Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Is Nature Cruel? The Purpose and
Limitations of Pain (S732, Chapter 19: 1910)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A famous essay from the book The World of Life, published in 1910. Original pagination noted within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with:

    [[p. 369]] A very large number of persons of many shades of opinion and various degrees of knowledge are disturbed by the contemplation of the vast destruction of life ever going on in the world. This disturbance has become greater, has become a mystery, almost a nightmare of horror, since organic evolution through the survival of the fittest has been accepted as a law of nature. The working out of the details of the Darwinian theory has forced public attention to this destruction, to its universality, to its vast amount, to its being the essential means of progress, to its very necessity as affording the materials for that constant adaptation to changes in the environment which has been essential for the development of the whole organic world.

    The knowledge of this startling fact has come to us at a time when there is a great deal of humanity in the world, when to vast numbers of persons every kind of cruelty is abhorrent, bloodshed of every kind is repugnant, and deliberate killing of a fellow-man the greatest of all crimes. The idea, therefore, that the whole system of nature from the remotest eons of the past--from the very first appearance of life upon the earth--has been founded upon destruction of life, on the daily and hourly slaughter of myriads of innocent and often beautiful living things, in order to support the lives of other creatures, which others are specially adapted to destroy them, and are endowed with all kinds of weapons in order that they may the more certainly capture and devour their victims,--all this is so utterly abhorrent to us that we cannot reconcile it with an [[p. 370]] author of the universe who is at once all-wise, all-powerful, and all-good. The consideration of these facts has been a mystery to the religious, and has undoubtedly aided in the production of that widespread pessimism which exists to-day; while it has confirmed the materialist, and great numbers of students of science, in the rejection of any supreme intelligence as having created or designed a universe which, being founded on cruelty and destruction, they believe to be immoral.

    I am not aware that Darwin dealt with this question at all, except in the concluding words of his Origin of Species, where he says:

    "Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows."

    This admits the facts as generally conceived; and, without palliating them, sets on the other side the great compensating result.

    Much more to the point is the concluding sentence of his chapter on the Struggle for Existence:

    "When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply."

    These statements are, I believe, strictly true, but they do not comprise all that can be said on the question. Before dealing with the whole subject from the standpoint of evolution, I will quote the opinions of two eminent biologists, as showing how the matter has impressed even thoughtful and instructed writers. Professor J. Arthur Thomson (of Aberdeen University), when reviewing my Darwinism in The Theological Review, said:

    "Tone it down as you will, the fact remains that Darwinism regards animals as going upstairs, in a struggle for individual ends, often on the corpses of their fellows, often by a blood-and-iron competition, often by a strange mixture of blood and cunning, in which each looks out for himself and extinction besets the hindmost. We are not interested in any philosophical justification of this natural or unnatural method until we are sure that it is a fact."

    [[p. 371]] These words do not, I hope, represent the Professor's view to-day; and I believe I shall be able to show that they by no means give an accurate impression of what the facts really are. About the same period the late Professor Huxley used terms still more erroneous and misleading. He spoke of the myriads of generations of herbivorous animals which "have been tormented and devoured by carnivores"; of the carnivores and herbivores alike as being "subject to all the miseries incidental to old age, disease, and over-multiplication"; and of the "more or less enduring suffering" which is the meed of both vanquished and victor; and he concludes that since thousands of times a minute, were our ears sharp enough, we should hear sighs and groans of pain like those heard by Dante at the gate of Hell, the world cannot be governed by what we call benevolence.1 Such a strong opinion, from such an authority, must have influenced thousands of readers; but I shall be able to show that these statements are not supported by facts, and that they are, moreover, not in accordance with the principles of that Darwinian evolution of which Huxley was so able and staunch a defender.

    It is the influence of such statements as these, repeated and even exaggerated in newspaper articles and reviews all over the country, that has led so many persons to fall back upon the teaching of Haeckel--that the universe had no designer or creator, but has always existed; and that the life-pageant, with all its pain and horror, has been repeated cycle after cycle from eternity in the past, and will be repeated in similar cycles for ever. We have here presented to us one of the strangest phenomena of the human mind--that numbers of intelligent men are more attracted by a belief which makes the amount of pain which they think does exist on the earth last for all eternity in successive worlds without any permanent and good result whatever, than by another belief, which admits the same amount of pain into one world only, and for a limited period, while whatever pain there is only exists for the grand purpose of developing a race of spiritual beings, who may thereafter live without physical pain--also for all eternity! To put it shortly-- [[p. 372]] they prefer the conception of a universe in which pain exists perpetually and uselessly, to one in which the pain is strictly limited, while its beneficial results are eternal!

    None of these writers, however, nor, so far as I know, any evolutionist, has ever gone to the root of the problem, by considering the very existence of pain as being one of the essential factors in evolution; as having been developed in the animal world for a purpose; as being strictly subordinated to the law of utility; and therefore never developed beyond what was actually needed for the preservation of life. It is from this point of view that I shall now discuss the question, and it will be found that it leads us to some very important conclusions. In order to do this, we must consider what were the conditions of the problem when life first appeared upon the earth.

    The general facts as to the rate of increase of animals and plants have been given in Chapter VII. of this work; but even these facts, remarkable as they are, seem altogether insignificant when compared with those of the lowest forms of life. The most startling calculation of the kind I have seen was given last year in a Royal Institution lecture on The Physical Basis of Life, by W. B. Hardy, F.R.S. (a Cambridge tutor), as to one of the infusoria (Paramecium) much used for experiment and observation on account of its comparatively large size (about 1/100 inch long) and its being very easily procured. This species multiplies by division about twice in three days, and has been kept under observation thus multiplying for more than 100 generations. Now it is not very difficult to calculate what quantity of Paramecia would be produced in any given number of generations, and what space they would occupy. No non-mathematical person can imagine or will believe the result. It is, that if the conditions were such (as regards space, food, etc.) that the Paramecium could go on increasing for 350 generations, that is to say, for about two years, the produce would be sufficient in bulk to occupy a sphere larger than the known universe!

    Now taking this as a type of the Protozoa--the one-celled animals and plants that still exist in thousands of varied forms--we see in imagination the beginnings of the [[p. 373]] vast world of life; and we also see the absolute necessity--if it was to continue and develop as it has done, filling the earth with infinite variety, and beauty, and the joy of life--for higher and higher forms to come successively into being, and for these forms to exist upon the food provided by the bodies of the lower. It follows that almost simultaneously with the first plant-cells which had the power of extracting carbon from the carbonic acid gas in the air and water and converting it into protoplasm, the first animal cells must also have arisen; and both must very rapidly have diverged into varied forms in order to avoid the whole of the water from being monopolised by some one form of each, and thus checking, if not altogether preventing, the development of higher and more varied forms. Variation and selection were thus necessary from the very first--were even far more necessary than at any later period, in order to avoid the possibility of the whole available space being occupied by some very low form to the exclusion of all others. Some writers have thought that, owing to the very uniform conditions in the primeval ocean, the development of new forms of life would then proceed more slowly than now. But a consideration of the enormously rapid increase of primitive life leads to the conclusion that the reverse was the case. It seems more probable that evolution proceeded as much more rapidly than now, as the rate of increase of the lower animals is more rapid than that of the highest animals. This view is supported by the fact, observed long ago in the Foraminifera, that their variability was immensely greater than in any other animals; and this will serve to shorten the time required for the development of the life of the Cambrian period from the earliest one-celled animals.

    We find, then, that the whole system of life-development is that of the lower providing food for the higher in ever-expanding circles of organic existence. That system has succeeded marvellously, even gloriously, inasmuch as it has produced, as its final outcome, MAN, the one being who can appreciate the infinite variety and beauty of the life-world, the one being who can utilise in any adequate manner the myriad products of its mechanics and its chemistry. Now, whatever view we may take of the universe of matter, of life, [[p. 374]] and of mind, this successful outcome is a proof that it is the only practicable method, the only method that could succeed. For if we assume (with the monists) that it has been throughout the outcome of the blind forces of nature--of "the rush of atoms and the clash of worlds"--then, as they themselves admit, being the outcome of a past eternity of trial and error, it could not have been otherwise. If, on the other hand, it is, as I urge, the foreordained method of a supreme mind, then it must with equal certainty be the best, and almost certainly the only method, that could have subsisted through the immeasurable ages and could have then produced a being capable, in some degree, of comprehending and appreciating it. For that is surely the glory and distinction of man--that he is continually and steadily advancing in the knowledge of the vastness and mystery of the universe in which he lives; and how any student of any part of that universe can declare, as so many do, that there is only a difference of degree between himself and the rest of the animal-world,--that, in Haeckel's forcible words, "Our own human nature sinks to the level of a placental mammal, which has no more value for the universe at large than the ant, the fly of a summer's day, the microscopic infusorium, or the smallest bacillus,"--is altogether beyond my comprehension.2

The Evolution of Pain

    Taking it then as certain that the whole world-process is as it is, because it is the only method that could have succeeded, or that if there were alternative methods this was the best, let us ascertain what conclusions necessarily follow from it. And, first, we see that the whole cosmic process is based upon fundamental existences, properties, and forces, the visible results of which we term the "laws of nature," and that, in the organic world at all events, these laws bring about continuous development, on the whole progressive. One of the subsidiary results of this mode of development is, that no organ, no sensation, no faculty arises before it is needed, or in a greater degree than it is needed. This is the essence of Darwinism. Hence we may be sure that all the earlier forms of life possessed the minimum of sensation [[p. 375]] required for the purposes of their short existence; that anything approaching to what we term "pain" was unknown to them. They had certain functions to fulfil which they carried out almost automatically, though there was no doubt a difference of sensation just enough to cause them to act in one way rather than another. And as the whole purpose of their existence and rapid increase was that they should provide food for other somewhat higher forms--in fact, to be eaten--there was no reason whatever why that kind of death should have been painful to them. They could not avoid it, and were not intended to avoid it. It may even have been not only absolutely painless but slightly pleasurable--a sensation of warmth, a quiet loss of the little consciousness they had, and nothing more--"a sleep and a forgetting."

    People will not keep always in mind that pain exists in the world for a purpose, and a most beneficent purpose--that of aiding in the preservation of a sufficiency of the higher and more perfectly organised forms, till they have reproduced their kind. This being the case, it is almost as certain as anything not personally known can be, that all animals which breed very rapidly, which exist in vast numbers, and which are necessarily kept down to their average population by the agency of those that feed upon them, have little sensitiveness, perhaps only a slight discomfort under the most severe injuries, and that they probably suffer nothing at all when being devoured. For why should they? They exist to be devoured; their enormous powers of increase are for this end; they are subject to no dangerous bodily injury until the time comes to be devoured, and therefore they need no guarding against it through the agency of pain. In this category, of painless, or almost painless animals, I think we may place almost all aquatic animals up to fishes, all the vast hordes of insects, probably all Mollusca and worms; thus reducing the sphere of pain to a minimum throughout all the earlier geological ages, and very largely even now.

    When we see the sharp rows of teeth in the earlier birds and flying reptiles, we immediately think of the pain suffered by their prey; but the teeth were in all probability necessary for seizing the smooth-scaled fishes or smaller land-reptiles, which were swallowed a moment afterwards; and as no [[p. 376]] useful purpose would be served by the devoured suffering pain in the process, there is no reason to believe that they did so suffer.

    The same reasoning will apply to most of the smaller birds and mammals. These are all so wonderfully adjusted to their environments, that, in a state of nature, they can hardly suffer at all from what we term accidents. Birds, mice, squirrels, and the like, do not get limbs broken by falls, as we do. They learn so quickly and certainly not to go beyond their powers in climbing, jumping, or flying, that they are probably never injured except by rare natural causes, such as lightning, hail, forest-fires, etc., or by fighting among themselves; and those who are injured without being killed by these various causes form such a minute fraction of the whole as to be reasonably negligible. The wounds received in fighting seem to be rarely serious, and the rapidity with which such wounds heal in a state of nature shows that whatever pain exists is not long-continued.

    It is only the large, heavy, slow-moving mammals which can be subject to much accidental injury in a state of nature from such causes as rock-falls, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, or falling trees; and in these cases by far the larger portion would either escape unhurt or would be killed outright, so that the amount of pain suffered would, in any circumstances, be small; and as pain has been developed for the necessary purpose of safeguarding the body from often-recurring dangers, not from those of rare occurrence, it need not be very acute. Perhaps self-mutilation, or fighting to the death, are the greatest dangers which most wild animals have to be guarded against; and no very extreme amount of pain would be needed for this purpose, and therefore would not have been produced.

    But it is undoubtedly not these lesser evils that have led to the outcry against the cruelty of nature, but almost wholly what is held to be the widespread existence of elaborate contrivances for shedding blood or causing pain that are seen throughout nature--the vicious-looking teeth and claws of the cat-tribe, the hooked beak and prehensile talons of birds of prey, the poison fangs of serpents, the stings of wasps, and many others. The idea that all these [[p. 377]] weapons exist for the purpose of shedding blood or giving pain is wholly illusory. As a matter of fact, their effect is wholly beneficent even to the sufferers, inasmuch as they tend to the diminution of pain. Their actual purpose is always to prevent the escape of captured food--of a wounded animal, which would then, indeed, suffer useless pain, since it would certainly very soon be captured again and be devoured. The canine teeth and retractile claws hold the prey securely; the serpent's fangs paralyse it; and the wasp's sting benumbs the living food stored up for its young, or serves as a protection against being devoured itself by insect-eating birds; which latter, probably, only feel enough pain to warn them against such food in future. The evidence that animals which are devoured by lion or puma, by wolf or wild cat, suffer very little, is, I think, conclusive. The suddenness and violence of the seizure, the blow of the paw, the simultaneous deep wounds by teeth and claws, either cause death at once, or so paralyse the nervous system that no pain is felt till death very rapidly follows. It must be remembered that in a state of nature the Carnivora hunt and kill to satisfy hunger, not for amusement; and all conclusions derived from the house-fed cat and mouse are fallacious. Even in the case of man, with his highly sensitive nervous system, which has been developed on account of his unprotected skin and excessive liability to accidental injury, seizure by a lion or tiger is hardly painful or mentally distressing, as testified by those who have been thus seized and have escaped.3

    Our whole tendency to transfer our sensations of pain to all other animals is grossly misleading. The probability is, that there is as great a gap between man and the lower animals in sensitiveness to pain as there is in their intellectual and moral faculties; and as a concomitant of those higher faculties. We require to be more sensitive to pain because of our bare skin with no protective armour or thick pads of hair to ward off blows, or to guard against scratches and wounds from the many spiny or prickly plants that abound in every part of the world; and especially on account of our long infancy and childhood. And here I think I see [[p. 378]] the solution of a problem which has long puzzled me--why man lost his hairy covering, especially from his back, where it would be so useful in carrying off rain. He may have lost it, gradually, from the time when he first became Man--the spiritual being, the "living soul" in a corporeal body, in order to render him more sensitive. From that moment he was destined to the intellectual advance which we term civilisation. He was to be exposed to a thousand self-created dangers totally unknown to the rest of the animal world. His very earliest advance towards civilisation--the use of fire--became thenceforth a daily and hourly danger to him, to be guarded against only by sudden and acute pain; and as he advanced onwards and his life became more complex; as he surrounded himself with dwellings, and made clothing and adopted cookery as a daily practice, he became more and more exposed to loss, to injury, and to death from fire, and thus would be subject to the law of selection by which those less sensitive to fire, and therefore more careless in the use of it, became eliminated.

    His tools continually becoming more and more dangerous, and his weapons becoming more and more destructive, were alike a danger to him. The scythe and the sickle caused accidental wounds, as did the needle and the knife. The club and the axe, the spear and the arrow, the sword and the dagger, caused wounds which, if not avoided, led quickly to death. Hence beneficent pain increased with him as a warning of danger, impelling him to the avoidance of wounds by skill and dexterity, by the use of padded clothing or of flexible armour; while nature's remedies were sought out to heal the less deadly injuries, and thus avoid long suffering or permanent disablement. And ever as civilisation went on, such dangers increased. Explosives caused a new kind of wound from musket or pistol, and later from bombs and mines. Boats and ships were built and the ocean traversed. Endless forms of machinery were invented, at first hand-worked, and not dangerous to the worker, but soon driven by steam with such force that if carelessly entangled in it the worker's limbs might be torn from his body. And all this went on increasing till at last a large proportion of the human race laboured daily in peril of life or limb, or of [[p. 379]] painful wounds, or worse diseases. Against this vast ever-present network of dangers, together with the ever-present danger of consuming fire, man is warned and protected by an ever-increasing sensibility to pain, a horror at the very sight of wounds and blood; and it is this specially developed sensibility that we, most illogically, transfer to the animal-world in our wholly exaggerated and often quite mistaken views as to the cruelty of nature!

    As a proof of the increased sensibility of the civilised as compared with the more savage races, we have the well-known facts of the natives of many parts of the world enduring what to us would be dreadful torments without exhibiting any signs of pain. Examples of this are to be found in almost every book of travels. I will here only mention one. Among most of the Australian tribes there is a regular scale of punishment for various offences. When a man entices away another man's wife (or in some other offence of an allied nature) the allotted punishment is, that the complainant and his nearest relatives, often eight or ten in number or even more, are to be allowed to thrust a spear of a certain size into the offender's leg between ankle and knee. The criminal appears before the chiefs of the tribe, he holds out his leg, and one after another the members of the offended family walk up in turn, each sticks in his spear, draws it out, and retires. When all have done so, the leg is a mass of torn flesh and skin and blood; the sufferer has stood still without shrinking during the whole operation. He then goes to his hut with his wife, lies down, and she covers the leg with dust--probably fine wood ashes. For a few days he is fed with a thin gruel only, then gets up, and is very soon as well as ever, except for a badly scarred leg. Of course we cannot tell what he actually suffered, but certainly the average European could not have endured such pain unmoved.

    This, however, is only an illustration. It is not essential to the argument, which is founded wholly on the principles of Darwinian evolution. One of these principles, much insisted on by Darwin, is, that no organ, faculty, or sensation can have arisen in animals except through its utility to the species. The sensation of pain has been thus developed, [[p. 380]] and must therefore be proportionate in each species to its needs, not beyond those needs. In the lowest animals, whose numbers are enormous, whose powers of increase are excessive, whose individual lives are measured by hours or days, and which exist to be devoured, pain would be almost or quite useless, and would therefore not exist. Only as the organism increased in complexity, in duration of life, and in exposure to danger which might possibly lead to its death before it could either leave offspring or serve as food to some higher form--only then could pain have any use or meaning.

    I have now endeavoured, very roughly, to follow out this principle to its logical results, which are, that only in the higher and larger members of the highest vertebrates--mammals and birds, do the conditions exist which render acute sensations of pain necessary, or even serviceable. Only in the most highly organised, such as dogs and horses, cattle, antelopes, and deer, does there appear to be any need for acute sensations of pain, and these are almost certainly, for reasons already given, very much less than ours. The logical conclusion is, therefore, that they only suffer a very moderate amount of pain from such bodily injuries as they are subject to in a state of nature.

    I have already shown that in most cases, even from our much higher standard, their death would be rapid and almost painless; whence it follows, that the widespread idea of the cruelty of nature is almost wholly imaginary. It rests on the false assumption that the sensations of the lower animals are necessarily equal to our own, and takes no account whatever of these fundamental principles of evolution which almost all the critics profess to accept.

    There is, of course, a large body of facts which indicate that whole classes of animals, though very highly organised, suffer nothing which can be called pain, as in the insects; and similar facts show us that even the highest warm-blooded animals suffer very much less than we do. But my argument here does not depend upon any such evidence, but on the universally accepted doctrine of evolution through adaptation. According to that theory, it is only life-preserving variations, qualities, or faculties that have survival value: pain is one of the most important of these for us, but it is [[p. 381]] by no means so important to any other animal. No other animal needs the pain-sensations that we need; it is therefore absolutely certain that no other possesses such sensations in more than a fractional degree of ours. What that fraction is we can only roughly estimate by carefully considering the circumstances of each case. These show that it is certainly almost infinitesimal in by far the larger part of the animal kingdom, very small in all invertebrates, moderately small in fishes and reptiles, as well as in all the smaller birds and mammals. In the larger of these two classes it is probably considerable, but still far below that of even the lowest races of man.

A Possible Misconception

    It may be said--I fear it will be said--that this idea of the lower animals suffering less pain than we suffer will be taken as an argument in favour of vivisection. No doubt it will; but that does not in the least affect the actual truth of the matter, which is, I believe, as I have stated. The moral argument against vivisection remains, whether the animals suffer as much as we do or only half as much. The bad effect on the operator and on the students and spectators remains; the undoubted fact that the practice tends to produce a callousness and a passion for experiment, which leads to unauthorised experiments in hospitals on unprotected patients, remains; the horrible callousness of binding the sufferers in the operating trough, so that they cannot express their pain by sound or motion, remains; their treatment, after the experiment, by careless attendants, brutalised by custom, remains; the argument of the uselessness of a large proportion of the experiments, repeated again and again on scores and hundreds of animals, to confirm or refute the work of other vivisectors, remains; and, finally, the iniquity of its use to demonstrate already-established facts to physiological students in hundreds of colleges and schools all over the world, remains. I myself am thankful to be able to believe that even the highest animals below ourselves do not feel so acutely as we do; but that fact does not in any way remove my fundamental disgust at vivisection as being brutalising and immoral.

[[p. 382]] A Recent Illustration of the Necessity of Pain

    Within the last few years we have had remarkable proofs of the beneficence of pain as a life-saver by the sad results of its absence. The recently discovered X-rays, so much used now for localising internal injuries, and of bullets or other foreign objects in any part of the body, have the property also of setting up a special internal disorganisation unaccompanied at the time by pain. The result has been loss of limbs or loss of life to some of the earlier investigators, and perhaps some injury even to the patients for whose benefit it has been applied. It seems probable, therefore, that if these rays had been associated in any perceptible degree with the heat and light we receive from the sun, either the course of evolution would have been very different from what it has been, or the development of life have been rendered impossible. Pain has not accompanied the incidence of these rays on the body, because living organisms have never hitherto been exposed to their injurious effects.

Microbes and Parasites: their Purpose in the Life-World

    Much light is thrown on the analogous problem of those human diseases which are supposed to be caused by germs, microbes, or parasites, by the application of the more extended views of evolution I have advocated in the present volume. The medical profession appear to hold the view that pathogenic or disease-producing microbes exist for the purpose of causing disease in otherwise healthy bodies to which they gain access--that they are, in fact, wholly evil. It is also claimed that the only safeguard against them is some kind of "anti-toxin" with which every one must be inoculated to be saved from the danger of attack by some or all of the large number of such diseases which affect almost every organ and function of the body. This view seems to me to be fundamentally wrong, because it does not show us any use for such microbes in the scheme of life, and also because it does not recognise that a condition of health is the one and only protection we require against all kinds of disease; and that to put any product of disease [[p. 383]] whatever into the blood of a really healthy person is to create a danger far greater than the disease itself.

    On the general principles of the present argument there can be nothing in nature which is not useful, and, in a broad sense, essential to the whole scheme of the life-world. On this principle the purpose and use of all parasitic diseases, including those caused by pathogenic germs, is to seize upon the less adapted and less healthy individuals--those which are slowly dying and no longer of value in the preservation of the species, and therefore to a certain extent injurious to the race by requiring food and occupying space needed by the more fit. Their life is thus shortened, and a lingering and unenjoyable existence more speedily terminated. One recent writer seems to hold this view, as shown by the following passage:--

    "Before it was perceived that disease is an undisputable battlefield of the true Darwinian struggle for existence, the tremendous part which it takes in ridding the earth of weaklings and causing the survival of health, was all credited to the environment and its dead physical forces."4

    But in this interesting article the writer elsewhere uses language implying that even the healthy require rendering "immune" against all zymotic diseases. It is that idea which I protest against as a libel on nature and on the Ruler of the Universe; and in its practice as constituting a crime of equal gravity with vivisection itself.

    It will be said that quite healthy persons die of these diseases, but that cannot be proved; and the absolutely universal fact that it is among those living under unhealthy conditions in our towns, and cities, and villages, that suffer most from these diseases is strongly against the truth of the statement. No doubt savage races often suffer dreadfully from these diseases; but savages are no more universally healthy than the more civilised, though it is usually a different kind of unhealthiness. The only doctrine on this matter worthy of an evolutionist, or of a believer in God, is that health of body and of mind are the only natural safeguards against disease; and that securing the conditions for [[p. 384]] such health for every individual is the one and only test of a true civilisation.

    A few words in conclusion on the main question of pain in the animal world. In my treatment of the subject I believe I have given unnecessary weight to those appearances by which alone we judge of pain in the lower animals. I feel sure that those appearances are often deceptive, and that the only true guide to the evolutionist is a full and careful consideration of the amount of necessity there exists in each group for pain-sensation to have been developed in order to preserve the young from common dangers to life and limb before they have reached full maturity. It is exactly the same argument as I have made use of in discussing the question of how much colour-sense can have been developed in mammals or in butterflies. In both cases it depends fundamentally on utilities of life-saving value as required for the continuance of the race. Hitherto the problem has never been considered from this point of view, the only one for the evolutionist to adopt. Hence the ludicrously exaggerated view adopted by men of such eminence and usually of such calm judgment as Huxley--a view almost as far removed from fact or science as the purely imaginary and humanitarian dogma of the poet:

"The poor beetle, that we tread upon,
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies."

    Whatever the giant may feel, if the theory of evolution is true, the "poor beetle" certainly feels an almost irreducible minimum of pain, probably none at all.

Notes Appearing in the Original Work

1The Nineteenth Century, February 1888, pp. 162-163.
2See the Riddle of the Universe, chap. xiii. (p. 87, col. I).
3See a brief discussion of this subject in my Darwinism, pp. 36-40.
4Parasitism and Natural Selection, by R. G. Eccles, M.D., Brooklyn, N.Y., U. S. A.

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