Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/391

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375
EDITOR'S TABLE.
historical investigation? Why, the same thing may be done in any science. We have only to pick out all the facts on one side, and blink all the facts on the other side, to prove the veracity of every oracle, soothsayer, and clairvoyant, that ever existed, the validity of every paltry omen, the credibility of every crazy notion of alchemy or judicial astrology. In this way we may prove that the homœopathist always saves his patient, while the allopathist always kills him; or vice versa. And it was in this way that the phrenologists erected their pseudo-science. It is in this way that every charlatanry, as well as every incorrect or inadequate hypothesis in physical or mental science, has arisen and gained temporary recognition. Mr. Froude ought to know that, in history as in every thing else, our only road to a safe conclusion lies through the impartial examination of all relevant facts. Supposing Tycho Brahe had said to his Copernican antagonists: 'Astronomy is like a child's box of letters; if we take out what we want and let the rest go, we can spell whatever we please; I spell out the Ptolemaic theory, and will therefore abide by it;' he would have been talking much after the manner of Mr. Froude. It is true, as Mr. Froude says, that one philosopher believes in progress, a second in retrogression, and a third, like Vico, in ever-recurring cycles. But is this because the facts are undecipherable, or because the investigation is one-sided? Because Prof. Agassiz believes species to be fixed, while the majority of naturalists believe them to be transmutable, are we to infer that there is no science of biology? In such unworthy plight does Mr. Froude retreat before the problem he has encountered. He starts to show us that a science of history is as ridiculous an impossibility as a scarlet B flat or a westerly proportion, and he ends by mildly observing that history is a difficult subject, in which a series of partial examinations may bring forth contradictory conclusions!
"The next bit of inference concerns us more intimately: 'Will a time ever be when the lost secret of the foundation of Rome can be recovered by historic laws? If not, where is our science?' Just where it was before. The science of history has nothing to do with dates, except to take them, so far as they can be determined, from the hands of historical criticism. They are its data, not its conclusions. As Mr. Morley reminds us, we do not dispute the possibility of a science of meteorology, because such a science cannot tell us whether it was a dry day or a wet day at Jericho two thousand years ago. Facts like these show us that sciences dealing with phenomena, which are the products of many and complex factors, cannot hope to attain that minute precision which is attained by sciences dealing with phenomena which are the products of few and simple factors. They show that sociology cannot, like astronomy, be brought under the control of mathematical deduction. But it was not necessary for Mr. Froude to write an essay to prove that.
"But, continues Mr. Froude, 'can you imagine a science which would have foretold such movements as' Mohammedanism, or Christianity, or Buddhism? To the question as thus presented, we must answer, certainly not. Neither can any man foretell any such movement as the typhoid fever which six months hence is to strike him down. If the latter case does not prove that there are no physiologic laws, neither does the former prove that there are no laws of history. In both instances the antecedents of the phenomenon are irresistibly working out their results; though, in both cases, they are so complicated that no human skill can accurately anticipate their course. But to a different presentment of Mr. Froude's question we might return a different answer. There is a sense in which movements like Mohammedanism and Buddhism, or Christianity, could not have been predicted, and there is a sense in which they could have been. What could not have been predicted was the peculiar character impressed upon these movements by the gigantic personalities of such men as Mohammed and Omar, Sakyamuni, Jesus, and Paul. What could have been predicted was the general character and direction of the movements. For example, as I shall show in a future lecture, Christianity as a universal religion was not possible until Rome had united in a single commonwealth the progressive nations of the world. And, when Rome had accomplished this task, it might well have been predicted that before long a religion would arise which should substitute monotheism for polytheism, proclaiming the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of men. I admit that such a prediction could have been made only by a person familiar with scientific modes of thought not then in existence; but, could such a person have been present to contemplate the phenomena, he might have foreseen such a revolution in its main features, as being an inevitable result of the interaction of Jewish,