Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/178

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young man or young woman, when he or she issues from school doors, should have enough definite knowledge of the great laws of the physical universe to instantly denounce blue-glass theories and attempts at perpetual motion, not from the pride of knowledge, but from the feeling that error, credulity, and superstition should be combated with truth.


THE innovations made by science upon other modes of thought and study within the last half century are without a parallel in the history of human progress. It has swept away many of our most cherished convictions, hoary with the dust of ages, and left others in their places entirely irreconcilable with them. Marching on with the might and majesty of a conqueror, it has spread dismay in the ranks of opposing forces, and caused a complete abdication in its favor of many of those who were most hostile to it. Nor has it taken the field in an aggressive or bellicose spirit. On the contrary, almost all its conquests have been made without any design of inspiring opposition or terror, and while engaged in pursuits that of all others require for their prosecution the most pacific and philosophic temper.

It might be easily shown by the comparison, were this essential to my design, that in the three great departments of human study, namely, those of science, religion, and literature, the cultivators of science have always shown a disposition to be more tolerant of opposition and more lenient toward their enemies than those engaged in either of the other pursuits. It might be shown that religious controversies, and the animosities engendered by them, hold the first rank in the scale of bitterness. Next come those of a literary nature, which, in the last century, were scarcely less implacable; while, with few exceptions, the great problems that have engaged the attention of scientists have been singularly free from heated and acrimonious discussion.

Much of this serene treatment of scientific subjects is due, no doubt, to their peculiar nature. In a given investigation the truth must, sooner or later, come to the light. Either the investigation will have to be abandoned altogether, because it is found to be beyond the province of the human understanding, or the problem will eventually be solved. In either event, long-continued doubt and uncertainty can not hang over the result. Hence few will venture, if so disposed, to cast ridicule upon efforts which may be crowned with success, and which may in the end expose the scoffers to similar reproaches.