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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/157

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EXACT METHODS IN SOCIOLOGY.

progress toward scientific consistency and rigor of method. Muck babble about social ills and possible reforms still masquerades as social science. A great deal of loose thinking and slipshod investigation is paraded as expert opinion on questions of social welfare. But no one who has seriously followed the efforts of scientifically trained minds to discover the natural laws of social evolution is in any danger of confounding the results thus far obtained with the chatter over every passing fad. In the more serious work itself there is found a vigorous and hopeful disagreement of opinion upon all unsettled questions. But the fact of real significance is that the disputation has become intensive. The debate no longer ranges over a wide field. A selective process has eliminated one after another the more loose and vague conceptions of the science, the irrelevant issues, and the superficial analogies. There has been a progressive concentration of attention upon a group of closely related and fundamental problems.

The sociology of August Comte was little more than a highly intelligent and quickening talk about social order and progress. It convinced thoughtful men that there is a social order to be studied in a scientific spirit and by scientific methods, and that social progress conforms to laws that may be discovered. Mr. Spencer narrowed the field of sociological inquiry and gave precision of statement to all social problems by bringing them within the formulas of universal evolution. He still further narrowed the field by demonstrating the close relationship of social phenomena to the phenomena of organic evolution and by seizing upon certain psychological facts as chief factors in social causation. All fruitful later work in social interpretation has been a further concentration of investigation upon the psychic factors. While admitting that social as well as mental phenomena are subsumed under biological phenomena, and that the parallelism of social organization to biotic organization is real, the younger students of sociology have developed the science as an offshoot of psychology, and have dropped the biological analogy as unfruitful for purposes of research. The pioneer in this movement was Dr. Lester F. Ward, whose masterly analysis of the psychic factors of social phenomena gave the right direction for all time to sociological inquiry, and whose emphasis of the importance of reason and volition in the social process, although it has not yet received the attention that it merits, is destined to be fruitful in coming years.

To the further study of the psychological foundations of society practically all the valuable work on fundamental social problems has been given during the past ten years. Tarde has