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- Sociology and Modern Social Problems - 5/45 -
universe is in a process of development. Evolution in this wider sense includes all existing things whatsoever, while evolution in the sense of Darwin's theory is confined to the organic world. While the theory that all things existing have through a process of orderly change come to be what they are, is a very old one, yet it was undoubtedly Spencer's writings which popularized the theory, and to Spencer we also owe the attempt in his Synthetic Philosophy to trace the working of evolution in all the different realms of phenomena. The belief in universal evolution which Spencer popularized has also come to be generally accepted by scientific and philosophical thinkers. While Spencer's particular theories of evolution may not be accepted, some form of universal evolution is very generally believed in. The thought of evolution now dominates all the sciences,--physical, biological, psychological, and sociological. It is evident that the student of society, if he accepts fully the modern scientific spirit, must also assume evolution in this second or universal sense.
The Different Phases of Universal Evolution.--It may be well, in order to correlate our knowledge of social evolution with knowledge in general, to note the different well-marked phases of universal evolution.
(1) _Cosmic Evolution._ This is the phase the astronomer and the geologist are particularly interested in. It deals with the evolution of worlds. In this phase we are dealing merely with physical matter, and it is supposed that the active principle which works in this phase of evolution is the attraction of particles of matter for one another. This leads to the condensation of matter into suns and their planets, and the geological evolution of the earth, for example. Laplace's nebular hypothesis is an attempt to give an adequate statement of the cosmic phase of evolution. While this hypothesis has been much criticized of late, in its essentials it seems to stand. We are not, however, as students of society, concerned with this phase of evolution.
(2) _Organic Evolution._ This is the phase of evolution with which Darwin dealt and which biology, as a science of evolution of living forms, deals with. The great merit of Darwin's work was that he showed that the active principle in this phase of evolution is natural selection; that is, the extermination of the unadapted through death or through failure to reproduce. Types unsuited to their environment thus die before reproduction. The stronger and better fitted survive, and thus the type is raised. Natural selection may be regarded, then, as essentially the creative force in this phase of evolution.
(3) _The Evolution of Mind._ This might be included in organic evolution, but all organisms do not apparently have minds. It is evident that among animals those that would stand the best chance of surviving would not be simply those that have the strongest brute strength, but rather those that have the keenest intelligence and that could adapt themselves quickly to their environment, that could see approaching danger and escape it. Natural selection has, therefore, favored in the animal world the survival of those animals with the highest type of intelligence. It cannot be said, however, that natural selection is the only force which has created the mind in all its various expressions.
(4) _Social Evolution._ By social evolution we mean the evolution of groups, or, in strict accordance with our definition of society, groups of psychically interconnected individuals. Groups are to be found throughout the animal world, and it is in the human species, as we have already seen, that the highest types of association are found. This is not an accident. Association, or living together in groups, has been one of the devices by which animal species have been enabled to survive. It is evident that not only would intelligence help an animal to survive more than brute strength, but that ability to cooperate with one's fellows would also help in the same way. Consequently we find a degree of combination or co÷peration almost at the very beginning of life, and it is without doubt through co÷peration that man has become the dominant and supreme species upon the planet. Man's social instincts, in other words, have been perhaps even more important for his survival than his intelligence. The man who lies, cheats, and steals, or who indulges in other unsocial conduct sets himself against his group and places his group at a disadvantage as compared with other groups. Now, natural selection is continually operating upon groups as well as upon individuals, and the group which can command the most loyal, most efficient membership, and has the best organization, is, other things being equal, the group which survives. Natural selection is, then, active in social evolution as well as in general organic evolution. But the distinctive principle of social evolution is co÷peration. In other words, it is sympathetic feeling, altruism, which has made the higher types of social evolution possible.
While the same factors are at work in the higher phases of evolution which are at work in the lower phases, yet it is evident that the higher phases have new and distinct factors. Sociology, being especially concerned with social evolution, has a new and distinct factor at work which we may call association, co÷peration, or combination, and this it is which gives sociology its distinct place in the list of general sciences.
Factors In Organic Evolution.--As has already been said, the factors which are at work in organic evolution generally are also at work in social evolution. We need, therefore, to note these factors carefully and to see how they are at work in human society as well as in the animal world below man. While these factors are not all of the factors which are at work in social evolution, still they are the primitive factors, and are, therefore, of fundamental importance. Let us see what these factors are.
(1) _The Multiplication of Organisms in Some Geometric Ratio through Reproduction._ It is a law of life that every species must increase so that the number of offspring exceeds the number of parents if the species is to survive. If the offspring only equal in number the parents, some of them will die before maturity is reached or will fail to reproduce, and so the species will gradually become extinct. Every species normally increases, therefore, in some geometric ratio. Now, this tendency to reproduce in some geometric ratio, which characterizes all living organisms, means that any species, if left to itself, would soon reach such numbers as to occupy the whole earth. Darwin showed, for example, that though the elephant is the slowest breeding of all animals, if every elephant lived its normal length of life (one hundred years) and to every pair were born six offspring, then, at the end of seven hundred years there would be nineteen million living elephants descended from a single pair. This illustration shows the enormous possibilities of any species reproducing in geometric ratio, as all species in order to survive must do.
That this tendency to increase in some geometric ratio applies also to man is evident from all of the facts which we know concerning human populations. It is not infrequent for a people to double its numbers every twenty-five years. If this were continued for any length of time, it is evident that a single nation could soon populate the whole earth.
(2) _Heredity._ Heredity in organic evolution secures a continuity of the species or racial type. By heredity is meant the resemblance between parent and offspring. It is the law that like begets like. Offspring born of a species belong to that species, and usually resemble their parents more closely even than other members of the species.
It is evident that heredity is at work also in human society as well as in the animal world. We do not expect that the children born of parents of one race, for example, will belong to another race. Racial heredity is one of the most significant facts of human society, and even family heredity counts in its influence far more than some have supposed.
(3) _Variation._ This factor in organic evolution means that no two individuals, even though born of the same parents, are exactly like each other. Neither are they of a type exactly between their two parents, as theoretically they should be, since inheritance is equal from both parents. Every new individual born in the organic world, while it resembles its parents and belongs to its species or race, varies within certain limits. This variation so runs through organic nature that we are told that there are no two leaves on a single tree exactly alike. The result of this variation, the causes of which are not yet well understood, is that some individuals vary in favorable directions, others in unfavorable directions. Some are born strong, some weak; some inferior, some superior.
It is evident that variation characterizes the human species quite as much as other species, and indeed the limits of variation are wider, probably, in the human species than in any other species. Man is the most variable of all animals, and human individuality and personality owe not a little of their distinctiveness to this fact.
(4) _The Struggle for Existence._ Individuals in all species, as we have seen, are born in larger numbers than is necessary. The result is that a competition is entered into between species and individuals within the species for place and for existence. This competition or struggle results in the dying out of the inferior, that is, of those who are not adapted to their environment. The gradual dying out of the inferior or unadapted through competition results in the survival of the superior or better adapted, and ultimately in the survival of the fittest or those most adapted. Thus the type is raised, and we have evolution through natural selection, that is, through the elimination of the unfit.
Some have thought that this struggle for existence which is so evident in the animal world does not take place in human society. This, however, is a mistake. The struggle for existence in human society is not an unmitigated one, as it seems to be very often in the animal world, but it is nevertheless a struggle which has the same consequences. In the human world the competition, except in the lower classes, is not so much for food, as it is for position and for supremacy. But this struggle for place and power results in human society in the weak and inferior going to the wall, and therefore ultimately in their elimination. In all essential respects, then, the struggle for existence goes on in human society as it does in the animal world. This means that in society, as in the animal world, progress comes primarily through the elimination of unfit individuals. The unfit in human society, as we shall see, are especially those who cannot adapt themselves to their social environment. Progress in society, in a certain sense, waits upon death, as it does in all the rest of the animal world. Death is the means by which the stream of life is purged from its inferior and unfit elements.
(5) _Another Factor in Organic Evolution is Co÷peration_, or altruism, as we have already called it. As Henry Drummond has said, this is the struggle not for one's own life but for the lives of others. Really, however, it is a device which enables a group of individuals to struggle more successfully with the adverse factors in their environment. Something of co÷peration,--that is, a group of individuals carrying on a common life,--is found almost at the beginning of life, and, as we rise in the scale of animal creation, the amount of co÷peration and of altruistic feelings which accompany it very greatly increases. Perhaps the chief source of this co÷peration is to be found in the rearing of offspring. The family group, even in the lower animals, seems to be the chief source of altruism. At any rate, sympathetic or altruistic instincts grow up in all animals, probably chiefly through the necessities of reproduction.
It is only in human social life that co÷peration, or altruism, attains its full development. Human society is characterized by the protection
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