Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/360

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generations of human culture to which we are heirs. Seems it not, then, a wicked, almost a sacrilegious, thing to hasten with eager gladness to repudiate the past to which we owe everything, and to exult over the ruins of its beliefs? It is as if a son should rejoice over his father's feebleness, uncover his nakedness, and make scorn of his infirmities. As he who has been the best son is in turn the best father, so the generation which guards with respect the good which there is in the past, and puts gently aside that which is effete, will make the most stable progress in its day, and transmit the best inheritance to the generation which follows it. No doubt in the future, as in the past, the knowledge of one period will sometimes appear foolishness at a more advanced period of human evolution—the truth of one age become the laughing-stock of the next; but we may profitably reflect that decaying doctrine had its use in its day, and it may teach us modesty to consider that much which has its place in our mental organization now, and is serving its proper end in the development thereof, will one day probably be put aside as obsolete belief. Let it be our prayer that when that day comes, and this generation comes up for critical judgment as an historical study before the tribunal of posterity, it may be justly said of it that it has done as much for the progress of mankind as some of the generations upon which the wisest of us look back, perhaps, with indulgent compassion, and the unwise among us with foolish scorn.

There is nothing in the attitude of modern society toward science, cold and suspicious as it may sometimes be, which necessitates or warrants an arrogant, defiant, and aggressive spirit of hostility on its side. No great courage is required nowadays to declare a new truth, however hostile it may be to received belief, nor is any serious suffering entailed by the declaration; there is no need, therefore, for a scientific man to put on the airs of a martyr. He is a very little martyr who is persecuted only by the pens of unfriendly critics, and rather a pitiful object when he sits down by the wayside, and calls upon all them that pass by to behold and see how hardly he is used. It was very different when Science first made its voice heard; when, under the cruel persecutions of the Inquisition, Galileo unsaid with his tongue truths which his heart could not unsay, and that grand figure in the noble army of scientific martyrs, Giordano Bruno, went calmly and resolutely to the stake rather than utter one word of retractation. The saddest contemplation in the world, perhaps, is that of the brave who, like him, have died fighting in the battle for the cause that seemed to perish with them; whose lives of suffering and sore travail have set, often through cruel tortures, in black clouds of gloom which no ray of hope could penetrate. Theirs was not the laurel crown of victory after the agony of the struggle; no popular applause, no encouraging shout, greeted their ears as they sank down exhausted in death; the shouts which they heard were shouts of exe-