Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/93

This page has been validated.
83
REMARKS ON THE INFLUENCE OF SCIENCE.

ture because of supposed witchcraft. In India it is still believed in some parts that small-pox is a demon, and efforts are made to propitiate it, so that, if unnecessary torture and small-pox are evils, we are better for the light which the scientific man has thrown on these subjects. Still, it must be admitted that in particular ways the development of science has produced new evils as well as new benefits, and for that matter no sort of progress is made without collateral evils. But the question then remained as to the remedy, and in his opinion that remedy could be very shortly described as more science and not less. There is no sort of conflict between a scientific and a literary education. Everybody ought to have some literary knowledge, and everybody ought to be taught the first principles of science; even a smattering of chemistry might be useful in a literary pursuit. He himself had found what little smattering of science he had acquired at Cambridge and elsewhere of the greatest use in every other kind of study. The habits of thought and feeling acquired by the study even of mathematics, which he took to be the most uninteresting science there is to most individuals, are very useful when one comes to need accurate thinking anywhere, even in matters purely literary.

"It had been urged that science prevents a man from taking the same sort of pleasure in nature as he would do without it. Wordsworth was very fond of saying this, and of denouncing generally the scientific position. But the reason of that was, that Wordsworth knew nothing about science. The result was, that there is no other instance of so great a poet leaving off writing great poems so early in his career. All his finest poems were written in his early life; and the reason is, that he went mooning about the mountains by himself, and did not get any new thoughts. In contrast to him Goethe stands out as a man great in both science and poetry, and is a typical example of the way in which they react on one another. Whenever it was suggested that science is opposed to a love of nature, the speaker always thought of the greatest man of science of modern times, Mr. Darwin, whose books are, apart from their scientific value, quite delightful in their literary style. No one, for instance, could read his 'Voyage in the Beagle' without seeing that Darwin's love of science was only a part of his love of nature. There is, indeed, no conflict between the two, and a man can not strengthen the one side of his nature without at the same time contributing to strengthen the other. Indeed, the reason why so many of our living poets are inferior to those who wrote at the beginning of this century, or to those of an earlier generation still, is just that they have not had the pluck to look science in the face, but have only taken a passing and sideway glance at it.

"An important point in the argument—namely, the relation of science to morality—was suggested by the remarks that had been made on the subject of vivisection. The vivisection question, in the first