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Thursday, July 24, 1890.
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On remembering the eagerness for public applause and the dread of public disgrace, which stimulate and restrain men, we cannot question that the diffused manifestations of feeling habitually dictate their careers, when their immediate necessities have been satisfied. It requires only to contemplate the social code which regulates life, down even to the color of an evening necktie, and to note how those who dare not break this code have no hesitation in smuggling, to see that an unwritten law enforced by opinion is more peremptory than a written law not so enforced. And still more on observing that men disregard the just claims of creditors, who for goods given cannot get the money, while they are anxious to discharge socalled debts of honor to those who have rendered neither goods nor services, we are shown that the control of prevailing sentiment, unenforced by law and religion, may be more potent than law and religion together when they are backed by sentiment less strongly manifested. Looking at the total activities of men, we are obliged to admit that they are still, as they were at the outset of social life, guided by the aggregate feeling, past and present; and that the political agency, itself a gradually developed product of such feeling, continues still to be in the main the vehicle for a specialized portion of it, regulating actions of certain kinds. Herbert Spencer.
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IN MEDIAS RES.
The progress of business in Congress from the reconvening, on July 7 to July 17, may be briefly described.
In the Senate, the diplomatic and consular appropriation was disposed of by the adoption of the report of the Conference Committee. Having refused to take up the Tariff Bill on the 7th inst., the so-called Land Court Bill was discussed for a while, and debate was resumed on the bill for Subsidizing the merchant marine. This having been continued on the 11th and 12th, the bill was passed on that day by a vote of 29-18. In the meanwhile three days were devoted to the final discussion of the Silver Bill-directing the purchase of 4,500,000 ounces of silver monthly, or so much as may be offered at the market price," and this measure was approved by concurrence in the Conference Report, 39-26. The Sundry Civil Appropriation Bill was then debated during six days.
In the House, July 7, debate was begun in committee of the whole on the Land Grant Forfeiture Bill, and was continued on the 10th and 17th. This bill is to forfeit about 7,000,000 acres of land, heretofore granted to various railroads and said not to have been earned by them by completing the required mileage.
July 8, a bill to prevent collisions at sea was passed, 125-44.
The bill to admit Wyoming was signed on this day by the speaker,
others do what you think is right and being made to do what others think is right, there can be but one choice. The majority is not an entity to conjure with. A minority, however small, should not submit to being made to do anything it has the power to resist. He should rule who has the power to rule, so long as rule exists. And there is no question whatever that if the majority does not rule, some minority will. For my part, I would rather coerce than be coerced, and I would force sixty million people to do my way, rather than be forced to do the way of the sixty million. I recommend the millions therefore to congratulate themselves on the fortunate conjunction of circumstances which places them in possession of the power. This is the question presented by the consideration of the rule of the majority. choice is between their rule and some other rule, not between their rule and no rule; the choice is not between invasion and noninvasion of personal liberty: the choice is between one kind of invasion and another. I think that if you will let your intelligence play freely around this matter, you will not discover any inconsistency between the belief that the rule of the majority is ethically defensible and the belief that anarchy is the ideal. At the same time, I do not regard the point as of much practical consequence between us, merely an intellectual exercise. Of two weights in different sides of a balance, it is necessary that the heavier should descend, and, by its descent, bear up the lighter. Of two contending forces, it is necessary that the greater should prevail. So long as the result is regarded as ethically indifferent, the contest between the minorities and the majority is ethically indifferent, and the supremacy of the majority when it is the greater force is merely a physical fact; under any circumstances, the physical fact is the more fundamental. But the issue constantly raised is, which of two ways will you do: permit yourself to be forced to do wrong (i. e., what you think wrong), or force others to do right? And this issue is not ethically indifferent; therefore, the rule of the greater power is not ethically indifferent. If ever the issue is raised, whether we shall permit others to do their way, or force them to do our way, the time will not be distant when your political ideal will be attained. To that end, we may join hands.
AGNOSTICISM IN POLITICS AND
Having devoted the greater part of his life to serious pursuits, with very satisfactory results, Prof. Huxley is certainly entitled to relaxation. How much the early acceptation of the theory of evolution in biology is due to his efforts it would be difficult to estimate. The facts which he has collected would certainly have been collected if he had not performed the work, but they could hardly have been put in so accessible and interesting a form as he has placed them in. The importance of his labors in diffusing a knowledge of the results of biological science can hardly be exaggerated. A man who does the work which Prof. Huxley has done as well as he has done it, really adds as much to human knowledge as one who makes a few brilliant discoveries; and it is not vouchsafed to one man to make many really great discoveries.
Prof. Huxley finds his relaxation in controversy; and as politics and religion are now, as they have been in the past, the subjects of controversy par excellence, he turns his attention to them. He has had much to do with controversy in the course of his life, and in this line has had few superiors; but in the former case the discussion hinged largely on facts, while in most speculations of politics and theology facts play a very subordinate part. This may in part account for the popularity of these last two sciences, because any one is competent to discuss them.
There is, however, a much more sufficient reason. Politics were not the invention of kings and courtiers, and just as certainly religion was not the invention of priests; both have been used by wise and cunning men as very effective instruments for obtaining power over others less shrewd, but the feelings existed in the mind of the multitude, and were not created by those who used them. Whether religious emotions and beliefs arose naturally, or had a supernatural genesis, their existence will account for all the interest men have taken
in the wearisome endless arguments and sterile disputations about words indulged in by theologians.
In the history of the world it which has come down to us
that part of
- there are a few instances of a people's outgrowing their form of religion, and the present time seems likely to afford another instance. Prof. Huxley appears to take a sort of malicious pleasure in the discomfiture of the theologians. Unfortunately theology has not been able entirely to steer clear of facts or of statements which contained implications regarding facts, and these implications nearly always turn out to betray a misapprehension to be contradictory to facts of every-day knowledge, or facts arrived at by scientific research. According to the received faith, God reconciled himself to the world some nineteen hundred years ago; now there is great need of a prophet who can reconcile the writings which have been regarded as inspired with facts which have been discovered since these writings appeared.
There is no occurrence; case, it is the whole
Prof. Huxley's latest article deals chiefly with the Old Testament; the story which is chosen for fullest treatment is that of Noah's Flood. The topic really does not afford room for serious argument. scientific evidence for its whether, as was formerly the supposed to have extended over earth, or, as is the fashion at present, it is supposed to have been confined to Mesopotamia, it must be admitted to have been miraculous; all attempts to explain it as a natural phenomenon, following natural laws and produced by natural causes, have ridiculously failed. Prof. Huxley seems to think that it is an argument against the occurrence of the Flood to say that water cannot be got to stand upon a side hill without something to hold it up. This is very telling against any explanation of the Flood as a natural phenomenon; but it does not prove anything against the occurrence of the Flood to one who is willing to admit the likelihood of a miracle, and the miraculousness
of the event is not much increased if, when the Flood subsided, all traces of it disappeared. Probably a man who firmly believed that the oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen which composed the body of Lot's wife were really turned, transformed into sodium chloride, would not find it a great strain upon his credulity if told that this particular mass of sodium chloride would never dissolve.
A few years ago, Prof. Huxley dealt with the Mosaic account of creation, compared with the account of the same thing given by science. His treatment of this and of the Deluge illustrates very well the difference between men of science and theologians. The latter assert that many things happened in certain ways, some of which the former assert never happened at all, and others happened in quite different ways. A reconciliation of particular statements made by the two parties is frequently impossible. For instance, it is clearly impossible to reconcile the statement made by theologians, that a flood took place about 2500 years B. C., something like that described in Genesis, with the statement made by men of science, that no such flood ever took place, unless it be admitted that the description merely applied to a river overflowing its banks, which looks very much like abandoning the theological assertion. Again, the scientific account of the origin of man negatives the theological dogma of his Fall, and abandoning the dogma of the Fall involves, in the course of time, abandoning other dogmas which have been regarded as very important. In many cases there must be a choice between scientific statements and theological dogmas: both cannot be accepted; and for several generations, at least, the great majority of men in civilized countries will choose the latter. Nor, perhaps would acceptation of the former imply much advance in rationality. If ever the scientific belief respecting the origin of man works down among the masses it will be held on grounds similar to those upon
which the beliefs in the rotundity of the earth and in its motion around the sun are now held by them, namely, in the accuracy of processes of which they know next to nothing. It is just as really an act of faith for the average man to believe that the distance between the earth and the sun is ninety-three million miles, and that the former moves around the latter at the rate of a thousand miles a minute, as to believe that God created man in his own image.
Not all dogmas of theology conflict with what are regarded as established truths of science. There is nothing in quaternions inconsistent with belief in a personal God; neither is there in the nebular hypothesis. There is nothing in the doctrine of biological evolution which makes it impossible to believe in a future life, in which the wicked are punished, and the virtuous rewarded. True there is nothing in the whole science of biology which supports the belief, but it is not entirely upon this ground that many scientific men rejected it. Because they are firmly convinced that theologians have been mistaken in most of their assertions which could be brought to a scientific test, they draw the inference, not that the assertions which cannot be brought to this test are false, but that they are doubtful. This is the justification of agnosticism. An agnostic is simply one who is not convinced by theological reasoning. If a book which is thought to be inspired contains statements which any man, Prof. Huxley, say, finds wholly incompatible with what he cannot help believing to be true, he cannot help feeling doubts as to other statements the book may contain with respect to which he can find no evidence pro or con.
The bitterness which still exists between religious dogmatists and agnostics seems to be uncalled for. Men of science feel no bitterness towards one who asserts that the earth is flat, much less towards one who professes himself unconvinced by the arguments brought forward to prove that the earth is round; but let one man assert and
prove to his own satisfaction the doctrine of the Resurrection, and another declare that the evidence adduced falls far short of demonstration, and bitterness immediately results. Least of all should we expect persons who have perfect faith in their creeds to feel impatience with one who is unable to believe, because, if the creeds are true, all agnostics as well as infidels and atheists will presently be put to great confusion. Pity would be a much more appropriate feeling with which to regard persons who are laying up for themselves such great store of misery.
Agnosticism is much less common in politics than in religion; most persons who give attention to the former maintain that the government should be more coercive than it is, or less coercive than it is, or that it represents precisely the happy medium; or, again, that certain institutions should be conserved just as they are, or that they should be modified or abolished. But there are general political speculations and principles; for instance, that the king can do no wrong; that all men should be equal before the law; that the will of the majority should be supreme; and about these principles, many of them mutually exclusive, it is possible to maintain the agnostic state of mind. There is a doctrine of a political fall of man,, sometimes called the "theory of social contract," and recognized under this name in many of our State constitutions, according to which men living in a state of nature and in possession of all their natural rights, at one time got together, actuated by a perception of the defects of their condition, got together to form a government; and, according to some, they sacrificed to the government all their rights, in return for which the government was to secure them certain benefits; according to others, only part of their rights were sacrificed. It is obviously possible to doubt whether governments originally arose in this way. It has even been doubted whether these primitive men had any natural rights to sacrifice. If it