Voluntary Socialism

A SKETCH (1896)

by Francis Dashwood Tandy (1867-1913)

Chapter I.


VS-1.1 The most generally accepted facts relating to the origin of the solar system, point to the conclusion that it was once a vast, shapeless body of fiery vapor.
VS-1.2 There was, no doubt, much motion among the particles forming this vapor, and so currents, similar to those in the oceans to-day, gradually developed. The direction of these various currents was probably different, but there must have been a preponderance of motion in one direction – from West to East. This motion, gradually arresting all counter-acting motion, caused the whole to rotate in that one direction at ever-increasing speed.
VS-1.3 The rapid rotation caused the nebula, as such a mass is called, to assume a somewhat spherical form, and, acting as centrifugal force (the force which causes a wet wheel to cast off drops of water when it is rotating rapidly), caused it to bulge at its equator and to become flattened at its poles. Meanwhile heat was radiating in every direction and resulted in the contraction of the whole. The poles of the nebula “became more and more flattened, and its equatorial zone protruded more and more, until at last The centrifugal tendency at the equator became greater than the force of gravity at that place. Then the bulging equatorial zone, no longer able to keep pace with the rest of the mass in its contraction, was left behind as a detached ring, girdling, at a small but steadily increasing distance[,] the retreating central mass.” (Fiske, Cosmic Philosophy, v. 1, p. 361.) [Online editor’s note: American philosopher and historian John Fiske (1842-1901); in Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy (1874) and other works he sought to reconcile Spencerian evolutionism with neo-Augustinian theology. – RTL]
VS-1.4 The inequalities of the density if this ring caused the molecules to be attracted to one or more centres, subsequently causing the ring to break into several portions of unequal weight. As these revolved around the parent mass in the same plane, the attraction of the smaller portions to the greater ultimately formed them into one body, which continued to revolve in its orbit as well as to rotate on its own axis.
VS-1.5 These same forces were now at work to cause this mass in its turn to cast off smaller rings, which followed a similar course of development. Meanwhile the parent mass was preparing to cast another ring off into space, to commence an individual existence of its own. In this manner the planets and their satellites were most probably formed.
VS-1.6 Of all the various bodies of matter floating around in space, the smallest naturally cooled the quickest. Thus we find the suns till in a molten condition. Jupiter and the other large planets are cooler, but still in a partly self-luminous state. Saturn, surrounded by his rings, and the belt of more than a hundred asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, show us possibly the manner in which the rings were first cast off and afterwards broken into smaller pieces. We find the Earth and possibly Mars sufficiently cool to be able to support life on a hardened crust, and the Moon entirely burnt out, warning us of the condition to which all planets will eventually come. Just as they have evolved from the molten, gaseous condition of the nebula, gradually cooling and developing conditions favorable to the maintenance of teeming life, so will they probably continue to cool until they become dead worlds on which no life can exist, each revolving in its orbit, useless, lifeless cinders floating onward, mere monuments of departed glory. Perchance, this solemn procession coming in collision with some other system, will, by reason of the heat thus generated, result in the total annihilation of both, resolving them back into their original atoms, ready to start once more upon another cycle if development and decay. – Such is the “Purpose of Nature!”
VS-1.7 The gradual cooling of the Earth caused a hard crust to form and the shrinkage of the mass crushed and crumpled that crust into the most irregular form. This irregularity was intensified by the mass cooling more slowly in some places than in others. Atmosphere and water, frost and hurricane working from without, and igneous agencies operating from within, have gradually modified the original surface. Thus were mountains and continents raised up in some places, lakes and oceans formed in others. Here, the land worn away and deposited in minute particles at the bottom of rivers and seas; there, places, formerly covered with water, upheaved and appearing as dry land once more. These incessant conflicts between the forces of nature, have brought order out of chaos, have evolved the Earth out of the nebula.
VS-1.8 When, where, and how life first originated is, and perhaps ever will be, unknown. Some say at least one hundred million years, some not more than thirty million, have elapsed since it first appeared. Some claim that it originated in the tropics, others in the polar regions. About all that we do know is that it first appeared in its simplest form as a particle of plasma. So simple is this form that it may be said to be neither animal nor vegetable, but the parent of both. Nor is the question of how the living actually evolved out of the non-living any more definitely settled. Yet a belief that such a transformation actually did take place, and that by means of purely natural agencies, is fairly prevalent in the scientific world. Prof. Huxley says, “If it were given me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time to the still more remote period when the Earth was passing through physical and chemical conditions, which it can no more see again than a man can recall his infancy, I should expect to be a witness of the evolution of the living protoplasm from non-living matter.” [Online editor’s note: English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), in “Biogenesis and Abiogenesis” (1870). – RTL]
VS-1.9 So closely allied is the non-living to the living that it is often difficult to determine to which class some forms of matter belong. Deep sea ooze is a good example of this. Scientists have not yet discovered positively whether it is living or not. If it is discovered to be living, the investigations now being made may throw much light upon the genesis of life. But “while ... the mode in which protoplasm must have arisen may by and by be partially comprehended, it is at the same time true that the ultimate mystery – the association of vital properties with the enormously complex chemical compound known as protoplasm – remains unsolved. Why the substance protoplasm should manifest sundry properties which are not manifested by any of its constituent substances, we do not know; and very likely we shall never know. But whether the mystery be forever insoluble or not, it can in no wise be regarded as a solitary mystery. It is equally mysterious that starch or sugar or alcohol should manifest properties not displayed by their elements, oxygen, hydrogen and carbon, when uncombined. Yet, however mysterious, the fact remains that one result of every chemical synthesis is the manifestation of a new set of properties. The case of living matter or protoplasm is in no wise exceptional.”1 (Fiske, Cosmic Philosophy, v. 1, p. 435.)
VS-1.10 When, in the development of any organism, the original cell grows to a certain size “the force of cohesion is overcome by the release of energy divided from the food, and the cell divides equally at the kernel or nucleus.” (Clodd, Story of Creation, p. 85.) [Online editor’s note: Edward Clodd (1840-1930), English populariser of Darwinism; The Story of Creation: A Plain Account of Evolution (1888). – RTL]
VS-1.11 The next stage of development is reached when the two cells after dividing remain together for their mutual advantage. Subsequently, as the cells continue to divide, groups of four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two are developed. And so the process continues until a large mass of individual cells is formed. Gradually the union between these cells becomes closer, slowly “the division of labor” among them and the consequent arrangement of their relative locations blend the whole into a relatively complex organism.
VS-1.12 The history of the individual is the miniature of life history from monera up to man. [Online editor’s note: “monera,” a term roughly though not precisely synonymous with “prokaryotes,” refers to a class of mostly unicellular microorganisms lacking a cell nucleus. – RTL] It is not necessary here to trace all the steps of this development, but rather to show the process by which that development has been attained. Suffice it to say that while the earlier and simpler forms are still in existence, many of the intermediate forms have entirely disappeared, leaving no trace that has yet been found. One by one, however, the gaps are being filled up as the palaeontologist extends his researches further and further among the fossil-bearing rocks of the world. So we may hope that many of the “missing links” will ultimately be discovered.
VS-1.13 It is not to be supposed that progress is in one straight line. On the contrary, its directions are innumerable. Starting from a common stem, life divides into two great branches, animal and vegetable. Each of these divides into numerous smaller branches, which divide again and again, forming the various genera, species and varieties which we find to-day. We no more find that the lowest forms are developed form the highest forms of vegetables, than we find man descended from monkeys. What we do find is that the lowest forms of both animals and vegetables are so nearly allied that it is often difficult to tell to which class they belong, and that the difference between them increases the higher they ascend in the scale of life.
VS-1.14 In the simplest forms of life the cell divides into two as soon as it grows to a certain size. Each of these two cells undergoes a similar operation. So the number of cells increases in a geometrical ratio, and would in course of time fill the whole universe if there were nothing to prevent them from doing so. The cause of their growth is the food they assimilate. Consequently the extent of their multiplication is limited by the supply of food obtainable. From this it naturally follows, that those who are able to obtain the most food will multiply the fastest. Any characteristic which enabled the cell, or group of cells, to obtain food to better advantage than its fellows, would naturally be manifest in those into which it divided.
VS-1.15 This same principle applies to higher forms of life. Those individuals which can obtain the most food, other things being equal, will be the strongest, live longest and beget most offspring. So also any characteristic which enables an individual to eat and digest any form of food which has not hitherto been utilized, will give that individual a bteter chance of existence. It is easy to understand how, by the preservation and accumulation of favorable variations, different characteristics may be developed simultaneously in different individuals and result in the existence of many various species.
VS-1.16 While the obtaining of food is of primary importance to the preservation of life, and consequently one of the greatest factors in evolution, there are other factors which are scarcely less important; prominent among these is the ability to escape from accidents and enemies. It is difficult to fully appreciate the importance of these factors until we realize that all nature is at war with itself. Those animals which do not live by eating others, maintain their existence at the expense of the vegetable kingdom, which in turn derives its nourishment from inorganic substance. We perpetually find some species developing the most marvelous characteristics to enable it to catch its prey, and the prey developing characteristics no less marvelous to enable it to escape.
VS-1.17 Keen as is the competition between different species, it is only among individuals and varieties of the same species that it is most intense. This is only what might be expected when we consider the vast number of individuals that come into existence, only a few of which can possibly survive on account of the lack of food. This is merely the Malthusian theory of population applied to the lower creation. Darwin tells us that it was by reading Malthus’s work that he finally discovered the keynote of evolution. (See Darwin’s Life and Letters, v. 1, p. 68; also Haeckel, History of Creation, v1., p. 134.) [Online editor’s note: German biologist Ernst (Heinrich Philipp August von) Haeckel, 1834-1919. – RTL] The history of development is the history of the strong overcoming the weak, and thrusting them remorselessly aside in the struggle for life.
VS-1.18 When the individuals reach maturity another phase of the struggle becomes manifest in the competition for sexual mates. Here again those who have received most nourishment will probably be most successful. Should the weaker secure mates at all, they will have less vitality to impart to their offspring, who, in consequence, will be most likely to perish in the struggle for life when their turn comes. Thus, by perpetually weeding out those individuals who are least capable of adapting themselves to their environment, the ability of the whole species to adapt itself is increased each generation. It is important to note that this end is not brought about by the individual cultivating characteristics which are beneficial to the species, but by the individual developing characteristics which enable him to overcome his fellow in the struggle for existence. By the killing of the unfit and the preservation of those who possess favorable variations, the characteristics which have been beneficial to the individuals become of benefit to the species. Such characteristics are, and can be, beneficial to the species only in so far as they are beneficial to the individuals which compose that species.
VS-1.19 These are the factors in evolution which Darwin calls natural and sexual selection. These terms are perfectly correct when Darwin’s explanation of them is borne in mind. (See Origin of Species, Chap. IV.) Yet, such is the prevalent looseness of thinking and lax use of terms that many gather an entirely false impression from them. Darwin used these terms in order to point out the analogy between the factors and the selection practiced by the human breeder. But he cautions us that it is only an analogy. Many have neglected his warning and have attached the same meaning to the word, selection, in both cases. The human breeder often selects one peculiarity and develops that regardless of its utility to the individual. With natural selection such a thing is impossible. Nothing is primarily developed except for its utility. Even a favorable variation may be lost on account of the existence of other unfavorable characteristics in the same individuals, thus rendering them less likely to survive when all things are considered. On the one hand we see the effect of an intelligent, conscious selection, on the other, nothing but the working of a blind, purposeless force.
VS-1.20 The term “Survival of the fittest” – first used by Spencer and afterwards endorsed by Darwin – is in many respects more exact, but even it is not proof against the carelessness of the untrained mind. A large number of people think that the “fittest” are those individuals who best conform to their standard of ethics. The word is only used to signify those who can best adapt themselves to their environment. It is easy to see that in a country where food is scarce those individuals who had religious objections to killing and eating their aged parents would stand a poorer chance of surviving than their less punctilious brethren. In this case the cannibals would be the fittest to survive, while, judged from our ethical standpoint, the others would probably be considered more moral.
VS-1.21 Though the doctrine of evolution does directly promise to produce a more perfect adaptation of a species to its environment, it in no way assures us of continued progress, that is an increase of complexity. Spencer says “If in case of the living aggregates forming a species the environing actions remain constant, the species remains constant. If those actions change, the species change[s] until it is in adjustment with them. But it by no means follows that this change in the species constitutes a step in evolution.2 (Principles of Sociology.)
VS-1.22 Degeneration is so important a factor in evolution that Ray Lankester has seen fit to write a book on that subject alone. [Online editor’s note: English zoologist Sir Edwin Ray Lankester (1847-1929), a leading Darwinian, in Degeneration: A Chapter in Darwinism (1880). – RTL] Evidence of it is found in very many species and even in the human race. The Bushmen and the Fuegians are examples of its force, as is also the Chinese Empire. Max Nordau would have us believe that the whole human race – except of course Max Nordau – is suffering from the same complaint. [Online editor’s note: Hungarian Zionist Maximilian Simon Südfeld Nordau (1849-1923), in Degeneration (1892). – RTL]
VS-1.23 The survival of the fittest must of necessity remain inoperative until a certain amount of variation exists. If all individuals were alike there could be no “fittest” to survive. The smaller the amount of this variation, the slower must the change be. Thus the species which manifests the greatest variety among its individuals is most likely to adapt itself quickly to changed conditions. Any species in which variation is unknown and which has become a fixed type must suffer total extinction if its environments change. The only reason the lowest forms of life have continued to exist, in spite of almost universal change, is that the changed conditions do not affect their limited environments and so “the species remains constant.”
VS-1.24 Selection pre-supposes variation and operates only through the most relentless competition. By the extinction of those individuals which are least able to adapt themselves to their environment, the species develops those characteristics which have proved beneficial to the surviving individuals.
VS-1.25 Applying these conclusions to social reform, we see that permanent improvement in human society can only be found under conditions which are favorable to the development of different characteristics among its members, which recognize the welfare of the individual to be of paramount importance and which foster the freest competition in order that that welfare may become general.
VS-1.26 The foolish philanthropy so prevalent to-day, which would prevent the pro-creation of the unfit and which seeks to lessen competition, must be unqualifiedly condemned. To limit the number of births, even of criminals, is to limit the variation of the species. Any such action makes the perfect adaptation of us to our environments less speedy and less sure. The wider the variation the greater chance is there for the production of favorable types. Then competition is absolutely essential in order to weed out the unfit and to make the variation beneficial to the race. It is impossible for a few self-conceited lady novelists to tell what individuals will prove the fittest, or what combination is necessary to produce such individuals. If the teachings of evolution are true, all external force which limits the pro-creation of any individuals – whether good or bad – or restricts competition must result disastrously to the human race.
VS-1.27 From this standpoint the present social system is condemned on every hand. It places a special premium upon one characteristic – the ability to get money – at the expense of every other. It fosters a spirit of self-sacrificing patriotism and so place the welfare of the country above that of the individual. It denies the first essential of free competition – the right of every individual to the free use of the earth – and hedges us around with restrictions of all kinds. Unfortunately most of the proposed reforms seek to intensify these evils instead of to remove them.
VS-1.28 In this outline of evolution the factor of “use-inheritance” (that is, the transmission of acquired characteristic sto offspring) has not been mentioned because it is still under discussion. Spencer, Darwin while he lived, and many other biologists of note maintain that acquired characteristics are transmitted to offspring. Weismann and many others of prominence contend that only congenital characteristics are capable of transmission. If the position held by Spencer is correct, the conclusions I have reached are fully justified. If, on the other hand, his opponents gain the day, my arguments are reinforced by their victory. William P. Ball concludes his book on use-inheritance [Online editor’s note: William Platt Ball (1844-1917); Are the Effects of Use and Disuse Inherited? (1890). – RTL] in the following words: “The effects of use and disuse – rightly directed by education in its widest sense – must of course be called in to secure the highly essential but nevertheless superficial, limited, and partly deceptive improvement of individuals and of social manners and methods; but as this artificial development of already existing potentialities does not directly or readily tend to become congenital, it is evident that some considerable amount of natural or artificial selection of the more favorable varying individuals will still be the only means of securing the race against the constant tendency to degeneration, which would ultimately swallow up all the advantages of civilization. The selective influences by which our present high level has been reached and maintained may well be modified, but they must not be abandoned or reversed in the rash expectation that State education, or State feeding of children, or State housing of the poor, or any amount of State socialism or public or private philanthropy, will prove permanently satisfactory substitutes. If ruinous deterioration and other more immediate evils are to be avoided, the race must still be to the swift and the battle to the strong. The healthy individualism so earnestly championed by Mr. Spencer must be allowed free play. Open competition, as Darwin teaches, with its survival and multiplication of the fittest, must be allowed to decide the battle of life independently of a foolish benevolence that prefers the elaborate cultivation and multiplication of weeds to growth of corn and roses. We are trustees for the countless generations of the future. If we are wise we shall trust to the great ruling truths that we assuredly know rather than to the seductive claims of an alleged factor of evolution for which no satisfactory evidence can be produced.” (Ball, Are the Effects of Use and Disuse Inherited?)

VS-1.n1.1 1 The old idea of the existence of a distinct “vital force” has long been abandoned by the scientific world. Now, however, there seems to be a tendency to recognize what may be termed “a theory of neo-vitalism.”
VS-1.n2.1 2 The first part of this quotation is possibly open to criticism. The followers of Weismann [Online editor’s note: German biologist August Weismann (1834-1914), leading critic of the Larmackian doctrine of the inheritance of acquired characteristics (and thereby a critic of those like Spencer – and to some extent Darwin himself – who sought a Darwinian-Lamarckian synthesis). – RTL], who are now carrying on such an animated controversy with Spencer, assert that no forms of life except the very lowest can “remain constant.” If they do not progress they must degenerate. But as Spencer’s position is the more conservative, it is safe to use this quotation in this connection.

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