Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/795

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PROF. G. F. WRIGHT AND HIS CRITICS.

ing and reputation. It is not easy to believe that such a logical fallacy could come from such a source. The ipse dixit of a man in the position of this critic might be entitled to respect, but we have not even that. He can scarcely expect scientists accustomed, as the author, to look for arguments to accept this bald statement. It is difficult to treat it seriously. Risum teneatis, amici? Let him get from the "well-known government geologist," here and thus referred to, a full, exact, and certified statement of the conversation over his own signature, giving all details as he recalls them, what he said, where, when, and to whom; with what was said to him in reply and by whom, and the criticism will then be worth consideration. But, as it now stands, it is weaker and feebler than the weakest and feeblest of the cases which Prof. Wright has brought forward.

Of course, we can only guess who this well-known government geologist can be, but if circumstances indicate correctly it will, in our opinion, be long before any statement such as that above desired will be obtained from him to confirm this illogical objection to our author's express assertion. We will further say that the owner of the image positively and emphatically denies in writing having ever himself made the remark above anonymously quoted, and volunteers the further statement that he knows nothing whatever of the whole alleged occurrence.

Such insinuations, unaccompanied with evidence and intended to undermine confidence in the results of years of persistent work, are really beneath notice, save to expose their utter logical baselessness and the animus whose shadow is visible beneath and around them. Let us turn to some criticisms of a different kind.

There is another tone sometimes adopted, less undignified perhaps, but not less inappropriate and offensive, especially in a supposed scientific discussion. It may be called the "omniscient" style. It sounds as if coming from some lofty height wherefrom the writer can discern all the details of a struggle in which the unfortunate actor below is bearing an insignificant part. This style is a danger especially besetting men in official positions. The infallibility of office is well known and sometimes amusing. "No mistakes allowed." It is a form of apostolical succession not unknown in the realm of science. The mantle of Elijah is supposed to rest on Elisha, whether it fits or not. To those official geologists who so far forget themselves as to assume the air of superior knowledge, especially to the younger ones, we respectfully commend the wise and witty saying of Whewell, the great Master of Trinity, at Cambridge: "Be not too positive; we are all fallible, even the youngest."

Some of the remarks on Prof. Wright's book suggest the mental attitude above described. A positive statement is made on a