Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats


progress that may be made on this planet, and the falsity of all his
attempts to shift any of the burden of his responsibilities on to the
shoulders of outside powers; and a fifth is the establishment of the
developed human personality as the highest product of the universe
(or at least the highest product of which we have any knowledge),
with all the implications of this fact for our social and political

Let me take these points one by one, to show their interconnection.
The way of advance for truth is in general the same as the way of
advance for existing life: of two alternatives, one dies out, not
because the other destroys it directly, but because it is less fitted to
survive. Even after Copernicus, the doctrine that the sun goes round
the earth could still be logically maintained. But it demanded
enormous complexity of epicycle upon epicycle. The rival theory that
the earth goes round the sun was far simpler and more satisfying; in
the climate provided by developing civilization it survived, the other
simply died out of human thinking.
The monistic, unitary view of the universe will survive for the same
kind of reason. Our scientific knowledge now permits us to assert
definitely that there is no break in the continuity of phenomena. All
matter, living or lifeless, is composed of the same units—all the millions
of different lifeless substances, as well as of living species, are made
of different combinations of the chemical elements, and these in turn
of different combinations of still more elementary particles (or
"wavicles"). In reproduction, there is no moment at which life
enters; there is continuity of life between the offspring and its parent
or parents. The offspring is merely a detached portion of the parental
living substance. Nowhere in the transformation of microscopic ovum
to adult human being is there a break at which one can say "here
mind appears," or "there personality enters"; development is con-
It is the same with the vast process of organic evolution. Here, too,
gradualness and continuity reign; there is no moment at which we
can say that reptile ends or bird begins, no definite demarcation
between man and not-man, no sharp line at which we must or indeed
could postulate the sudden injection of thought or soul into evolving
life, The ideas of evolution by brusque mutations of large extent have
disappeared: with the new knowledge of the last twenty years the
overwhelming consensus of biology has returned to support Darwin's
original view of the extreme gradualness of all evolutionary change.