Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

On the other hand, the community received the advantage of the foresight possest by any individual who happened to be endowed with a central nervous system which transcended that of his fellows in its powers of dealing with sense impressions or other symbols. The foresight thus acquired by the whole community must be of advantage to it and serve for its preservation. It was therefore natural that in the processes of development and division of labor, which occurred among the members of the community just as among the cell units composing an animal, a class of individuals should have been developed, who were separated from the ordinary avocations, and were, or should be, maintained by the community, in order that they might apply their whole energies to the study of sequences of sense impressions. These were set into words which, as summary statements of sequence, were known to us as the Laws of Nature. These natural laws became the property of the whole community, became embodied by education into the nervous system of its individuals, and served therefore as the experience which would determine the future behavior of its constituent units. This study of the sequence of phenomena was the office of science. Thru science the whole race thus became endowed with a foresight which might extend far beyond contemporary events and might include in its horizon not only the individual life, but that of the race itself as of races to come.

RISE IN TYPE DEPENDENT ON BRAIN

In the evolution of the higher from the lower type, the physiological mechanisms, which had proved the decisive factors, could be summed up under the headings of integration, foresight, and control. In the struggle for existence the rise in type had depended on the central nervous system and its servants. Rise in type implied increased range of adaptation, and this increased range, from the very beginning of a nervous system, was bound up with the powers of this system. Whatever opinion we might finally arrive at with regard to the types of animals which we might claim as our ancestors on the line of descent, there could be no doubt that Gaskell was right in the fundamental idea which had guided his investigations into the origin of the vertebrates. As he said, "the law for the whole animal kingdom is the same as for the individual. Success in this world depends upon brains.” The work by this observer, which had lately appeared, set forth in greater detail the grounds on which this assertion was based, and furnished one of the most noteworthy contributions to the principles of evolution which had been published during recent years. We must not, however, give too restrictive or common a meaning to the expression “brains” used by Gaskell. The word implied the whole reactive system of the animal. In the case of man, as of some other animals, his behavior depended not merely on his intellectual qualities or powers, to which the term “brain” was often in popular language confined, but on his position as a member of a group or society. His automatic activities in response to his ordinary environment, all those social acts which we ascribed in ourselves to our emotions or conscience, were determined by the existence of tracts in the higher parts of his brain, access to which had been opened by the ruthless method of natural selection and which had been deepened and broadened under the influence of the pleasurable and painful impressions which were included in the process of education. All the higher development of man was bound up with his existence as a member of a community, and in trying to find out the factors which would determine the survival of any type of man, we must give our attention, not to the man, but to the tribe or community of which he was a member, and must try to find out what kind of behavior of the tribe would lead to its predominance in the struggle for existence.

POLITICAL EVOLUTION

The comparison of the body politic with the human body was as old as political economy itself, and there was indeed no reason for assuming that the principles which determined the success of the animals formed by the aggregation of unicellular organisms should not apply to the greater aggregations or communities of the multicellular organisms themselves. It must be remembered, however, that the principles to which he had drawn attention were not those that determined survival but those which determined rise of type, what he had called success. Mere association into a community was not sufficient to ensure success; there must also be differentiation of function among the parts, and an entire subordination of the activity of each part to the welfare of the whole. It was this lesson which we English-speaking race had at the present time most need to learn. In the behavior of man almost every act was represented in consciousness of some emotion, experience, or desire. The state of subordination of the activities of all units to the common weal of the community had its counterpart in consciousness as the “spirit of service.” The enormous value of such a condition of solidarity among the individuals constituting a nation, inspired, as we should say, by the spirit of service, had been shown lately by Japan. In our own case the subordination of individual to State interests, such as was necessary for the aggregation of smaller primitive into larger and more complex communities, had always presented considerable difficulty and been accomplished only after severe struggle. Thus the work begun by Alexander Hamilton and Washington, the creation of the United States, was still, even after the unifying process of a civil war, incomplete and marred by contending State and individual interests. The same sort of difficulties were being experienced in the integration of the units, nominally under British control, into one great nation, in which all parts should work for the good of the whole and for mutual protection in the struggle for survival. Just as pain was the great educator of the individual and was responsible for the laying down of the nervous paths, which would determine his whole future conduct and the control of his lower by his higher centers, so hardship had acted as the integrator of nations. It was possible that some such factor with its attendant risks of extermination might still be necessary before we attained the unification of the British Empire, which would seem to be a necessary condition for its future success. But if only our countrymen could read the lesson of evolution and were endowed with sufficient foresight, there was no reason why they should not, by associating themselves into a great community, avoid the lesson of the rod. Such a community, if imbued by a spirt of service and guided by exact knowledge, might be successful above all others. In this community not only must there be subordination of individual to communal interests, but the behavior of the community as a whole must be determined by anticipation of events—i.e., by the systematized knowledge which was called science. The universities of a nation must be like the

eyes

of an animal, and the messages that these universities had to deliver must serve for the guidance and direction of the whole community. At the present time it seemed to him that, altho it was the fashion to acquiese in evolution because it was accepted by biologists, we did not sufficiently realize the importance of this principle in our daily life, or its value as a guide to conduct and policy. Yet, according to their agreement with biological laws, the political theories of today must stand or fall. It was all-important that the people themselves should realize the meaning of the message which Darwin delivered fifty years ago. On the choice of the people, not of its politicians, on its power to foresee and to realize the laws which determined success in the struggle for existence, depended the future of our race. It was the people that must elect men as rulers in virtue of their wisdom rather than of their promises. It was the people that must insist on the provision of the organs of foresight, the workshops of exact knowledge. It was the individual who must be prepared to give up his own freedom and ease for the welfare of the community. Whether our type was the one that would give birth to the super-man it was impossible to foresee. There were, however, two alternatives before us. As incoherent units we might acquiesce in an existence subordinate to or parasitic on any type which might happen to achieve success, or as members of a great organized community we might make a bid for determining the future of the world and for securing the dominance of our race, our thoughts, and ideals.

a

Searchings of

Writing in the Harvard Graduates' Magthe Spirit at Har- azine for September, Professor W. B. vard.

Munro tells some interesting things about the movement of academic opinion at Harvard. It appears that the existing system of requirements for admission to Harvard College, which has long been most seriously criticised elsewhere, is now being subjected to a scrutiny not wholly friendly or sympathetic within the college itself. Professor Munro naïvely asks whether standards of admission must not be set “with a constant eye open upon what the schools are doing and must not the real gauge of admission requirements come to be what the schools can do rather than what the college wants them to do?” This is real light beginning to shine in a

? hitherto insufficiently illuminated spot. Perhaps one may now have hopes that the colleges, Harvard leading the way, will grapple with the distressing situation as to Latin, which Mr. De Forest pointed out so clearly in the September issue of this REVIEW, and save that vitally important subject from scholastic destruction before it is too late.

Professor Munro also raises the question whether the policy of admitting to the Harvard Medical School only the graduates of some recognized college or university should not now be modified. He is here upon sound ground. To exclude altogether from a vocational school perfectly competent students simply because they have not previously taken a baccalaureate degree, is indefensible trifling with serious things. It may be pedagogics, but it is not education. The only disquieting thing about these stirrings at Harvard is that they are attributed by Professor Munro to uneasiness arising from a falling-off in the number of students.

in 1910

The heavy vote of the directors at Denver in The N. E. A. favor of San Francisco as the place of meet

ing for 1910 naturally gives that city the first place in the consideration of the executive committee, which must soon settle the question. Inasmuch as the vote was merely advisory, however, the matter is an open one and the highest interests of the Association itself must determine the choice.

« AnteriorContinuar »