Page:EB1911 - Volume 01.djvu/20

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

connected branches of the wider science of Zoology, in which all the lines of experimental inquiry and progressive knowledge lead up to a more efficient service of man and society.

In stating “the position taken by the Encyclopædia Britannica in relation to the active controversies of the time,” Spencer Baynes, in his Preface to the first volume of the Ninth Edition (1875), referred to the conflict of opinion then raging in regard to religion andThe objective
science. “In this conflict,” he said, “a work like the Encyclopædia is not called upon to take any direct part. It has to do with knowledge, rather than opinion, and to deal with all subjects from a critical and historical rather than a dogmatic point of view. It cannot be the organ of any sect or party in science, religion or philosophy.” The same policy has inspired the Eleventh Edition. The Encyclopædia Britannica itself has no side or party; it attempts to give representation to all parties, sects and sides. In a work indeed which deals with opinion and controversy at all, it is manifestly impossible for criticism to be colourless; its value as a source of authoritative exposition would be very different from what it is if individual contributors were not able to state their views fully and fearlessly. But every effort has been made to obtain, impartially, such statements of doctrine and belief in matters of religion and similar questions as are satisfactory to those who hold them, and to deal with these questions, so far as criticism is concerned, in such a way that the controversial points may be understood and appreciated, without prejudice to the argument. The easy way to what is sometimes considered impartiality is to leave controversy out altogether; that would be to avoid responsibility at the cost of perpetuating ignorance, for it is only in the light of the controversies about them that the importance of these questions of doctrine and opinion can be realized. The object of the present work is to furnish accounts of all subjects which shall really explain their meaning to those who desire accurate information. Amid the variety of beliefs which are held with sincere conviction by one set of people or another, impartiality does not consist in concealing criticism, or in withholding the knowledge of divergent opinion, but in an attitude of scientific respect which is precise in stating a belief in the terms, and according to the interpretation, accepted by those who hold it. In order to give the fullest expression to this objective treatment of questions which in their essence are dogmatic, contributors of all shades of opinion have co-operated in the work of the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. They have been selected as representative after the most careful consideration and under the highest sense of editorial responsibility. The proportion of space devoted to these subjects is necessarily large, because they bulk largely in the minds of thinking people; and while they are treated more comprehensively than before, individual judgments as to their relative claims may naturally vary. The general estimates which prevail among the countries which represent Western civilization are, however, in practical agreement on this point, and this consensus is the only ultimate criterion. In one respect the Eleventh Edition is fortunate in the time of its appearance. Since the completion of the Ninth Edition the controversies which at that time raged round the application of historical and scientific criticism to religion have become less acute, and an objective statement of the problems, for instance, connected with the literary history of the Bible is now less encumbered with the doubts as to the effect on personal religion which formerly prevailed. Science and theology have learnt to dwell together; and a reverent attitude towards religion, and indeed towards all the great religions, may be combined, without arrière-pensée, with a scientific comparative study of the phenomena of their institutions and development.

Modern scientific progress has naturally affected other aspects of the Eleventh Edition no less than the literary text; and a word may be added here as to the illustrations and maps. Photography and reproductive processes generally now combine to enable much more to be done than was possible a generation ago to assist verbal explanations and descriptions by an appeal to the eye, and to make this appeal scientifically accurate both in form and colour- The older pictorial material in the Ninth Edition has undergone the same critical survey as the text; and aThe art of
large proportion of what now appears in the Eleventh Edition is not only new, but represents more adequately the modern principles of the art of illustration. The microscope on the one hand, and the museum on the other, have become in an increasing degree the