Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/77

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67
DROWNING THE TORRENT IN VEGETATION.

is called "practical life," and so is worth something to the community in dollars and cents: its commercial value is—just what it is—to be accepted gratefully. Indirectly, however, almost all scientific truth has real commercial value, because "knowledge is power," and because (I quote it not irreverently) "the truth shall make you free"—any truth, and to some extent; that is to say, the intelligent and intellectually cultivated will generally obtain a more comfortable livelihood, and do it more easily, than the stupid and the ignorant. Intelligence and brains are most powerful allies of strength and hands in the struggle for existence; and so, on purely economical grounds, all kinds of science are worthy of cultivation.

But I should be ashamed to rest on this lower ground: the highest value of scientific truth is not economic, but different and more noble; and, to a certain and great degree, its truest worth is more as an object of pursuit than of possession. The "practical life"—the eating and the drinking, the clothing and the sheltering—comes first, of course, and is the necessary foundation of anything higher; but it is not the whole or the most or the best of life. Apart from all spiritual and religious considerations, which lie one side of our relations in this Association, there can be no need, before this audience, to plead the higher rank of the intellectual, æsthetic, and moral life above the material, or to argue that the pabulum of the mind is worth as much as food for the body. Now, I safely assert that, in the investigation and discovery of the secrets and mysteries of the heavens, the human intellect finds most invigorating exercise, and most nourishing and growth-making aliment. No other scientific facts and conceptions are more effective in producing a modest, sober, truthful, and ennobling estimate of man's just place in nature, both of his puny insignificance, regarded as a physical object, and his towering spirit, in some sense comprehending the universe itself, and so akin to the divine. A nation or an individual oppressed by poverty, and near to starving, needs first, most certainly, the trades and occupations which will provide food and clothing. When bodily comfort has been achieved, then higher needs and wants appear; and then science, for truth's own sake, comes to be loved and honored along with poetry and art, leading into a larger, higher, and nobler life.

 
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DROWNING THE TORRENT IN VEGETATION.
By S. W. POWELL.

THE extraordinarily disastrous floods of 1883-'84, in the Ohio River, have again called public attention to the close relation which the wooded or unwooded condition of steep hill-sides, in the areas drained by streams, bears to the volume of water flowing in them.