The Charlotte News
SUNDAY, AUGUST 7, 1938
Architect Reconstructs Ethnology:
Why We Are Not Humans
--A Demurrer, by W. J. Cash
MR. RALPH ADAMS CRAM has made a considerable reputation in the world for himself as an architect. The son of well-heeled parents, he was sent to all of the best schools in this country, and afterward to Europe to study in his chosen field. There he won most of the best prizes, and came home to build several churches which are considered among the finest in this country. All his life, he has moved with the "very best people" --which is to say, with the leisured sort. And finally, to cap the stack, he writes very well, indeed.
Here on my desk is a reprint of an article which Mr. Cram first published in the American Mercury (where I used myself to perform on occasion) back in 1932 when Henry L. Mencken was still the editor, and which the Mercury, in its present incarnation, has recently re-published in preparation for another article which Mr. Cram proposes to give to the world. The title of the article in hand is "Why We Do Not Behave Like Human Beings."
In it Mr. Cram argues first of all that the 19th Century dogma of progressive evolution is, along with Dr. Calvin's Reformation and the democratic theory invented by Jean Jacques Rousseau, "the most calamitous happening of the last millennium."
SO far as the first goes, I'd agree in part. That is, I'd agree that the dogma isn't true. It is manifest nonsense to argue that an American is necessarily an advance over a Greek of the Periclean age. The advances achieved by various remotely past periods have unquestionably been greater and more rapid than our boasted modern progress. And it was quite true that the evolution dogma as held in the 19th century did tend to create what is probably a totally false notion of man's destiny in this world.
But Mr. Cram, having discarded the 19th century dogma, proceeds blithely to invent one of his own. He takes Hugo De Vries' celebrated theory that evolution is not by the Darwinian process of constant progression from lower to higher through the accumulation over vast periods of minute variation, but by what De Vries called the catastrophic process: that is, the sudden and inexplicable appearance from time to time of entirely new forms.
Setting up his own gratuitous theory that the great periods of history follow every five centuries, he looks back over the ages, discards Cro Magnon man and the Magdalenian culture, and concludes that from the last Ice Age down to 4000 B.C. and the beginnings of Egypt, man was in fact a very low form of vermin, inferior to the bees or birds or beavers in wit and far less attractive than the eagle or the deer--"in a word (sic), an exceedingly nasty tribe." And that then the elan vital (a fancy name Henri Bergson invented for Dr. De Vries' "inexplicable force" which is supposed to produce the "catastrophic process") suddenly got busy and threw up a superior order of men,--the first "really human" on record--which proceeded to establish the Egyptian civilization by enslaving the "exceedingly nasty tribe" which existed all along.
AND always the "really human" have been those who used these less than human creatures to the production of the great and beautiful. And always the great thinkers and leaders have come out of this naturally superior group, which, as I make it out, has always continued in direct line from the first Egyptians, thought sometimes itself falling for long periods into quiescence. That is why, says Mr. Cram, that all such leveling theories as democracy and Protestantism are all wrong. You simply can't make a human being out of a creature who is really a sort of Paleolithic-Neolithic beast.
Mr. Cram and such well-heeled people as he associates with are, I gather, the living representatives of the really human group. I think it must be swell to believe like that.
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.