tobacco from a moral point of view (169).
10. Opium (170).
11. Practical hints about opium (171).
12. Chloral and other poisons (172).
11. The Special Senses (chap. xii, p. 210). Effect of alcohol and tobacco on the special senses (196).
12. Excretion (chap. xiii, p. 235). Effect of alcohol on the kidneys (202).
13. Throat and Voice (chap. xiv, p. 243). Effect of alcohol and tobacco on the throat and voice (207).
14. Simple Matters of Everyday Health (chap. xv, p. 249). Pernicious use of alcoholic liquors in accidents and emergencies (225).

This, then, is "scientific temperance"—a work on human physiology transformed into a pamphlet or argument on the evils of stimulants and narcotics, with such incidental science as will strengthen this argument or secure for it a place in the schools. It is not enough that the case against these agencies be put briefly and strongly, it must be reiterated until it becomes the central object for physiological study. This makes a necessity for space-writing such as that above quoted. In the two pages of the Indiana Series I find twenty-one distinct ideas as to the evils of alcohol and tobacco. These it is the work of the teacher to illustrate or to dwell upon as lie sees fit. No additional strength comes from dilution or repetition. Still less do the gigantic reasons why men should lead sober lives gain from association with arguments based on doubtful observations or spurious interpretations. In the sixty-seven pages of the other book I find about sixty different ideas, many of these not relevant to the subject in hand, the space being filled by repetition, quotation, and padding. Apparently this was not the author's original plan. It was forced upon him by the demands of the trade. A single collective paragraph, for example, would have covered the known effects of alcohol on most of the tissues; for alcohol does not affect the bones in one way, the muscles in another, and the stomach in a third. It confuses the nerves and poisons the blood, and these influences show themselves variously. The effects that concern us most are not the changes of tissue, but the changes of life.

Such a treatise as the New York law contemplates can not be written by a scientific man. The inclusion of "scientific temperance" in the course of study means the disappearance of scientific physiology. "It is insisted," says the writer from whom I have already quoted, "that in it shall be taught certain effects of alcohol on certain tissues and organs, when it is not known that such effects occur, and when some of them are known not to thus occur. Extravagant statements are demanded when only the most moderate ones can be made. If alcohol and its effects are mentioned at all, the true scientific spirit would demand that the whole truth and that only be told. This can not be done to meet the approval of the committee of censorship. These people demand this most monstrous thing, that there shall be a law compelling a scientific author in treating his subject to devote a certain prescribed amount of his space in such and such a way. They demand a large introduction of matter into the treatment of a subject that is wholly irrelevant to it. Indeed, they have the effrontery to demand of a scientific author in treating a certain scientific subject in the school courses that he shall introduce only so much of the subject as shall bear on a certain reform that they are advocating. Can even earnestness of purpose or the importance of the reform be a shadow of an excuse for such a course?"

The primary purpose of science teaching is to give not virtue but strength. The strong mind forms its own precepts of right action. The weak mind fails, whatever its memorized precepts. The methods favored by the advocates of scientific temperance must always fail of their purpose. No impulse to virtue is less effective than memorized statements of the evils of vice. Information learned by heart is never vital, least of all that which is given on doubtful authority, by methods not sanctioned by pedagogic experience. If such educational methods really led to temperance we might overlook their less desirable results. But the youth can not be made virtuous by sentimental gush nor by scientific bug-a-boos. Just in proportion to his ignorance of the subject will be the teacher's willingness to undertake the teaching proposed by the New York law. Hence arise the penalties laid on teachers and trustees, a thing unheard of in relation to any study that justifies itself.

As already stated, it is evident that the value of the study of physiology is weakened or destroyed by neglecting its scientific aspects and by throwing its conclusions out of perspective. We might as well ask that our histories of the United States should devote a fifth of each chapter to the effect of the spoils system on the events described. The spoils system is to our politics what alcohol is to our bodies, and a wonderful field would be open to reformers if their doctrines could be forced into all historical text-books. And if one class of reformers is admitted, there would be room for many others. It will not be long before we hear from the Baking Powder people, while the manufacturers of oleomargarine will claim the ear of the schools for their product, which is free from the microbes of tuberculosis that infest the dairies. In so far as science yields the basis for any class of reforms, let the facts be known. But these demands should stand in clear relation to the facts on which they depend. Injunctions to temperance may be derived from scientific knowledge; but science should not be distorted for purposes of argument. Confusion and verbiage add nothing, and the teaching of positive untruths works constant injury to the cause of education.

The success of "scientific temperance" legislation, in spite of the combined protest of all intelligent teachers, is really not surprising. It is pressed mainly by committees of women, and by women who are very much in earnest. Politicians are always glad to humor women when a sop like this will serve to do so. So long as nothing substantial is asked for they are wonderfully complaisant. The mercantile interests have no objection to laws of this sort, which can in no way harm the liquor traffic either present or future. If the temperance movement spent itself in such ways only, it could count on the help of its enemies. The opposition to "scientific temperance" comes mainly from theorists who regard meddling of this kind as outside the province of good government, and from teachers who know by experience that text-book virtue enforced by penalties works only mischief in the schools. The more stringent the penalties on teachers and school officers, the more certainly do such influences fail as agents for good.

The whole matter has been thus strongly stated by Dr. J. G. Schurman, President of Cornell University, referring to the New York law: "We find that all who are in any way engaged with the practical work of education have a protest constantly against the multitude of subjects which would-be 'reformers,' 'cranks,' and 'faddists' would require our boys and girls to study in the schools. If they get their way, the mental energy of our children would be dissipated and education become a sheer impossibility. The most fundamental of all reforms at the present time is the limitation of the number of subjects taught to any one student, with distinction between what is fundamental and what is subsidiary, in order that the short time which the young people of the country can devote to study can be put upon the most important and fruitful subjects. You hear people say every day, 'Is it not a shame that children should grow up in ignorance of this, that, and the other subject!' whereas the truth of the matter is, that it is in most cases an advantage that pupils have heard nothing of the matter.

"When I pass from the general principle of this law to scrutinize its details, it shows itself absurd on the very face of it. If there is any one thing which scientific teachers require at the present time, it is that students of science shall not be taught from text-books. In the programme of many of our best schools (I do not mean colleges or universities) the use of the text-book in science is absolutely forbidden. The 'reformers' who desire the legislation under consideration prescribe a text-book; and not only so, they tell the teachers how many pages are to be studied in order that students may understand 'the nature and effects of alcoholic drinks and other narcotics.' It would be a great reflection on the educational wisdom of those who are responsible for making our laws if a conception of scientific teaching so wooden, so utterly mechanical, were ever to find a place in our statute books. The scientific teachers of the country, whether in the public schools or in the colleges and universities, would justly hold us up to ridicule."

In the same vein Dr. William R. Huntington, rector of Grace Church, says: "As a member of the Committee of Sixty, charged with the investigation, from a scientific and impartial standpoint, of the whole question of the relation of alcoholic stimulants to the animal economy, I have been in the way of hearing the educational phase of the subject very fully discussed, and I am convinced that the attempt to indoctrinate the minds of the youth of the country in the premises, though well meant, has been overdone. Let the children be taught the perils of drinking and the horrors of drunkenness as emphatically as you please, but let us not palm off on their innocent minds pseudo-chemistry and inaccurate physiology as necessary truth."

Every institution tends to magnify itself, and the need of a reason for existence leads it to try to show results. Hence the unwillingness of the advocates of "scientific temperance" to let well enough alone. From two pages out of three hundred they have come to insist upon sixty pages out of four hundred. But this will not satisfy. Sooner or later the whole must be conquered. With every additional page taken from science for temperance, they have the basis for a show of results.

"The natural result of the dictatorship of unscientific people over a scientific subject is that they require all sorts of the most absurd things. Their success with legislatures has made them arrogant and oppressive in the extreme. These women certainly must be in earnest to be willing to assume to control for the whole country the teaching in the schools of a subject in which they do not profess to be trained; to assume to dictate to those who have made a certain science their life work what they shall and shall not say on this subject; to be willing to see, indeed to put in motion the machinery which brings about, a form of legislation which further developed would turn the public schools into an instrument which the smartest politicians who could capture them might use to further on any true or false reform or visionary scheme."

The only remedy for such meddling lies in allowing that science shall be free to teach its own lessons, and that the public schools shall not be used by advocates of any kind of social or political reform, no matter how meritorious the cause may be in itself.

The whole "scientific temperance" movement is opposed to the movement for good schools through the choice of good teachers. It has been judged thus far mainly by its motives, which are good. It will come to be judged by its results, and these are bad.

In his estimate of the age of Niagara Falls, Mr. J. W. Spencer assumes that the authors of the later computations have failed to take sufficient account of the factors that have caused the rate of recession of the cataract to vary, and of the consequent variation. He has newly examined the channels of the river and the geological evidences they offer, and has incorporated the results in his estimate. He finds that at the nativity of the Niagara River there was no fall. Then the waters sank to the level of Iroquois Beach, and the falls were very much like the modern American cataract in height and volume. This afterward increased in volume and went through a number of changes that are detailed in the author's paper. His computations result in the conclusion that the falls are thirty-one thousand years old, and the river is of thirty-two thousand years' duration. It is further roughly estimated that the lake epoch began fifty or sixty thousand years ago. If the rate of terrestrial deformation continues as it appears to have done, then in about five thousand years, Mr. Spencer thinks, the life of Niagara Falls will cease by the turning of the waters into the Mississippi.