Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/429

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climbing the ascent to a higher moral state and better social relations; but what all reasonable persons should recognize is that it is not merely knowledge that is needed to sway men in the direction of right action. Whether knowledge is effectual in prompting to any action depends upon the manner and circumstances in which it is applied. Men sometimes gain wisdom from experience, and sometimes their moral natures respond to the appeals of some great teacher; but it is probable that the most solid gains which humanity makes result from the action of selection—the kind of selection which social life sets in operation. To say that science puts forward claims which it can not make good is a misrepresentation, as we have often shown in these columns. Science gathers knowledge and makes this knowledge available for all the world. If it is not more actively engaged in missionary work we fail to see matter for surprise. There are, as there have always been, diveisities of gifts in the world, and it is not only possible but probable that the skilled observer, or the acute inductive reasoner, might not have any great talent for evangelizing the masses. Still, in a world where knowledge and theory are both so much required, such laborers are surely worthy of their hire. Why they should be singled out for the taunts and reproaches of eminent men of letters it is difficult to see. It would come with better grace from these gentlemen if they would direct their strictures first to those of their own craft, and ask the critics, essayists, and novelists of to-day why they do not take in hand the regeneration of society instead of spending their energies, as so many of them do, in the search for mere literary adornment or in striving to say cleverly things that might better never be said at all. But the great truth which should never be lost sight of is that moral progress is for every individual a personal question and is a matter of personal endeavor. Whether virtue can be taught is a question as old as Plato and probably much older. However that question may be decided, one thing is certain, that growth in virtue can not come from teaching alone, and that to blame men of science for not converting the world by means of lectures on moral philosophy is idle in the extreme.




The article on this subject by Mrs. Caroline W. Latimer which we published in our last number is one deserving of careful attention. A careless reader might possibly dismiss it as a plea for less science and more literature in girls' schools; but we do not ourelves so understand the writer. The contention is that in many, if not in most, schools scientific instruction is not judiciously imparted; that too many different sciences are driven abreast, as it were; and that, in seeking to cover too wide a field of knowledge and embrace too great a multiplicity of facts, the best results of scientific study are lost. We hold it entirely possible that such is the case, and when our contributor says that she knows from experience that it is so, it is reasonable to allow considerable weight to the statement. At the same time the very overloading of school curriculums with scientific studies—admitting all that our contributor says on the subject—must be regarded as an encouraging sign, for it shows that science has fairly conquered a domain from which only a generation ago it was almost wholly excluded. If it has overrun the territory in too promiscuous a manner