Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/176

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162
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

knowledge of it, and that the religious sentiment of man belongs to this order of truths. This sentiment takes on various forms; the forms themselves are not true, but the sentiment is. To recur to my former illustration of the constellations—however fantastic the figures which the soul has pictured upon the fathomless dome, the stars are there; the religious impulse remains.

It is perhaps inevitable that systems should arise, that creeds should be formed, and that the name of science should be invoked in their behalf, but the wise man knows they are perishable, and that the instinct that gave them birth alone endures. What is the value of this instinct? It would be presumption for me to attempt to estimate it, or to hope to disclose its full significance. Its history is written in the various ethnic religions, often written in revolting forms and observances. But it tends more and more to purify itself, rises more and more toward the conception of the fact that the kingdom of heaven is within and not without; and this purification has, in our day, unquestionably been forwarded by what we call science.


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ZOÖLOGICAL SUPERSTITIONS.

By FELIX L. OSWALD, M.D.

POPULAR sciences resemble the forest-plants that can flourish without the aid of systematic culture, but that advantage is offset by their liability to excrescences in the form of popular superstitions. During the middle ages thaumaturgy, or the study of the supernatural, enjoyed for centuries an all but universal popularity, and the luxuriance of its products almost suffocated all better germs of the human mind. For, by a curious law of primogeniture, the vitality of such spontaneous sprouts far exceeds that of the most carefully grafted scions. In natural history, for instance, many brilliant theories have appeared and disappeared like meteors, while popular delusions flicker with the persistency of a blazing tar-barrel.

The authority of Scripture (1 Kings, x, 22) warrants the belief that monkeys formed an article of commerce as much as twenty-eight centuries ago, so that no lack of time can have prevented us from studying the habits of our four-handed relatives; yet it would hardly be an overestimate to say that nine hundred and ninety-nine of a thousand men persist in the belief that monkeys have a passion for imitating the actions of their two-handed kinsmen; that, for instance, an ape, seeing his master shave himself, would take the first opportunity to get hold of a razor and scrape or cut his own throat. Now, how could that idea ever survive this age of zoölogical gardens? Marcus Aurelius held that the sum of all ethics was the rule to "love truth and justice, and live without anger, in the midst of lying and unjust men."