Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/868

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.




A FEW months ago one of our contributors had occasion to notice the attacks made upon the scientific tendencies of the age by writers who might have been supposed to be themselves highly qualified representatives of the general scientific movement. In these columns, too, we have ourselves found it necessary, from time to time, to maintain the position that, if all is not well in the world to-day, it is not because we are troubled with too much science, but because we have as yet too little. Science has reduced to tolerable order certain departments of thought and knowledge; but there are whole sections of life that as yet it has barely touched. So long as this is the case, the social body must suffer. Until the true laws of life are discovered, and set in such a light as to command obedience, there must be more or less of confusion, distress, and waste of effort. It is evident, therefore, that the duty which lies at the door of every one capable of grasping the situation is to do all in his power to help science to have its perfect work—its work of social reorganization and regeneration.

Many persons, we are persuaded, fail to understand that science has any application outside of the investigation of physical laws. They think of it as something that has to do with astronomy and geology, with physiology and chemistry, with steam-engines and telegraphs and telephones. They do not think of it as a method of research valid in every department of life, and coextensive with the whole reach of human knowledge. The time has come, however, when the claims of science to be the supreme mistress of thought and action can not be too boldly or earnestly advocated. The spirit of science is a spirit of order; wherever, therefore, there is disorder, science is lacking, or, at least, exercises but imperfect control. We see the perfect control of science in the exactness with which astronomical observations and predictions are made; we see it in the wonderfully accurate determinations of the chemist; we see it in the formulæ of the electrician. When we come to the so-called science of medicine we see real science struggling for the mastery and too often overborne by ancient prejudice and lazy empiricism. When we come to education, we see an enormous parade of technique, but, on the whole, poor results in the way of disciplined intellects and harmonious characters. When we ask how science is applied to the government of individual lives, we find that it is scarcely so applied at all. Some notions of physical hygiene are more or less diffused throughout the community, at least among the more intelligent classes; but how rarely do we discover any clear recognition of the fact that there is such a thing as moral hygiene, the object of which is happiness just as that of physical hygiene is health! To "minister to a mind diseased" is now, as long ago, an almost desperate task, but to prevent the formation of morbid habits of body or mind is, or should be, quite within the scope of the science of to-day. Dr. Maudsley, in his very interesting work on "Body and Will," gives copious illustrations of the gradual progress of moral and intellectual decline through successive generations. Inordinate vanity or selfishness in one generation may mean a decided development of mental or moral insanity in the next. It is consequently of the utmost importance to watch and resist the very beginnings of evil, seeing that it is impossible to say what these may lead to if allowed to