[He wrote this essay, which reverberates today, a hundred years ago, and it was published after his death in 1910 (his daughter didn’t like his comments on religion). I’ve edited and shortened it for clarity, impact, and to get you thinking, but please, if you have a mind, I urge you to click and download his glorious original text, provided below)]
1. Man, the human race, is one distinct species. It exhibits slight variations in color, stature, mental capacity and food preferences due to climate and environment, but it is a species by itself, and SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH ANY OTHER.
2. Warm-blooded animals (dogs, cats, horses, monkeys etc.) make up a separate distinct family, but also exhibit variations in color, size, and food preferences.
3. As for the other families (birds, fishes, insects, reptiles, etc.) they are distinct, and also links in the chain which stretches down from the HIGHER animals to Man – AT THE BOTTOM.
The higher animals do engage in individual fights, yes, but never in organized masses.
Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, WAR. He is the only one that gathers his friends about him and marches forth in cold blood, and with calm pulse, to exterminate his own kind.
Man is the only animal that robs others of their country, takes possession of it, and drives them out or destroys them. Man has always done this.
There is not an acre of ground on the planet that is in possession of its rightful owner. It has been taken away from owner after owner and cycle after cycle by force and bloodshed.
Too, man is the only slave, and the only animal who ENslaves. He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another. In our day he is always some man’s slave for wages and does that man’s work; and this slave has other slaves under him for minor wages, and they do his work. The higher animals (not Man) are the only ones who exclusively do their own work and provide their own living.
Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, sneers at other nations, and keeps uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his.
And in the intervals between campaigns, he washes the blood off his hands and then works for the “universal brotherhood of man”. With his MOUTH.
Man is the Religious animal and is the only Religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion, in fact several of them.
He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t the same as his. He has made a graveyard of the planet in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.
The higher animals have no religion, so we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. It seems questionable taste.
Man claims himself to be the Reasoning animal. But his record is the record of a maniac. He calmly sets himself up as the Head animal, whereas he is the bottom one BY HIS OWN STANDARDS.
Proof – My Scientific Experiment:
Man claims to be the reasoning animal but he is incurably foolish; he is incapable of learning simple things which all other animals easily learn.
In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit, and in the course of two more days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.
Next, in another cage, I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scottish Presbyterian from Aberdeen.
Next a Turk from Constantinople, a Greek Christian from Crete, an Armenian, a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas, a Buddhist from China, a Brahman from Benares, and finally a Salvation Army Colonel from the English suburb of Wapping.
Then I stayed away two whole days.
When I came back to note the results, the cage of my higher animals was fine, but in the other there was a chaos of gory turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh – not a specimen left alive. Why?
These Reasoning animals had disagreed on a theological detail.
One is forced to concede that in terms of true loftiness of character, Man is nowhere near even the meanest of the higher animals. It is clear that he is constitutionally incapable of approaching that height, because he has a defect which makes such an approach forever impossible; it is permanent in him, indestructible, and ineradicable. What is it?
It is the MORAL SENSE, and he is the only animal that has it. It is the quality which allows and ENABLES him to do wrong, and has no other purpose. It is incapable of performing any other function, and was never intended to.
Since the Moral Sense has only one purpose, the capacity to do wrong, it is as valueless to him as is disease. In fact, it is a disease. Let’s look at one.
Rabies makes a man mad and able to do something which he could not do when in a healthy state, which is to kill his neighbor with a poisonous bite. But, of course, it makes no sense to call him a better man for having rabies.
Rabies is an innocent disease, compared to the Moral Sense. No one can be a better man for having the Moral Sense.
The Primal Curse
So what do we find the Primal Curse to have been in the Beginning? It was the infliction upon man of the Moral Sense; the ability to distinguish good from evil; and with it, necessarily, the ability to DO evil. For there can be no evil act without the presence of CONSCIOUSNESS of it in the doer of it.
And so my scientific conclusion is that we have descended and degenerated from some long ago ancestor insect by insect, reptile by reptile, animal by animal, till we have reached the bottom stage of development, namable as the Human Being.
Below us, nothing.
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