Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/71
THE VALUE OF SCIENCE 65
he loves and seeks truth and could not live without it. But I have some thoughts to express.
We can not know all facts and it is necessary to choose those which are worthy of being known. According to Tolstoi, scientists make this choice at random, instead of making it, which would be reasonable, with a view to practical applications. On the contrary, scientists think that certain facts are more interesting than others, because they com- plete an unfinished harmony, or because they make one foresee a great number of other facts. If they are wrong, if this hierarchy of facts that they implicitly postulate is only an idle illusion, there could be no science for its own sake, and consequently there could be no science. As for me, I believe they are right, and, for example, I have shown above what is the high value of astronomical facts, not because they are capable of practical applications, but because they are the most instructive of all.
It is only through science and art that civilization is of value. Some have wondered at the formula: science for its own sake; and yet it is as good as life for its own sake, if life is only misery; and even as happiness for its own sake, if we do not believe that all pleasures are of the same quality, if we do not wish to admit that the goal of civilization is to furnish alcohol to people who love to drink.
Every act should have an aim. We must suffer, we must work, we must pay for our place at the game, but this is for seeing's sake; or at the very least that others may one day see.
All that is not thought is pure nothingness ; since we can think only thought and all the words we use to speak of things can express only thoughts, to say there is something other than thought, is therefore an affirmation which can have no meaning.
And yet — strange contradiction for those who believe in time — geologic history shows us that life is only a short episode between two eternities of death, and that, even in this episode, conscious thought has lasted and will last only a moment. Thought is only a gleam in the midst of a long night.
But it is this gleam which is everything.
��VOL. LXXXI. — 5