Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/486

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that engineers of mark shall offer their opinions on the papers presented. In the planning of such discussion lies a way of escape from the narrowness and sterility which ever threaten specialization in its modern extremes.

It has often been suggested that some broad question, as the probable age of the earth, be considered at a joint meeting of all the sections of the American Association. Physicists, geologists, and naturalists vary by millions of years in their estimates of the length of our planet's life. The surveys of the special sciences into which, for convenience' sake, inquiry here is parceled out, plainly do not fit together as the parts of an accordant map. Clearly there is need of more light, of exploration of intervening and debatable territory, of new and reconciling generalization. It is in its untraversed border lands, rather than in its measured and cultivated areas, that science has promise and inspiration for the investigator. Discussions are difficult to arrange, and in the ordinary case are unsatisfactory, but in overcoming the obstacles to assigning the specialist a part in the orchestration of high inquiry is rescue from the danger that in the minute study of details their value in constructive thought, in mutual illumination, may be forgotten. At this point re-enters, too, the ever desirable feasibility of interesting the general public, of making the people feel that here and there stand open doors between the questions which come home to them and the fields tilled by men of research.

This matter of interesting the public can at times find its opportunity when the programme is elastic enough to admit the treatment of a question of moment which springs up after the programme has taken form. Last August the American Economic Association met at Chautauqua; most of those who took part in its sessions passed at Buffalo through files of State militia guarding the trains against strikers and rioters. The programme, an excellent one, from the inevitable absence of men expected to read papers, could not be fully carried out. Here was a chance for leading teachers in politics and economics to express themselves regarding a battle between capital and labor pitched in the very neighborhood; outside the session hall, scarcely anything else was talked about; within the hall, Buffalo might have been in Asia for all the attention it received. Can men of science of the academic type wonder at their lack of popular influence when they thus ignore the world of action and passion they live in; when they speak and write mainly at one another, and usually in a language hardly comprehensible to common people when they happen to overhear it? It strikes observers in New York that the power of its corrupt rulers has arisen in no small degree because the leaders among them have been fortunate or shrewd