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others do what you think is right and being AGNOSTICISM IN POLITICS AND made to do what others think is right, there
THEOLOGY. can be but one choice. The majority is not an entity to conjure with. A minority, how
Having devoted the greater part of his ever small, should not submit to being made
life to serious pursuits, with very satisfacto do anything it has the power to resist.
tory results, Prof. Huxley is certainly enHe should rule who has the power to rule, so titled to relaxation. How much the early long as rule exists. And there is no question acceptation of the theory of evolution in whatever that if the majority does not rule, biology is due to his efforts it would be some minority will. For my part, I would
difficult to estimate. The facts which he rather coerce than be coerced, and I would
has collected would certainly have been colforce sixty million people to do my way,
lected if he had not performed the work, rather than be forced to do the way of the sixty million. I recommend the millions
but they could hardly have been put in so therefore to congratulate themselves on the
accessible and interesting & form as he fortunate conjunction of circumstances which has placed them in. The importance of his places them in possession of the power. labors in diffusing a knowledge of the reThis is the question presented by the consid sults of biological science can hardly he eration of the rule of the majority. The
exaggerated. A man who does the work choice is between their rule and some other
which Prof. Huxley has done as well as he rule, not between their rule and no rule;
has done it, really adds as much to human the choice is not between invasion and noninvasion of personal liberty: the choice is
knowledge as one who makes a few brilliant between one kind of invasion and another.
discoveries ; and it is not vouchsafeil to one I think that if you will let your intelligence man to make many really great discoveries. play freely around this matter, you will not Prof. Huxley finds his relaxation in condiscover any inconsistency between the belief troversy ; and as politics and religion are that the rule of the majority is ethically now, as they have been in the past, the defensible and the belief that anarchy is the
subjects of controversy par excellence, he ideal. At the same time, I do not regard the
turns his attention to them. He has had point as of much practical consequence be
much to do with controversy in the course tween us, - merely an intellectual exercise. Of two weights in different sides of a balance,
of his life, and in this line has had few It is necessary that the heavier should descend,
superiors ; but in the former case the disand, by its descent, bear up the lighter. of cussion hinged largely on facts, while in two contending forces, it is necessary that most speculations of politics and theology the greater should prevail. So long as the facts play a very subordinate part. This result is regarded as ethically indifferent, the
may in part account for the popularity of contest between the minorities and the ma
these last two sciences, because any one is jority is ethically indifferent, and the supremacy of the majority — when it is the greater
competent to discuss them. force — is merely a physical fact; under any
There is, however, a much more sufficircumstances, the physical fact is the more
Politics were not the invenfundamental. But the issue constantly raised
tion of kings and courtiers, and just as ceris, which of two ways will you do: permit tainly religion was not the invention of yourself to be forced to do wrong (i. e., what priests; both have been used by wise and you think wrong), or force others to do right?
cunning men as very effective instruments And this issue is not ethically indifferent;
for obtaining power over others less shrewd, therefore, the rule of the greater power is
but the feelings existed in the mind of the not ethically indifferent. If ever the issue is raised, whether we shall permit others to do
multitude, and were not created by those their way, or force them to do our way, the
who used them. Whether religious emotime will not be distant when your political
tions and beliefs arose naturally, or had a ideal will be attained. To that end, we may supernatural genesis, their existence will join hands.
account for all the interest men have taken
in the wearisome endless arguments and of the event is not much increased if, when sterile disputations about words indulged in the Flood subsided, all traces of it disapby theologians.
peared. Probably a man who firmly beIn the laistory of the world — that part of lieved that the oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, it which has come down to us - there are a and nitrogen which composed the body of few instances of a people's outgrowing their Lot's wife were really turned, *ransformed form of religion, and the present time seems into sodium chloride, would not find it a likely to afford another instance. Prof. great strain upon his credulity if told that Huxley appears to take a sort of malicious this particular mass of sodium chloride pleasure in the discomfiture of the theolo would never dissolve. gians. Unfortunately theology has not been A few years ago, Prof. Huxley dealt able entirely to steer clear of facts or of with the Mosaic account of creation, comstatements which contained implications pared with the account of the same thing regarding facts, and these implications given by science. His treatment of this nearly always turn out to betray a misap and of the Deluge illustrates very well the prehension — to be contradictory to facts difference between men of science and theoof every-day knowledge, or facts arrived at logians. The latter assert that many by scientific research. According to the things happened in certain ways, some of received faith, God reconciled himself to the which the former assert never happened at world some nineteen hundred years ago ; all, and others happened in quite different now there is great need of a prophet who ways. A reconciliation of particular statecan reconcile the writings which have been ments made by the two parties is freregarded as inspired with facts which have quently impossible. For instance, it is been discovered since these writings ap- clearly impossible to reconcile the statepeared.
ment made by theologians, that a flood took Prof. Husley's latest article deals chiefly place about 2500 years B. C., something with the Old Testament; the story which is like that described in Genesis, with the chosen for fullest treatment is that of Noah's statement made by men of science, that no Flood. The topic really does not afford such flood ever took place, unless it room for serious argument. There is no be admitted that the description merely scientific evidence for its occurrence ; applied to a river overflowing its banks, whether, as was formerly the case, it is which looks very much like abandoning the supposed to have extended over the whole theological assertion. Again, the scienearth, or, as is the fashion at present, it tific account of the origin of man negatives is supposed to have been confined to Meso the theological dogma of his Fall, and potamia, it must be admitted to have been abandoning the dogma of the Fall involves, miraculous; all attempts to explain it as a in the course of time, abandoning other natural phenomenon, following natural laws dogmas which have been regarded as very and produced by natural causes, have ri important. In many cases there must be diculously failed. Prof. Huxley seems to a choice between scientific statements and think that it is an argument against the oc theological dogmas : both cannot be accurrence of the Flood to say that water can cepted; and for several generations, at not be got to stand upon a side bill without least, the great majority of men in civilized something to hold it up. This is very tell countries will choose the latter. ing against any explanation of the Flood haps would acceptation of the former imply as a natural phenomenon; but it does not much advance in rationality. If ever the prove anything against the occurrence of the scientific belief respecting the origin of Flood to one who is willing to admit the like inan works down among the masses it will lihood of a miracle, and the miraculousness be held on grounds similar to those upon
which the beliefs in the rotundity of the prove to his own satisfaction the doctrine earth and in its motion around the sun of the Resurrection, and another declare are now held by them, namely, in the ac that the evidence adduced falls far short of curacy of processes of which they know demonstration, and bitterness immediately next to nothing. It is just as really an results. Least of all should we expect act of faith for the average man to believe persons who have perfect faith in their that the distance between the earth and creeds to feel impatience with one who is the sun is ninety-three million miles, and unable to believe, because, if the creeds are that the former moves around the latter at true, all agnostics as well as infidels and the rate of a thousand miles a minute, as to atheists will presently be put to great conbelieve that God created man in his own fusion. Pity would be a much more approimage.
priate feeling with which to regard persons Not all dogmas of theology conflict with who are laying up for themselves such great what are regarded as established truths of store of misery. science. There is nothing in quaternions Agnosticism is much less common in inconsistent with belief in a personal God; politics than in religion ; most persons who neither is there in the nebular hypothesis. give attention to the former maintain that There is nothing in the doctrine of biolo the government should be more coercive gical evolution which makes it impossible to than it is, or less coercive than it is, or believe in a future life, in which the wicked that it represents precisely the happy are punished, and the virtuous rewarded. medium; or, again, that certain instituTrue there is nothing in the whole science tions should be conserved just as they are, of biology which supports the belief, but or that they should be modified or abolished. it is not entirely upon this ground that But there are general political speculations many scientific men rejected it. Because and principles; for instance, that the king they are firmly convinced that theologians can do no wrong ; that all men should be have been mistaken in most of their asser equal before the law ; that the will of the tions which could be brought to a scientific majority should be supreme; and about test, they draw the inference, not that the these principles, many of them mutually assertions which cannot be brought to this exclusive, it is possible to maintain the test are false, but that they are doubtful. agnostic state of mind. There is a doctrine This is the justification of agnosticism. An of a political fall of man, sometimes called agnostic is simply one who is not convinced the “ theory of social contract,” and recogby theological reasoning. If a book which nized under this name in many of our is thought to be inspired contains state State constitutions, according to which men ments which any mai, Prof. Huxley, say, living in a state of nature and in possession finds wholly incompatible with what he of all their natural rights, at one time got cannot help believing to be true, he cannot together, actuated by a perception of the help feeling doubts as to other statements defects of their condition, got together to the book may contain with respect to which form a government; and, according to he can find no evidence pro or con.
some, they sacrificed to the government all The bitterness which still exists between their rights, in return for which the govreligious dogmatists and agnostics seems ernment was to secure them certain beneto be uncalled for. Men of science feel no fits; according to others, only part of their bitterness towards one who asserts that the rights were sacrificed.
It is obviously earth is flat, much less towards one who possible to doubt whether governments professes himself unconvinced by the argu- originally arose in this way. It has even ments brought forward to prove that the been doubled whether these primitive men earth is round; but let one man assert and had any natural rights to sacrifice. If it
is asserted that men were endowed by their Prof. Huxley served as a type of agnosCreator or by Nature with certain inalien ticism in religion ; he may also be taken as able rights, the assertion may be difficult to a representative of agnosticism in politics. substantiate. There certainly seems to be In the series of articles which he lately a difference between the rights which a contributed to the Nineteenth Century, his feudal lord had against his serfs and the position is stated very fully. He distinctly right a man has to the product of his own repudiates many particular doctrines which labor; the latter has been frequently re have been, and are now, the watchwords garded as a natural right, but as the term of political parties, and states clearly the is difficult to define, and as there has been supreme political question of the day, viz., a great controversy upon the subject which What part should government play in the is not yet settled, it must be conceded that affairs of society? It is in the concluding bere also is a chance for political agposti. article, “ Anarchy or Regimentation," that cism.
his political agnosticism is most plainly If rejecting the theory of the social com shown. There are two ideals of society : pact implies rejecting all the political ideas one in which the amount of government is that have been reared upon it as a founda reduced to a minimum, and, by consetion since it was invented by the author of quence, the most complete liberty is en“Ecclesiastical Polity," then denying the joyed by the individual ; the other, in which theory amounts to repudiating nearly all governmental regulation of affairs is the our present political beliefs. The social most complete possible, and consequently, compact was used by Hobbes to support individual liberty is reduced to a minimum. absolute monarchy; it was taken up by The former state is designated by the word Locke to defend individual rights, and to “Anarchy"; for the latter, Prof. Huxley show that there should be a limitation upon suggests regimentation; socialism has been the powers of government; still later, Rous used to described the second state, but as seau found in it support for a government as soine kinds of socialism are instances of absolute as that advocated by Hobbes, but voluntary cooperation, the word is open to differing from it in this, that the sovereign objection. body should be the majority of the people Neither ideal has ever been completely instead of a single individual ; it is recog realized in any large society. The civilized nized by implication in the Declaration of world at present is ordered after a sort of Independence,--'to secure certain natural compromise between the two, the progress in rights governments are instituted; the most countries being towards regimentation. Constitution of Massachusetts may be said As far as can be determined from his recent to be founded upon it, We, therefore, articles, Professor Huxley is not satisfied
... acknowledging, with grateful hearts, with either ideal, or with the present state, the goodness of the great Legislator of the nor does he know whether the present proguniverse, in affording us, in the course of ress is in the right direction. He himself His providence, an opportunity, deliber describes his work as a “ destructive critately and peaceably, without fraud, vio icism of a priori political philosophy; but lence, or surprise, of entering into an many of the arguments wbich he refutes original, explicit, and solemn compact with were exploded long ago, and others, it each other; and of forming a new constitu must be said, he is not very successful in tion of civil government, for ourselves and attacking. Both anarchy and regimentaposterity,” etc. It is almost impossible to tion have been supported by a priori arguname a political belief that has not been ments, but the fact that a theory has been affiliated upon this theory, except, perhaps, supported in this way does not prove that "To the victors belong the spoils."
it is a false theory. If Prof. Huxley should
discover that his own belief as to any gen and kind of clothing he shall wear. It eral question of biology had been antici is worthy of note that the ideal society pated by some forgotten author, and up which has appealed most strongly and uniheld by a priori reasoning, he would not versally for the last two thousand years to allow his confidence to be much shaken. the peoples calling themselves civilizedt The case for political agnosticism is not has been an anarchistic society, — a city exactly similar to that for agnosticism in not made with hands, the inhabitants matters of theology. In the latter case no .whereof need not light from the sun and evidence for determining the question is are a law unto themselves. Such a conaccessible no evidence, at any rate, ception implies, to be sure, that the memwhich has much cogency for the agnostic. bers of the society are perfectly adapted to But in the former case there is much evi the social state, and as the members of dence at hand. Governments have existed earthly societies are not yet perfectly for several thousand years, and records of adapted, complete anarchy might not work quite a number have come down to us; in 80 well here; but one would have thought some, as in ancient Peru, for instance, the that men would have tried to make their principle of regimentation has been applied societies here correspond as nearly as practo a great extent; in others, as in this ticable to their ideal, and the way to no country, a great deal of liberty has been government certainly would seem to be left to the individual. There is hardly any through less and less government rather kind of action which governments have not than through more and more - perhaps, tried over and over again ; govei nmental though, they wished the joys of the future regulation of production is no new thing; to be increased by being in striking congovernments now collect one tenth, or more, trast to the past. Now, however, this of all that is produced each year and dis ideal seems to be losing its hold upon men; tribute it according to their own wisdom; is faith in its realization is weakened ; and it this part distributed in any better way than seems not unlikely to be replaced by the the other nine tenths ? It does not seem ideal of an earthly society in which the altogether impossible to trace the results means of production shall be controlled by of different kinds of governmental action the State, and in which each man shall with sufficient accuracy to determine what have enough to eat, to drink, and to wear, kinds are beneficial, and under what condi and not be permitted to work more than tions. It seems rather a hopeless sugges six or eight hours a day. tion that from now on each case of State The real question, of course, is, In which action be regarded as an experiment, and kind of society would men be happiest? that no more attention be paid to the politi- Certainly no one would oppose socialistic cal experiments of the past than the measures out of devotion to an abstract “practical" politician usually pays.
principle of personal liberty, if it could be The average man has little knowledge as clearly proved that the happiness and wellto what socialism and anarchy really are, being of mankind, both for the present but he has a feeling that each is something and for the future, would be furthered by very
terrible and to be avoided. His their adoption. The strength of the presopinion of both might be modified if ent tendency towards socialism consists he knew that the society in which he largely in the perception that, unless a lives is socialistic in respect that the radical change is made in the methods by State compels him to contribute to the which wealth is distributed after it has support of schools and send his children been produced, the suffering due to lack of to them, and anarchistic in repect that the necessaries of life will long continue. the State does not prescribe the amount Many men who do not think very carefully