Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/31

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27
SCIENCE AMONG THE CHINESE

earth's crust; and in biology as to the evolutionary development of life.

4. The unity of the universe, (a) The doctrine of the conservation of energy as based upon quantitative investigation of energy transformations and the exact determination of equivalence factors. (b) The doctrine of evolution as based on a wealth of observation in astronomy, geology, biology, psychology, and the ethical and religious development of man. (c) The suggested unity of matter resulting from recent investigations of discharge of electricity through gases and the properties of radioactive substances.

On the other hand, let us glance at

Some of the Salient Features of the Chinese Conception of the Universe.—

A. As to Method.

1. Absence of the inductive method; prevalence of a priori deduction from preconceived fantastic notions. Illustrations accepted as proof. Supposed analogy given highest weight.

2. Spirit of inaccuracy; in common affairs predominant; in system of weights and measures, where most needed for scientific progress, it almost defies description.

3. Lack of mathematical knowledge or method.

In the mere statement of these three characteristics we see at once three causes, or at least three related phases, of the general backwardness of the Chinese in science, which sum up to "no method." Let us examine each of these sub-heads a little more in detail.

1. Absence of the Inductive Method.—Chinese philosophers entered upon the task of physical speculation in a manner which showed the vigor and confidence of the questioning spirit, but no appreciation of the slow and patient process by which answers to nature's riddles are secured. They tried to discover the origin and principle of the universe rather by vague suggestions and casual analogies than by any course of reasoning that would bear examination. The first students wished, as do many to-day, to divine at a single glance or guess the whole import of nature's great book.

Western teachers of Chinese students are constantly impressed with their readiness to argue by illustration and to accept a single illustration as proof; not that they consider that a single exception to a rule invalidates its generality, but that from a single case a general law can be deduced. This is well shown by the following reply which was made by a college freshman in his geometry examination to the question: "What is a locus?" the class having spent a due proportion of the term on loci problems. He was by no means an unskillful logician from the Chinese point of view, though he may have lacked geometrical perception, when he answered "A locus is a straight line all the points of which are equally distant from the two sides." For he was simply