Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/864

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

In the correspondence department of your March number 13 a note from Mr. Thomas L. Greene, in which he questions the accuracy of some statements contained in my article in the February "Monthly." I admit that the ill effects of the long and short haul section are not apparent in cases where its enforcement is suspended. My criticism was written some six months since, and before the policy of the commission of granting "temporary relief" had become so well defined as has since been the case. At that time the assumption seemed warranted that that law (like all other laws) was to be generally enforced. The exercise of "temporary relief" (permission to violate), which it is optional with the commission to apply or withhold in specific cases, places a tremendous power in its hands, and only the fact that its present members are incorruptible insures present safety. All law, theoretically, is general, impartial, and just in principle, but when its enforcement or violation is left optional with any tribunal, however competent, there is danger ahead. It would be unique to include among the merits of a law the easy facilities for its violation.

Henry Wood.
Boston, March 2, 1888.



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

In my letter, which you published in the March number, my main object was to state the fact that the fig-tree in southern Palestine should have figs in some stages of development on it at all seasons, though it is a fact that, in some varieties of figs, the fruit is a long time in ripening. The fruit of three seasons is sometimes found on the tree at the same time. It is true that one of the evangelists states that "the time of figs was not yet." That remark can only mean—as nearly all commentators interpret it—that the time of general harvest of figs for preserving purposes had not yet arrived; consequently, it was an additional reason for the condemnation of the fruitless tree, instead of a reason why it should not be condemned.

J. W. Huntoon, M. D.
Lowell, Mass., March 1, 1888.




IT is a question well worth considering, how scientific habits of thought are best to be formed, maintained, and strengthened. Such is the prestige of science in the present day, so thoroughly is scientific reasoning recognized as the type of all true reasoning, that nobody with any pretensions to intelligence would wish to be accused of thinking unscientifically. At the same time there is a vast amount of unscientific thinking being done on every hand; and men of almost every grade of culture may be found, the tone of whose minds is unscientific to the last degree. Let us see if we can throw into some kind of acceptable shape the general principles to be observed by whosoever would be saved from irrationality and a spirit of opposition to the truth—whosoever would wish to have scientific habits of thought in the best sense.

It is probably correct to say that science was first forced upon men's minds by the repeated presentation of the same phenomenon with an unvarying accompaniment of antecedent and consequent. Without entering upon a discussion of the nature of our conception of cause, we may say that science is nothing else than a knowledge of the permanent relations, whether causal or other, of things to one another. Nature, in the first place, forces us to recognize certain uniformities: some minds not only learn the particular lesson so taught, but, entering into the spirit of Nature's teaching, run on to discover further uniformities for themselves. These, to whatever age they belong, are the scientific spirits of their time. Others there are who look upon every such lesson as an infringement of their natural liberty to think and believe without any reference to the bounds of law. These learn only what they must, and, beyond the region of palpable and irresistible demonstration,