Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/550

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mous; but I should like you to recollect that that is a sacrifice, and that you should not he surprised if it occasionally happens that you see a biologist trespassing upon questions of philosophy or politics, or meddling with human education, because, after all, that is a part of his kingdom which he has only voluntarily forsaken.

Having now defined the meaning of the word "biology," and having indicated the general scope of biological science, I turn to my second question, which is, Why should we study biology? Possibly the time may come when that will seem a very odd question. That we, living creatures, should not feel a certain amount of interest in what it is that constitutes our life, will eventually, under altered ideas of the fittest objects of human inquiry, seem to be a singular phenomenon; but at present, judging by the practice of teachers and educators, this would seem to be a matter that does not concern us at all. I propose to put before you a few considerations which I dare say many of you will be familiar with already, but which will suffice to show—not fully, because to demonstrate this point fully would take a great many lectures—that there are some very good and substantial reasons why it may be advisable that we should know something about this branch of human learning. I myself entirely agree with another sentiment of the philosopher of Malmesbury, that "the scope of all speculation is the performance of some action or thing to be done," and I have not any very great respect for or interest in mere knowing as such. I judge of the value of human pursuits by their bearing upon human interests—in other words, by their utility; but I should like that we should quite clearly understand what it is that we mean by this word "utility." Now, in an Englishman's mouth, it generally means that by which we get pudding or praise, or both. I have no doubt that is one meaning of the word utility, but it by no means includes all I mean by utility. I think that knowledge of every kind is useful in proportion as it tends to give people right ideas, which are essential to the foundation of right practice, and to remove wrong ideas, which are the no less essential foundations and fertile mothers of every description of error in practice. And, upon the whole, inasmuch as this world is, after all, whatever practical people may say, absolutely governed by ideas, and very often by the wildest and most hypothetical ideas, it is a matter of the very greatest importance that our theories of things, and even of things that seem a long way apart from our daily lives, should be as far as possible true, and as far as possible removed from error. It is not only in the coarser practical sense of the word "utility," but in this higher and broader sense, that I measure the value of the study of biology by its utility, and I shall try to point out to you that you will feel the need of some knowledge of biology at a great many turns of this present nineteenth-century life of ours. For example, most of us lay great and very just stress upon the conception which is entertained