Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/342

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SCIENCE, held under the ban through the long course of the middle ages, has now conquered its independence, by virtue of the services it has rendered to man. It has fulfilled the promises made in its name by the natural philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and has transformed since then, as it has indeed been doing from the beginning, the material and moral conditions of the lives of the people. The changes accomplished from the beginning of civilization have had a most effective promoter in science, although its real importance was long hidden or obscured by the mixture of elements borrowed from the imagination. For two centuries and a half only has the scientific method been disengaged from all strange alliance, and been manifest in its purity; its efficiency has been attested in the most various ways by a constantly accelerated industrial and social evolution.

There exist, indeed, and always will exist, many deplorable things, much suffering, and much wickedness in the world; but it is to the credit of science that, instead of lulling mortals with the feeling of their powerlessness into the passivity of resignation, it has urged them to react against destiny, and has taught them the sure way by which they can diminish the sum of woe and injustice, and increase their happiness and that of their fellows. It has not accomplished this by means of verbal exhortations or a priori reasoning, but by virtue of processes and words really efficacious, because they are acquired from the study of the conditions of existence and the causes of evils.

The words mystery and miracle are alike excluded from scientific language and methods, not by virtue of purely logical deductions, but because wherever it has been possible to take deep soundings of phenomena we have found that they were constantly produced in accordance with a determined relation between effects and causes. It is exactly this a posteriori determination that constitutes the scientific method. We do not, indeed, pretend to say the last word concerning the universe. We profess, on the contrary, that that word can not be formulated in advance, and we know that among the infinite variety of phenomena we never succeed in meeting and observing more than the most infinitesimal part. We know the whole extent of our ignorance, and have the modesty consonant with it, but it should not be represented by a universal skepticism; no more should it cause us to depend upon the existence of supernatural verities, and paralyze our efforts to the profit of mysticism. The