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A Crisis. By Ashton Hilliers. (To be continued.)
THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. (To an Air by Henry Lawes, published 1652.)
The flowers that in thy garden rise
The Sun that gilds the creeping moss
The stir of Morning's eager breath-
It is not fair, it is not near,
AT THE GRAVE OF KEATS.
Where silver swathes of newly fallen hay
Fling up their incense to the Roman
Where violets spread their dusky
leaves and run
In a dim ripple, and a glittering bay Lifts overhead his living wreath; where day
Burns fierce upon his endless night and
Can whisper to him of the thing he
Love-starved young Keats hath cast his gift of clay.
And still the little marble makes a moan
Under the scented shade; one nightingale
With many a meek and mourning monotone
DARWINISM AND POLITICS.
English party politics, never static, always in a condition of flux and transition, seem likely to be affected by some further dynamic influences during the period that lies immediately before us. Many of the old issues are dead, many newer and wider questions are coming into the field of controversy. In both or in all the political parties the keener intellects are disposed to examine fundamentals, to take the conventions to pieces, to discard traditional beliefs or reconstruct them on a systematic basis. We are inclined to be less contemptuous than has been our wont of the philosophy of politics; nor do we now so often boast that we are an illogical people, and that we can always be trusted to muddle through somehow. Our party leaders, during the most fertile era of scientific progress the world has known, were scarcely conscious of the tremendous significance of the revolution in physics, biology, and chemistry. Their culture had been in the main literary; when they relaxed from practical affairs they read the poets and the classics. Mr. Gladstone, taken to visit Darwin in 1877, had nothing to ask concerning the studies which, as Lord Morley says, were "shaking the world"; he could only talk Bulgarian massacre! The Origin of Species was too unimportant to divert his attention. But our present political generation has been born into the scientific era. We are beginning to understand, dimly as yet and too slowly, that the art of government, the science of man in society, cannot fail to be interpenetrated, with every other art and science and every region of thought, by the conceptions which the physicists and the biologists have worked out since the middle of the last century.
In an able article in the last number
of this Review, Mr. E. B. Iwan-Müller attempts to apply some of the results of Darwin's teaching to certain problems of modern politics and sociology. One may admire the practised skill and ingenuity with which the argument is developed while completely dissenting from the writer's conclusions. If those conclusions are valid they would be highly disastrous to society at large, to the particular society with which Mr. Müller deals, and to the political connection in which he is interested. Civilization, the English people, the Conservative party, would alike be in a profoundly unfortunate position if there were no escape from the rigidity of his reasoning. If he is right, not only is nature "one with rapine, a harm no preacher can heal," but every human community is in the same position; nor indeed ought it to be healed, if progress depends upon a state of permanent and unsparing warfare in which it is the destiny of the majority of the combatants to be in a condition of penury, suffering, privation, and ill-requited toil, from which it is vain and even mischievous to endeavor to release them. That is what we are to believe, unless we blind ourselves to the light radiated by the doctrine of evolution, which is to commit the scientific sin against the Holy Ghost! But we may be permitted to question Mr. Müller's application of the principle without being guilty of this offence.
"We are," says Mr. Müller, "all Darwinians to-day." We are in a sense; which for many of us is not quite the same as that in which he understands the term. There is, if I may say so with all respect, a certain venerable flavor of antiquity about his own Dar
1 "The Cult of the Unfit," THE LIVING AGE, September 4.
winism. The magnificent theory, magnificent and imposing even in its defects, seems to have made upon him the sort of impression it produced upon many minds when it had the emphasis of novelty. His attitude takes us back to the 'sixties and the 'seventies of the last century, when the strongest intellects were reeling under the impact of the shattering blow which those two terrible phrases, the Struggle for Life and the Survival of the Fittest, had dealt at all established conceptions in ethics, metaphysics, sociology; when purpose, design, will, and morals seemed to have been eliminated from a cosmos that could be explained by physics and chemistry and molecular movement alone. The explanation was accepted by some of the earlier evolutionists, disciples rather of Spencer than of the greater and more modest investigator, who suspected, if he did not fully grasp, the limitations of the impressive system he had built up.
In their enthusiasm these disciples insisted on accounting for all phenomena in the organic world, and particularly in the human as well as the animal community, by the Darwinian "laws." They did not know, what subsequent research has shown, that their grand and wide-reaching generalizations were yet inadequate to comprehend all the facts, that they explained something but not everything, that they could be regarded only as contributory causes of the process of organic evolution. Adopted without qualification they drove some to despair, some to a hard materialism in which the world was figured as a colossal apparatus of purposeless generation and soulless slaughter, some to a worship of sheer force and efficient egotism. Poets mused mournfully over the eclipse of Faith-Faith that had become
"The guess of a worm in the dust and the shadow of its desire,
Of a worm as it writhes in the world of the weak trodden down by the strong,
Of a dying worm in a world, all massacre, murder and wrong."
Others, like Nietzsche, turned with ravening fangs and open jaws upon that same sickly world, bent upon tearing asunder or trampling in the mire the weaklings and the servile, so that in the end armed Strength and shining selfish Beauty might alone prevail. Nietzsche, like Mr. Iwan-Müller, can see no excuse for the "Cult of the Unfit," no place for mercy, generosity, kindliness, for any qualities that can mitigate the ruthlessness of that savage struggle in which all nature and all human nature are ceaselessly immersed.
But that is not Darwinism as understood by Darwin himself. It is certainly not Darwinism as conceived by the later students of the evolutionary process. If there were any warrant for the perversion of the biological formula applied to the condition of men in society when the Lamarckian ideas were first popularized, there is none at all for this use of it since the further researches and speculations of Weismann, Roleston, Frazer, Loeb, Lloyd Morgan, Höffding, Thomson, and others. Huxley may have been justified in regarding nature as an arena in which living beings are set to fight to the death with net and sword. But we are not bound to consider mankind as the helpless victims of the same sanguinary dispensation.
The sombre conclusion is reached by taking the Darwinian "laws," which are supposed to govern the development of organisms in a state of nature, and applying them to the condition of self-conscious beings in human society. The organic world, says Mr. IwanMüller, lies under the dominion of the two principles of heredity and adaptation. From these follow the phenom
ena known as the struggle for life or the survival of the fittest; and "under purely natural conditions, that is, conditions not artificially modified by man, the consequence or penalty of failure is extinction either of the species or of the individual." We may let this pass, though I think modern evolutionists will not admit that natural selection and the struggle for existence are the sole operative causes for the development of the higher and more complex organisms from the lower and simpler. Life, under "natural" conditions, is a struggle, but it is not merely a struggle; Nature does not work only by exciting the combativeness and appetency of individuals; she is not wholly contemptuous of mutual aid, associative action, the subordination of the individual self-gratification to the common needs. "Whence," asks a contemporary inquirer, "comes the idea that all measures inspired by the sentiment of solidarity are contrary to Nature's trend? Observe her carefully, and she will not give lessons only in individualism. Side by side with the struggle for existence do we not find in operation what Lanessan calls 'association for existence.' Long ago, Espinas had drawn attention to 'societies of animals' temporary or permanent, and to the kind of morality that rose in them. Since then, naturalists have often in sisted upon the importance of various forms of symbiosis; Kropotkin in Mutual Aid has chosen to enumerate many examples of altruism furnished by animals to mankind; Geddes and Thomson went so far as to maintain that 'each of the greater steps of progress is, in fact, associated with an increased measure of subordination of individual competition to reproductive or social ends, and of interspecific competition to co-operative association.' Experience shows, according to Geddes, that the types which are fittest to surmount great obstacles are not so much those
who engage in the fiercest competitive struggle for existence, as those who contrive to temper it. And Dar
win himself would doubtless have subscribed to these rectifications. He never insisted, like his rival, Wallace, upon the necessity for the solitary struggle of creatures in a state of nature each for himself and against all. On the contrary, in The Descent of Man, he pointed out the serviceableness of the social instincts, and corroborated Bagehot's statements when the latter, applying laws of physics to politics, showed the great advantage societies derived from intercourse and communion. Again, the theory of sexual evolution, which makes the evolution of types depend increasingly upon preferences, judgments, mental factors, surely offers something to qualify what seems hard and brutal in the theory of natural selection. But, as often happens with disciples, the Darwinians have out-Darwined Darwin. The extravagances of social Darwinism provoked a useful reaction; and thus people were led to seek, even in the animal kingdom, for facts of solidarity which would serve to justify humane effort." 2
The neo-Darwinians, those who are acquainted with the later conceptions of force and matter, as well as with the results of recent biological research, would certainly not deny that conflict and competition are vital influences in organic evolution. But they would not, I think, admit that they are the only influences. Though they are part of Nature's inexorable discipline, they are not the sole and dominating principles of the social organism. The application of them in this exaggerated form is partly due to a misuse of metaphor. Nature, it is said, decrees an eternal struggle, and we cannot refuse obedience to her immutable laws. For
2 C. Bougle, Deputy Professor at the Sorbonne, in "Darwin and Modern Science" (Cambridge, 1909), p. 473.