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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/572

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Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: I have not before this acknowledged your reference to me in a spirited and instructive editorial that appeared in the December number of your excellent magazine, because an immediate reply might have been taken to indicate a desire, on my part, for a controversy, which I expressly disclaim; and besides, I have desired that the public might read and consider your views dispassionately. I care but little for the effect upon myself, if the cause of truth shall be materially strengthened.

I am not surprised that you refer to me as "ignorant," "negligible," etc., because it has for a long time been painfully clear that the "scientific mind" is exceedingly sensitive, and while much given to praising forbearance and kindness, still resorts to language reasonably regarded as abusive. 1 have always found this to be true, and the present controversy is no exception to the rule. The "broadly scientific mind" is, alas! too often narrow and intolerant in treating opposing views. I do not wish, however, to find fault with the abuseā€”it may prove to be good discipline, and is, therefore, thankfully accepted; but I do very much desire to correct a mistaken inference that you drew from my reference to Herbert Spencer. There are some typographical errors in the quotations that you make, which, however, do not change the meaning. Allow me then to say that I have a great regard for Mr. Spencer; that I have read his writings with much profit, and that I have never failed to accord him full credit for the work he has accomplished. That I can not understand and accept all his teachings does not lessen my respect for him.

At the time that I made my informal talk to the teachers of this city, I had no thought that my remarks would be published or would excite public criticism, or that I would be honored with so distinguished, so critical an audience, or I should have been more careful in the use of terms; but it does seem to me that there is no excuse for the distorted meaning that you and others have given to the quotations. I referred to Mr. Spencer's age to show that we could hope for no change in his philosophy, and the criticism that follows, if it may be styled a criticism at all, is that he has refused to recognize the Deity, and thereby fails to "bless, cheer, and comfort suffering humanity." You discuss it as if I had said that he had not bettered the condition of his fellows; but that idea is not in the statement that you quote at all. The word "suffering" was intended to apply to those who, by reason of the misfortunes of this life, are compelled to look beyond themselves and their surroundings for comfort, and who in all ages and among all peoples have turned their thoughts toward a Divine Being for comfort. I merely intended to say, in a very mild and harmless way, that the consolations of a religion based upon a belief in a Divine Providence are necessary for suffering humanity, and my immediate reference to Cardinal Newman by way of contrast in almost the same language clearly shows this to be the true meaning of my remarks. The emphasis was on the word "suffering, "which was not intended to include more than a fraction of mankind.

I am obliged to you for your reference to Mr. Gladstone, who in his last illness illustrated most fully what I had in my mind. However great his pain, or cheerless the outlook, he continually with serene cheerfulness murmured, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," and "Our Father," etc. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that I am sorry that any one has been led to believe that I underrate the value of the life and work of Herbert Spencer.

Please allow me to refer to the statement in your editorial, "Again dealing with the modern scientific view, that in the development of the human individual all antecedent stages of human development are in a manner passed through," etc., in order that I may express my regret that you seem to vitiate the force of the statement altogether by the use of the unscientific phrase "in a manner." The tremendous consequences glowing out of the view make serious and exact definition and treatment imperative, and I had hoped that 1 was entering upon a helpful discussion of it, but was greatly disappointed. I am also unwilling to believe that students of Emerson will be easily convinced that he looked at life "from a stationary point of view," but I do not feel that I can claim your valuable time for a discussion of this point.

May I trust your forbearance in pointing out a manifest misconception in your statement, "We are not imposed upon by childish imitations of mature virtues"? The remark indicates that you have not been brought into immediate association with school children in a schoolroom, at least in recent years.

I refer very reluctantly, but I trust without seeming egotism, to your remarks touching my election to the position which I hold. I am innocent of all responsibility in the matter. I had no "pull" (is the term scientific?). I wrote to the board declining to be a candidate. I refused to allow my friends to speak to the members of the board in my behalf; 1 preferred the position (Principal of the St. Paul High School) which 1 had held for years, and I accepted the office with much hesitation; but the intimation that our Board of School Inspectors, composed of business men in every way highly esteemed by the citizens of St. Paul, and deemed worthy of all confidence, had been actuated by unworthy motives, is entirely gratuitous and out of place in a journal such