Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/166

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be ashamed to make large claims, always provided that it is really a place of intellectual and moral activity, and not a mental vacuum concealed by handsome buildings.

Many, substantially agreeing with what has been said, will declare that the university should not be in politics, because it cultivates knowledge and judgment, for others to apply. It is also often said that university professors are not practical men of affairs, being absorbed in their studies, while the world goes by unheeded. Taking the last statement first, we must confess that there is something in it. It is possible for a specialist to be doing splendid work, of the greatest advantage to mankind, without having any clear idea of the ultimate application of his discoveries, much less those in other fields. On the other hand eminent specialists are sometimes distinguished, like Huxley and Virchow, for their broad grasp of social questions and great services as publicists. Aside from these considerations, however, is the fact that the university is in a sense an intellectual baby-farm, and the infant ideas nourished there are many of them not yet ready to go out in the world and do their day's work. It is about as just to complain of the inutility of new truths as it would be to blame mothers of young children in time of war, because of failure to contribute members to the army.

There is, however, one quality of great public value in which scientific men are admittedly as preeminent as the majority of present-day politicians are deficient. This is the power, or the habit, of forming so-called impartial judgments, that is, judgments based on the available evidence, not dictated by partisan or personal desires. We are only just beginning to realize that men of this class will be widely useful in the guidance of the ship of state, bringing about the transformation of much that is undesirable in the life of this nation. It is not expected that every scientific man will offer opinions on every subject; precisely because he has the quality referred to he will refuse to do this; but when he feels competent to express an opinion, after due research, it will be worth more in the consideration of the tariff, the treatment of the Filipinos, or the question of railroad regulation, than that of any political boss who ever lived. This opinion will not be impartial, in the sense of being colorless rarely will the expert desire or contrive to sit gracefully on the fence, but it will bring to a focus the best results of human thought as applied to the matter in hand. Against all this will be cited the well-known saying that "doctors disagree." You can find an "expert," people say, to declare anything. It is true that on many important scientific questions eminent workers differ greatly, but when this is the case, those questions are considered still open for discussion. It is one of the merits of science, as against partisan politics, that she does not feel obliged to decide everything as though by infallible judg-