Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/April 1888/The Uniformity of Social Phenomena
others are openly opposed. The latter, however, mostly belong to a school of thought which, chemically speaking, is obsolescent; and by refusing to accept the later notation they bar the doors of progress against themselves. They discover details, but they develop no prin- ciples. A reasonable distrust of novelty, however, is always legitimate; and the question may fairly be raised whether the methods of reason- ing which are valid in organic chemistry can safely be applied to min- eralogic research. The organic chemist deals -with compounds for w^hich the starting-points are simple and well known; in many cases he can determine molecular weights with ease; and his material is so plastic that it can be altered, built up, or transferred in readily trace- able ways. Every step in his processes can be followed, and his re- sults may be checked from many sides. Minerals, on the other hand, are hard and stubborn; they form slowly and change with difficulty; they can not be handled as systematically as their organic analogues, and the evidence concerning their chemical structure is therefore less complete and convincing. Still, the case is not quite hopeless, and much positive work may be done.
Just at this point the main lines of mineralogic investigation seem to converge toward the central stem of growth. Leaving out of ac- count mere questions of descriptive detail, the raw material of scien- tific thought, we may consider three great divisions of study which touch the problem of chemical structure. First of all, we have the branch of associative mineralogy. Minerals do not occur together at random, in all conceivable groupings, but only in accordance with defi- nite laws which are now subjects for investigation. We can not clearly formulate these laws as yet, but we are learning much about them empirically; so that in many cases, upon iinding one species, we in- stinctively look for certain others, which we are quite sure must exist with or near it. Some minerals are found in granite veins, some in volcanic rocks, and some only in ore-bodies, and each one may be evi- dence for its neighbors. The chief work of the lithologist is in a limited portion of this field; for he considers the minerals which are aggregated into rock-masses, which latter represent definite and fre- quently recurring associations exhibited upon a large scale. The very classification of the rocks is based upon their mineralogical character- istics. Lithology, however, takes into account only a small minority of known species.
Now each well-established group of mineral associates indicates something relative to their origin. It represents the collective con- ditions under which they came into existence, and points distinctly toward the chemical reactions which formed them. If we study any one locality closely, we shall discover some details of curious signifi- cance. Some minerals occur enveloped by, inclosed in, or implanted upon others; some line cavities, and some represent incompleted pro- cesses. We see clearly that one was formed before or after another; we trace out the left-over material which was last deposited; we find secondary growths built up from more primitive substances. Through- out we gather evidence bearing upon the life-history of each mineral, and this may be directly correlated with the conception of chemical structure. When we can determine the conditions under which a com- pound can be formed, we shall have made a long step forward in un- derstanding the nature of the substance.
The second of our three lines of investigation is closely allied to the first, and, indeed, overlaps it somewhat. It is the study of alterations. A mineral has not only an origin and growth, but also a process of decay, during which its material, disintegrated, is made over into new forms. It is very common to find a crystal with its nucleus un- changed, and its surface transformed into some other species. Some of these alterations are easy to understand; as when, by oxidation, a cube of iron pyrites becomes a cube of the brown hydroxide, limonite; or when an arseniate or sulphate is derived from an arsenide or sul- phide. Other changes, however, are less simple, such as the transforma- tion of topaz into mica, or of corundum into margarite; but all of them tell something as to the nature of the substance altered, and help to elucidate the problems of structure and function. An alteration product is the record of a chemical reaction, which may be traced and reasoned about; and the evidence which it offers is quite analogous to that used by the organic chemist to determine the structure of a car- bon compound. In the latter case alteration products—that is, deriva- tives—are produced artificially; in the former the mineralogist finds them ready formed in Nature. Unfortunately, however, such altera- tion products are not attractive specimens; and the ordinary collector throws them aside as worthless. An altered crystal has lost its per- fection and beauty, and is vahiable only for what it signifies. But, from a scientific point of view, its value is real and considerable, if only it be studied thoroughly, apart from superficial appearances, and without jumping at conclusions. Here, again, the microscope and the chemical analysis are necessary coadjutors.
One line of research yet remains to be considered. The two already disposed of deal with material as gathered in the field; the third is an affair of the laboratory. Of late years many mineralogists have been actively at work upon the synthesis of mineral?, building up their crystals by artificial means, and reproducing in a rapid way the slower processes of Nature. Many species have thus been formed in well-defined condition; and other compounds, different from but closely analogous to well-known minerals, have also been produced. Every year there are great advances in this field of work, and every step which is taken is in the direction of the main problem. Some- times results are attained by methods unlike those which grew the native crystal; but even then new light is shed upon its nature, and we know more of >its possible modes of genesis. Some experiments also bear upon the subject of alterations; and definite alteration prod- ucts are artificially obtained. So far, little has been done toward generalizing upon this class of observations; but, as the facts accumu- late, new relations will appear and reasoning must follow. Each ex- periment suggests new experiments; each discovery points toward others, and the connecting theories will grow up around the concep- tion of chemical structure. It is the only conception yet clearly recog- nized which is general enough to cover the whole field.
It has already been argued that the physical study of minerals is subordinate to their chemical investigation, for the reason that all properties depend upon composition. Physical researches, neverthe- less, have great value in mineralogy, and a paper under the caption of this essay would be wretchedly incomplete if it failed to consider them. Physical data, moreover, aid in the discussion of chemical structure, and point out analogies of weighty significance. Specific gravity, for instance, is always an impoi'tant datum in the study of a species; and the ratio between it and the molecular weight of a compound tells us something of the condensation w^hich the elementary material has un- dergone in combiuing. One eminent mineralogist is now using this ratio as a basis for mineral classification, especially among the silicates; and his results are likely to emphasize the conclusions drawn from quite different sources. This method of study, however, presupposes a knowledge of true chemical composition. With the latter it means much; alone it signifies little.
Upon the thermal and electrical properties of minerals compara- tively little has been done; and that little has slight reference to min- eralogy in general. The optical constants, on the other hand, are elaborately studied by mineralogists, on account of their direct rela- tions to crystalline form. Indeed, optical and crystallographic work is a dominant feature of modern mineralogical investigation, although a great part of it never rises above the plane of mere descriptive de- tail. In its higher aspect it deals with the internal molecular struct- ure of crystals, and so furnishes data which may some day be con- nected with the broader general conceptions of the chemical field of research. The question of how the atoms are grouped has a mechani- cal as well as a chemical side; and some time it will be systematically attacked from both directions. At present we only see the future possibility of so handling the physical evidence; but the expectation is philosophically just. To-day a knowledge of crystalline form is mainly useful in the identification of minerals; for by it we may de- termine a species without destroying the specimen; but its deeper potential significance is none the less apparent. Along these lines we may safely prophesy progress, which can only end in the complete cor- relation of all mineralogic facts, and therefore in the solution of the fundamental problem.
Looked at from the descriptive side alone, mineralogy is a small affair. Only about a thousand species are known, and one large volume may fairly cover the field. It is when we consider the mineral as a growth — as a body having a past and a future — that broad treatment of the subject becomes possible. The geologist, dealing with phenomena of the grandest character, sees at a first glance little that is attractive in mineralogy. He forgets that mineral species make his alphabet, and that upon their properties the properties of rock-masses must depend. He can not safely generalize upon the one without knowing something of the other. He can not understand the chemical changes occurring in the earth's crust, if he ignores the separate units and the reactions of which they are capable. The very genesis of many rocks must depend upon the conditions under which their individual units can concurrently exist, and the latter must be known before the larger question can be adequately handled. Mineralogy gives to the geologist the weightiest of evidence. To the chemist also it is something more than debtor. It gives him, ready made, whole groups of compounds which else would be difficultly attainable, and these are the starting-points for many lines of research. The true character of each science is best seen in the interaction of all the sciences. Each in its way is both servant and master; not one can stand wholly alone.
By F. X. von NEUMANN-SPALLART.
THE surprising consequences which have attended investigations in natural science have excited among the representatives of historical and speculative studies a desire to reach results of corresponding value by the application of observation and analysis to the affairs of life. In this manner has arisen a new school of historical research, which applies the facts of physical geography, anthropology, ethnography, and other related branches of science, to the explanation of events, and by this means has passed from mechanical transcription and compilation to the examination into the natural, causal connection of things. In the same way, speculative philosophy has happily become an inductive branch of investigation, and instead of the "eloquent words" with which metaphysics used to labor, scientific analysis satisfies the aspirations in that direction, and is reviving with its refreshing breath the withered branches of the world's wisdom. It is not out of course, then, that the sciences of social life also should try to discard the tinsel of empty words and to gain by scientific methods a concrete understanding and a real view of their conditions. The question has thus arisen, whether the endlessly complicated and shifting events which are incessantly modifying the aspects of human society can be followed up and explained by natural laws; whetlier there is, in fact, a social physiology. Investigation in the ordinary sciences was facilitated by the discovery, which was early made, that its objects grouped themselves in classes, of which each individual corresponded with a common type, and that what was observed of one could be predicated of all of its class. Were social phenomena susceptible of a similar generalization?
The question has only recently been answered with clear knowl- edge; but hints of the solution were given two or three hundred years ago to one or two favored thinkers. Giambattista Yico made the first approach to it toward the close of the seventeenth century, in his "Scienza nuova." Johann Peter Siissmilch gained another glimpse of it a hundred years afterward. Half a century after him. Herder advanced the doctrine that a plan ruled in social development, the discovery of which must be sought through the study of the philosophy of history. The application of mathematical calculations to human events is due to two astronomers. Laplace, investigating the law of probabilities, suggested that the methods of observation and calculation might be of service in social and intellectual studies. The second as- tronomer, Quetelet, was the real founder of social physiology. Since his investigations there has been no doubt of the practicability of studying, by the methods of natural research, those social phenomena which had previously been only looked at through the telescope of speculation; for he, not contented with mere suggestions, made actual analyses of civil society; instituted mathematical investigations with groups of vital phenomena, to which only a few before him had vent- ured to apply the measuring-rod; showed the regularity of the formation of the social body and of its vital manifestations; and made apparent the close relations of cause and effect in the apparently voluntary acts of men in society. The followers on Quetelet's lines during the last thirty years have been very numerous. A whole school have adopted exactly his spirit and methods; others have worked analytically; and others have endeavored to build up a meta- physical sociology. The literature of many nations, particularly of England, Germany, France, and Italy, has now a legion of works aiming to investigate the phenomena of social life from the most diversified points of view, tenable and untenable; they differ widely in character, but all agree that the laws of human social phenomena are a legitimate subject of study. The mathematical method has been vastly aided during the same period by the operations of the statistical bureaus that have been established in most civilized countries, in collecting and classifymg facts, which, with the averages they afford, are to the social philosopher what his chemicals, microscopes and instruments of precision, and his experiments, are to the natural philosopher.
The great progress which has been made in the comprehension of the principles of social philosophy is due to the method which has been adopted of laying aside for a time the consideration of single things and individuals in society and vieU'ing it as a whole. The aggregate of those hundred thousands or millions of men which we call a people, a nation, or a society, forms, when regarded as if from without, a higher unit, in which the willing, transitory individual disap- pears and no longer exerts a disturbing influence on the observation of the great average. The society as an organization, not the indi- viduals in themselves, is thus the object of social johysiology. We can give such descriptions of society as a whole, of its structure, form, connections, and other peculiarities, as the mineralogist or the chemist, the botanist or zoologist gives of matter and plants and animals; which are just and useful for a time, and form the descriptive or ana- omical part. We can, too, further observe the organic functions of society as such, and deduce laws of cause and effect which are also available for a time as physiological laws—for a time, but not for always; for, quite in accord wath more recent natural research, which endures no pause, but is always in movement and in a state of evolu- tion, is a constant process of change exhibited in the circumstances of human society, without our meeting, on account of it, any contradic- tion with the principles from w^hich we may have started.
We may describe social phenomena as vital and physical, and as ethical and psychical.
In order to obtain a proper position for deducing the general laws of social phenomena, it is necessary to overlook for the moment all concrete personality or individuality, and to regard, say, all the forty- five million inhabitants of the German Empire, or all the Germans in Europe, only as parts of a great whole, of a grand aggregate, describ- able under the name of a social body. We must imagine these men as in so close a reciprocal connection that, like the cells of a plant or animal, we can not conceive them as dismembered, but must regard them as forming by their union a single organism, a society, or a state. As in plants and animals each group of cells has its particular functional distinction, so here we meet groups of men among the millions constituting the whole, performing different parts in the common structure. One group will be engaged in material labors, another in the intellectual labors of religion and instruction; others in pursuits of art, science, jurisprudence, law, or the aesthetic development of the organism, and so on in an infinite diversity of adaptations, as among the parts of single living beings. Such a vision could be ob- tained in perfection if, as Huxley has imagined, one were an inhabit- ant of another planet, come to take a view of the whole earth and its inhabitants from some convenient distance where he could include the whole at a single glance. As we approach the realization of such a view, we gain a marvelous comprehension of the regularity of the types of masses of men, and of their nonnal composition and common properties. Take the sexual division of mankind. Although over the whole earth a general equality in the numbers of the two sexes