Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/107

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DEFINITION OF SOME MODERN SCIENCES.

those imposed by authority human or divine; and the observed constant sequence of events which we codify as the 'Laws of Nature.'

As our possession of unclassified facts increases, the need of systematizing them becomes greater until of necessity a new science is framed to cover those categories not previously dealt with.

We hope to-night to learn something of some of the relatively new or modern sciences of which our program speaks.

The rapid development of what were a few years ago merely twigs of the tree of science into stout and fruitful branches is the most remarkable phenomenon of our times.

The majority of our grandfathers were content to declare that 'figures cannot lie,' a proverb which our fathers came to understand needed much qualification before it could be accepted. To-night we may hope to learn from a master in the science, something of the precautions by which the perversity of figures must be fenced about, in order to confine them to their useful and appropriate field.

It is not so long since eminent workers in economic questions believed it the duty of government to leave the operation of commercial forces to natural processes, the then unnamed 'Survival of the Fittest.' The bitter cry of ill-paid labor, the unreasoning fury of the strike riot, and the realization that in its essence civilization is the reversal of the processes of nature 'red in tooth and claw,' these, aided by an evergrowing consciousness of the brotherhood of man, were required to develop into a science the study of the wonderfully complex forces of economic civilization. Of this new science something will be told to us to-night.

For unnumbered centuries mankind has been slowly eliminating from the ranks of the hypernatural, phase after phase of the aspects of nature which he could come to understand. Slow indeed was the flow of grist from the mills of the goddess of wisdom unceasingly grinding. How should man account for that which was spiritual and impalpable, yet obvious, when he knew not the alphabet of that which was physical and material? Step by step must the stairway be laid on imperishable foundations before man might hope to ascend to the temple of knowledge. Thread by thread must the wires be spun and stretched from the verge of the known to the pillars of truth beyond the abyss of ignorance. What wonder if, even now, the great mass of mankind will hardly follow the investigator across the slender path of assured footing trembling in the higher air? Are not magicians, fortune tellers, mediums, all the phantasmagoria of magic and the occult still represented in our literature and life, and by hereditary transmission more or less imprinted on our instincts? The new science of psychology, still in the flush of youth, is pressing forward to lay these phantoms of the dusk and sweep the fogs away.