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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/11

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MAY, 1875.


By Rev. S. LOCKWOOD, Ph.D.

EVEN in minds the most illiterate you will find a sort of philosophy, if you but look for it. Among the dwellers by the shore is a class known as Watermen. These men, with great irregularities of toil and idleness, obtain the support of their families wholly from the bounteous, though sometimes precarious, harvest of the sea. Often one finds among them men of the roughest mould, yet with generous natural gifts, but without either education or culture. Of natural phenomena, in a practical way, they are shrewd observers. They know a good deal, too, about many queer forms and strange habits belonging to the denizens of the deep. In their way, they are positive men, and real empiricists too—for, from their limited lookout, and their small stock of facts, they will generalize as broadly as do some scientists upon a few experiments. An old waterman, who could not read a word, said to us: "Sir, Nature works the same in every place. There's nothing on the land what isn't in the sea; and I've even seen ships in the sky!" Here, then, although not a little empirical, in our fisherman's philosophy was a splendid generalization. And how broad it was! It covered every province possible for human experience, in his conception—the earth, the sea, and the air.

And empiricism begotten of a spirit in no wise nobler, abounded in the elder science. Thence have come down to us those heated controversies on the supposed vegetable nature of the polyps that build the corals, and other similar structures in the great deep. And there was that temporary calm which set in upon that stunning clincher of that empiricist, who declared that the coral polyps were, and must be, plants, for—"I have seen the flowers!" And Sir Wiseman was true. And so was the fisherman true, when he said, "he had seen ships in the sky." Each in his own way had seen a mirage.

But that clincher would not stay clinched. As concerned their external forms, all admitted them to be sea-flowers. Still, these flow-