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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/250

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

such as the operation of selection and the struggle for existence. But if it is to have a scientific foundation it must base itself on the comparative study of community life.

I do not mean that the study of an ant family will give us any better system of taxation. But I do mean that the careful study of lower social states will lay a firmer basis to the general subject of sociology, and thus come to better human conditions. Then also our treatment of criminals must to large extent rest upon biology, for the main practical question involved is whether criminal traits and tendencies are inherited or whether they are learned. The whole subject of heredity is a biological one, and the outsiders who have ventured into this field have given no solutions. How we shall treat criminals and their children will depend upon the outcome of the theoretical investigation of heredity.

Much more might be said concerning the practical value of pure science, but I will mention only one more point, and that right briefly. It is ethical and is perhaps the most important of all. Science seeks the truth, and respects no opinion that does not represent the truth. Science is not so much materialistic as realistic, and it has to do only with what may be determined by experiment and observation. Like the every-day practical man, the scientist holds that those things that seem outside of himself are really outside, and not existent simply in his own mind; and he is striving to explain the relation of those things to each other and to himself. While confining himself to such subjects he does not, in fact, has no right to, imply that there are not other fields of thought. But with regard to the world of things, he claims the right to decide what is real and what is unreal. That man is valued the most in science who sees the truth most clearly, and states it most simply. Right or wrong in science is then a measure of the truth. The great outcome of scientific thought is the unity of all nature, and the great aim in view is the truth. Thoughts like these must come to profoundly modify systems of ethics. Science has a difficult road to travel, for it keeps pushing steadily onward into dark places. In the nature of the case it must make many mistakes, but it keeps the right ideal. The idea of the truth and the ways of reaching it may continue to change as they have in the past, but humanity can not go far wrong so long as it earnestly seeks the truth.

These matters are worth thinking about when there is so much discussion about the value of higher education. We hear protests against the cost of maintaining universities, and there are some people who honestly suppose that the higher seats of learning should be self-supporting. Indeed there was one college started in the east by a millionaire, and he was greatly surprised to find that he was to get no dividends. Education is never satisfied; it uses greedily all available