Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/107

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SCIENCE AND MENTAL IMPROVEMENT.

thought, from orthodoxy to rationalism, from idealism to materialism, from old-fogyism to young-Americanism—with one condition only, viz., that all be imbued with the spirit of liberal culture. Now, among the pursuits which ought to be represented here, I believe none to be so necessary as that of science; and for the reason that the spirit of science and the methods of science are more diverse from the spirit and methods of other intellectual pursuits than these latter are from each other.

I will say nothing of the glorious achievements of science already set forth in the sentiment to which I am called to respond; nor even of science as a means of mental discipline, for this would take too long. I wish only to remove some objections which have been brought by her detractors against Science as an agent of general and liberal culture; for it is with this that your association is chiefly concerned. Among these objections, however, I select only one, but perhaps the chief, viz., the tendency of science to materialism. It is believed by many that science starves all our noblest faculties, quenches all our most glorious aspirations, and buries all our heavenly hopes in the cold earth of a vulgar materialism.

Now, it is indeed true that there has been in these modern times a strong tendency, a current of thought, in the direction of materialism. It is true, too, that this tendency is strongest in the domain of science, and, among sciences, strongest of all in biology and geology; but I believe it is true also that this is only a passing phase of thought, an ephemeral fashion of philosophy. As a sympathizer with the age in which I live, still more as a scientist, and most of all as a biologist and geologist, I have felt the full force of this tendency. In this stream of tendency I have stood, during all my active life, just where the current ran swiftest, and confess to you that I have been sometimes almost swept off my feet. But it is the duty of every independent thinker not to yield blindly to the spirit of the age, but to exercise his own unprejudiced reason; not to float and drift, but to stand. I think I can show you that materialism is not the necessary outcome of scientific studies and the scientific spirit. For this purpose, I will select that scientific theory which is supposed to be par excellence materialistic, viz.: the theory of evolution. I wish to show that even evolution does not necessarily lead to materialism, and that to conclude so is a very shallow view of the subject.

First of all I wish frankly to acknowledge that I am myself an evolutionist. I may not agree with most that evolution advances always cum æquo pede. On the contrary, I believe that there have been periods of slow and periods of rapid, almost paroxysmal, evolution. I may not agree with most that we already have in Darwinism, the final form, and survival of the fittest, the prime factor of evolution. On the contrary, I believe that the most important factors of evolution are still unknown—that there are more and greater factors in evolution than are dreamed of in the Darwinian philosophy. Nevertheless, evolution is a grand