Popular Science Monthly/Volume 80/April 1912/Science and International Good Will

1542660Popular Science Monthly Volume 80 April 1912 — Science and International Good Will1912James McKeen Cattell



SCIENCE with its applications has been one of the principal factors leading to peace and international good will. Science, democracy and the limitation of warfare are the great achievements of modern civilization. They have advanced together almost continuously from the beginnings of the universities of Bologna, Paris and Oxford in the twelfth century to their great triumphs in the nineteenth century and the present promise of their complete supremacy. It may be urged reasonably that science is the true cause of democracy and that science and democracy together are the influences most conducive to permanent and universal peace.

The applications of science in industry, agriculture and commerce, in the prevention of disease and of premature death, have abolished the need of excessive manual labor. It long ago became unnecessary for the great majority of the people to be held in bondage in order that a few free citizens might have education and opportunity, and slavery has been gradually driven from the world. The vast progress of scientific discovery and invention in the nineteenth century has reduced to a moderate amount the daily labor required from each in order that all may be adequately fed, clothed and housed. The death-rate has been decreased to one half; the ensuing lower birth-rate has freed nearly half the time of women and reduced proportionately the labor of men. The period of childhood and youth may be devoted to universal education, and equality of opportunity can be given to all. It is no longer needful to depend on a privileged class to conduct the affairs of government and to supply men of performance. Those selected from all the people as most fit can be given the preparation and opportunity needed to enable them to become leaders, and every one can take an intelligent share in political affairs and in appreciation of the higher things of life.

In giving us democracy science has made its greatest contribution to the limitation of warfare. It must be admitted that a democratic people may be inflamed into a mob mad for war; but this is not likely to happen in the case of a war of policy or of aggression. In the past wars have been more often due to the ambitions, difficulties and intrigues of kings and princes than to the passions of the people, and the decrease of wars has been largely a result of the establishment of constitutional governments and of the legalization of the methods of conscription and taxation. If a declaration of war or an ultimatum leading to war were subject to a referendum, the vote being taken not too promptly, and if the estimated cost of the war were collected in taxes in advance, there would not be many wars.

We are still far from having a true political and social democracy. The production of wealth has increased rapidly; but we have not learned to distribute it justly or to use it wisely. The education supplied by our schools is inadequate and inept. We may be confident that a complete democracy will be the strongest force for peace that the world has seen. Even now the great mass of the people, most of them having some education and some property, are the true guarantees against wanton war. A king can no longer summon his nobles and the chiefs gather together their retainers to invade a foreign country. A war which, with its accompanying pestilence and famine, would reduce the population of a country to one half, as in the case of the thirty years' war, is now almost inconceivable. And this we owe to social and political democracy, which in turn we owe to science.

As a result of scientific progress and invention, the law of Malthus has been reversed. The means of subsistence increase more rapidly than the population. The sinister voluntary limitation of childbirth, which may give rise to racial deterioration and actual depopulation, is unnecessary. As population increases under a given condition of culture, the number of men of genius and talent competent to make the labor of each more efficient increases in proportion; as their inventions are of benefit to all, the means of subsistence tend to increase as the square of the population. As the level of education and culture is raised, and as democracy is perfected, so that each is given opportunity to do the work for which he is fit, the wealth and means of subsistence increase still more rapidly. The law of Malthus and the law of diminishing returns, like the law of the degradation of energy, may ultimately prevail, but not in any future with which we are concerned. The population of a civilized country, in which science is cultivated, need not be limited by famine, pestilence or war. Over-population and the need of expansion by conquest are obviated by democracy and science; the cause of war which may be regarded as inevitable and legitimate is thus abolished. In providing adequately for the subsistence of an increasing population, science has made a contribution to peace the magnitude of which can not be easily overstated.

Another great service for peace to be credited to science is the development of commerce, travel and intercommunication. Steam and electricity are handmaids of peace. Trade disputes and the misadventures of missionaries, travelers and immigrants may serve as causes or pretexts of wars, but the balance of commerce, travel and immigration is large on the side of peace. With the existing commerce among the nations, each dependent on every other, a war of any kind does injury to all. A nation at war destroys its own property throughout the world, and all the nations suffer. A neutral nation can no more afford to countenance a needless war than mobs burning its own cities and killing its own citizens. In New York, London, Berlin and Paris are business houses and representatives of every country in the world. How could any nation wish to destroy or to permit the destruction of these cities?

Ease of travel and quickness of communication hold the large nations and empires together and tend to make the whole world one people. Racial prejudices are sometimes aggravated by close contact; but the acquaintance that comes with business and travel, with knowledge of politics and customs, with daily news cabled about the world, makes foreigners human like ourselves, and killing them becomes murder rather than war. The first cabin and the steerage of every transatlantic liner conduce to acquaintance and friendliness. Ease and cheapness of transportation have led to immigration on a vast scale. Many peoples must include New York when they enumerate their larger cities. Immigrants and their children in this country are numbered by the tens of millions. There are more people with Irish blood in the United States than in Ireland, and the same condition will in the end hold for other nationalities smaller than our own. Men war with their own kindred, but do not readily unite with aliens against them. The admixture of races, which the applications of science have so greatly promoted, surely makes for peace. This is especially the case when close communication is maintained with the mother country, such as is now supplied by the post-office, money order system, newspapers, ease of travel and other conditions of a civilization based on the applications of science.

Science has given us democracy, it has given us ample means of subsistence, it has given us commerce and intercommunication, and these three achievements are the principal factors which have lessened warfare and will eventually lead to its complete abolition. Other contributions of science, though less momentous, are by no means unimportant. Warfare is now in large measure applied science, and this tends towards its decrease. Wars between nations with scientific equipment and savage and barbarous peoples are no longer waged on equal terms and are of short duration. The extermination, despoliation and subjugation of the non-Caucasian races may be the world's great tragedy, and in so far as some of these peoples are able to adopt our science there will be a readjustment which may be written in blood or may be a triumph of common sense and justice. However this may be, the invincibility that science has conferred on the western nations has made them safe from attack and invasion, and while it may on occasion have led to wanton aggression, it has, on the whole, limited warfare. If we call to mind the centuries of invasion and threats of invasion by Northmen, Ottomans and Saracens, we can appreciate the value of the means of defense which science has given to the civilized nations.

The making of warfare an applied science by the western nations and by one eastern nation has tended also to prevent war between nations so equipped. When war is a game of skill rather than of chance, it is likely to be undertaken only after careful consideration of the conditions and consequences. The cost is enormous and must be carefully weighed. The interests of the money lenders are usually on the side of peace and become increasingly so as war continues. If war does occur between two great nations it is likely to be of short duration. It can not drag on through tens of years as formerly. Its horrors are also reduced; non-combatants are not so much concerned, and soldiers suffer less from disease—far more dreadful than violence—owing to the shorter duration of wars and to hygiene, medicine and surgery. It may be hoped that science has accomplished, on the whole, more for defense than for aggression; torpedoes, mines, submarines and aeroplanes are more effective for protection than for attack. The cost of modern armaments is so immense that this in itself will lead to their limitation and to the settlement of difficulties otherwise than by appeal to arms.

There is a psychological aspect of modern scientific warfare, which tends to discredit it. The heroism and the bravery, the excitement of personal contact and the exhibition of personal prowess, the romance and the occasional chivalry, are largely gone. Men cooped up in battleships or displayed like pawns on the field are not much greater heroes to themselves or to others than workers in a mine exposed to nearly equal danger. Officers under constant instructions from the seat of government and telegraphing their orders from a point of safety fall to the level of ordinary men of affairs. Tin soldiers will not forever stir the imagination of children in the nursery. Providence is on the side favored by the money lenders and having the best organized commissariat. War becomes brutal and disgusting; at its best like the business of the hangman, at its worst like infanticide.

War, wine and women as a toy have been so continuously exploited by poetry and art, that a philosopher might well propose to banish such incitements to misconduct from his republic. It is obvious that these things, bred into our blood through long ages when they were useful or at all events natural, stir the emotions and the passions in a way that can not be expected from considerations regarding peace, sobriety and the care of infants. Even religion is primarily racial in its expression.

The churches of a nation may on the first day of every month repeat the prayer:

Up Lord, and help me O my God; for thou smitest all mine enemies on the cheek-bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Its people may unite in the anthem:

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall;

Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On thee our hopes we fix,
Oh save us all.

Religion, poetry and art have been of untold value to tribes and peoples; they will surely adjust themselves to the world as it now is and should become. Science needs no reconstruction; it is by its nature universal and gives a common interest and object to all nations. A scientific advance or discovery made in one place is equally true and equally important everywhere. When a state appropriates money for research or when a university or scientific foundation is endowed by private gift a contribution is made to the welfare and to the peace of the whole world. Smithson, an-Englishman, might well establish the institution that bears his name in the United States: it is for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."

The methods of science and the spirit of science are adverse to the jealousies, resentments and passions which lead to war. Dependence on hypotheses and induction tends to careful weighing of facts and delay before coming to conclusions. The quantitative method, the application of mathematics and probability, enables us to measure our knowledge and our ignorance. The genetic method discredits revolutions and catastrophes; it gives us faith in the slow processes of evolution. The writer, a psychologist by profession, knows very well that a scientific man may be correct and cautious in his researches, but unwise and rash in other relations of life. None the less it is true that the spread of scientific education and of scientific investigation is slowly leading to objective points of view and moral conduct in daily life. The scientific spirit is a pervasive and permanent force making for the world's peace.

Science not only gives us peace, but also the means to make worthy use of peace. An industrial civilization in which each has as many comforts and is spared as much misery as may be strikes our inherited instincts as a tame and tiresome Walhalla. But science gives us an object; it can even satisfy the inborn spirit for excitement and adventure. The frontiers in the wilderness disappear as civilization encircles the earth; but the frontiers of science will always become larger and more remote as they are further extended. War between nations may become inconceivable; but however numerous may be the battles waged and won by science, there will always be unconquered worlds beyond. The hundred thousand physicians of our country, its fifty thousand engineers, its ten thousand men of science engaged in research, form an army more inspiring to the imagination than soldiers idling in barracks or confined in the venereal wards of hospitals. The dealing with germs of disease, with poisons, explosives and radiations, is not less heroic than the risking of life on the battlefield.

A scientific man has relations with his fellow workers in the same field throughout the world. In some narrow specialties he may know that his paper will be read by not more than twenty people who may be citizens of ten different nations. He belongs to a social group or fraternity which is independent of language or nationality. A scientific subject, whether large or small, is built up by contributions accruing from many nations. The symbols of mathematics, physical constants, the names of species and genera, in large measure the terminology of all the sciences, form an international language. It is easy to read scientific literature in English, German and French; practically all those engaged in research work can do so. Communication by way of the mails and the printing press and interest in a common subject lead to personal contact and acquaintance, which have been especially forwarded by the university. When the present writer was assistant in the psychological laboratory of Professor Wundt at Leipzig twenty-five years ago, more than half the research students came from beyond the borders of Germany. They now hold professorships in universities in many different countries. In the classes of the writer at Columbia University last year, there were represented Great Britain, German}, France, Italy, Russia, Denmark, Bulgaria, South America and Japan. Interchange of professors as well as of students has become a feature of academic life. Scientific men from foreign nations are continually visiting our institutions and lecturing at our universities. Each is an ambassador of peace and good will.

The common interests of scientific men have led to their organization in international conferences and congresses. These bodies are more numerous than is commonly known. The Central Office of International Institutions at Brussels, which aims to become a clearing-house in its field, enumerates as many as 280, most of which are concerned with science in its wider aspects. Dr. P. J. Eijkman, of the Hague, in his L'internationalisme scientifique gives a list of 614 societies and L organizations in the main scientific and international in character. International congresses devoted to each of the sciences and to the applications of science in the various branches of engineering and medicine meet periodically, each time in a different country. Experience shows that the organization of an international congress is not always conducive to domestic peace, but such difficulties perhaps dispose us to appreciate all the more the good qualities of foreigners. Certainly these congresses, bringing together men from different nations and giving them opportunity to cooperate for their common ends, have a real and increasing influence toward international good-will.

International congresses, conventions and conferences often lead to permanent plans and institutions for international cooperation. Some of these, such as the Hague conferences, are directly concerned with preventing wars or ameliorating their conduct. Others, such as the postal and copyright conventions or the International Bureau of the American Republics, are semi-scientific in character. Still others are concerned with the applications of science or with scientific research. Examples of these are the International Bureau of Weights and Measures at Paris, the International Geodetic Bureau at Strasburg, the International Institute of Agriculture at Rome, the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature at London, the Nobel Institutes at Stockholm and the Naples Zoological Station. There are international committees on electrical units, on mapping the earth and the skies, on deep-sea exploration and the like. We have attained a common calendar and a meridian of Greenwich with standard time. The metric system is becoming universal, and there is no reason why the gram of pure gold should not be adopted as a monetary standard. The exact definition of boundaries and other applications of science to international questions do away with the misunderstandings that may lead to war. International cooperation in science and scholarship and in their applications has reached such dimensions that it may be that the time has come when a truly international university might be established to advantage. If each nation would reduce its armaments to the extent of one per cent, and devote the money to the establishment and support of an international university, this step would in itself reduce the risks of war by more than one per cent. Such an institution could consequently be established without cost, and would be of vast intellectual, social and economic benefit to the world. It could be placed in Holland, Belgium or Switzerland, or perhaps still better in a territory made international for the purpose, such as one of the channel islands or Monte Carlo, wherever conditions of access, climate and environment would be most favorable. The conduct of such a territory and institution would give profitable practise in international cooperation. The high traditions of the university would be made tributary to international good-will and would themselves be further developed for the benefit of universities everywhere. Libraries and museums of international scope for the preservation of standards, type specimens, archives, etc., might to advantage be gathered together. Research institutions could be established by states or by private endowment; for the scientific work which is not primarily of benefit to a single individual or even to a single nation, can most properly be supported by all. By the establishment of an international university the nations would in part repay, or at least acknowledge, the debt which they owe to science for its services on behalf of the peace and welfare of the world.