Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/January 1889/Science and its Accusers

SCIENCE AND ITS ACCUSERS.
By W. D. LE SUEUR.

NOT many months ago we had in a single number of a leading English review—the "Contemporary"—no less than two articles by able writers lamenting the disintegrating action of science on morality and religion. The first of these was from the pen of the eminent Belgian publicist, M. Émile de Laveleye, and was entitled "The Future of Religion"; the second, contributed by Miss Frances Power Cobbe, dealt in a trenchant and aggressive manner with "The Scientific Spirit of the Age." Both writers seem to be strong anti-Darwinians; but both attack the Darwinian doctrine, not on scientific grounds, but on account of its alleged incompatibility with views and sentiments which they regard as of pre-eminent importance. The only relevant criticism, however, that can be directed against a scientific doctrine is one intended to show that it is not what it claims to be— that it is not scientific—that it lias no proper place in the scheme of our acquired and organized knowledge. If a scientific opinion is not established, if it is not demonstrated beyond all possibility of cavil, why concern one's self about it, except to invalidate the claims that may have been wrongly put forward on its behalf? To discuss its bearing on religion is merely to suggest that it is true, but that "pity 'tis 'tis true," and to offer a premium to weak souls to try to persuade themselves that it is not true. If a doctrine is true, and yet inconsistent with a certain theological scheme, what is going to be done about it? Will whole books of lamentations nullify it? Will it be disproved by the most diffuse argumentation designed to show that, if it holds its ground, something else will have to give way? Of course it will hold its ground if it is true; and of course whatever is inconsistent with it must give way, and the world must adapt itself as best it can to the change.

But let us consider in detail some of the accusations brought against modern science and its professors by the critics whose names we have mentioned. "Darwinism," says M. de Laveleye, "applied to social sciences, sets aside all notions of equality, and simply glorifies the triumph of the strongest and the cleverest." Darwinism is properly a form or phase of biological doctrine, and as such does not glorify anything particularly. Even in the realm to which it strictly applies there is no glorification of natural selection, merely a recognition of the fact that natural selection is an active agency in the production of results that come under our observation. The only possible application of Darwinism to "social sciences "would lie in a close examination of social phenomena, in order to see whether there also a principle of natural selection might be found to be at work. In this sense Darwinism may be said to have been applied to the social sciences, and with good results so far as our comprehension of social phenomena is concerned. But is it a sin to understand social phenomena? In all other departments of observation we esteem it a great advantage to get on the track of Nature's operations, to be able to follow her secret processes; and it is really difficult to see why we should debar ourselves from understanding, as far as it may be given to us to do so, the course of things in the social order. The true Darwinian does not seek to impose a law on things—he leaves that to his theological censors; he is content to discover law in things. There is simply no sense, therefore, in talking of the Darwinian exulting in force, or glorifying "the triumph of the strongest and the cleverest." At the same time it may be remarked that it is hard to understand how, except by some very special and extraordinary interposition of Providence, "the strongest and the cleverest" are to be prevented from triumphing; and upon the whole it seems a more natural, and indeed beneficial arrangement, that the "strong and clever" should dominate the weak and stupid, than that the weak and stupid should dominate the strong and clever. We doubt whether Nature will wait for the approval of the Darwinian or of any one else before giving, as a general thing, the race to the swift, the battle to the strong, and wages to the man who can earn them.

The Darwinian is accused by the Belgian philosopher of holding that "charity and pretended justice interfere very wrongly" when they seek to prevent stronger races and individuals from usurping the place of weaker ones. The Darwinian takes up no such absurd position. He is an observer of nature, we can not too often repeat, and not a lawgiver. As an observer of nature he perceives that physical strength divorced from intellectual strength is ineffectual, and, in the struggle for life, hardly to be distinguished from weakness. He observes further that intellectual acuteness divorced from moral sentiment overreaches itself, and becomes a kind of stupidity. From multiplied observations of this nature he forms a truer idea, probably, than any mere a priori reasoner as to the forces which rule the world now, and as to those which will be chiefly dominant in the future. He is not opposed to any charity that, in his judgment, tends to make men better; but he could not be a man of any sense if he were not opposed to much that calls itself charity. As to justice, he sees in it the expression of a social force, which has its origin in the fact that society is an organism, the general life of which reacts upon any abnormal manifestations in special members or organs. Far from its being true that justice "stands in the way of the application of natural laws," justice may be said to be a striking illustration of the great natural law or axiom that the whole is greater than the part. To abandon justice would be to place all social order at the mercy of individual caprice; in other words, it would be the suicide of society.

We are next treated to an imaginative sketch of what the world would be like in the absence of all religion: "There is no God and no immutable type of truth and justice." Just how the persuasion that there is no God is going to take possession of mankind is not explained, whether through the utter breaking down of the evidence upon which the doctrine of a Divine Being has heretofore been believed in, or through some further progress of philosophical speculation. One is tempted to ask, however, what the critic really wants. Are there certain doctrines which he wishes to shield from criticism? If so, why not say so distinctly? Why not say in plain terms that mankind has, in some way difficult to explain, got possession of certain opinions or convictions of inestimable value, but which can no more bear examination than a soap-bubble can bear handling, and that therefore these must, at all costs, be protected from every breath of criticism? If this is not what is meant, if, on the contrary, it is maintained that the being of God is a luminous truth, proclaiming itself in the very heart of man, why not challenge all the philosophies of the world to assail it at their peril? Why not say to Darwinians and all others: "Push your researches as far as you like; make your most comprehensive inductions, your widest generalizations; construct your most daring theories: not only will nothing impair this great central truth of Deity, but all the truths you gather will lack significance till illuminated by it"? But, strictly speaking, the Darwinian theory has nothing to do with the question as to the existence of God. It is no more atheistic in its nature than the Newtonian theory of gravitation. The latter substituted for the angeli rectores of Kepler an all-pervading law of matter; and Darwinism substitutes for certain supposed acts of spasmodic creation an orderly sequence of development; but neither one nor the other professes to say how the origin of the universe should be conceived. If Darwinism has weakened the argument for theism in certain minds, it has strengthened it in others—witness the recent address of Mr. Balfour on "Positivism," before the Church Congress at Manchester.

We are threatened with the destruction of an "immutable type of truth and justice"; but what is the exact meaning of these words? If truth is the conformity of statement to fact, how can the idea of truth ever vanish from the world? Certainly, if such a result should ever come about, it would not be due to the influence of any honest form of scientific thought. We do not think any one will say that Mr. Darwin did anything in his long lifetime to weaken respect for truth, or to make truth less a reality in the world. We know some people whose efforts do tend strongly in that direction; but, for the most part, they are not Darwinians; they are people who can not bring themselves to define the terms they use, and who try to make authority do the work of demonstration. So successful, unfortunately, are teachers of this class, that throughout a large portion of society—the portion in which Darwinism is very generally flouted and scouted—a sense for truth in intellectual matters is most conspicuously lacking. As to an "immutable type of justice," does any one know what that means? Can any one conceive what an immutable type of justice would be like? How would it be expressed? In an act? We can either now conceive an act that would serve as an immutable type of justice, or we can not: if we can, then the type is safe; if we can not—which we imagine is the truth—then we must forego the hope of an immutable type, and content ourselves with what perhaps is good enough for us—relative justice—such justice as will serve our need from day to day.

Another threat held out is the miserable condition to which human life would be reduced if faith in a future life should disappear—a result that Darwinism is credited with hastening. Let us talk seriously on this subject. If there is evidence of a conscious life for human beings beyond the grave, Darwinism surely can not overthrow it. It may possibly be that heretofore the doctrine of immortality has been taught on very insufficient grounds, and that Darwinism has so far awakened the popular intelligence that the insufficiency has become apparent; but, if so, Darwinism is not to blame. It is simply a question of repairing the breaches in a damaged argument. A true doctrine does not need false supports; on the contrary, no greater service can be rendered to a true doctrine than to throw it back on its legitimate proofs. So far, therefore, as this or any other doctrine is true, Darwinism can only establish it the more firmly by taking away the insecure foundations on which it may provisionally have rested. The question is worth raising, however, whether the invalidation of this theory of a future life—not that we see how Darwinism as such is going to accomplish such a result—would have so disastrous an effect as M. de Laveleye assumes upon human happiness. He imagines some one addressing the toilers of the world, and bidding them, as "there is no compensation elsewhere," to raise their heads, "too long bent to the dust beneath the yoke of tyrants and priests." Is it possible that so distinguished a liberal as M. de Laveleye wants to join himself to tyrants and priests in their endeavors to hold down the working-classes by the promise or the lure of "compensation elsewhere"? Compensation for what? For injustice? But if the next world is to make amends for the injustices of this, then why lament over what the people might do if they rose against the holders of wealth? At the worst they could only work injustice, and the next world will make amends for all that. "Why should not next-world sauce, that is found so admirably adapted for the laboring-man goose, be equally suitable for the capitalist gander? But if it is not injustice, but merely misery, for which a compensation is to be found in a future life, the lesson to be learned, we presume, is that the miseries of this life are to be endured in a patient spirit, and that no particular effort need be made to redress them here and now. But how all this talk about a future life tends to confuse our ideas and paralyze our activities in dealing with present interests! Instead of trying to administer an anodyne to those who suffer by holding out promises of future enjoyment, we should be far more disposed to tell them that their right and duty is to make the best of this world; and that the best will be made of it by studying and conforming to the conditions on which happiness depends—the conditions that make for the general improvement of life, physical and social. To speak plainly, it seems to us a very mean business for those who occupy positions of vantage in this world to preach compensation in another world to their less favorably situated brethren, in order to make them contented with their lot here. The sooner the calculations of all men are placed on a present-world basis, the better it will be for every important human interest.

But we are told that, not infrequently, "with religion morality also disappears"; inasmuch as "science, when reduced to material observation, can only know what is, not what ought to be." What is meant by reducing science to "material observation"? Science, we take it, observes all that can be observed; and we are not aware of any proposition to cut science off from any field in which observation is possible. If science—in the broadest sense—can not teach us what ought to be, what can? The fact is, that "what ought to be" depends in the most intimate manner on what is; so that, the more perfectly one knows what is, the more clearly he discerns what ought to be. Let any intelligent man examine himself, and say whether any sense of obligation he has does not directly result from some knowledge he possesses of what is. "The denial of the spirituality of the soul," says our philosopher, "uproots all reasonable motives for being just and honest." But supposing that one religiously refrains from either affirming or denying a proposition the terms of which he can not understand, is there any obstacle to his being just and honest? We trow not; and this attitude of mind, we fancy, is that which characterizes most thinkers of the Darwinian or evolutionist school. But why any speculative opinion on the nature of "the soul" should stand in the way of anybody's honesty, it is hard to understand. If the opinion, whatever it may be, has been honestly arrived at, and is honestly held, that simple fact will be a guarantee to some extent for honesty in other matters. It is not difficult to find people whose views about "the soul" are quite unexceptionable from the orthodox point of view, but whose daily practice is far from exemplifying a high type of honesty and justice. "Duty without God or a future life," we are sententiously informed, "is a very fine word, but it has no meaning whatever." Alas! what meaning has it with many of those who profess the strongest belief in these doctrines? We should like to ask M. de Laveleye and others who talk in this fashion whether, on the strength of their own experience, they can affirm that theological unbelievers as a class are morally inferior to believers. The fact is, as we believe, that the average of morality in the so-called orthodox world is very poor, and that it will continue to be so until a new element is introduced into it from the scientific study of nature, the element of intellectual honesty. It is easy to make such statements as that, "if all religious feeling were to melt away, a return to primitive barbarism would be inevitable," but to prove them might not be so easy. It may be remarked that primitive barbarism has always been marked by strong religious feeling as well as by comprehensive ignorance; and, therefore, if we succeeded in getting back to primitive barbarism, we should have reached a fine starting-point for another religious evolution. M. de Laveleye, however, does not expect that things will get to this pass; his idea is that our future civilization will be presided over by a purified form of Christianity based upon the most elevated teachings of its Founder. What the future of Darwinism will be he does not tell us—whether it will vanish from the earth like an exhalation, or mingle with and perchance support the new creed. If the former is to be its destiny, we should have some hint as to the probable manner of its going; if the latter, it is hard to see why it should have been made an object of attack.

Miss Cobbe, who discusses "The Scientific Spirit of the Age," admits that she does it "from an adverse point of view." The "epoch-making biography of Mr. Darwin," containing his "admirably candid avowal of the gradual extinction in his mind of the æsthetic and religious elements," has, she thinks, "arrested not a few science-worshipers with the query. What shall it profit a man if he find the origin of species and know exactly how earthworms and sun-dews conduct themselves, if all the while he grow blind to the loveliness of nature, deaf to music, insensible to poetry, and as unable to lift his soul to the divine and eternal as were the primeval apes from whom he has descended?" Miss Cobbe hastens to show that, for her own part, she has not sacrificed everything to science, by making a few remarks in a very unscientific spirit on the effects of scientific study. It promotes, she tells us, practical materialism. The student of science will—we quote the actual words of this once highly rational and thoroughly liberal-minded writer—"view his mother's tears not as expressions of her sorrow, but as solutions of muriates and carbonates of soda, and of phosphates of lime; and he will reflect that they were caused, not by his heartlessness, but by cerebral pressure on her lachrymal glands. When she dies, he will 'peep and botanize' on her grave, not with the poet's sense of the sacrilegiousness of such ill-placed curiosity, but with the serene conviction of the meritoriousness of accurate observation of the flora of a cemetery." What are we to say of this if not that it is unmitigated trash? Is it known that home affections are less powerful or less sacred in scientific than in unscientific households? Is there even ground to conjecture that such is the case? If not, such language as the above simply shows that Miss Cobbe, who has written so much and so well in times past, is growing hysterical at the very period of life when we might have expected to see her manifesting in a special degree the qualities of moderation and self-control, of calm insight and wide sympathy.

Miss Cobbe objects to the scientific spirit that it makes much of disease and little of sin. If so, it is simply inverting the habit of past times, which was to make much of sin and little of disease. And what was "sin" in the apprehension of our ecclesiastically-directed forefathers? To a large extent it consisted in what the clergy of a certain church would call "irregularity"—some want of conformity with ecclesiastical rules and requirements. It was by no means always coincident with immorality. A man might have a lively sense of "sin" in connection with some purely ceremonial matter, and very little sense of wrong-doing in connection with the most grievous offenses against his fellowman. In obedience to the "code of honor," men who regarded themselves as pillars of church and state would prepare to commit deliberate murder; while they would always consider a gambling debt as vastly more sacred than one incurred for food or clothing. The "Christian" nations have found enormous quantities of "sin" in heresy, and very little indeed in mutual bloodshed on the most appalling scale. Pious monarchs have appeased their consciences by persecuting the Jews, and pious folk generally by hunting witches. According to popular opinion in our own day, the Divine anger is much more quickly kindled by the parody of a religious rite than by the most hideous villainy perpetrated by a man upon his neighbor. Every now and again there is a story in the papers about some boy or man struck blind or dumb for blasphemy, or of the personal appearance of the devil among some group of revelers engaged in profanely mocking a religious ceremony! So various have been the aspects in which "sin" has presented itself, and so little relation has it seemed to bear in any of its best recognized forms with practical morality, that it is not to be wondered at if scientific men show some impatience with so vague and unsatisfactory a conception, and prefer to consider all conduct simply in its bearing on intelligible human interests. As to disease, they necessarily regard it as the great enemy, primarily, of man's physical estate, and secondarily of his intellectual and moral constitution; and if their chief efforts are bent on its extermination, it would be hard to say in what more useful work they could be engaged.

The next fault that Miss Cobbe finds with the scientific spirit, which she characterizes as "analytic, self-asserting, critical" is that it is directly opposed to the "synthetic, reverential, sympathizing spirit of art"; and she holds up to scorn the physicist who can not enjoy the representation of figures suspended in the air in defiance of the law of gravity, and the zoölogist who fails to admire cherubs without stomachs, and centaurs with a stomach to spare. Well, if we must confess it, our sympathy in each case is with the man of science; and we refuse to believe, on any evidence as yet tendered, that art would be less art if it condescended to recognize the laws of the physical universe. The poet Horace was no mean artist in his day, nor is there any reason to suppose that he was a victim to the scientific spirit; yet he has left on record his distaste for all such composite and unnatural creations as Miss Cobbe takes under her protection. He thought the centaur and the mermaid both very ridiculous figures. "Let a thing be what it may," he said, "but let it be simple, let it preserve its unity."[1] The greatest sculptors the world ever saw, those of ancient Greece, devoted themselves almost wholly to the delineation of the human form in its ideal perfection; their art may have sought to transcend the actual, but not the possible. If they strove to better nature, it was not by flying in the face of natural laws, but by a happier blending of natural elements; just as the gardener of to-day shows us what may be realized by giving to various plants better conditions than can be commanded in the rude competition for existence. Miss Cobbe will have it that the scientific spirit would kill poetry. We do not believe a word of it; but we do believe that the scientific spirit applied to poetry would purge it of many morbid growths and ridiculous conceits. Some not incompetent judges are of the opinion that the very poem cited by Miss Cobbe in illustration, Shelley's "Sensitive-Plant," is overladen with imagery. The late Mr. Arnold did not find Shelley quite "sane" enough to be a poet of the first order; and if representatives of the scientific spirit occasionally find something in his verse that they can not quite reconcile with common sense, they may plead that they are only finding what a great literary critic had already found. In lieu of such delicate fancies as Shelley has woven into his "Sensitive-Plant," the scientific spirit, we are told, would "describe how the garden had been thoroughly drained and scientifically manured with guano and sewage." This is not argument; it is hysteria running a little toward coarseness.

But may it be claimed that science is advancing the interests of truth? No; not the science of our time. We are simply gathering facts and deducing laws, subject to rectification when further facts shall have been gathered. But "in other days truth was deemed something nobler than this. It was the interests that lay "behind and beyond the facts, their possible bearings on man's deepest yearnings and sublimest hopes, which gave dignity and meaning to the humblest researches into rocks and plants." A little definition would come in well here. What are the interests that lie beyond the facts? "What are man's deepest yearnings? What are his sublimest hopes? Are his sublimest hopes also his best-founded and most rational hopes? Are his deepest yearnings at all of a practical character? If these yearnings can be appeased at all by scientific conclusions, why not by those arrived at in our day as well as by the less correct ones arrived at in former days? Finally, what can science do more than put the most rational construction on facts? If more than this is wanted—some surplusage of belief—it can be got from other quarters; science should not be held responsible for furnishing it, or blamable for not furnishing it. Miss Cobbe does not seem to be of this opinion, however. She says that, as "Science has repeatedly renounced all pretension to throw light in any direction beyond the sequence of physical causes and effects, she has ... abandoned her claim to be man's guide to truth." But surely, if at any time in the past Science made good her claim to transcend the sequence of physical causes and effects, we need not concern ourselves with her present denegation of authority in the higher region. If a teacher has really succeeded in teaching us the calculus, we need not trouble ourselves much if he should at some future time take it into his head that he never knew it himself. Supposing even that he never did know it, and that we only worked into it by the aid of his blunders, does not our knowledge remain? And what, in that case, can we do better than turn round and teach our teacher? On the other hand, if our teacher never knew what he thought he knew, and if we never learned what we thought we had learned, what can we both do better than acknowledge the true state of the case, and begin over again, should it seem desirable?

We are told that Darwin "has destroyed, for those who accept his views, the possibility for a rational reverence for the dictates of conscience." How? By raising a doubt as to "whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value." We should suppose that, the further back an organism could be traced, the more authority might be attached to what seem to be its laws. Who would not much rather trust a conscience that had a long history behind it, one stretching back even into the brute creation, than a brand-new article of whose genesis no satisfactory account could be given? Moreover, how is it that we think so little of another man's conscience when it enjoins acts of which we disapprove; and that he thinks so little of ours when it enjoins acts of which he disapproves? It no more occurs to us to think that the Deity has specially enlightened him on the point in question, than it occurs to him to pay our conscientious conviction a similar compliment. We get over the difficulty, not improbably, by hinting that he is a "crank," and the same mode of escape is open to him in relation to us. The criticism of conscience, as Miss Cobbe must well know, antedates Darwin by at least three centuries. The philosopher whose motto was "Que sais-je?" expounded its weaknesses more fully than Darwin ever did; and Locke defines it very briefly as "our own opinion of the moral rectitude or pravity of our own actions." Dugald Stewart shows that the sentiment of the sacredness of property varies from country to country, according to the amount of labor requisite to produce articles of value; and that in other respects local accidents decide to a great extent the form that moral opinion takes. Hartley explained the phenomena of conscience by association; and, since his day, to go no further back, the idea of conscience as a special organ uttering the voice of the Deity has been weakening among thinking men. The evolutionists of to-day have simply succeeded in giving a wider basis to views that were in the world long before their time; but to say that they have in any way lowered the dignity of man's moral nature is to state what is not the case. Miss Cobbe is pleased to suggest that the old ideas gave a basis for moral effort "as firm as the law of the universe itself"; but that henceforth our only fulcrum will be "the sand-heap of hereditary experiences." If anything could less deserve the designation of "sand-heap" than our accumulated hereditary experiences, we should like to know what it is. In the case of the sand-heap there is an utter lack of cohesion; in the case of hereditary experiences cohesion is of their very nature. Miss Cobbe understands this perfectly; it is a pity she should have written as though she did not.

We are very far, therefore, from admitting that "the scientific spirit" has "sprung a mine under the deepest foundations of morality"; or that it is as impossible for a man who holds the evolutionary idea of the origin of conscience "to cherish a great moral ambition as it is for a stream to rise above its source." If, on the one hand, science moderates ambition by keeping before the mind the limits of the possible, on the other it stimulates ambition by producing the conviction that certain things are not only possible, but certain of attainment if the right means are used. There was a time in the history of science when men were laboring to transmute the baser metals into gold; that particular ambition has been abandoned with others equally chimerical; but it surely can not be said that science to-day discourages effort in the field of chemistry? Precisely so in the moral region: we no longer expect to work miracles, but we do expect and hope by wisely concerted measures to accomplish better and greater results than were ever accomplished by the enthusiasms and fanaticisms of the past. Miss Cobbe says that "the man of science may be anxious to abolish vice and crime, ... but he has no longing to enthrone in their place a lofty virtue demanding his heart and life's devotion. He is almost as much disturbed by extreme goodness as by wickedness." Is not this weak and almost meaningless language? What is meant by "enthroning a lofty virtue" in the place of vice and crime? The phrase has a fine sound, but it seems to be a case of præterea nihil. What a man of science would like to see would be a society organized and governed according to the best knowledge of the time. He would like to see the laws of life and health respected, justice maintained among men, and free scope given to individual development. As to the lofty virtue which Miss Cobbe so strongly desiderates, the scientific man would like to do away with the necessity for it by a general leveling up of human life. He believes, with Jean Jacques Rousseau, that prudence is a virtue which enables us to dispense with many others; and that, if the human race could be taught prudence, great reformers and missionaries might have an easy time of it, and perhaps be enabled to practice a little of their charity at home—an excellent starting-point, according to the proverb. The scientific man's ideal is necessarily a prosperous community of fairly self-sufficing individuals, not a world of misery lightened by the angel visitations and exertions of a few heroic souls. Some may think bis ambition a low one, but he does not feel it to be so himself; he does not really see how any one who wishes well to the mass of his fellow-men can have any different ambition.

"Another threatening evil from the side of science is the growth of a hard and pitiless temper." So Miss Cobbe; and this in face of the fact that never in the history of the world was there so much sympathy with suffering, or so ready a recognition of the rights of humanity, as there is to-day. Reference is made to certain vague charges brought in an anonymous book against hospital physicians and students; but, even admitting these charges as true in some substantial measure—and we should be sorry to do so without further proof—no good reason can be assigned for charging on the scientific world at large a morbid temper displayed by a few representatives of one single profession. Compare the average practicing physician of to-day with the Slops and Sangrados of former times, and we fancy there is no visible falling off in humanity or any other respectable quality. What can not be denied is that science has done a great work in mitigating suffering and lengthening human life; and it would be strange indeed if the ministers of these benefits were themselves indifferent to the very objects of their labors.

Finally, joining hands with M. de Laveleye, Miss Cobbe declares that science destroys religion. The only reply to give on this point is just this: that, if science and religion are natural enemies, one must destroy the other; that if they are not, if each has its basis in nature, then neither will destroy the other; but, after a mutual adjustment of their claims, each will confirm and strengthen the other. Science is nothing else than knowledge of the facts and laws of the universe. If religion can not survive the acquisition of such knowledge by mankind, then it must perish; but we should be sorry to affirm that its position is so precarious. One thing is certain, Science can not go back. She has begun a series of interpretations of the great book of Nature that prove to be of ever-increasing interest from year to year. She can not stop in this career. The book has only been fairly opened; the true key to its hieroglyphs has just been found; the practical results already achieved by means of the knowledge acquired are full of advantage in the present and of promise for the future; what is there to do, therefore, but to go forward? Men of science may, as individuals, fall into many errors. They may fail to realize the true dignity of their calling; they may be unduly swayed by party spirit or by personal aims; they may be unworthy ministers of the truths which they deliver. But science, what is it but truth? And what is the scientific spirit but the spirit that bows to truth? To all who are dissatisfied with the present currents of thought we would, therefore, say: "Criticise men as much as you please. Point out their errors, their failings, intellectual and moral, with all needful severity. Hold up the standard by which you think their lives and thoughts ought to be governed. Criticise theories, too. Let nothing pass unchallenged or unscrutinized that you are not satisfied is true. Let no glamour of great names, no popularity of certain modes of thought, deter you from expressing your dissent from what you do not believe. But do not put yourselves hopelessly in the wrong by attacking science, or by abusing the scientific spirit. You will gain nothing by it, but will merely darken your understandings, and shut yourselves out from the light that is ready to lighten every man that comes into the world. Science will abide. It has its roots in the everlasting rocks, and draws its aliment from universal nature. The scientific spirit will abide, admonishing men of their errors, and leading them into all truth. It is wise to be reconciled to such powers as these; even now, while you are in the way with them, make terms of peace, and find rest to your souls."

  1. "Denique sit quidvis, simplex duntaxat et unum."—Ars Poetica, 23.