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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/796

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

For, on questions such as these, minds of all kinds may be well employed. Here there will be occasion even for those which are not unconditionally praiseworthy, such as those that habitually doubt, and those to whom the invention of arguments is more pleasing than the mere search for truth. Nay, we may be able to observe the utility even of error. We may not, indeed, wish for a prevalence of errors; they are not more desirable than are the crime and misery which evoke charity. And yet in a congress we may palliate them, for we may see how, as we may often read in history, errors, like doubts and contrary pleadings, serve to bring out the truth, to make it express itself in clearest terms and show its whole strength and value. Adversity is an excellent school for truth as well as for virtue.

But that which I would chiefly note, in relation to the great variety of minds which are here, is that it is characteristic of that mental pliancy and readiness for variation which is essential to all scientific progress, and which a great international congress may illustrate and promote. In all the subjects for discussion we look for the attainment of some novelty and change in knowledge or belief; and after every such change there must ensue a change in some of the conditions of thinking and of working. Now, for all these changes minds need to be pliant and quick to adjust themselves. For all progressive science there must be minds that are young, whatever may be their age.

Just as the discovery of auscultation brought to us the necessity for a refined cultivation of the sense of hearing, which was before of only the same use in medicine as in the common business of life; or, as the employment of the numerical method in estimating the value of facts required that minds should be able to record and think in ways previously unused; or, as the acceptance of the doctrine of evolution has changed the course of thinking in whole departments of science—so is it, in less measure, in every less advance of knowledge. All such advances change the circumstances of the mental life, and minds that can not or will not adjust themselves become less useful, or must at least modify their manner of utility. They may continue to be the best defenders of what is true; they may strengthen and expand the truth, and may apply it in practice with all the advantages of experience; they may thus secure the possessions of science and use them well; but they will not increase them.

It is with minds as with living bodies. One of their chief powers is in their self-adjustment to the varying conditions in which they have to live. Generally those species are the strongest and most abiding that can thrive in the widest range of climate and of food. And of all the races of men they are the mightiest and most noble who are, or by self-adjustment can become, most fit for all the new conditions of existence in which by various changes they may be placed. These are they who prosper in great changes of their social state; who, in successive generations, grow stronger by the production of a population