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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/868

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

which we remember almost with fear and trembling, the "sympsychograph." Still, to all such we would say:

"Come forth into the light of things;
Let Nature be your teacher."

The "Nature" which we require to teach us for the peace and tranquillity of our souls is the Nature of everyday phenomena, the Nature that forms the clouds and rounds the raindrops, that springs in the grass and pulses in the tides, that glances in the sunbeam and breathes in the flower, that works witchery in the crystal and breaks into glory in the sunset. The mind that knows what can be known of these things has feasted full of wonder and beauty, and makes no greedy demand for higher grace or mightier miracle.

Then again there are those who for want of a little elementary scientific knowledge, and particularly for want of an assured conviction that Nature gives nothing for nothing, are continually attempting the impossible in the way of projected inventions. They catch at a phrase and think it must represent a fact; they fall victims to a verbal mythology of their own manufacture. If there was much hone of their learning anything of value through disappointment, they might be left to the teaching of experience, costly as the lessons of that master are. But they do not learn: their hopes are blasted, their fortunes, if they had any, are wrecked, but their infatuations survive. Where is the inventor of a perpetual motion who ever ceased to have confidence in his peculiar contrivance? The thing may be as motionless as a tombstone, save when urged by external force into a momentary lumbering activity; but all the same, it only needs, its misguided author thinks, a little doctoring, a trifling change here or there,

to make it tear round like mad. And so with other inventors of the impossible: they take counsel not with Nature, but with their own wholly incorrect notions of what the operations of Nature are. The least power of truly analyzing a natural phenomenon, and separating the factors that produce it, would show them the falsity of their ideas; but that power they do not possess.

We can not, then, plead too strongly for the teaching of science, not with a view to results in money, but with a view to the improvement of the mind and heart of the learner, or, in other words, as a source of culture. Literature introduces us to the world of human thought and action, to the kingdom of man; and science shows us how the thought and powers of man can be indefinitely enlarged by an ever increasing acquaintance with the laws of the universe. Literature alone leaves the mind without any firm grasp of the reality of things, and science alone tends to produce a hard, prosaic, and sometimes antisocial temper. Each helps to bring out the best possible results of the other; and it is only by their joint action that human faculties and human character can ever be brought to their perfection.

 

 

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.

It is singular what a propensity some writers have to misunderstand and misrepresent the views of Mr. Herbert Spencer, even upon points in regard to which he has made every possible effort to avoid occasion for misapprehension. The term "survival of the fittest" is one which Mr. Spencer himself introduced as being, perhaps, a little less open to misunderstanding than the Darwinian expression natural selection. The latter seemed to imply purposive action, and Mr. Spencer thought that