Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/135

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
131
THE INTERPRETATION OF NATURE

aspects, under the designation minutism, the theory, that is, that the "final explanation" of all things is to be found only in the excessively small, mostly invisible parts or elements of those things. Hence the idolatrous attitude which much of biology has long held toward cells, nuclei, protoplasm, chromosomes, enzymes, biophores, determinants, etc., and hence the exclusion to so large an extent from real biological interest and endeavor, of organisms and parts of organisms which are large enough to be easily examined without the aid of the microscope.

The extent to which the zoology of our institutions of higher learning deals with invisible or difficultly visible animals; scraps of dead animals, and very small living animals either mutilated or placed in wholly unnatural surroundings, is remarkable once one comes to look at the situation broadly. The management of a zoological park or museum, in need of a trained zoologist as superintendent or curator; or the director of an agricultural station who should want an expert on the higher animal life of the region, might about as well appeal to a village kindergarten or a corner grocery for men equipped for such positions as to the department of zoology of most of the great universities of the country.

Persons who devote themselves to the study of living animals and plants, especially rather large, common ones like mammals and birds, and trees and grasses, and those who study the larger structural features of these larger organisms, can not, according to the prevalent view, be admitted to the small, inner-chambered class of philosophical biologists, but must remain outside with the great commonality as mere "mammal men" and "bird men," or, with some condescension, as "mammalogists" and "ornithologists," and as mere "systematic botanists."

We have made the sorry blunder of reasoning that since it has been found impossible to make knowledge of organisms thoroughgoing at any point without becoming microscopists and chemists, therefore, by becoming these exclusively, after awhile we shall have plumbed the deepest depths of the living world.

The only justification for speaking of these family dissensions within the biological household is that this much seemed necessary as preliminary to the expression of my conviction that should speculative biology ever become as strongly dominated by a carefully thought-out, wholesome metaphysics as it is now dominated by a meagerly informed, badly reasoned, unwholesome metaphysics, human beings and the higher animals and plants, taken living and whole, would be seen to be more interesting than simpler organisms and parts of organisms, just in proportion as the higher exceed the lower in complexity.

This reassessment of the living world as to degrees of interest would follow such a reformation in the metaphysics of biology since