Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/568

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

THE SPHERE OF SCIENCE.

WE publish in this number a criticism by a gentleman who, we understand, is connected with one of our most distinguished universities, of the article which appeared in these columns some months ago under the title of Back to Dogma. In that article we maintained that the then recent address of Lord Salisbury, as President of the British Association, was, to all intents and purposes, an appeal to the scientific world to put on once more those dogmatic shackles from which the philosophical advance of the present century was supposed to have set it free; and we endeavored to show how fatal to the further progress of scientific theory a compliance with such a suggestion would be. The author of the article we are now publishing seems to agree with us entirely that the general drift of the address was reactionary; but he considers that we go too far in another direction when we say that the reintroduction of the doctrine of design, as an explanation of things which challenge our curiosity, would mean "the death of scientific investigation."

If we have published this article we have done so—and we think it right to make the statement—less upon its merits as a piece of scientific or philosophical argumentation, than because we are anxious to give every opportunity for the free and fair criticism of opinions expressed in this journal. Science does not admit of any one-sided expositions; and it knows no orthodoxy save that which open discussion, free from all bias of self-interest and prejudice, may at any given moment appear to establish. It has always been the aim of this journal to convey to its readers the idea that science is not a rigid system of unalterable deductions, but consists essentially in the gradual adaptation of the thought of mankind to the ever-unfolding aspects and meanings of the universe. While holding our own views, therefore, of the questions which from time to time occupy the attention of the scientific world, we not only have no desire to exclude contrary expressions of opinion, but are entirely prepared to extend to them a cordial hospitality, provided they are stamped with a reasonable degree of logical force and adequacy. The address delivered by the Marquis of Salisbury was a case in point: we could not agree with its main positions, but neither could we deny that it was a highly plausible and, upon the whole, extremely able presentment of a view which formerly found multitudes of adherents, and still finds not a few. We therefore made a point of transferring it to our columns, while reserving the liberty to criticise it, as we did, in this portion of our journal. In the same spirit we publish Mr. Clark's article in which our criticism is called in question; and we have now to consider how far his objections to the position taken by us are valid.

As already mentioned, our critic agrees with us as to the reactionary character of Lord Salisbury's address. We expressed our sense of this by the heading we gave to our article Back to Dogma! and we hardly think it can be denied that if a reactionary movement takes place in the scientific world it must carry us back to dogma. That scientific investigation was formerly dominated by