Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/187

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183
THE EVANESCENCE OF FACTS

erring and unfailing senses, aided of course usually by the microscope and the stethoscope, but solid fact nevertheless. No deduction need apply; no fiery imagination can play around a fact. The supreme tragedy of nature, Huxley reminded Spencer, was one of his theories killed by a fact. Reason indeed must play a minor role in the new theocracy. Man indeed has been accustomed to lean upon it but:

Ein wenig besser würd er leben

 Hättest du ihm nicht den Schein
 Des Himmels Licht gegeben
Er nennt's Vernunft und braucht's allein
 Nur thierischer als jedes Thier zu sein.

When the fact comes to be builded into a structure of any use to mankind, of course the "light of Heaven" must be employed, but not for a fact alone. That shines by its own effulgence. It would appear, I confess, that the fact should shine for the babe as well as for the sage, but after all sight and hearing and smell (that Judas of the senses—why is it always necessary to reckon with this atavistic weakling?), need interpretations; certain conclusions, not of course deductively but inductively—mark the difference—must be drawn from those peripheral stimuli which ring a bell in the caves of thought. This is entirely different from the circuitous ratiocinations which formerly disfigured the face of science. Pure science is direct induction, as distinguished from the impure science in which the heavenly beacon plays too conspicuous a part. Truth is apt to be lost if we get too far from the peripheral stimuli; just how far, it is at present inconvenient to determine. At any rate, it is now universally recognized that the sources of knowledge are entirely different from former sources of knowledge, so elongated in degree that the difference is fundamental. Without this appreciation of the difference between an interpretation of external peripheral stimuli, revealed to us by the senses, and the conclusions arrived at by the philosopher who sat in his tub or by the deductive sage who constantly contemplated his umbilicus, one is apt to lose sight of the glory of modern science. One method we readily believe was fallacious, the other we know to be unfailing.

This change in the methods of science began when the old method had advanced about as far along its old paths as we have along the new ones. The change (it is uncertain whether we are to reckon its inception from Roger Bacon or Lord Bacon) gradually became so emphasized that under Cuvier at the French Academy even discussion was frowned upon. It is true that France is no longer the exclusive home of science or even the chief home of science. Science finds a favorite residence amidst the fogs of Germany, where, owing to the idiosyncrasies of etymology, discussion is a tiresome, but alas, not a neglected occupation. Indeed, there is well-founded suspicion that science has advanced