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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/106

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Now, what has this to do with us? What connection has it with our work? If science teaching has any educational value, the most definite and direct connection. I shall not do you the injustice of supposing that any tendency I have named did not at once bear to you its proper suggestion. If it has failed, the fault has been in the presentation of a very simple matter. For every perilous tendency I have mentioned has its life in direct violation of the essential principles of science study, and may be restrained by extending the knowledge and habitual use of those principles.

I do not wish to claim for science work an unwarranted value in this respect, nor to deny the influence of other subjects in bringing about a moral evolution. It is true that history warns us by examples, that it points us to the failure of free governments in whose steps to destruction many of us seem only too willing to follow. It is true that we can learn from Rome the results of imperialism; from France, of irreverence; from Spain, of tyranny. In other fields of learning we may find other lessons of present value. But to meet the dangers that just now assail us, the national weaknesses that I have enumerated, the scientific studies seem especially fitted.

"The great peculiarity of scientific training," says Huxley, "that in virtue of which it can not be replaced by any other discipline whatsoever, is the bringing of the mind directly into contact with fact, and practicing the intellect in the completest form of induction—that is to say, in drawing conclusions from particular facts made known by immediate observation of Nature." "The bringing of the mind into contact with fact." This means the recognition of the existence of incontrovertible truth. The dawning knowledge of such truth must bring with it the consciousness that much that we have always accepted as truth is open to question. Thus every belief, no matter what its nature, is in time subjected to examination. If it stand, it stands because it is able to bear this searching scrutiny and to answer fairly the questions of honest doubt. Honest doubt may be the result of honest reasoning; it must absolutely demand honest reasoning to satisfy it. This exercise of the rational faculty, then, depends upon and results from an awakened love of truth. How directly do these most obvious principles of scientific investigation bear upon the facts we have been considering! How flatly do they forbid us to be carried away into excesses! Let us apply them briefly, point by point.

If love of truth and appeal to reason mean anything at all, they mean, first of all, eternal opposition to the power of unthinking passion—of blind feeling. They mean that every sentiment should