Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/351

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

the body's development, but afterward, having no longer any function, undergo atrophy. Moreover, men have not only shirked positive inquiry from indolence, but have hated it from hostility. They dread the thought of being shown to be one with Nature, and repudiate with abhorrence the suggestion that their bodies and minds will ever receive scientific explanation; as if their bodies and minds would be degraded to something quite different from what they are by being understood like other natural phenomena and described in terms of scientific thought. The supposition strikes them as something like a blasphemy against the nobility of their nature. Hence there is a deep-rooted instinctive hostility to the science that has to do with man, which you will have to take account of in your careers—an hostility which has found partial expression, I think, in the anti-vivisection agitation. There was more in the fierceness of that agitation than a laudable feeling of compassion for the animals—an intensity of acridity betraying another origin. There was the energy of fear and hatred—fear and hatred of the science which threatens the dethronement of man from the pedestal of conceit upon which he has placed himself, and the destruction of some of his traditional beliefs. But a little reflection might serve to prove to those who are moved by these hostile apprehensions that they are possessed with an unreasoning fear, and are disquieting themselves in vain. Let them look beyond the dark circle of their self-love, and they will see that what is good in old creeds does not perish; that, although old forms vanish, as generations and nations pass away, that in them which gave life to them does not pass away, but puts on new forms and survives, as new generations and nations follow and carry onward the work of progress. Better would it be for them to seek for and foster the good which survives than to lament and defend the old which is corrupt.

Certainly science has not been careful to avoid occasions of offense in its progress, and of its method and pretensions its votaries have sometimes written in a strain which justly provokes scorn. While proclaiming, then, the praises of observation and induction, and enforcing the value of a mental training which is obtained by studying Nature after that method, let me interpose a few words of qualification, in order that I may not be misunderstood. I cannot help feeling that a great deal of questionable doctrine has been propounded concerning the so-called method of induction which science is enjoined rigidly to pursue, and that Bacon would have been aghast had he seen, the absurdity which some persons in these days describe as his method, and the imbecile procedures of some of those who believe that they are following it. They talk, in fact, of the method of observation and induction as if it were something to conjure by; a mechanical, process of knowledge-getting which rendered superior mental capacity unnecessary; a sort of intellectual ladder by which the most stupid beings, if they only planted it properly, might mount up into the