Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/210
200 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
naturalists. But it was not these, their first and therefore most enjoy- able discoveries, that made tlicm what thoy afterward became, nor had they at the outset even the right to an opinion on the value of their finds. Years of strenuous and unrenowned exei'tion had to follow, in which thoy published little or nothing new, but gathered up the old, and rediscovered, by experiment and observation, what the records of the past preserved.
"What I deprecate is the claim to special attention made by inex- perienced stumblers on forgotten or unnoticed facts, remarkable or otherwise, on the sole ground of the discovery. I deprecate the folly of the youth who, because he has found a spear, leaps into the empty chariot of Achilles, and, calling on the Grecian host to follow him, lashes the horses for an immediate attack on Troy ; nor finds it out until he is half-way across the plain, that he rides alone, and to de- struction. I feel no admiration, no respect, for the audacity with which our young recruits of science rush unpanoplied into the thick of a discussion involving the greatest thinking of the age. They act like animals at a conflagration. I hear on all sides a noisy tumult of untrained intellects. Shall such thomes as the nebular hypothesis, the probable solidity or fluidity of our planet, the metamorphosis of rocks, the origin of serpentine or petroleum, the cause of foliation, the stable or unstable geographical relationships of continent to ocean, the probable rate of geological time, the conditions of climate in the ages of maximum ice, the probable centers of life-dispersion, the unity or multiplicity of the human race, the evolution of species, be babbled over by men, the amount of whose efiicient work in any branch of science is measurable with a foot-rule ; while those whose entire lives have been but one exhausting struggle with the shapes which people the darkness of science speak with bated breath and downcast eyes of these great mysteries ?
There is a shibboleth by which tyros in science can always be de- tected — their habitual employment of the words "doubtless," "cer- tainly," and " demonstrated." To their inexperience of the univer- sality of error, every new statement in print over a name noted in science reads like a revelation of the absolute ; and every conclusion at which they themselves arrive, after a more or less superficial study of the limited number of facts which accident has given them the opportunity to observe, seems a conclusion too real to be impugned. I love the remembrance of my youth, but I regret its dogmatic im- pertinences. Young votaries of science draw their inspiration from the maxim which best suits them — " Try the value of old truths by new discoveries." The veterans of science reverse the rule, and test all new discoveries by a world of half -forgotten facts and well-estab- lished principles. The advancement of science is accomplished by the push and pull of these two ruling motives. No science were possi- ble if the aged could suppress the youthful, or the youthful could ex-