Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/483

This page has been validated.

in the export towns for $20 to $40, and it is then sold al Singapore for from $50 to $75. It is said that the production of gutta-percha could be greatly increased by economical methods of extraction, and that the native forests are likely to become exterminated unless protected. It appears that the example of the Dutch government, which has planted a million trees in Java, could be with advantage followed in some parts of the Philippine Islands. No rubber-producing trees have been found in the islands, but there are two species of vines widely distributed, both of which produce a good grade of rubber. This is collected by the Moros, but naturally in a very wasteful manner. A good deal could be accomplished in conserving this natural supply, but the future of the industry in the Philippine Islands doubtless depends on following the example of India, Burmah, the Malay States and Java, where scientific work on the cultivation of the trees was first taken up by the governments, and private cultivation was then widely and profitably introduced.



It is somewhat curious to compare the concentration of popular interest on war and politics with the common ignoring of science, when we remember that the progress of science has exerted more influence on the course of history than all the armies and political parties of the nations of the world. The entire democratic movement of modern times is directly due to the applications of science, which have made it possible for all to enjoy the advantages that were formerly confined to a few. Any given war or political movement is due to conditions that science has created. Even the popular interest in such matters is only possible through the steam-engine, the telegraph and the printing press. The intellectual and moral attitude of the people is as directly dependent on science as are their material surroundings. The ideas of the origin of species are more potent than the consequences of the wars of the nineteenth century in which some twelve million men were killed.

It is not exactly easy to say why there is more interest in a political convention than in a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, why the newspapers are read by millions while a scientific journal is read by thousands. The community of interest, even the party spirit, which the newspaper makes possible, has a function for society similar to that of the church. But the direction of this interest appears to be more or less artificial. If the newspapers would for a time devote most of their space to scientific, artistic and literary matters and if people would talk and think these things perhaps they would prove to be as good bonds of union as a murder or even a war. It may be said that the results of science can not be understood by the ordinary man, and this is of course true; but neither can he understand the plans of a military campaign nor the motives of a party leader. The stability of science might lead to an ultimate understanding of its great principles by large groups, and there are numerous matters easily explained which would maintain an interest if once excited. For example, why is not information in regard to the advance of our knowledge of the warfare between disease germs and man as full of personal and dramatic interest as a foreign war.

To a certain extent the supremacy of science and art does assert itself. The names of Sig. Marconi and Mme. Curie and what they stand for are better known in this country than the names and policies of the leaders of the governments of Italy and France. Yet the work of the two people mentioned is by no means so important and perhaps not even so interesting as that of others. An even juster view than that of distance is given by time.