Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/18
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
be beneficial? An answer, and often a very decided one, is forthcoming at once. It is not thought needful, proceeding by deliberate induction, to ascertain what has happened in each nation where an identical institution, or an institution of allied kind, has been established. It is not thought needful to look back in our own history to see whether kindred agencies have done what they were expected to do. It is not thought needful to ask the more general question how far institutions at large, among all nations and in all times, have justified the theories of those who set them up. Nor is it thought needful to infer, from analogous cases, what is likely to happen if the proposed appliance is not set up—to ascertain, inductively, whether in its absence some equivalent appliance will arise. And still less is it thought needful to inquire what will be the indirect actions and reactions of the proposed organization—how far it will retard other social agencies, and how far it will prevent the spontaneous growth of agencies having like ends. I do not mean that none of these questions are recognized as questions to be asked; but I mean that no attempts are made after a scientific manner to get together materials for answering them. True, some data have been gathered from newspapers, periodicals, foreign correspondence, books of travel; and there have been read sundry histories, which, besides copious accounts of royal misdemeanors, contain minute details of every military campaign, and careful disentanglings of diplomatic trickeries. And on information thus acquired a confident opinion is based.
Most remarkable of all, however, is the fact that no allowance is made for the personal equation. In political observations and judgments, the qualities of the individual, natural and acquired, are by far the most important factors. The bias of education, the bias of class-relationships, the bias of nationality, the political bias, the theological bias—these, added to the constitutional sympathies and antipathies, have much greater influence in determining beliefs on social questions than has the small amount of evidence collected. Yet, though, in his search after a physical truth, the man of science allows for minute errors of perception due to his own nature, he makes no allowance for the enormous errors which his own nature, variously modified and distorted by his conditions of life, is sure to introduce into his perceptions of political truth. Here, where correction for the personal equation is all-essential, it does not occur to him that there is any personal equation to be allowed for.
This immense incongruity between the attitude in which the most disciplined minds approach other orders of natural phenomena, and the attitude in which they approach the phenomena presented by societies, will be best illustrated by a series of antithesis thus: The material media, through which we see things, always more or less falsify the facts: making, for example, the apparent direction of a star slightly