Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/208
198 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
chew, the stronger grows the cater. Canned science as a steady diet is as unwholesome for the growing mind as canned fruits and vegeta- bles for the growing body. The wise teacher imitates the method of Nature, who has but one answer for all questions : "Find it out for yourself, and you will then know it better than if I were to tell you beforehand."
But who can be a wise teacher who has not been wisely taught ? The spirit of this scientific age favors a universal manufacture of con- densed milk to ease and cheapen the toil of bringing up its infants. It finds the bottle of literature more convenient than the breast of Nature. It prefers a large family of puny children to a few young heroes. The stalwart ancients exposed their unfit offspring to the wolves ; we mod- erns exhaust the resources of art to preserve their worthless and pain- ful lives.
This is the spirit which invents a thousand futile plans for com- pacting the universe to a size so small, and a shape so simple, that it can be grasped without much effort by the tiniest and feeblest hands. Will it be an unpardonable crime for me to say that I recognize the same spirit in the present popular rage for an over-classification, unifi- cation, and simplification of science ; for ultra-symmetrical formulas and excessive uniformity in nomenclature ; with an avowed reference to ease of learning and convenience of teaching, the saving of time in the acquisition of facts, and the diminution of brain-waste in collating them for use ; in one word, to the making of science easy, despite the inexorable decree of Nature, that it always shall be and always ought to be difficult ? For the genius of the creation is visibly hostile to that uniformity, symmetry, and orderly simplicity which the text- book endeavors to establish. No logical consistency for her ! No stiffening of the fact-producing energies into fact formularies will she endure. Hardly has a manual issued from the press, but it is mutilated by her Puckish fingers. No sooner has some school of theorists erected a stately structure in simple grandeur, than it is shattered by the light- ning of a new revelation. There is no rest, no peace, in our believing. Our libraries contain little else than such spoiled palimpsests. The broad fields of science are covered with such ruins ; and those who have grown old in traveling far and wide across them would find little cause for singing pseans to the exploits of science were it not for the fact that the function of science is not to organize Nature, but by the laborious study of Nature to organize the human mind and inform it with the very genius of Nature, original, unsymmetrical, indefinable, unclassifiable, changing its attitudes and operations every instant, and escaping easily from all the toils of scholastic unification which we spread for it. The work of the student can not be simplified, can not be made easy, if it is not to fail in its great purpose, the production of a genuine man of science. The foolish nurse thinks it her duty to carry the child always in her arms ; but the test of a good education