Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/111

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101
SCIENCE AND MENTAL IMPROVEMENT.

form of the new. Science is come, not to destroy, but, aided by a rational philosophy, to fulfill all the noblest aspirations, the most glorious hopes of our race. Sometimes, indeed, the change which she brings about may be like a metamorphosis: the useless shell is burst and cast off, and a more beautiful and less gross form appears, but still it is always a process of evolution—of derivation. We never shall reach a rational philosophy until we recognize this fundamental truth. The new must include the old—the old must incorporate and assimilate the new, and each must modify and be modified by the other. Progress in all things—in geology, in society, in philosophy—is by evolution and growth; not by successive catastrophes with alternate destructions and recreations; by derivation, not by substitution. But these modern materialists, while they are evolutionists in geology (they indeed will hear of nothing else), while they may be evolutionists also in social progress, are, strange to say, catastrophists in philosophy. They would raze all previous beliefs, faiths, philosophies, to the ground, and leave not one stone upon another; and then, out of entirely new materials furnished by themselves, they would erect another and entirely different philosophy. They reverse the old dogma, "Whatever is, is right," and make it, "Whatever is, is wrong."

The great bar to the speedy establishment of a rational philosophy is dogmatism, self-opinion, self-conceit. The rarest of all gifts is a truly tolerant and rational spirit. In all your gettings, gentlemen, be sure you get this, for it alone is true wisdom. But do not imagine, however, that all the dogmatism is on one side, and that the theological. Many, indeed, seem to think that theology has a preëmption-right to dogmatism. If so, then modern science has "jumped the claim." Dogmatism has its roots deep in the human heart. It is born of narrowness and pride. It showed itself first in the domain of theology, only because there was the seat of power. In modern times, therefore, it has gone to the side of science, because here now is the seat of power and fashion. There are, then, two dogmatisms, both equally opposed to the true rational spirit, viz., the old theological and the new scientific. The old clings fondly to old things, only because they are old; the new grasps eagerly after new things, only because they are new. True wisdom and true philosophy, on the contrary, "tries all things," both old and new, "and holds fast only to that which is good and true." The new dogmatism taunts the old for credulity and superstition; the old reproaches the new for levity and skepticism. But true wisdom and philosophy perceives that they are both equally credulous and equally skeptical. The old is credulous of old ideas and skeptical of new; the new is skeptical of old ideas and credulous of new; both deserve the unsparing rebuke of all right-minded men. The appropriate rebuke for the old dogmatism has been put in the form of a bitter sneer in the mouth of Job: "No doubt ye are the men, and wisdom shall die with you." The appropriate rebuke for the new dogmatism, though not put into the mouth of any ancient prophet, ought to be uttered.