Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/449

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AUGUST, 1880.



ALTHOUGH something has been done toward the scientific treatment of history and of the larger facts of sociology, the conception of the reign of law amid human actions lags far behind the recognition of law in the material universe, and the disposition to ascribe social phenomena to special causes is yet almost as common as it is in the infancy of knowledge so to explain physical phenomena.

We no longer attribute an eclipse to a malevolent dragon; when a blight falls on our vines, or a murrain on our cattle, we set to work with microscope and chemical tests, instead of imputing it to the anger of a supernatural power; we have begun to trace the winds and fore-tell the weather, instead of seeing in their changes the designs of Providence or the work of witch or warlock. Yet as to social phenomena, infantile explanations similar to those we have thus discarded still largely suffice us. One has but to read our newspapers, to attend political meetings, or to listen to common talk, to see that very many people, who have in large measure risen to scientific conceptions of the linked sequence of the material universe, have not yet, in their views of social facts and movements, got past the idea of the little child who, if shown a picture of battle or siege, will insist on being told which are the good and which the bad men.

As the conductors of this magazine evidently realize the importance of popularizing in their applications to social questions the scientific spirit and scientific method, which in other departments have achieved such wonders, I propose in this paper to say something of a series of events in California that has attracted much attention. In an article