Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/532

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greatest power of our modern civilization. Consider how much it has accomplished during the last century toward increasing the comforts and enlarging the intellectual vision of mankind. The railroad, the steamship, the electric telegraph, photography, gas-lights, petroleum-oils, coal-tar colors, chlorine-bleaching, anæsthesia, are a few of its recent material gifts to the world; and not only has it made one pair of hands to do the work of twenty, but it has so improved and facilitated the old industries that what were luxuries to the fathers of our republic have become necessities to our generation. And when, passing from these material fruits, you consider the purely intellectual triumphs of physical science, such as those which have been gained with the telescope, the microscope, and the spectroscope, you cannot wonder at the esteem in which these branches of study are held in this practical age of the world.

Now, these immense results have been gained by the application to the study of Nature of a method which was so admirably described by Lord Bacon in his "Novum Organon," and which is now generally called the experimental method. What we observe in Nature is an orderly succession of phenomena. The ancients speculated about these phenomena as well as ourselves, but they contented themselves with speculations, animating Nature with the products of their wild fancies. Their great master, Aristotle, has never been excelled in the art of dialectics; but his method of logic applied to the external world was of very necessity an utter failure. It is frequently said, in defense of the exclusive study of the records of ancient learning, that they are the products of thinking, loving, and hating men, like ourselves, and it is claimed that the study of science can never rise to the same nobility because it deals only with lifeless matter. But this is a mere play on words, a repetition of the error of the old schoolmen. Physical science is noble because it does deal with thought, and with the very noblest of all thought. Nature at once manifests and conceals an Infinite Presence: Her methods and orderly successions are the manifestations of Omnipotent Will; Her contrivances and laws the embodiment of Omniscient Thought. The disciples of Aristotle so signally failed simply because they could see in Nature only a reflection of their idle fancies. The followers of Bacon have so gloriously succeeded because they approached Nature as humble students, and, having first learned how to question Her, have been content to be taught and not sought to teach. The ancient logic never relieved a moment of pain, or lifted an ounce of the burden of human misery. The modern logic has made a very large share of material comfort the common heritage of all civilized men.

In what, then, does this Baconian system consist? Simply in these elements: 1. Careful observation of the conditions under which a given phenomenon occurs; 2. The varying of these conditions by experiments, and observing the effects produced by the variation. We