Look at the matter on a wider scale. Consider men not as individuals, but as societies. If we think that natural selection favors simply the strongest in body or mind, consider the history of the family, the most rudimentary of human societies. What would a family be without some measure of unselfishness ? To answer, we have to go to the lowest savages. Among the Andamanese the husband cares for his wife until the child that is born to them is weaned; then the mother has to look out for herself and for her child, — the father seeks another mate. Is Nature indifferent, and do we imagine that this is a thriving tribe ? The fact is that according to a recent reporter the Andamanese are gradually dying out; he saw but one woman who had as many as three children; few members of the tribe live beyond the age of forty.2 And now suppose the mothers had as little unselfishness as the fathers; that they let their offspring care for themselves as soon as weaned, — the tribe would probably in a generation or two become extinct. It is some measure of unselfish feeling that allows our race to be perpetuated at all. Yes, Darwin shows that the social instincts to some extent exist in the lower animal, so that there is no impassable chasm in that respect between them and man; timid birds will face great danger to defend their young. If there were no unselfishness, it is doubtful if we should have anything in the world at all but the elements and insensate plants, or perhaps the very lowest forms of animal life, whose offspring need no care. All the higher forms of animal life, as well as men, exist because unselfishness has watched over the beginnings of their existence; and what mainly distinguishes human beings from animals, along of course with higher intelligence, is that the social instincts in men are intenser, and cover longer periods, and have a wider range. According to Darwin, human beings are simply that portion of the animal creation in whom variations in the direction of unselfishness and intelligence have been transmitted and perpetuated, by which they have secured a firmer foothold and a more commanding place on the earth. Think of it: if the fishes of the sea, or the wild animals of the earth, or even the birds of the air had the fellow-feeling and the intelligence that men have, would they allow themselves to be so easily caught or captured or shot ? Would they not be a match for man; and unless some new variations, giving greater power on the one side or the other, arose, would it not be a pitched battle between them and man ? We are men because, along with more of mind, we do care for one another; they are animals because they are to such an extent dissocial rather than social, and because in a contest each one is left so generally to fight his own battle.
1 Popular Science Monthly, September, 1870.
2 Spencer's Sociology, i. 668.
Consider next the community or the tribe. What parental feeling is to the family, community or tribal feeling is on the larger scale. Do we think it makes no difference whether our unselfishness goes beyond our families; that all we have to do is to care for ourselves and our children; that patriotism and zeal for the public welfare are idle sentiment; and that obedience to the laws is necessary only so far as it is for our own interest ? Darwin, and those who have written in his spirit, do not think so; and history proves that they are in the right. In times of peace, as one writer1 remarks, sleek and prosperous selfishness may give a certain element of strength to a society. But these are not the times that test a society; it is when dangers arise, either from without or from within, — it is in times of peril, that the real strength and cohe-siveness of a community are tested. Can it put down internal dissensions that threaten its life ? Can it withstand a foreign foe ? For, as Darwin shows, not only individuals struggle to live, but communities and nations; and natural selection tends to build up or to destroy peoples with the same fatality with which it determines the fate of individual lives. Who does not see the truth of what Darwin points out, that even in the case of animals who live in herds, and defend themselves or attack their enemies in concert, they must be in some degree faithful to one another, and if they have a leader be obedient to him, else they will likely be exterminated ? How much more truly is this the case with men ! Suppose the members of a tribe are given to murder, robbery, and treachery among themselves, how long will they hold together, even if they have no external foe ? And if they have, how easily will they be subjugated! The fact is, that a tribe or community cannot live at all unless there is more of morality than of immorality in it; and the great amount of wrong and crime that exists in some savage communities seems so only in comparison with the higher standards of morality that are recognized in civilized communities, and does not interfere with the fact that it is less than among savages who scarcely live in communities at all, and have few, if any, fixed customs or laws. It is as if Nature would force a community, whether possessing any disinterested love of virtue or not, to learn some semblance of it; for only those communities that do so learn — whose members acquire some measure of self-control, of faithfulness, of public spirit, of obedience to law — survive, and others, who fail to meet the conditions which Nature fixes, perish. Darwin says in so many words, " A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes ; and this would be natural selection. At all times, throughout the world, tribes have supplanted other tribes; and as morality is one important element in their success, the standard of morality and the number of well-endowed men will thus everywhere tend to rise and increase".
1 Prof. Dr. C. C. Everett on " The New Ethics," in the Unitarian Review, October, 1878, — a most suggestive and often eloquent article, reprinted, it may be added, in the author's recent volume, — " Poetry, Comedy, and Duty." I am also indebted to Prof. Georg von Gizycki's valuable article on " Ethics and the Development Theory," in the Popular Science Monthly, July, 1885 (translated from the " Deutsche Rundschau").