THE desire to know about things is a very spontaneous and fundamental impulse of human nature, and when it is educated into a lively interest in everything that is good and beautiful, it becomes a pilot of discovery, a prophet of growth. When, however, it degenerates into an attraction for the gruesome and the distorted, it is both an evidence and an occasion of moral degradation. One is led to think of all this by the fact that never in the history of the press has so much space and display-type been devoted to events that are tragic and unclean. Not only do papers openly cater to the demands of a depraved taste, but one frequently finds editorial expressions of self-gratulation that some dreadful event or some slanderous suspicion has been placarded by their organ hours in advance of other publications!

Further evidence of this sense of degeneracy is presented in the ever-increasing public exploitation of disease, its laws, likelihood, and phenomena. Whatever the justification of such a course, from their point of view, by physicians who are seeking, as best they know, to lesson humanity's suffering, to turn this tide of thought about disease into all the channels of human consciousness is to prepare the soil and plant the seed of every earthly ill, and for this offense there is absolutely no palliation. In the fields of art and literature also the picturing of degraded types has reached a point which leads Stopford Brooke to say, "We are flooded to-day with poems of despair, verse which boasts that it describes the real when it describes the base, which takes the vulture's pleasure in the corruptions of society."

Yet more sadly significant is the fact that Christian educators and leaders so far fail to recognize the causal relation of general thought upon disease to the increase of susceptibility to disease, that they commend its study to all the people! Every intelligent man knows that a public hanging, whether by a mob or by the constituted authorities, tends to demoralize the onlookers and to multiply crime. He knows that the rehearsal of obscenity, whether in books or at the loungers' corner, conduces to an ever-deepening pollution. He knows, too, that to picture disease is to excite the imagination and quicken the fear of the sensitive, until a sporadic case of illness ofttimes develops into a sweeping contagion. Nevertheless, even religious periodicals are still lending themselves to the perpetuation of this wrong. A New York Christian weekly recently detailed the ravages of a dread disease, and bespoke "universal interest" in the "novelty" of country fair exhibits of its frightening facts!

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October 17, 1908

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