The conclusion of the World War is the closing of the period of the childhood of humanity. This childhood, as any childhood, can be characterized as devoid of any real understanding of values, as is that of a child who uses a priceless chronometer to crack nuts.
This childhood has been unduly long, but happily we are near to the end of it, for humanity, shaken by this war, is coming to its senses and must soon enter its manhood, a period of great achievements and rewards in the new and real sense of values dawning upon us.
The sacred dead will not have died for naught; the “red wine of youth,” the wanton waste of life, has shown us the price of life, and we will have to keep our oath to make the future worthy of their sweat and blood.
Early ideas are not necessarily true ideas.
There are different kinds of interpretations of history and different schools of philosophy. All of them have contributed something to human progress, but none of them has been able to give the world a basic philosophy embracing the whole progress of science and establishing the life of man upon the abiding foundation of Fact.
Our life is bound to develop according to evident or else concealed laws of nature. The evident laws of nature were the inspiration of genuine science in its cradle; and their interpretations or misinterpretations have from the earliest times formed systems of law, of ethics, and of philosophy.
Human intellect, be it that of an individual or that of the race, forms conclusions which have to be often revised before they correspond approximately to facts. What we call progress consists in coordinating ideas with realities. The World War has taught something to everybody. It was indeed a great reality; it accustomed us to think in terms of reality and not in those of phantom speculation. Some unmistakable truths were revealed. Facts and force were the things that counted. Power had to be produced to destroy hostile power; it was found that the old political and economic systems were not adequate to the task put upon them. The world had to create new economic conditions; it was obliged to supplement the old systems with special boards for food, coal, railroads, shipping, labor, etc. The World War emergency compelled the nations to organize for producing greater power in order to conquer power already great.
If there is anything which this war has proved, it is the fact that the most important asset a nation or an individual can have, is the ability “to do things.”
“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow . . .,” that is too true; they blow and they are strong and red. But the purpose of this writing is not the celebration of poetry, but the elucidation and right use of facts.
Normally, thousands of rabbits and guinea pigs are used and killed, in scientific laboratories, for experiments which yield great and tangible benefits to humanity. This war butchered millions of people and ruined the health and lives of tens of millions. Is this climax of the pre-war civilization to be passed unnoticed, except for the poetry and the manuring of the battle fields, that the “poppies blow” stronger and better fed? Or is the death of ten men on the battle field to be of as much worth in knowledge gained as is the life of one rabbit killed for experiment? Is the great sacrifice worth analysing? There can be only one answer-yes. But, if truth be desired, the analysis must be scientific.
In science, “opinions” are tolerated when and only when facts are lacking. In this case, we have all the facts necessary. We have only to collect them and analyse them, rejecting mere “opinions” as cheap and unworthy. Such as understand this lesson will know how to act for the benefit of all.
At present the future of mankind is dark. “Stop, look, and listen”-the prudent caution at railroad crossings-must be amended to read “stop, look, listen, and THINK”; not for the saving of a few lives in railroad accidents, but for the preservation of the life of humanity. Living organisms, of the lower and simpler types, in which the differentiation and the integration of the vital organs have not been carried far, can move about for a considerable time after being deprived of the appliances by which the life force is accumulated and transferred, but higher organisms are instantly killed by the removal of such appliances, or even by the injury of minor parts of them; even more easily destroyed are the more advanced and complicated social organizations.
The first question is: what are to be the scientific methods that will eliminate diverse opinions and creeds from an analysis of facts and ensure correct deductions based upon them? A short survey of facts concerning civilization will help to point the way.
Humanity, in its cradle, did not have science; it had only the faculties of observation and speculation. In the early days there was much speculative thinking, but it was without any sufficient basis of facts. Theology and philosophy flourished; their speculations were often very clever, but all their primitive notions about facts-such as the structure of the heavens, the form of the earth, mechanical principles, meteorological or physiological phenomena-were almost all of them wrong.
What is history? What is its significance for humanity? Dr. J. H. Robinson gives us a precise answer: “Man’s abject dependence on the past gives rise to the continuity of history. Our convictions, opinions, prejudices, intellectual tastes; our knowledge, our methods of learning and of applying for information we owe, with slight exceptions, to the past-often to the remote past. History is an expansion of memory, and like memory it alone can explain the present and in this lies its most unmistakable value.”1
The savage regards every striking phenomenon or group of phenomena as caused by some personal agent, and from remotest antiquity the mode of thinking has changed only as fast as the relations among phenomena have been established.2
Human nature was always asking “why”? and not being able to answer why, they found their answer through another factor “who.” The unknown was called, Gods or God. But with the progress of science the “why” became more and more evident, and the question came to be “how.” From the early days of humanity, dogmatic theology, law, ethics, and science in its infancy, were the monopolies of one class and the source of their power.3
The first to break this power were the exact sciences. They progressed too rapidly to be bound and limited by obscure old writings and prejudices; life and realities were their domain. Science brushed aside all sophistry and became a reality. Ethics is too fundamentally important a factor in civilization to depend upon a theological or a legal excuse; ethics must conform to the natural laws of human nature.
Laws, legal ideas, date from the beginning of civilization. Legal speculation was wonderfully developed in parallel lines with theology and philosophy before the natural and exact sciences came into existence. Law was always made by the few and in general for the purpose of preserving the “existing order,” or for the reestablishment of the old order and the punishment of the offenders against it.
Dogmatic theology is, by its very nature, unchangeable. The same can be said in regard to the spirit of the law. Law was and is to protect the past and present status of society and, by its very essence, must be very conservative, if not reactionary. Theology and law are both of them static by their nature.4
Philosophy, law and ethics, to be effective in a dynamic world must be dynamic; they must be made vital enough to keep pace with the progress of life and science. In recent civilization ethics, because controlled by theology and law, which are static, could not duly influence the dynamic, revolutionary progress of technic and the steadily changing conditions of life; and so we witness a tremendous downfall of morals in politics and business. Life progresses faster than our ideas, and so medieval ideas, methods and judgments are constantly applied to the conditions and problems of modern life. This discrepancy between facts and ideas is greatly responsible for the dividing of modern society into different warring classes, which do not understand each other. Medieval legalism and medieval morals- the basis of the old social structure-being by their nature conservative, reactionary, opposed to change, and thus becoming more and more unable to support the mighty social burden of the modern world, must be adjudged responsible in a large measure for the circumstances which made the World War inevitable.
Under the flash of explosives some of the workings of those antiquated ideas were exposed or crushed. The World War has profoundly changed economic conditions and made it necessary to erect new standards of values. We are forced to realize that evolution by transformation is a cosmic process and that reaction, though it may retard it, can not entirely stop it.5