LIFE CAN BE WORTH LIVING
ingless. Our ancestors saw an epidemic as an act of divine punish-
ment ; to us it is a challenge to be overcome, since we know its causes
and that it can be controlled or prevented. The understanding of
infectious disease is entirely due to scientific advance. So, to take a
very recent happening, is our understanding of the basis of nutrition,
which holds out new possibilities of health and energy to the human
race. So is our understanding of earthquakes and storms; if we
cannot control them, we at least do not have to fear them as evidence
of God's anger.
Some, at least, of our internal miseries can be lightened in the same
way. Through knowledge derived from psychology children can be
prevented from growing up with an abnormal sense of guilt and so
making life a burden both to themselves and to those with whom they
come into contact. We are beginning to understand the psychological
roots of irrational fear and cruelty; some day we shall be able to
make the world a brighter place by preventing their appearance.
The ancients had no history worth mentioning. Human existence
in the present was regarded as a degradation from that of the original
Golden Age. Down even to the nineteenth century what was known
of human history was regarded by the nations of the West as an
essentially meaningless series of episodes sandwiched into the brief
space between the Creation and the Fall, a few thousand years ago,
and the Second Coming and Last Judgment, which might be on us at
any moment and in any case could not be pushed back for more than
a few thousand years into the future. In this perspective a millennium
was almost an eternity. With such an outlook no wonder life seemed,
to the great mass of humanity,cc nasty, brutish, and short," its miseries
and shortcomings merely bewildering unless illuminated by the
illusory light of religion.
To-day human history merges back into prehistory, and prehistory
again into biological evolution. Our time-scale is profoundly altered.
A thousand years is a short time for prehistory, which thinks in terms
of hundreds of thousands of years, and an insignificant time for evolu-
tion, which deals in ten-million-year periods. The future is extended
equally with the past; if it took over a thousand million years for
primeval life to generate man, man and his descendants have at least
an equal allowance of time before them for further evolution.
Most of all, the new history has been a basis of hope. Biological
evolution has been appallingly slow and appallingly wasteful. It has
' been cruel; it has generated the parasites and the pests as well as the
more agreeable types. It has led life up innumerable blind alleys.
But in spite of this it has achieved progress. In a few lines, whose