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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/505

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THE MAN OF SCIENCE IN PRACTICAL AFFAIRS.

man who knows, the man of scientific training, from his fair share of public responsibility, we should do well to call him into service more and more. He may be, he often is, averse to administrative work, for the reason that it interferes with his chosen occupation, and hinders the prosecution of research. But his training and his mental bias are both needed in public affairs, wherein the scientfic method is too often unapplied. In European countries men of high scientific rank are frequently found in legislative bodies and ministries; men like Playfair, Roscoe, and Lubbock in England, Virchow in Germany, Quintino Sella in Italy, and Berthelot in France. With us in America the maker of speeches outranks the thinker in popular esteem, and is given duties to perform in which he may become ridiculous. Both in legislation and in diplomacy many questions arise which demand the most careful scientific treatment, or which can be answered only by thorough scientific knowledge, and many of these have been intrusted for settlement to men of no specific training whatever. Of late years we have had the fur-seal controversy, the question of forest reserves, the irrigation of our arid lands, problems of sanitation and water supply, and in each of these the man of science has played a part which was too often subordinate to that of the politician. In an ideal government the two should work together, each supplementing the peculiar ability of the other. Many details of the tariff, and a notable part of the coinage question, require scientific data for their proper settlement, but the true expert has not always been consulted. The result of this neglect is sometimes seen in courts of law, where questions of interpretation arise which might have been averted, obscurity in legislation being often due to the careless use of scientific terminology or to ignorance of the relations in science between two branches of industry. The voice of the trained investigator might well be heard in Congress, but his testimony now is limited to the committee room. Even there it is received with an attention which is too often mingled with incredulity. The myth of the dreamer, the visionary, is more than half believed.

The supposed type, then, is not a type, but an exception—a man of straw, which is hardly worth overthrowing. But the belief in it has been and still is mischievous, a hindrance to wise action, an obstacle to progress. The misconception has worked injury to science. These words of protest, therefore, are not wholly superfluous.