Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/619

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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

WAR AND PUBLIC OPINION

It is difficult to write, speak or think about anything except the war now devasting Europe and the earth. Although social and economic questions can not be treated with the same objectivity as the natural and exact sciences, The Popular Science Monthly has always included them in its scope, the immediate ground of its establishment in 1872 having indeed been the need of a journal in which to publish Herbert Spencer's "Principles of Sociology." That work takes an attitude strongly opposed to militarism and discusses the difficulties of obtaining scientific points of view in sociology owing to national interests and prejudices.

The events of forty-two years have enforced the arguments of Herbert Spencer and to-day their truth is convincingly exhibited, at least in the sight of most of us. But it must be admitted that the two arguments are not on the same scientific plane. When it is claimed that armaments and war are not only inevitable, but may be desirable for a nation and for the world, there is no scientific disproof, only conviction against prejudice or prejudice against conviction, as the case may be. The extent to which belief may be determined by emotion is demonstrated by the fact that the people of each of the nations now involved hold that they are engaged in a war of defense against the selfish and wanton aggression of their opponents. We have been requested to print a manifesto, addressed "To the Civilized World" by ninety-three leading representatives of German science and art, including Professors von Baer, von Behring, Ehrlich, Fischer, Haeckel, Klein, Nernst, Ostwald, Röntgen, Waldeyer and Wundt. They say:

It is not true that Germany is guilty of having caused this war. Neither the people, the government, nor the "Kaiser" wanted war. Germany did her utmost to prevent it; for this assertion the world has documental proof. . . . It is not true that we trespassed in neutral Belgium. . . . It is not true that the life and property of a single Belgian citizen was injured by our soldiers without the bitterest self-defence having made it necessary. . . . It is not true that our troops treated Louvain brutally. . . . We can not wrest the poisonous weapon—the lie—out of the hands of our enemies. All we can do is to proclaim to all the world, that our enemies are giving false witness against us. You, who know us, who with us have protected the most holy possessions of man, we call to you: Have faith in us! Believe, that we shall carry on this war to the end as a civilized nation, to whom the legacy of a Goethe, a Beethoven and a Kant, is just as sacred as its own hearths and homes. For this we pledge you our names and our honor.

A reply alleging the exact contrary has been signed by one hundred and thirty leading British professors, authors, artists and men of science, including Lord Rayleigh, Sir William Ramsey, Sir William Crookes, Sir William Osier, Sir Ronald Ross, Sir William Turner, Professor Sherrington and Professor Schuster. They say:

We grieve profoundly that under the baleful influence of a military system and its lawless dreams of conquest she whom we once honored now stands revealed as the common enemy of Europe and of all peoples which respect the laws of nations. We must carry on the war on which we have entered. For us, as for Belgium, it is a war of defense waged for liberty and peace.

The workings of the psychology of the crowd may be illustrated by a minor incident. German scientific men have renounced the honorary degrees conferred on them by British universities, and German scientific men who had attended as invited guests the Australian