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THE ETHIC OF NATURE.
The old fashioned way of picturing the state of our first parents in Eden had a charming naïveté about it. The artists used to represent the innocent pair in a trimly kept garden, which reflected credit on the taste and skill of Adam. Trees, shrubs, and flower-beds, with intersecting paths, were artistically arranged. From the number and variety of animals roaming about, the artist's idea might have been taken from a zoological garden, only there were no ugly cages and dens in which to confine the guileless companions of man. It was a happy family group in which the peace of the primeval Sabbath seemed to rest like sweet summer calm on the heart of man, and the breasts of bird and beast and creeping thing. The very serpent was permitted to stand on his own legs in those days, and presented his fangs, all innocent of venom, for his unsuspecting master to toy with. This quaint old picture of our nursery days was a good representation of the prescientific conception of the state of the sentient world before the fall of man. The world was supposed to be fresh from the hand of a benevolent Creator, who could not will that His creatures should suffer any pain.
The animals were sharers of Adam's innocence, and also of his perfect happiness. Sickness, pain, and death were as yet unknown to all the favoured tribes of the Golden Age. But man's first disobedience wrought a direful change. Pain, sickness, and death were let loose upon the sentient world in retribution of Adam's sin. For long ages the spirit of man was burdened with the mystery of a dualism of good and evil. That evil and pain were somehow an intrusion, contrary to the will of the Divine Ruler, was a necessary conviction. It was impossible, therefore, to attribute them to Him. There must be an Ahriman as well as an Ormuzd to explain the world's condition. From this dualism there was no escape. So the time-honoured story of the temptation by Satan and the fall of man came to satisfy the irrepressible questionings of the puzzled childhood of the race-Ormuzd and Ahriman, God and Satan, wage their ceaseless strife during all the centuries of time. The Golden Age has vanished from the face of the darkened world. In sorrow the mother brings forth her child. Man toils his weary day from morning till evening, and thorns and thistles ever spring up
afresh to baffle and mock his labour. His humble friends have fled from his presence to mountain and jungle, and have exchanged for perpetual war the sweet companionships of Eden. Life to all creatures is a burden and a mystery, and the load will only be lifted off and the mystery unveiled by the kind hand of Death. The problem of the reconciliation of God and Nature is handed over to a Divine Redeemer, who leads the way through death to the resurrection of the Golden Prime.
But science staggered this poetic faith. When the books of stone were opened, and there was deciphered the early story of the earth, it was found that long anterior to any known appearance of man, races of animals existed whose structure, as preserved in the museum of the rocks, proved them to have waged fierce war upon each other. It became no longer possible to attribute pain and suffering and the terrible struggle for existence to any fault of man, supernaturally suggested by an agent alien to the normal ruler of the world. There, in the geologic strata, lay tooth and claw and all the weapons of primeval war, the manifest ordering of the Power in whom Mammoth and Mastodon lived and moved and had their being. It was easy by the deft use of the theologian’s net to strain out the gnat of a six days' creation, and extend the Creator's works over æons of time to meet the requirements of the geologist. But the perplexed believer struggled long and ineffectually to swallow the camel of the pre-Adamite war as part of the divine plan of the world. Geology placed a seemingly impassable gulf between the old conception of God the Father and the Maker and Ruler of the early world. The record of the rocks belied the cosmogony of the Pentateuch. Before Darwin's day the rift was made. The enmity of science and religion was preceded by a similar enmity between theology as it used to be and the undeniable facts which geology revealed. It was painful in days gone by to hear the traditionalist cavilling at the men of science. The wildest speculations of scientists cannot alter the facts; and these, as the perplexed human intellect can testify, were hard enough problems to solve before the theory of natural selection was heard of. Unless geologists did wrong in revealing the terrible secret of the rocks, it was inevitable that doubts should be cast on men's cherished faith, and demand be made for an explanation of the facts in terms of the creeds, or for a re-adjustment of the creeds to meet the facts. Scientific men have done their best to read the facts according to their light, without any prejudice against or in favour of any theory, except so far as prejudice was aroused by a natural reaction against the privileged abuse of the traditionalists. But the traditionalist fought shy of the facts. He shared the misgivings of Paul's barbarian hosts, and declined to handle such disagreeable vipers. He vied in suspicion with the barbarians of Melita about the character of the man who could handle them with impunity. In vain opposition to the spiritual and intellectual necessities of man, he insisted on settling down between the seemingly contradictory stools of fact and creed, and was angry with honest and thoughtful people for being unwilling to share his insecure accommodation. The traditionalist has found a successor in our day in an unexpected quarter. Professor Huxley does not try to extenuate the facts, but he is puzzled by them. They present to him at least as much evidence of malevolence as of benevolence. He cannot, like our still bewildered theologians, strike a favourable balance of good and evil by future compensation for the woes and miseries of the present