Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/55

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51
RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS IN PURE SCIENCE

THE DUTIES TO THE PUBLIC OF RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS IN PURE SCIENCE
By Professor WM. E. RITTER

SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR OF THE SAN DIEGO MARINE BIOLOGICAL STATION

THOSE most familiar with the Marine Biological Station of San Diego must have recognized that while up to the present moment it has devoted itself almost exclusively to research, an undoubted tendency has been manifested to depart from the strait and narrow way. Elementary instruction was given to young people several summers; an aquarium and museum open to the public free of charge were maintained a number of years; from time to time popular lectures and demonstrations have been given by the investigators connected with the laboratory; recently relations have been entered into with the California State Game and Fish Commission and with the United States Bureau of Soils for the investigation of industrial problems pertaining to the sea; and in various less obvious ways efforts have been made to be of service outside the realm of exclusive research.

It seems desirable to place on record more fully than has hitherto been done the ideas held by the scientific director touching the duties to the public of institutions for research in science generally and of this station particularly.[1]

As a point of departure for what is to be said we take the assertion that "Science for its own sake" as frequently understood is a false and unrealizable ideal. Science "for its own sake," art "for its own sake," wealth or anything else "for its own sake," if held without fundamental qualification, bears the germs of its own degradation if not of its death. Science can no more live "to itself alone" than can a human being. The fallacy prevalent here is in reasoning that because science and because art each has an exalted intrinsic nature and worth, it therefore has a nature and worth quite apart from its relation to other things and to men. Somehow it seems difficult to grasp the truth that the worth of science is in deepest essence partly intrinsic or resident, and partly extrinsic and relative. However, that its essential worth is thus twofold becomes obvious upon reflection. On the one hand science has a nature of its very own, an absolute nature. It is not anything else whatever. It is not religion, it is not philosophy, it is not art of any kind, it is not mathematics, it is not commerce. At the same time,

  1. Indeed this little essay is in the first instance an administrative document addressed to the patrons and board of managers of the station.