Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 75.djvu/350

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By Professor WILLIAM A. LOCY


UNDOUBTEDLY the progress of zoology has played an important part in the intellectual development of civilized mankind, but the way in which it has moulded thought is but vaguely appreciated by most people. On that account it is my purpose to discuss the question of the service of zoology to intellectual progress.

We speak of the intellectual development of civilized mankind, meaning thereby the general level of mental development that any people has attained; and we observe that the circumstance that chiefly sets one people on a pinnacle higher than another people is their degree of intellectual development.

There is nothing that afflicts us all more closely than that our young people should learn to think straight, and that they should ally themselves with the thought of their time, and take part in it, because this mental life of ours is remaking for us our ideas of the universe in which we live. It is not peopling it with phantasies and dreams so much as with realities. There was never a time before when realities were so carefully sought after.

If we look into history we shall see that there has been a ruling power in the mental life of different peoples characteristic of every age, such as the mental devotion of the Romans to law and government, of the Greeks to art and philosophical disquisitions, of the people of the middle ages to mystical metaphysics and theological dogma, and so on.

Let us now ask: "What is the dominant note in intellectual life today?" Is it not a greater care to determine the truth? Is it not the investigating spirit? Is it not that spirit which we may designate generically as the scientific spirit? Perhaps great material prosperity is the most evident aspect of life to-day, but in the mental sphere there is certainly a disposition to analyze, to experiment and to arrive at conclusions by the method of observation and reasoning.

This situation is very different from the one from which the civilized world has recently emerged. A former state prevailed in which authority was declared to be the source of knowledge. In the sixteenth century, and earlier, men believed things not because they could be shown to be true, but because some one had said they were true. In order to crush out dissent the authority for a certain statement was quoted, and the authority cited was usually one of the ancient writers.

  1. The annual address before the Iowa State Academy of Science, April 30, 1909.