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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

MAN IN THK  MODERN  WORLD
work is shot through with the premise that human biology is but an
extension of biology sensu stricto> and that, accordingly, biological
analogies will in general have validity. Various German philosophers
during the latter half of the past century justified war on the basis of
the Darwinian conception of the struggle for existence, and the
apostles of laisser-faire in Britain found support for economic indi-
vidualism in the same doctrine. Socialists, on the other hand, have
pointed to the fact of mutual aid in nature, as set forth by Kropotkin.
Analogies with the social organization of ants and bees have been
used, according to taste and prejudice, to glorify or to attack the doc-
trines of human collectivism. The Marxist thesis of progress being
achieved through a reconciliation of oppositcs, only to lead to a
new antithesis, which in turn paves the way for a new synthesis, is
customarily documented in the works of communist philosophers by
examples from biological evolution.
It is interesting to ask ourselves precisely what validity resides in
this method of extending biological principles by analogy into human
affairs. At the outset, it is clear that analogy, unless applied witli the
greatest caution, is a dangerous tool. This is clear to the modern
scientist, but it has not always been so. Indeed, to put too great a
burden on the back of analogy is a fundamental temptation of the
human mind, and is at the base of the most unscientific practices and
beliefs, including almost all magical ritual and much of supernatural-
ist superstition. During the last millennium, moralists, theologians
and scholastic philosophers have often regarded analogy, even of the
most far-fetched kind, as the equivalent of proof.
Has analogy, then, no part to play in scientific thought? Far from
it. Analogy is in the majority of cases the clue which guides the
scientific explorer towards radically new discoveries, the light which
serves as first indication of a distant region habitable by thought.
The analogy with waves in water guided physics to the classical wave-
theory of light. The analogy with human competition, after playing
an important role in Darwinian theory (did not Darwin arrive at the
theory of natural selection from his reading of Mai thus?), was trans-
ferred by Wilhelm Roux to a smaller sphere, the struggle of the parts
within the individual.
But analogy may very readily mislead. Weismann sought to apply
this same analogy of intra-organismal struggle and selection to the
units of heredity; but the analogy happens not to hold good. The
analogy of a stream of particles misled Newton as to the nature of
light.
Analogy thus provides clues, but they may easily be false clues; -it
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