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argumentative and illustrative purposes this personification of "nature" is often convenient enough; but we are in danger of misunderstanding it. We talk sometimes as if this same Nature were not merely a symbol but a reality, an overwhelming Unity. The constant use or misuse of this figure of speech is a singular tribute to the sway which language can exercise over thought. Men of science and men of pseudoscience drift into the habit of endowing Nature with an anthromorphic character, making her, in fact, a kind of supreme deity, perpetually at work to reward those who obey, and punish those who transgress, her commandments. The very men who scoff at the notion of an impersonal God have reared their altars before the image of this mighty and terrible goddess, bestowing upon her will, caprice, initiative, anger, all the attributes of personality. They forget that there is no such thing as "nature"; that it does not exist, and is only a convenient abstraction. It would sometimes tend to clearer thinking if we made less use of this ambiguous personification, and for "nature" occasionally substituted
such phrase as "the natural forces." When we say Nature does this or that, we do not always remember that we mean, or ought to mean, no more than that it is the tendency of physical, chemical, and biotic action to produce certain phenomena.
The result of this confusion of thought and misuse of metaphor is seen in the application which some oldfashioned Darwinians make of the biological process to social conditions. Not content with accepting the struggle for life as an element in evolution, they regard it as the sole efficient factor, they invest it with a kind of sanctity, and approach it with reverence, as if it were not merely a natural tendency to be noted and studied, but a divine law which must be faithfully
worshipped and humbly admired. "The struggle for life," says Mr. Iwan-Müller, "with all its attendant consequences of inequality and poverty, is the mainspring of civilization." Further we are told, "that all the blessings of life are the direct outcome of that struggle, that there is no substitute for it, and if it be destroyed the clock stops"; and again that "the spirit of competition, if there be any truth in evolution at all, is the source of all that development which we so proudly call progress." To adopt any methods in order to check or even lessen the struggle is therefore disastrous, whether "applied to the top or to the bottom of the struggling mass of humanity." It is wrong to reduce the prizes of success artificially, lest in the opinion of those who would otherwise be the competitors they may cease to be worth gaining. The victors in the fray must have free license to carry off all the spoils they can in the shape of wealth, social advantages, ease, leisure, and any of the other desirable things which can be gained or seized as the result of successful conflict. And there must be no attempt to arrest the struggle at the bottom of the scale-where it becomes a fight for bare existenceby the artificial supply of the necessaries of life; lest "the starvation of the primary instincts" may cause the disappearance of the virtues developed by the free operation of those instincts. In other words, the poor man must be allowed to starve in order that his primary instincts may be nourished; and the rich man must not be deprived even of his superfluity lest other rich men should fail to acquire that full combative talent which so admirably develops the primary instincts of the poor. Life being a battle, the methods of a scientific but entirely merciless militarism should be employed. It is indeed grudgingly allowed that an ambulance brigade may be attached to the
fighting columns; but its operations must be strictly limited: since the Cult of the Unfit belongs to the childhood of man and has no real place in the constitution of an advanced society. And by the Cult of the Unfit it would seem that we are to understand not merely the maintenance and propagation of degeneracy and disease, but, in fact, any care for the great mass of the laboring community. Trade unionism, poor relief, old-age pensions, state medical aid, minimum wages, the limitation of the hours of employment, public charity in general, should be avoided as contravening the sacred principle of unrestricted competition. Otherwise obstacles are imposed to that survival of the fittest which, according to this assumption, is the condition on which all progress depends.
But to argue in such fashion is surely to ignore the true meaning of the phrase and to obliterate the distinction on which Darwin himself frequently insisted. The survival of the fittest, as everybody knows, or ought to know by this time, does not mean the survival of the best. It means only that those individuals and species have the best chance of living which are best adapted to their environment. other words, the survival of the fittest is the survival of those fittest to exist. Such fitness may be due to inferior rather than to superior qualities, to the capacity on the part of the organism to accommodate itself to adverse conditions under which the higher type would perish. So that weakness, poverty of structure, may, in certain circumstances, become a positive advantage in the struggle. Biological history is full of cases in which the superior competitor has been driven out of existence by one inferior in every respect but that of accidental adaptability to unfavorable surroundings. There is the example given by Darwin of the extinction of cattle and horses in Para
guay. North and south of this country cattle, horses, and dogs abounded in profusion, but in Paraguay itself they had become extinct. This was caused by the existence in Paraguay of a certain fly, which lays its eggs in the navels of these animals and so produces disease and death. There do not appear to be enough parasitic insects to keep down the numbers of these flies as is the case in some adjacent countries, or else there are so many insectivorous birds that the insects are killed off. So the flies increase and multiply, and the cattle and horses perish. This no doubt may be regarded as an application of the law of the survival of the fittest; though it will hardly be contended that the horse-killing fly is a higher and better type, or fitter in any sense but one, than the horses and dogs it has driven out of existence. Or again, there is the wellknown case of the Madeira beetles. There are over 200 species of these insects in the island which fly imperfectly or do not fly at all. For this there is no explanation but natural selection. It was no benefit for the Madeira beetle in the earlier stages of evolution to develop a strong capacity for flight. The enterprising, active, highly developed species, which had found their wings and used them, were at a disadvantage compared to their poorer brethren, which had poor wings and a restricted power of flight; for these latter crawled comfortably on the firm earth, while the others, winging their way gloriously into the sun-lit air, were blown into the sea and eliminated. "It must often happen," says Science grimly, "that the non-application of a previously attained special perfection is positively beneficial in the struggle for existence."
Mr. Iwan-Müller, is of course, well aware of these facts. Indeed, he gives an admirable illustration of them in his paper. "An Aristotle or a Newton,
an Eschylus or a Shakespeare, would pay the penalty of unfitness if isolated in the backwoods, where the sturdy man of muscle would triumph, just as the latter must hopelessly fail if he had to make a livelihood by his brain in the atmosphere of a great intellectual centre. Man is not exempt from the operation of the laws which govern organic life, but to man alone it is given so to modify his environment as to alter for good or evil the operation of these natural laws." This is perfectly true; but it seems odd that Mr. Müller does not see that it gives away the whole case for unrestricted and unlimited competition. In the state of nature no doubt the victory does remain with those organisms which can contrive to eat and drink and reproduce themselves freely, quite irrespective of any other qualities they may possess. Nature has no concern with higher or lower types; she cares only for the standard of survival and parentage. But man in society is engaged, or ought to be engaged, with entirely different considerations. It is his business to see that the survival of the fittest does mean the survival of the best, and to adapt the social environment to that purpose. A community in which a Shakespeare or a Newton could die of starvation while a footpad or a swindler became rich is not organized in accordance with social law.
To maintain that competition is the sole method by which superiority can be tested and established leads to the inference that competition is a thing so beneficial that, so far as possible, it should be allowed to rage unchecked. But competition is in itself largely due to artificial causes; and it is not true that the competitive spirit is the source of all progressive development, even in the natural sphere. Competition is very far indeed from always leading to upward movement. In the realm of
Nature competition is really a striving after monopoly. "Natural selection," says the American sociologist, Mr. Lester Ward, "operates on this principle exclusively. What is called the survival of the fittest is simply the monopoly of the strongest. . . . Any slight advantage which one species may gain from a favorable change of structure causes it to multiply and expand, and unless strenuously resisted, ultimately to acquire a complete monopoly of all things that are needed for its support. Any other species that consumes the same element must, unless equally vigorous, soon be crowded out. This is the true meaning of the survival of the fittest. It is essentially a process of competition. The economics of nature consist, therefore, essentially in the operation of the law of competition in its purest form. The prevailing idea, however, that it is the fittest possible that survive in this struggle is wholly false. The effect of competition is to prevent any form from attaining its maximum development, and to maintain a certain comparatively low level for all forms that succeed in surviving. This is made clear by the fact that wherever competition is wholly removed, as through the agency of man in the interest of any one form, that form immediately begins to make great strides and soon outstrips all those that depend upon competition. Such has been the case with all the cereals and fruit-trees; it is the case with domestic cattle and sheep, with horses, dogs, and all forms of life that man has excepted from the biological law and subjected to the law of mind; and both the agricultural and the pastoral stages of society rest upon the successful resistance which rational man has offered to the law of nature in these departments. So that we have now to add to the waste of competition its influence in preventing the really fittest from surviving." And Mr. Ward goes on with
some sentences which seem to me to contain the kernel of the argument. "Hard as it seems for modern philosophers to understand this, it was one of the first truths that dawned upon the incipient mind of man. Consciously or unconsciously, it was felt from the very outset that the mission of mind was to grapple with the law of competition and as far as possible to overcome and destroy it. This iron law of nature, as it may be called, is everywhere found to lie athwart the path of human progress, and the whole upward struggle of rational man, whether physically, socially, or morally, has been with this tyrant of nature, the law of competition. And in so far as he has progressed at all he has done so by gaining little by little the mastery in this struggle. In the physical world he has accomplished this through inventions, from which have resulted the arts. Every utensil of labor, every mechanical device, every object of design, and every artificial form that serves the human purpose is a triumph of man over the physical forces of nature in useless and aimless competition. In the social world it is human institutions-religion, government, law, marriage customs-that have been thought out and adopted to restrain the unbridled individualism that has always menaced society."
This is surely the rationale of the matter, and the key to the proper functions of society and of the State. So considered, "the doctrines of evolution" afford no justification either for Nietzschean aristocracy or for the extreme of laissez-faire individualism. We may choose to believe that the aim of the cosmic Will is the ultimate production of the Superman; but, even so, unrestricted competition is not the way to evolve supermen. If it were, we ought to find them in the slums of some of our great cities, where competition
works in all its primitive fury among masses of unskilled laborers engaged in desperate conflict for a bare subsistence wage; or we might expect to be on the track of the superwoman among the chain-makers of Cradley Heath, the tailoresses and sweated home-workers of the East End, all of whom have had abundant opportunities of practising those “primary virtues" which spring from want and excessive toil. Competition, however, has not had this effect at the bottom of the scale any more than at the top; for I suppose it will hardly be contended that all those who have "survived" to the point of having country-houses and Park Lane mansions, and yachts and racehorses and motorcars, are necessarily the highest types in our civilization. That competition is a natural force is undeniable; and, being so, it works with the blind, unmoral, wasteful indifference characteristic of all the agencies of nature.
But society, while it recognizes and studies the natural forces, is not to be enslaved by them. Pain is a force of nature, too; it has borne an essential share in the evolutionary process, so much so that it is impossible to see how the life of nature could go on without it; but we do not sit down helplessly before Pain and urge that it preserves "the primary instincts," and that with its disappearance some of the noblest virtues of humanity will disappear also. Lust, greed, revenge, eruelty, are natural forces; so are storm and flood and earthquake, the typhoon and the tornado, the venom of the snake, and the flying poison-germs of the air. Some of these evils we may hope to get rid of altogether; some we can only fortify ourselves against; some we may reduce to harmlessness; some we regulate and use; we do not, at any rate, cherish them tenderly, as we are asked to do with the force of human selfishness. "Man,"
says Sir E. Ray Lankester, in a passage which Mr. Iwan-Müller quotes, "is nature's rebel. Where nature says 'Die,' man says 'I will live.' . . . As he has more and more obtained control over his surroundings, he has expanded that unconscious protective attitude towards his immature offspring, which natural selection had favored and established in the animal race, into a conscious and larger love for his tribe, his race, his nationality, and his kind. ... At every step of his progress man has receded further and further from the ancient rule exercised by nature." Mr. Müller cites this passage in support, I presume, of his ultra-individualist contention. It seems to me to offer the strongest possible opposition to it. "All this tale of achievement," says Mr. Müller, "is the result of a struggle." Yes; but it is the result of a struggle against the tryanny of adverse physical and natural conditions, including human greed, indolence, and cowardice; it is not mainly the conse-, quence of the competition of individuals and of classes, even though that may have borne its share. The relaxation of the struggle for a monopoly either of existence or enjoyment, and its diversion to objects of common interest, have rendered national and social progress possible.
And if that struggle still rages, it is because social evolution is as yet imperfect, and the State as an organism in a rudimentary stage. As it moves towards completeness it will more and more adapt itself to securing not only the existence, but the full and specialized functioning, of all its members by means less terrible and more effective than the ruthless "selection" of nature, the waste and cruelty of unrestrained competition. It will carry on the natural process of improving the type, though not by nature's plan of developing some individuals and groups by dwarfing, stunting, debasing, and de
stroying others. It will understand that every State must be in a sense Protectionist, whatever its economic system; since its function is to protect every one of its citizens, not merely against foreign aggression and domestic disturbance, but against ignorance, poverty, vice, sloth, selfishness, avarice, and cunning, as well as against disease and crime. So far as these evils are due to an excessive social or economic inequality, it will seek to remedy them by a better distribution of material and other benefits, including the possession of property; and so far as they are caused by undue or unnecessary competition, it will restrain that energy or turn it into fruitful channels. As for conflict and rivalry, there will be enough of that, even though the greater number of men no longer "tear each other in their slime" for the means of life and reasonable comfort; there will be the struggle with nature, growing not less, but more intense with each fresh conquest; the struggle to bend force and matter to the uses of mankind: the struggle with foreign foes. Mr. Müller is afraid that if the stress of competition is relaxed the people will become too soft to hold their own in war; and he adduces historic examples-the Visigoths in Spain, the Roman panem et circenses. But history does not prove, nor does experience, that a reasonable standard of comfort for all classes is opposed to the military virtues; nor that these are fostered by an unsparing industrial competition, of which one result is that 40 per cent. of the lads who offer themselves as recruits for the British army in one of our great manufacturing centres are too illgrown and too ill-nourished to be accepted. The Protective State will take care that all its citizens are trained to arms and are physically fit to bear them. Unrestricted competition keeps