Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/155

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APPLETONS'

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



DECEMBER, 1899.



EXACT METHODS IN SOCIOLOGY.
By FRANKLIN H. GIDDINGS, Ph. D.,
PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY IN COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.

THOSE who do pioneer work in science encounter not only the inherent difficulties of research and interpretation, but also the misapprehension of certain educated men whose distinctive gift is a fatal genius for applying false standards of measurement to the progress of thought. Seizing upon some branch of knowledge that is in a state of vigorous development, when its newer results are out of harmony with its earlier hypotheses, such critics love to point out these contradictions, and try to prove that the branch in question is no science at all, and that its teachers are hardly worthy of respectful consideration.

The history of science contains many interesting chapters pertaining to this kind of criticism and the fate that has invariably overtaken it. When Copernicus and Galileo showed the absurdity of the Ptolemaic astronomy, the theologians enjoyed themselves for a time, as they demonstrated—to their own entire satisfaction—the folly of all rationalistic attempts to explain what revelation only could make clear. When Darwin explained the origin of species through variation and natural selection, the pretensions of biology were completely exploded by its lay and clerical critics (they thought and said so) by the extremely simple device of the "deadly parallel column," Was not Cuvier a great anatomist, and had he ever taught this nonsense about the mutability of species? Was not Agassiz the most learned naturalist alive, and what had he to say about Darwinian vagaries? Had he not proved, over and over again, that the very concept of the species was the