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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/455

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451
THE VALUE OF SCIENCE

And that is not all. I have said that the scientific fact is the translation of a crude fact into a certain language; I should add that every scientific fact is formed of many crude facts. This is sufficiently shown by the examples cited above. For instance, for the hour of the eclipse my clock marked the hour a at the instant of the eclipse; it marked the hour at the moment of the last transit of the meridian of a certain star that we take as origin of right ascensions; it marked the hour at the moment of the preceding transit of this same star. There are three distinct facts (still it will be noticed that each of them results itself from two simultaneous facts in the rough; but let us pass this over). In place of that I say: The eclipse happened at the hour , and the three facts are combined in a single scientific fact. I have concluded that the three readings made on my clock at three different moments lacked interest and that the only thing interesting was the combination of the three. In this conclusion is found the free activity of my mind.

But I have thus used up my power; I can not make this combination have such a value and not such another, since I can not influence either the value of , or that of , or that of , which are imposed upon me as crude facts.

In sum, facts are facts, and if it happens that they satisfy a prediction, this is not an effect of our free activity. There is no precise frontier between the fact in the rough and the scientific fact; it can only be said that such an enunciation of fact is more crude or, on the contrary, more scientific than such another.

(To be continued)