Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/123

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113
EDITOR'S TABLE.
EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

PURPOSE AND PLAN OF OUR ENTERPRISE.

THE Popular Science Monthly has been started to help on the work of sound public education, by supplying instructive articles on the leading subjects of scientific inquiry. It will contain papers, original and selected, on a wide range of subjects, from the ablest scientific men of different countries, explaining their views to nonscientific people. A magazine is needed here, which shall be devoted to this purpose, for, although much is done by the general press in scattering light articles and shreds of information, yet many scientific discussions of merit and moment are passed by. It is, therefore, thought best to bring this class of contributions together for the benefit of all who are interested in the advance of ideas and the diffusion of valuable knowledge.

The increasing interest in science, in its facts and principles, its practical applications, and its bearings upon opinion, is undeniable; and, with this augmenting interest, there is growing up a new and enlarged meaning of the term which it is important for us to notice. By science is now meant the most accurate knowledge that can be obtained of the order of the universe by which man is surrounded, and of which he is a part. This order was at first perceived in simple physical things, and the tracing of it out in these gave origin to the physical sciences. In its earlier development, therefore, science pertained to certain branches of knowledge, and to many the term science still implies physical science.

But this is an erroneous conception of its real scope. The growth of science involves a widening as well as a progression, The ascertainable order of things proves to be much more extensive than was at first suspected; and the inquiry into it has led to sphere after sphere of new investigation, until science is now regarded as not applying to this or that class of objects, but to the whole of Nature—as being, in fact, a method of the mind, a quality or character of knowledge upon all subjects of which we can think or know.

What some call the progress of science, and others call its encroachments, is undoubtedly the great fact of modern thought, and it implies a more critical method of inquiry applied to subjects not before dealt with in so strict a manner. The effect has been, that many subjects, formerly widely separated from the recognized sciences, have been brought nearer to them, and have passed more or less completely under the influence of the scientific method of investigation. Whatever subjects involve accessible and observable phenomena, one causing another, or in any way related to another, belong properly to science for investigation. Intellect, feeling, human action, language, education, history, morals, religion, law, commerce, and all social relations and activities, answer to this condition; each has its basis of fact, which is the legitimate subject matter of scientific inquiry. Those, therefore, who consider that observatory watching, laboratory work, or the dredging of the sea for specimens to be classified, is all there is to science, make a serious mistake. Science truly means continuous intelligent observation of the characters of men, as well as of the characters of insects. It means the analysis of mine as well as that of chemical substances It means the scrutiny of evidence, in regard to political theories, as inexorable as that applied to theories of comets. It means the tracing of cause and effect in the sequences of human con-