Page:Experimental researches in chemistry and.djvu/501

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
On Mental Education.

the latter are called upon, and occasionally taunted, by the former. A man who makes assertions, or draws conclusions, regarding any given case, ought to be competent to investigate it. He has no right to throw the onus on others, declaring it their duty to prove him right or wrong. His duty is to demonstrate the truth of that which he asserts, or to cease from asserting. The men he calls upon to consider and judge have enough to do with themselves, in the examination, correction, or verification of their own views. The world little knows how many of the thoughts and theories which have passed through the mind of a scientific investigator have been crushed in silence and secrecy by his own severe criticism and adverse examination; that in the most successful instances not a tenth of the suggestions, the hopes, the wishes, the preliminary conclusions have been realized. And is a man so occupied to be taken from his search after truth in the path he, hopes may lead to its attainment, and occupied in vain upon- nothing but a broad assertion?

Neither has the assertor of any thing new a right to claim an answer in the form of Yes or No; or think, because none is forthcoming, that he is to be considered as having established his assertion. So much is unknown to the wisest man, that he may often be without an answer: as frequently he is so, because the subject is in the region of hypothesis, and not of facts. In either case he has the right to refuse to speak. I cannot tell whether there are two fluids of electricity or any fluid at all. I am not bound to explain how a table tilts any more than to indicate how, under the conjurer's hands, a pudding appears in a hat. The means are not known to me. I am persuaded that the results, however strange they may appear, are in accordance with that which is truly known, and if carefully investigated would justify the well-tried laws of nature; but, as life is limited, 1 am not disposed to occupy the time it is made of, in the investigation of matters which, in what is known to me of them, offer no reasonable prospect of any useful progress, or anything but negative results. We deny the right of those who call upon us to answer their speculations ' if we can,' whilst we have so many of our own to develope and correct; and claim the right for ourselves of withholding either our conclusions or the reasons for them, without in the least degree admitting that