Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/772

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lows, who ought to have been weaned from this pagan nonsense long ago, take to whining about their forlornness, with nothing remaining but God's universe, the case becomes pitiable. This is the second time that Prof. Tyndall has been gravely told across the table in New York by after-dinner orators that they would go back to heathenism rather than accept the science that his presence suggested—a striking comment on the value which these defenders of the faith attach to the religion of civilization. But let people be suckled where they please; as for our own spiritual lactation we prefer to get it from the revelations of modern science rather than from the Jack-and-a-Beanstalk tomfooleries of pagan mythology.

No! the alarm-bell is rung at the progress of science in the present age to but little purpose. The worth of the universe must rise as its grandeurs are comprehended, and our joy in its harmony and beauty will be heightened the more deeply it is understood.

"I grieve not that ripe knowledge takes away
The charm that Nature to my childhood wore,
For with the insight cometh day by day
A greater bliss than wonder was before."

Nor are religious considerations to be invoked to deter men of science from their exalted work, for the single-minded pursuit of truth is an intrinsically religious act. No limits are to be tolerated but those imposed by Nature herself, and up to those limits the work must be pressed as a sacred duty. For, if, as we believe, science is but a record of the Divine operations in matter, there is devoutness in scientific investigation, and to push it to the farthest possible boundaries becomes a matter of clear religious obligation.

The article of Dr. Barnard, characterizing our educational system, and the brief statement of Prof. Agassiz's opinion in regard to New-England education, both of which will be found elsewhere in our pages, are commended to the very special attention of the burning advocates of compulsory education. According to these, all that our educational system lacks of perfection is a suitable appendage of policemen and constables to drive everybody into the school-houses, that they may be compelled to participate in its blessings. In their view, the only difficulty remaining is a defective will, and a perverse and contumacious spirit, which can only be dealt with by law-warrants and bludgeons. In so far as compulsory education is merely a kind of street-cleaning, a scraping together of refuse and vagabond children in places where something can be done to humanize them, it may be admissible; but there are very serious grounds of protest against coercion being carried farther. If our so-called educational system be defective to its very roots, a total inversion of the method of Nature, and a violation of the constitution of the mind, as Dr. Barnard declares, or if it be a crude vestige of old mediæval ignorance and stupidity, as Prof. Agassiz maintains, there is evidently a good deal to do before police-officers can be properly invoked to force it down people's throats. The logic, of course, is short from the establishment of State education, and its maintenance by compulsory taxation, to its enforcement upon everybody by legal coercion. But State education has its evils, and not the least of them is that it gets the benefit of our idolatry of government and the blind admiration of the "institutions of our country," which are believed to be the most perfect under the sun. But "first be sure you are right, and then go ahead" is a golden motto, and, if applied in this case, will postpone for some time the crusade of the coercionists. As long as our school-system is open to such indictments as those of Messrs.