Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/193

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BALFOUR

the far-reaching principles which govern the world, which are alone worthy of your atten- tion.

A fact which is not an illustration of a law, in the opinion of these persons, appears to lose all its value. Incidents which do not fit into some great generalization, events which are merely picturesque, details which are merely curious they dismiss as unworthy the interest of a reasoning being.

Now, even in science, this doctrine in its ex- treme form does not hold good. The most scien- tific of men have taken profound interest in the investigation of the facts from the deter- mination of which they do not anticipate any material addition to our knowledge of the laws which regulate the universe. In these matters I need hardly say that I speak wholly without authority. But I have always been under the impression that an investigation which has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds; which has stirred on three occasions the whole scientific community throughout the civilized world; on which has been expended the utmost skill in the construction of instruments and their applica- tion to purposes of research (I refer to the at- tempts made to determine the distance of the sun by observations of the transit of Venus), would, even if they had been brought to a suc- cessful issue, have furnished mankind with the knowledge of no new astronomical principle.

The laws which govern the motions of the 165

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