The Scientific Basis of National Progress/Preface
As there exists at the present time in this country a considerable degree of uneasiness in the public mind respecting our ability to maintain our position in the race of progress, and as our future success as a nation depends largely upon science, it is desirable to call attention to the great public importance of new scientific knowledge, and to the means of promoting its development.
Although the illustrations given in this book of the importance of such knowledge to mankind, constitute but a small fraction of the number which might be adduced, they are sufficient to show that by the neglect of scientific investigation, we are sacrificing our welfare as a nation to an enormous extent.
The greatest obstacle to the discovery of new knowledge in this country, lies in a wide spread ignorance of the dependence of human welfare upon scientific research. I propose therefore to show in a brief manner, that the essential starting-point of human progress, lies in scientific discovery; also that new truths are evolved by original research made in accordance with scientific methods; and to illustrate these statements by examples; also to point out how such research can be encouraged.
The book is divided into four chapters, viz.: 1st. The Scientific basis of Material progress: 2nd. The Scientific basis of Mental and Moral progress: 3rd. New truth and its relation to Human progress: and 4th. The Promotion of original Scientific Research. As the object of the book is only to call attention to the vast importance of new truth, as as a fundamental source of advance, and how to promote the discovery of it, the essay is written as briefly as possible, and is not offered in any sense as a complete exposition of the subject, especially the section relating to the Scientific basis of Morality.
The leading idea of the Book is that present knowledge only enables us to maintain our present state, that national progress is the result of new ideas, and that the chief source of new ideas is original research. That as advance has its origin in new knowledge; unless new discoveries are made, new inventions and improvements must sooner or later cease. Another prominent idea is, that truth is essentially the same in all divisions of knowledge, and that the mental powers and processes employed in detecting it are the same in all subjects.
For reasons stated in the text, the influence of scientific discovery upon mental and moral progress are treated together. Notwithstanding the far greater importance of the mental and moral advantages of new truths, the book treats chiefly of the pecuniary and material gains to mankind; mainly because the latter are more easily understood and appreciated, the chapter however on "The Scientific Basis of Mental and Moral progress," indicates in a very brief and imperfect manner, the vast importance of new scientific knowledge to mankind, as a source of mental and moral advancement.
The chief object of this book is to disseminate more correct ideas respecting the importance of new positive knowledge, and the duties of society in relation to it; and a further object is to assist in maintaining Birmingham in the front rank of intellectual, social and moral advance, in accordance with its motto "Forward."
1 ^ See p.p. 165 to 167.