Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/395

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391
THE HALO OF A HUNDRED YEARS

hypothesis, to which many naturalists, misled by Bacon's thoroughly unscientific temper, had been too averse: Accordingly, the trend of scientific method had become tainted, if not with disastrous consequences, at least with results inimical to progress, as we account means of progress now. This, the former of the two aspects mentioned above, has been delineated admirably by Romanes, from whom, I may say in passing, I derived the only knowledge of Darwin's personality, conveyed at first-hand by a mutual friend, that I possess.

He nowhere loses sight of the primary distinction between fact and theory; so that, thus far, he loyally follows the spirit of revolt against subjective methods. But, while always holding this distinction clearly in view, his idea of the scientific use of facts is plainly that of furnishing legitimate material for the construction of theories. Natural history is not to him an affair of the herbarium or the cabinet. The collectors and the species-framers are, as it were, his diggers of clay and makers of bricks; even the skilled observers and the trained experimentalists are his mechanics. Valuable as the work of all these men is in itself, its principal value, as he has finally demonstrated, is that which it acquires in rendering possible the work of the architect. Therefore, although he has toiled in all the trades with his own hands, and in each has accomplished some of the best work that has ever been done, the great difference between him and most of his predecessors consists in this—that while to them the discovery or accumulation of facts was an end, to him it is the means. In their eyes it was enough that the facts should be discovered and recorded. In his eyes the value of the facts is due to their power of guiding the mind to a further discovery of principles. And the extraordinary success which has attended his work in this respect of generalization immediately brought natural history into line with the other inductive sciences, behind which, in this most important of all respects, she has so seriously fallen. For it was the " Origin of Species " which first clearly revealed to naturalists as a class, that it was the duty of their science to take as its motto, what is really the motto of natural science in general,

Felix quit potuit rerum cognoscere causas.

Not facts, then, but causes or principles, are the ultimate objects of scientific quest. . . . The spirit of speculation is the same as the spirit of science, namely, as we have just seen, a desire to know the causes of things. . . . And to frame hypotheses is to speculate. . . . The difference between science and speculation is not a difference of spirit; nor, thus far, is it a difference of method. The only difference between them is in the subsequent process of verifying hypotheses. . . . The only danger of speculation consists in its momentum being apt to carry away the mind from the more laborious work of adequate verification; and therefore a true scientific judgment consists in giving a free rein to speculation on the one hand, while holding ready the break of verification with the other. Now, it is just because Darwin did both these things with so admirable a judgment, that he gave the world of natural history so good a lesson as to the most effectual way of driving the chariot of science.[1]

While it may well be impossible to assail Romanes's panegyric, and while it is eminently fitting that we should throb to its mood at this time, Darwin would have been the last man to magnify his own office,

  1. "Darwin and After Darwin," Vol. I., pp. 4-7 (London, 1892).