Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/186

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182 THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

met with an old fact among the countless tons of them under which our library shelves groan which I am certain would not betray to the eager experimentalist of whom we are so proud many a crack and many a blemish. To the observant dilettante or to the ingenuous, earnest student—if one can be called such who flits often across the whole domain in which truth is sought, it is apparent that different tests are applied to the genuineness of the information acquired.

The physicist concludes he has something material because when his electrons are fired through a tube he can see the flash or hear them ring a bell and so count them. The physiologist or the biochemist concludes a certain organic juice is present because he can perceive the effects of its diastase or the serologist can see the clouding or clearing of the fluid in his test tube. The geologist draws certain conclusions from the scar on the hillside or river bank, the archeologist from the presence or absence of certain forms of the architrave or of certain metals in the implements he finds. Such evidence for the establishment of facts as is satisfactory to the sociologist or psychologist or archeologist is scorned by the astronomer and the physicist, while the statistician is still more intolerant. "Chacun à son métier" with a shrug of the shoulder is the answer given to extraneous criticism by the delver in each domain for hidden facts, yet in a certain tacit way it is felt that the physicist in the making of a flash or in the ringing of a bell, and the statistician in counting them, has really the better grasp on reality, until along comes some king of physicists like Lodge or Crookes or some skilful fencer like Bergson, some iconoclast like Driesch, and shows that these things are not physical at all, but are knots in the ether or metaphysical entirely, or the Lord knows what, and the dilettante says (to himself, if prudent): "Well, what is the test of Reality anyhow, what is a fact? It seems to depend on the method"; and he goes his way with his own private opinion of the claim that the methods of science are something sacrosanct and apart from other demonstrations of the grounds of belief.

Truth is eternal, of course, but whether there are some truths which are not facts or some facts which are not truths may be left to the logicians, and other former inhabitants of the fanes of science, discredited dwellers in the temples of truth. The mantle of the sophist, the glamor of the logician clothes other forms and illuminates the halls of other shrines. Other prophets are now accustomed to have their dictum greeted as if: "A fonte relatum Hammonis." The same befitting solemnity, the same sepulchral dignity, again clothes the dispenser of new truths as of old shone around the prophets with the oriflamme of truth. The modern prophet, however, draws his inspiration not from the gushing fountains of the imagination set playing by some Pagan or Christian divinity, but from the solid foundation of facts laid down by the un-