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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/868

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Although combating various of Spencer's positions, chiefly on the metaphysical side, Dr. Fairbairn fully accepts the doctrine of evolution. Many give it a cautious and qualified approval in the lower sphere of life. Dr. Fairbairn takes it without reservation as a comprehensive law, true not only in the domain of inferior life, but also in the higher sphere of humanity, and emphatically in the realm of religious sentiments and ideas. He says: "There is to be no attempt here to question or deny the doctrine of evolution; it is indeed frankly accepted. . . . The creational method is here held to be evolutional. Its history narrates a progress and exhibits a process best named developmental. Without this notion a philosophy of religion were impossible, for without it there could be no scientific study of man and his religions. We can not refuse to apply the principle or idea that underlies and vivifies the study of man in history to the interpretation alike of man and nature, to the master-problems that relate to their being and becoming, to their birth and growth."

Now, this great principle is the pervading and characteristic idea of the synthetic philosophy. It is there first expounded as a universal law, developed as a method of thought, and carried out in its main applications. Dr. Fairbairn holds it to be true, and a truth of such moment, that its establishment makes an epoch even in the study of religion. But is this fact that Spencer's system has a great and all-influencing truth at its foundation which he has so profoundly mastered that he has been enabled to throw it into philosophic form—is this fact to count for nothing in estimating the elements of its admitted "remarkable success"? What kind of a notion has Dr. Fairbairn of the value which his readers attach to the quality of truthfulness in systems of thought submitted to their judgment? We propose to show that what he has here overlooked is precisely that attribute of Spencer's system which has been most potent in commending it to the best intelligence of the age. It not only "speaks the language of science," but it embodies the truths of science, it organizes the principles of science, it conforms to the methods of science, it is a scientific philosophy; and the hostility it has encountered on the one hand and the favor that has been extended to it on the other are due to its supposed identification with science in spirit, substance, and method.

Dr. Fairbairn's omission to recognize this fundamental trait of Spencer's system, when accounting for its extensive influence, may not have been intentional, but it is significant. What is the state of mind that could allow such an oversight? It is simply the general state of mind exhibited by our so-called cultivated classes toward scientific truth. Let us see what this is.

Opposition to science is not the exclusive reproach of any one school of thought; it has been manifested by all. Theology withstood science, because it was itself identified with the old erroneous explanations of nature. Philosophy made a stand against science, because science circumscribed its field and subverted its ideals. Literature strove against science, because of its devotion to fact and its supposed unfriendliness to imagination. Art resisted science as unfavorable to the inventive and creative spirit. Science studied matter to understand its mysterious processes and discern its laws; the schools of culture all contemned the occupation of mind, and shrank from it as a descent into groveling materialism. Philosophy was most potent in its opposition, because it gave law to education and gave reasons to theology, literature, and art.

The antagonism of so-called philosophy to the scientific spirit was inevitable. In the childhood of knowledge it entered upon speculations which could