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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/475

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THE SCIENCE OF OBSERVATION.

of geology of which lie shall be master. The chair of geology is now split up into economic, glacial, and mining geology, paleontology, etc., and specialists are required in each division. This breaking up is true of most other sciences. In this labyrinth of specialized subjects, and the maze of technical terms rendered necessary thereby, the people as a whole can only grope in darkness; but out of this bewildering condition of affairs, from the mass of facts collected, and the resulting generalizations and theories, there may be culled the kernel of one important principle by means of which these facts are ascertained and the generalizations made. The growth of science and its ever-ramifying divisions, and the gradual establishment of new methods of investigation, have brought forth what may be termed the science of observation; and it is through an application of the above principle that the people may be taught correctly to interpret Nature, and, by their new habit of thought, to free the brain from the tangle of superstition which is still present with most of us.

A knowledge of how to observe natural phenomena and to draw correct inferences therefrom has been the product of slow growth, while through long custom, in matters closely pertaining to our daily life, there has been observation on strictly scientific principles for centuries. Stated succinctly, natural phenomena are due to causes, one or more, simple or complex. These causes are the laws of the universe, and to arrive at an understanding of them we must free our minds of any bias and study phenomena experimentally in the laboratory, or in our daily contact with Nature. In this way a mass of facts will be gathered by the systematic observer which will be found to fall into natural groups, and by inductive reasoning the laws governing each group may be learned. It is not possible for mankind as a whole to investigate in this exhaustive manner; but it is important that the method of arriving at the laws of Nature be understood. Many and, in fact, most phenomena met with in some of the sciences, particularly those having to deal with the earth, are susceptible of correct interpretation without attempting broad generalizations, if the principles of scientific observation are brought to bear upon their solution, and it is our purpose to show by practical examples drawn from Nature how elementary students may attack and solve some of the simple problems met with on every side. It is proposed to use for illustration simple phenomena pertaining to the earth, drawn from geology and its newly constituted sister science, physical geography. These two sciences perhaps afford the greatest range of phenomena, which are accessible to every one, in whatsoever part of the earth he may reside. No part of the land surface is wanting in problems which demand explanation, and which may be