Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/380

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late Mr. George Busk, was not to be converted; while, long before the Challenger work, Ehrenberg wrote to me very skeptically, and I fully expected that that eminent man would favor me with pretty sharp criticism. Unfortunately, he died shortly afterward, and nothing from him, that I know of, appeared. When Sir Wyville Thomson wrote to me a brief account of the results obtained on board the Challenger, I sent his statement to "Nature," in which journal it appeared the following week, without any further note or comment than was needful to explain the circumstances. In thus allowing judgment to go by default, I am afraid I showed a reckless and ungracious disregard for the feelings of the believers in my infallibility. No doubt I ought to have hedged and fenced and attenuated the effect of Sir Wyville Thomson's brief note in every possible way. Or perhaps I ought to have suppressed the note altogether, on the ground that it was a mere ex parte statement. My excuse is that, notwithstanding a large and abiding faith in human folly, I did not know then, any more than I know now, that there was anybody foolish enough to be unaware that the only people, scientific or other, who never make mistakes are those who do nothing; or that anybody, for whose opinion I cared, would not rather see me commit ten blunders than try to hide one.

Pending the production of further evidence, I hold that the existence of people who believe in the infallibility of men of science is as purely mythical as that of the evil counselor who advised the withholding of the truth lest it should conflict with that belief.

I venture to think, then, that the Duke of Argyll might have spared his "Little Lesson" as well as his "Great Lesson" with advantage. The paternal authority who whips the child for sins he has not committed does not strengthen his moral influence—rather excites contempt and repugnance. And if, as would seem from this and former monitory allocutions which have been addressed to us, the duke aspires to the position of censor, or spiritual director, in relation to the men who are doing the work of physical science, he really must get up his facts better. There will be an end to all chance of our kissing the rod if his Grace goes wrong a third time. He must not say again that "no serious reply has been attempted" to a view which was discussed and repudiated two years before by one of the highest extant authorities on the subject; he must not say that Darwin accepted that which it can be proved he did not accept; he must not say that a doctrine has dropped into the abyss when it is quite obviously alive and kicking at the surface; he must not assimilate a man like Professor Dana to the components of an "ignorant mob"; he must not say that things are beginning to be known which are not known at all; he must not say that "slow and sulky acquiescence" has been given to that which can not yet boast of general acquiescence of any kind; he must not suggest that a view which has been publicly