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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/493

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employment to dissect popular errors with a view to discovering the half-truth, since we might be able to find its complement somewhere, and materially enrich the world. But that is not the sense I intend to convey. Nearly all weather sayings are of the nature of predictions. They describe a certain appearance of phenomenon, and then go on to say what other appearance or phenomenon may be expected to follow it. We have here a sequence of events; the ground of the saying (if it has any ground at all) is the invariability of the sequence. Now it is difficult to imagine such sequences being invented without any reference to the observed fact, and it is still more difficult to imagine them obtaining currency—not local currency merely, but sometimes universal currency—unless a certain number of observed instances have borne them out. Of course, by the laws of chances any sequence within the range of probability is bound to happen sometimes, but a sequence of weather phenomena is liable to variation in so many different directions that the purely chance happenings of any specified sequence are not numerous relatively to the blanks. I am disposed to assume, therefore, that all weather proverbs of this nature are founded upon one observed instance; and that, although many are only based upon the accidental recurrence of the sequence (and are consequently worthless), many also are the expression of a real, demonstrable sequence of sufficiently frequent occurrence to afford ground for the rough approximation which suffices to constitute a popular weather law.

But it does not follow that because we assume the fact of an apparent connection between two phenomena, and predict from the manifestation of the one the approaching manifestation of the other, the connection must necessarily be of the nature of cause and effect, nor yet of the nature of successive effects of the same cause. There is such a thing as the coincidence of phenomena. The coincidence may be purely fortuitous, or it may be the result of the operation of higher laws of which we as yet have no knowledge.

We may now proceed to the more immediate subject of this article. It is not my intention to attempt to give an exhaustive collection of lunar proverbs. Such collections are curious, but they are not particularly useful. Nor do I aspire to propound any new theory of lunar influence on the weather. What I do propose is to discuss a few of the best known, and therefore most important, of the popular weather notions in which the moon is concerned, with the view of showing the necessity for discrimination in their acceptance; the ultra-scientific man who pooh-poohs everything that has moon in it being really as wide of the mark as the poor victim of superstition who puts double faith in things on the same ground. In arranging my remarks it will be convenient to deal successively with (1) lunar notions that are utterly absurd; and (2) those that are explicable by the aid of physical principles, and are therefore rational and useful in practice.