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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/300

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in every other century, the warfare was, in general, between religion and heresy—not science; between science and pseudo-science—not religion. The distinction is fundamental. It arises from the very constitution of man and the world he lives in.

From the time when primitive man first learned to light a fire until the present instant, there has been an increasing struggle between man and external nature; between man and the' immaterial ignorances of his mind, also. Little by little, by slow steps, external and material nature has been subdued or circumvented in man's pursuit of comfort. Security and leisure, with their by-products, are the mile-stones along the tortuous path. Little by little the ignorances, anxieties and fears of man's spirit have been driven out, or, it may be, circumvented (one set of disquieting illusions sometimes being replaced by another) in his pursuit of spiritual happiness. Even material comfort has not yet been attained for society at large—witness the housing of the poor, and the death rate of young children—though we are far on the road towards it.

Veritable progress has been made on the road to spiritual happiness also. The spiritual welfare of a man is bound up in his beliefs—in his religion. To attack and unsettle the beliefs of any age is to threaten its happiness in a vital spot and such attacks are always vigorously repelled. A blow directed against ideals sincerely held hurts; and is resented. That they are ignorantly held does not lighten the blow. We have, to-day, partially—and only partially—learned the lesson that if we would not stagnate in error we must welcome criticism. We have learned that a patient tolerance of criticism is one condition of progress.

The veritable conflict of the past has been between enlightenment and ignorance; between true religion (the residue left after countless onslaughts of heresy) and false; between true science (again, a residue) and pretended. The issue has been along the road that we call progress—the residue of insight and acquirement left to us after the experience of the ages. We have at last learned that even our divagations from the straight path are not all in vain; that our teaching comes through our errors. Men of genius commit their errors but once; they become our leaders because they learn more quickly; our own errors are countless, are ceaselessly committed, and it may be, in time, corrected. All that we have acquired has come direct to us from such leaders; all that the mass of men have learned is to glean the fragments the leaders let fall, and to have a patient, or it may be frivolous, tolerance of novel ideas and of suggested change. Leaders who have escaped martyrdom of one sort or another we may account unusually fortunate, or exceptionally adroit.

Looking backwards, then, over the centuries we see perpetual conflict with ignorance, perpetual struggle in both the physical and the