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- Sociology and Modern Social Problems - 4/45 -
give its approval to; others it may designate as unwise; but this approval or disapproval will be simply incidental to its discovery of the full truth about human social relations. This is not saying, of course, that social theory should be divorced from social practice, or that the knowledge which sociology and the other social sciences offer concerning human society has no practical bearing upon present social conditions. On the contrary, while all science aims abstractly at the truth, all science is practical also in a deeper sense. No science would ever have been developed if it were not conceived that the knowledge which it discovers will ultimately be of benefit to man. All science exists, therefore, to benefit man, to enable him to master his environment, and the social sciences not less than the other sciences. The physical sciences have already enabled man to attain to a considerable mastery over his physical environment. When the social sciences have been developed it is safe to say that they will enable man not less to master his social environment. Therefore, while sociology and the special social sciences present as yet no program for action, aiming simply at the discovery of the abstract truth, they will undoubtedly in time bring about vast changes for the betterment of social conditions.
_For Brief Reading:_
WARD, _Outlines of Sociology,_ Chaps. I-VIII. ROSS, _The foundations of Sociology,_ Chaps. I and II. DEALEY, _Sociology, Its simpler Teachings and Applications,_ Chap. I.
_For More Extended Reading:_
GIDDINGS, _The Principles of Sociology,_ 3d edition. SMALL, _General Sociology._ SPENCER, _The Study of Sociology._ STUCKENBERG, _Sociology: The Science of Human Society._ WARD, _Pure Sociology._ _American Journal of Sociology_, many articles. For a fairly extensive bibliography on sociology, consult Howard's General Sociology: An Analytical Reference Syllabus.
THE BEARING OF THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION UPON SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Since Darwin wrote his _Origin of Species_ all the sciences in any way connected with biology have been profoundly influenced by his theory of evolution. It is important that the student of sociology, therefore, should understand at the outset something of the bearing of Darwin's theory upon social problems.
We may note at the beginning, however, that the word _evolution_ has two distinct, though related, meanings. First, it usually means Darwin's doctrine of descent; secondly, it is used to designate Spencer's theory of universal evolution. Let us note somewhat in detail what evolution means in the first of these senses.
The Darwinian Theory of Descent.--Darwin's theory of descent is the doctrine that all forms of life now existing or that have existed upon the earth have sprung from a few simple primitive types. According to this theory all forms of animals and plants have sprung from a few primitive stocks, though not necessarily one, because even in the beginning there may have existed a distinction at least between the plant and the animal types. So far as the animal world is concerned, then, this theory amounts to the assertion of the kinship of all life. From one or more simple primitive unicellular forms have arisen the great multitude of multicellular forms that now exist. Popularly, Darwin's theory is supposed to be that man sprang from the apes, but this, strictly speaking, is a misconception. Darwin's theory necessitates the belief, not that man sprang from any existing species of ape, but rather that the apes and man have sprung from some common stock. It is equally true, however, that man and many other of the lower animals, according to this theory, have come from a common stock. As was said above, the theory is not a theory of the descent of man from any particular animal type, but rather the theory of the kinship, the genetic relationship, of all animal species.
It is evident that if we assume Darwin's theory of descent in sociology we must look for the beginnings of many peculiarly human things in the animal world below man. Human institutions, according to this theory, could not be supposed to have an independent origin, or human society in any of its forms to be a fact by itself, but rather all human things are connected with the whole world of animal life below man. Thus if we are, according to this theory, to look for the origin of the family, we should have to turn first of all to the habits of animals nearest man. This is only one of the many bearings which Darwin's theory has upon the study of social problems; but it is evident even from this that it revolutionizes sociology. So long as it was possible to look upon human society as a distinct creation, as something isolated, by itself in nature, it was possible to hold to intellectualistic views of the origin of human institutions.
But some one may ask: Why should the sociologist accept Darwin's theory? What proofs does it rest upon? What warrant has a student of sociology for accepting a doctrine of such far-reaching consequences? The reply is, that biologists, generally, during the last fifty years, after a careful study of Darwin's arguments and after a careful examination of all other evidence, have come substantially to agree with him. There is no great biologist now living who does not accept the essentials of the doctrine of descent. Five lines of proof may be offered in support of Darwin's theories, and it may be well for us, as students of sociology, briefly to review these.
(1) The homologies or similarities of structure of different animals. There are very striking similarities of structure between all the higher animals. Between the ape and man, for example, there are over one hundred and fifty such anatomical homologies; that is, in the ape we find bone for bone, and muscle for muscle, corresponding to the structure of the human body. Even an animal so remotely related to man as the cat has many more resemblances to man in anatomical structure than dissimilarities. Now, the meaning of these anatomical homologies, biologists say, is that these animals are genetically related, that is, they had a common ancestry at some remote period in the past.
(2) The presence of vestigial organs in the higher animals supplies another argument for the belief in common descent. In man, for example, there exist over one hundred of these vestigial or rudimentary organs, as the vermiform appendix, the pineal gland, and the like. Many of these vestigal organs, which are now functionless in man, perform functions in lower animals, and this is held to show that at some remote period in the past they also functioned in man's ancestors.
(3) The facts of embryology seem to point to the descent of the higher types of animals from the lower types. The embryo or fetus in its development seems to recapitulate the various stages through which the species has passed. Thus the human embryo at one stage of its development resembles the fish; at another stage, the embryo of a dog; and for a long time it is impossible to distinguish between the human embryo and that of one of the larger apes. These embryological facts, biologists say, indicate genetic relation between the various animal forms which the embryo in its different stages simulates.
(4) The fossil remains of extinct species of animals are found in the earth's crust which are evidently ancestors of existing species. Until the doctrine of descent was accepted there was no way of explaining the presence of these fossil remains of extinct animals in the earth's crust. It was supposed by some that the earth had passed through a series of cataclysms in which all forms of life upon the earth had been many times destroyed and many times re-created. It is now demonstrated, however, that these fossils are related to existing species, and sometimes it is possible to trace back the evolution of existing forms to very primitive forms in this way. For example, it is possible to trace the horse, which is now an animal with a single hoof, walking on a single toe, back to an animal that walked upon four toes and had four hoofs and was not much larger than a fox. It is not so generally known that it is also possible to trace man back through fossil human remains that have been discovered in the earth's crust to the time when he is apparently just emerging from some apelike form. The latest discovery of the fossil remains of man made by Dr. Dubois in Java in 1894 shows a creature with about half the brain capacity of the existing civilized man and with many apelike characteristics. Thus we cannot except even man from the theory of evolution and suppose that he was especially created, as Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin's contemporary and colaborer, and others, have supposed.
(5) The last line of argument in favor of the belief that all existing species have descended from a few simple primitive forms is found in the fact of the variation of animals through artificial selection under domestication. For generations breeders have known that by carefully selecting the type of animal or plant which they have desired, it is possible to produce approximately that type. Thus have originated all the breeds or varieties of domestic plants and animals. Now, Darwin conceived that nature also exercises a selection by weeding out those individuals that are not adapted to their environment. In other words, nature, though unconscious, selects in a negative way the stronger and the better adapted. Animals vary in nature as well as under domestication from causes not yet well understood. The variations that were favorable to survival, Darwin argued, would secure the survival, through the passing on of these variations by heredity of the better adapted types of plants and animals. The natural process of weeding out the inferior or least adapted through early death, or through failure to reproduce, Darwin called "natural selection", and likened it in its effect upon organisms to the artificial selection which breeders consciously use to secure types of plants or animals that they desire. The only great addition to Darwin's theories which has been made since he wrote is that of the Dutch botanist, Hugo de Vries, who has shown that the variations which are fruitful for the production of new species are probably great or discontinuous variations, which he terms "mutations," instead of the small fluctuating variations which Darwin thought were probably most important in the production of new species. De Vries' theory in no way affects the doctrine of descent, nor does it take away from the importance of natural selection in fixing the variations. Darwin's theory, therefore, stands in all of its essentials to-day unquestioned by men of science, and it must be assumed by the student of sociology in any attempt to explain social evolution.
Spencer's Theory of Universal Evolution.--A second meaning given to the word _evolution_ is that which Spencer popularized in his _First Principles_. This is a philosophical theory of the universe which asserts that not only have species of animals come to be what they are through a process of development, but everything whatsoever that exists, from molecules of matter to stars and planets. It is the view that the
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