Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/118

This page has been validated.

country in a way that makes some comment desirable.

Prof. Haeckel, of Jena, gave an address last September at Munich, before the "German Association of Naturalists and Physicians," in which he took the ground that the doctrine of evolution should be made a part of the system of general education in that country.

Prof. Virchow replied to Haeckel in a speech before the same body, on the "Liberty of Science in the Modern State," and argued eloquently against the educational project. He said that the freedom of science now enjoyed in Germany is but of recent growth, and may be imperiled if men of science do not exercise moderation. He referred to the fact that the German socialists are Darwinians, and cautioned the savants against so lending themselves to the purposes of this dreaded party as to make it necessary for the state to interfere. But Prof. Virchow went further, and maintained that the measure proposed would be unjustifiable, because the theory of evolution is not yet sufficiently proved. He did not reason against it, and is understood to be himself an adherent of the doctrine. But, he said, it is not yet established. As an anthropologist he declared that no progress had been made in that branch of science toward the establishment of the theory of the descent of man from the lower forms of life. He did not object to it, and considered it a desideratum of science that might be realized at any time. But the proof, he affirmed, is wanting, and the burden of his speech was that what may be, or is merely probable, must not be taken as fact, or made use of in education.

It is not to be supposed that so authoritative a statement would be neglected by those who are troubled about the adventurous spirit of modern science. Ever since his Belfast Address there have been ominous whispers that the next number of the Quarterly Review would contain an annihilating attack upon Prof. Tyndall; and those interested in this serious result have waited curiously for the onslaught, until they began to fear that the editors had backed out. But the German professor has come to their rescue, and in the January issue they let fly their shaft, barbed with Virchow's address. Nor are the Americans behind the English in utilizing the authority of the Berlin physiologist. Prof. Gray, of Cambridge, introduces the main parts of Virchow's argument to the pages of the New York Independent, with comments designed to enforce its special lessons. He prizes the address as "a timely and earnest protest against what may be called platform science—not peculiar to Germany, nor to advanced evolutionists—against that form of scientific dogmatism which propounds unverified and unverifiable speculations as the conclusions of science." Now, we must think that Prof. Gray has here failed to make the most telling use of his opportunity. Dogmatism and undue license of speculation are undoubtedly bad things, to be always condemned, and nothing certainly could be more proper than for Prof. Gray to warn the readers of the Independent against indulgence in those easily-besetting sins. But would not the point have come out a little better if Prof. Gray had said something like this: "Dogmatism—that is, arrogance of opinion, and the disposition to pronounce confidently upon matters that are incapable of being known or verified—is a universal mental habit, inveterate in proportion to people's ignorance, against which education makes but slow headway, which has ever characterized theology, and is most fostered by those powerful agencies in society—churches, Sunday-schools, and religious newspapers? All of these agencies enforce the early and passive acceptance of dogmas that are beyond the sphere of verification, and teach that repose of belief is the great end to be sought, and doubt a heinous thing not to be