Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/265

This page has been validated.
261
SCIENCE AND DEMOCRACY

statement of the world; democracy refuses a static law. In the field of animal behavior it is a fundamental fact that the simpler the exciting situation, the more direct is the response. If there is but one thing to do there is but one needed reaction, but if there are two possibilities of behavior there arise conflict, hesitation and compromise. This condition, present as an elementary fact in the behavior of the lowest animal organisms, reaches up through the whole conduct of man, rendering his life a continual struggle to meet the conflicting and incompatible stimulations of his complex environment. The insistent demand for action leads a man to simplify his world as much as possible. Through a maze of facts and forces he seeks one unitary principle. Every complex situation must be simplified, reduced to its lowest terms. When we do this in chemistry we get the atom; in biology we get the cell; in ethics we get goodness; in religion we get faith.

Wherever men have been thoughtful they have tried to secure a simple unitary formula, not alone for the great departments of life, but for the universe as a whole, including the most distant times and spaces, grouping together into a single system the smallest particle of insensible sand and the most mighty divine being. The Weltanschauung, the total world view, the apparent multiplicity of phenomena lost in the unity of eternal forces, this has been the goal of philosophic thinking. The vision of such a picture stirs and satisfies the needs of men because it gives unity to the world and makes for comfortable thought and conduct. To see the completed picture and then deduce one's own relation to it, gives confidence and security amid confusion. But philosophic vision outruns the logic upon which it would rest, and when once a man has announced such a conception he is compelled to spend the remainder of his days constructing the logic to defend it.

The man who would paint a world picture or construct a closed system of thought finds little encouragement in science or among scientific men. The achievements of science have been in the direction of making the world more multifarious than it was. Instead of water we have hydrogen and oxygen, and instead of a human soul we have a streaming concourse of sensibilities, memories, impulses, thoughts, emotions and decisions. Immersed in the swarming concrete realities of nature, the scientist finds it difficult to discover the single unifying idea. Inasmuch as the progress of research is continually laying bare new realities, he refuses to conclude the case, for the evidence is not all in. He has, besides, a half belief that the most important witnesses may be still in waiting. The things which yet lie hidden may overturn his settled beliefs, as the theory of evolution and the discovery of radium have already done. To the uncovering of these hidden truths all the machinery of his craft is devoted. To enrich the already multitudinous world with discovery of as yet unknown facts and forces is his chief aim.