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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/252

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By Professor S. M. PATTEN


TO the student of thought, it is interesting to see how long a theory persists after its foundations have been undermined. One can almost say of theories that, like superstitions, they never die. They have at least nine lives and are killed again and again before their adherents can give them up. And the worst of it is that disproved theories have an especial attraction for the best minds. It is not poor thinkers, but good ones, that try to square a circle or to create perpetual motion. Old thought is also well-formulated thought. It has a complete terminology and its shades of meaning can be expressed with accuracy. New thought must use terms that are unfamiliar to the public or are twisted somewhat from their popular meaning. A logical thinker let loose on a new topic can play havoc with the printed page of his opponent who has the facts but does not have the language to express his view. Only when one has tried to state some new thought does he realize how poor & vehicle language really is. He finds that most words are synonyms used to express old ideas in many ways. None of them are free from implications that turn the reader back to the older view instead of helping him to break new ground. New thought does not get into the printed page until long after it is a reality to those who study nature instead of books.

This statement has been provoked by an article entitled "A Bugbear to Reformers" in the May number of this magazine. If Professor Carver had put his article in an economic journal, his readers would understand what he has omitted or covered up. He choses, however, to appeal to a less specialized audience and talks in terms of analogies, instead of stating the economic facts. Reformers, he says, deny that water runs down hill. This kind of talk has a familiar ring. It is the way orthodox economists of a preceding age reasoned. They rarely stated or even knew the facts. They routed their opponents by a free use of analogies drawn from the physical sciences. While this sort of reasoning fell for a time into disrepute, it has of late shown a renewed vigor because some of the new economists have pushed so far ahead as to be on unstable ground. A reaction has set in and on the tide of the reverse movement some expect a return of the good old days when economists talked of the law of gravitation, the rise and fall of tides, the