Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/247

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
243
PRACTICAL VALUE OF PURE SCIENCE

pose; the former are copyists and the latter creators. Now, what could the technicians do without the composers? Appliers are dependent upon fertile creators in general education as in music and other matters. It is pure science by which a man can advance his subject a little and arouse his students to do the same.

It may seem a sweeping statement, but I am inclined to believe that any advance in pure science helps to better our race, whether all of it can be practically applied or not. For so many practical uses have been made from what seemed unpromising theories, that we may confidently expect still more applications in the future. That is one side of the subject. The other and the more important is the growth of the method of science, to never rest content, but to seek to explain more and more. This means a continuous expansion of the field of thought and will prevent crystallization and stagnation. Just because human progress is to such great extent mental, creative thought should be held an important ideal, and this is the essence of science. Thus the mere pursuit of science, whether it be of direct material advantage or not, is by no means worthless to us, for it is a powerful factor in the progress of the human mind. I do not believe in the argument of the schoolmen, that a subject is to be studied for the mental training; life is too short for duties of that kind; what we need is the introduction of more subjects that enlarge our interests, and teach that there is a great deal under the sun that is new and inspiring. My particular argument may seem to many rather specious, yet I think that just in this point is pure science of great value. Men ask for quick, tangible results, for early harvesting of the crops. But that which is easiest and quickest need not be best. What influence each of us most deeply in our personal lives are intangible matters, feelings and desires that are hard to define and that are set apart from the daily occupation. Just so it is with our progress from generation to generation; it is the clarifying and ennobling thought rather than the dollar that gives the most enduring satisfaction whether we are ready to admit it or not. And if you ask proof for this statement, you may find it in any national biography where you discover the names of thinkers, not those of mere money-getters.

Our advance in civilization consists to large extent in the perfecting of the social state, and herein lies the important task of sociology. Numerous have been the proposals for bettering social conditions, and as great the clash of view, for such questions press on all of us. All admit the imperfection and injustice of present conditions, yet there is no general remedy in promise. The most we seem able to do is to mitigate here and there a few of the most urgent evils. It would seem that economists have dealt with only parts of the problem; they have spent much time in definitions, but so far have missed giving a scientific