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The Arrival Of The Fit
by [?]

There is no economy of effort or of material in nature as a whole, whatever there may be in special parts. The universe is not run on modern business-efficiency principles. There is no question of time, or of profit, of solvency or insolvency. The profit-and-loss account in the long run always balances. In our astronomic age there are probably vastly more dead suns and planets strewing the depths of sidereal space than there are living suns and planets. But in some earlier period in the cycle of time the reverse may have been true, or it may be true in some future period.

There is economy of effort in the individual organism, but not in the organic series, at least from the human point of view. During the biologic ages there have been a vast number of animal forms, great and small, and are still, that had no relation to man, that were not in his line of descent, and played no part in his evolution. During that carnival of monstrous and gigantic forms in Mesozoic time the ancestor of man was probably some small and insignificant creature whose life was constantly imperiled by the huge beasts about it. That it survived at all in the clash of forces, bestial and elemental, during those early ages, is one of the wonders of time. The drama or tragedy of evolution has had many actors, some of them fearful and terrible to look upon, who have played their parts and passed off the stage, as if the sole purpose was the entertainment of some unseen spectator. When we reach human history, what wasted effort, what failures, what blind groping, what futile undertakings!–war, famine, pestilence, delaying progress or bringing to naught the wisdom of generations of men! Those who live in this age are witnessing in the terrible European war something analogous to the blind, wasteful fury of the elemental forces; millions of men who never saw one another, and who have not the shadow of a quarrel, engage in a life-and-death struggle, armed with all the aids that centuries of science and civilization can give them–a tragedy that darkens the very heavens and makes a mockery of all our age-old gospel of peace and good will to men. It is a catastrophe on a scale with the cataclysms of geologic time when whole races disappeared and the face of continents was changed. It seems that men in the aggregate, with all their science and religion, are no more exempt from the operation of cosmic laws than are the stocks and stones. Each party to this gigantic struggle declares that he is in it against his will; the fate that rules in the solar system seems to have them all in its grip; the working of forces and tendencies for which no man was responsible seems to have brought it about. Social communities grow in grace and good-fellowship, but governments in their relations to one another, and often in relation to their own subjects, are still barbarous. Men become christianized, but man is still a heathen, the victim of savage instincts. In this struggle one of the most admirable and efficient of nations, and one of the most solicitous for the lives and well-being of its citizens, is suddenly seized with a fury of destruction, hurling its soldiers to death as if they were only the waste of the fields, and trampling down other peoples whose geographic position placed them in their way as if they were merely vermin, throwing international morality to the winds, looking upon treaties as “scraps of paper,” regarding themselves as the salt of the earth, the chosen of the Lord, appropriating the Supreme Being as did the colossal egotism of old Israel, and quickly getting down to the basic principle of savage life–that might makes right.

Little wonder that the good people are asking, Have we lost faith? We may or we may not have lost faith, but can we not see that our faith does not give us a key to the problem? Our faith is founded on the old prescientific conception of a universe in which good and evil are struggling with each other, with a Supreme Being aiding and abetting the good. We fail to appreciate that the cosmic laws are no respecters of persons. Emerson says there is no god dare wrong a worm, but worms dare wrong one another, and there is no god dare take sides with either. The tides in the affairs of men are as little subject to human control as the tides of the sea and the air. We may fix the blame of the European war upon this government or upon that, but race antagonisms and geographical position are not matters of choice. An island empire, like England, is bound to be jealous of all rivals upon the sea, because her very life, when nations clash, depends upon her control of it; and an inland empire, like Germany, is bound to grow restless under the pressure of contiguous states of other races. A vast empire, like Russia, is always in danger of falling apart by its own weight. It is fused and consolidated by a turn of events that arouse the patriotic emotions of the whole people and unite them in a common enthusiasm.