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found jostling each other. Nor do these opposing
traits exist only in close social juxtaposition. The
same individual mind, unconscious of its own want
of logical consistency, will often exhibit our age in

It is little wonder that we have hitherto made
small way towards a common estimate of what
our time is really contributing to the history of
human progress. The one man finds in our time a
restlessness, a distrust of authority, a questioning of
the basis of all social institutions and long-established
methods characteristics which mark for him a
decadence of social unity, a collapse of the only
principles which he conceives capable of guiding
conduct. The other with a different temperament
pictures for us a golden age in the near future, when
the new knowledge shall be diffused through the
people, and when the new view of human relations,
which he finds everywhere taking root, shall finally
have supplanted worn-out customs.

One teacher propounds what is flatly contradicted
by a second. " We want more piety," cries one ;
" We must have less," retorts another. u State inter-


ference in the hours of labour is absolutely needful,"
declares a third ; " It will destroy all individual initia-
tion and self-dependence," rejoins a fourth. "The
salvation of the country depends upon the technical
education of its workpeople," is the shout of one
party ; " Technical education is merely a trick by
which the employer of labour thrusts upon the nation
the expense of providing himself with better human
machines," is the prompt answer of its opponents.
" We need more private chanty," say some ; " All
private charity is an anomaly, a waste of the nation's
resources and a pauperizing of its members," reply
others. " Endow scientific research and we shall know
the truth, when and where it is possible to ascertain
it ; " but the counterblast is at hand : " To endow
research is merely to encourage the research for
endowment ; the true man of science will not be held
back by poverty, and if science is of use to us, it will
pay for itself." Such are but a few samples of the
conflict of opinion which we find raging around us.
The prick of conscience and the prick of poverty
have succeeded in arousing a wonderful restlessness in
our generation and this at a time when the advance
of positive knowledge has called in question many
of the old customs and old authorities. It is true that
there are but few remedies which have not a fair
chance to-day of being put upon their trial. Vast
sums of money are raised for every sort of charitable
scheme, for popular entertainment, for technical
instruction, and even for higher education in short,
for religious, semi-religious, and anti-religious move-
ments of all types. Out of this chaos ought at least
to come some good ; but how shall we set the good
against the evil which too often arises from ill-defined,


or even undefined, appropriation of those resources
which the nation has spared by the hard labour of
the past, or is drawing on the future's credit ?

The responsibility of individuals, especially with
regard to wealth, is great, so great that we see a growing
tendency of the state to interfere in the administration
of private charities and to regulate the great educa-
tional institutions endowed by private or semi-public
benefactions in the past. But this tendency to throw
back the responsibility from the individual upon the
state is really only throwing it back on the social
conscience of the citizens as a body the " tribal
conscience," as Professor Clifford was wont to call it
The wide extension of the franchise in both local and
central representation has cast a greatly increased
responsibility on the individual citizen. He is brought
face to face with the most conflicting opinions and
with the most diverse party cries. The state has
become in our day the largest employer of labour, the
greatest dispenser of charity, and, above all, the school-
master with the biggest school in the community.
Directly or indirectly the individual citizen has to find
some reply to the innumerable social and educational
problems of the day. He requires some guide in the
determination of his own action or in the choice of
fitting representatives. He is thrust into an appalling
maze of social and educational problems ; and if his
tribal conscience has any stuff in it, he feels that
these problems ought not to be settled, so far as he
has the power of settling them, by his own personal
interests, by his individual prospects of profit or loss.
He is called upon to form a judgment apart from his
own feelings and emotions if it possibly may be a
judgment in what he conceives to be the interests of


society at large. It may be a difficult thing for the
large employer of labour to form a right judgment in
matters of factory legislation, or for the private school-
master to see clearly in questions of state-aided
education. None the less we should probably all
agree that the tribal conscience ought for the sake of
social welfare to be stronger than private interest, and
that the ideal citizen, if he existed, would form a
judgment free from personal bias.

2. Science and Citize?iship.

How is such a judgment so necessary in our time
with its hot conflict of personal opinion and its in-
creased responsibility for the individual citizen how
is such a judgment to be formed ? In the first place
it is obvious that it can only be based on a clear
knowledge of facts, an appreciation of their sequence
and relative significance. The facts once classified,
once understood, the judgment based upon them
ought to be independent of the individual mind
which examines them. Is there any other sphere,
outside that of ideal citizenship, in which there is
habitual use of this method of classifying facts and
forming judgments upon them ? For if there be, it
cannot fail to be suggestive as to methods of elimi-
nating individual bias ; it ought to be one of the
best training grounds for citizenship. The classifica-
tion of facts and the formation of absolute judgments
upon the basis of this classification judgments in-
dependent of the idiosyncrasies of the individual
mind is peculiarly the scope and metJiod of modern
science. The scientific man has above all things to
aim at self-elimination in his judgments, to provide
an argument which is as true for each individual


mind as for his own. The classification of facts, the
recognition of their sequence and relative significance is
the function of science, and the habit of forming a
judgment upon these facts unbiased by personal
feeling is characteristic of what we shall term the
scientific frame of mind. The scientific method of
examining facts is not peculiar to one class of
phenomena and to one class of workers ; it is
applicable to social as well as to physical problems,
and we must carefully guard ourselves against sup-
posing that the scientific frame of mind is a
peculiarity of the professional scientist.

Now this frame of mind seems to me an essential of
good citizenship, and of the several ways in which it
can be acquired few surpass the careful study of some
one branch of natural science. The insight into
method and the habit of dispassionate investigation
which follow from acquaintance with the scientific
classification of even some small range of natural
facts, give the mind an invaluable power of dealing
with many other classes of facts as the occasion
arises. 1 The patient and persistent study of some
one branch of natural science is even at the present
time within the reach of many. In some branches a
few hours' study a week, if carried on earnestly for

1 To decry specialization in education is to misinterpret the purpose
of education. The true aim of the teacher must be to impart an
appreciation of method and not a knowledge of facts. This is far
more readily achieved by concentrating the student's attention on a
small range of phenomena, than by leading him in rapid and superficial
survey over wide fields of knowledge. Personally I have no recollection
of at least 90 per cent, of the facts that were taught to me at school,
but the notions of method which I derived from my instructor in Greek
Grammar (the contents of which I have long forgotten), remained in
my mind as the really valuable part of my school equipment for life.


two or three years, would be not only sufficient to
give a thorough insight into scientific method, but
would also enable the student to become a careful
observer and possibly an original investigator in his
chosen field, thus adding a new delight and a new
enthusiasm to his life. The importance of a just
appreciation of scientific method is so great, that I
think the state may be reasonably called upon to
place instruction in pure science within the reach of
all its citizens. Indeed, we ought to look with
extreme distrust on the large expenditure of public
money on polytechnics and similar institutions, if the
manual instruction which it is proposed to give at
these places be not accompanied by efficient teaching
in pure science. The scientific habit of mind is one
which may be acquired by all, and the readiest means
of attaining to it ought to be placed within the reach
of all.

The reader must be careful to note that I am only
praising the scientific habit of mind, and suggesting
one of several methods by which it may be cultivated,
No assertion has been made that the man of science
is necessarily a good citizen, or that his judgment
upon social or political questions will certainly be
of weight. It by no means follows that, because a
man has won a name for himself in the field oi
natural science, his judgments on such problems
as Socialism, Home Rule, or Biblical Theology will
necessarily be sound. They will be sound or not
according as he has carried his scientific method into
these fields. He must properly have classified and
appreciated his facts, and have been guided by them,
and not by personal feeling or class bias in his
judgments. It is the scientific habit of mind as an


essential for good citizenship and not the scientist as
a sound politician that I wish to emphasize.

3. The First Claim of Modern Science.

We have gone a rather roundabout way to reach
our definition of science and scientific method. But
it has been of purpose, for in the spirit and it is a
healthy spirit of our age we have accustomed our-
selves to question all things and to demand a reason
for their existence. The sole reason that can be
given for any social institution or form of human
activity I mean not how they came to exist, which
is a matter of history, but why we continue to
encourage their existence lies in this : their existence
tends to promote the welfare of human society, to
increase social happiness, or to strengthen social
stability. In the spirit of our age we are bound to
question the value of science ; to ask in what way it
increases the happiness of mankind or promotes
social efficiency. We must justify the existence of
modern science, or at least the large and growing
demands which it makes upon the national exchequer.
Apart from the increased physical comfort, apart
from the intellectual enjoyment which modern science
provides for the community points often and loudly
insisted upon and to which I shall briefly refer later
there is another and more fundamental justification
for the time and material spent in scientific work.
From the standpoint of morality, or from the relation
of the individual unit to other members of the same
social group, we have to judge each human activity
by its outcome in conduct. How, then, does science
justify itself in its influence on the conduct of men
as citizens? I assert that the encouragement of


scientific investigation and the spread of scientific
knowledge by largely inculcating scientific habits
of mind will lead to more efficient citizenship and
so to increased social stability. Minds trained to
scientific methods are less likely to be led by mere
appeal to the passions, by blind emotional excitement
to sanction acts which in the end may lead to social
disaster. In the first and foremost place, therefore,
I lay stress upon the educational side of modern
science, and state my proposition in some such words
as these :

Modern Science^ as training the mind to an exact
and impartial analysis of facts is an edit cation specially
fitted to promote sound citizenship.

Our first conclusion, then, as to the value of science
for practical life turns upon the efficient training it
provides in method. The man who has accustomed
himself to marshal facts, to examine their complex
mutual relations, and predict upon the result of this
examination their inevitable sequences sequences
which we term natural laws and which are as valid
for every normal mind as for that of the individual
investigator such a man we may hope will carry his
scientific method into the field of social problems.
He will scarcely be content with mere superficial state-
ment, with mere appeal to the imagination, to the
emotions, to individual prejudices. He will demand
a high standard of reasoning, a clear insight into
facts and their results, and his demand cannot fail to
be beneficial to the community at large.

4. Essentials of Good Science.

I want the reader to appreciate clearly that science
justifies itself in its methods, quite apart from any


serviceable knowledge it may convey. We are too
apt to forget this purely educational side of science
in the great value of its practical applications. We
see too often the plea raised for science that it is
useful knowledge, while grammar and philosophy are
supposed to have small utilitarian or commercial
value. Science, indeed, often teaches us facts of
primary importance for practical life ; yet not on
this account, but because it leads us to classifications
and systems independent of the individual thinker,
to sequences and laws admitting of no play-room
for individual fancy, must we rate the training of
science and its social value higher than those of
grammar and philosophy. Herein lies the first, but
of course not the sole, ground for the popularization
of science. That form of popular science which
merely recites the results of investigations, which
merely communicates useful knowledge, is from this
standpoint bad science, or no science at all. Let me
recommend the reader to apply this test to every
work professing to give a popular account of any
branch of science. If any such work gives a
description of phenomena that appeals to his ima-
gination rather than to his reason, then it is bad
science. The first aim of any genuine work of
science, however popular, ought to be the presentation
of such a classification of facts that the reader's mind
is irresistibly led to acknowledge a logical sequence
a law which appeals to the reason before it
captivates the imagination. Let us be quite sure
that whenever we come across a conclusion in a
scientific work which does not flow from the classifi-
cation of facts, or which is not directly stated by the
author to be an assumption, then we are dealing with


bad science. Good science will always be intelligible
to the logically trained mind, if that mind can read
and translate the language in which science is written.
The scientific method is one and the same in all
branches, and that method is the method of all
logically trained minds. In this respect the great
classics of science are often the most intelligible of
books, and if so, are far better worth reading than
popularizations of them written by men with less
insight into scientific method. Works like Darwin's
Origin of Species and Descent of Man, Lyell's
Principles of Geology, Helmholtz's Sensations of Tone,
or Weismann's Essays on Heredity, can be profitably
read and largely understood by those who are not
specially trained in the several branches of science
with which these works deal. 1 It may need some
patience in the interpretation of scientific terms, in
learning the language of science, but like most cases
in which a new language has to be learnt, the com-
parison of passages in which the same word or term
recurs, will soon lead to a just appreciation of its
true meaning. In the matter of language the de-
scriptive natural sciences such as geology or biology
are more easily accessible to the layman than the
exact sciences such as algebra or mechanics, where
the reasoning process must often be clothed in
mathematical symbols, the right interpretation of
which may require months, if not years, of study.
To this distinction between the descriptive and exact
sciences I propose to return later, when we are deal-
ing with the classification of the sciences.

1 The list might be easily increased, for example by W. Harvey's
Anatomical Dissertation on the Motion of the Heart and Blood, and by
Faraday's Experimental Researches.


I would not have the reader suppose that the mere
perusal of some standard scientific work will, in my
opinion, produce a scientific habit of mind. I only
suggest that it will give some insight into scientific
method and some appreciation of its value. Those
who can devote persistently some four or five hours
a week to the conscientious study of any one limited
branch of science will achieve in the space of a year
or two much more than this. The busy layman is
not bound to seek about for some branch which will
give him useful facts for his profession or occupation
in life. It does not indeed matter for the purpose we
have now in view whether he seek to make himself
proficient in geology, or biology, or geometry, or
mechanics, or even history or folklore, if these be
studied scientifically. What is necessary is the
thorough knowledge of some small group of facts, the
recognition of their relationship to each other, and of
the formulae or laws which express scientifically their
sequences. It is in this manner that the mind
becomes imbued with the scientific method and freed
from individual bias in the formation of its judg-
ments one of the conditions, as we have seen, for
ideally good citizenship. This first claim of scientific
training, its education in method, is to my mind the
most powerful claim it has to state support. I believe
more will be achieved by placing instruction in pure
science within the reach of all our citizens, than by
any number of polytechnics devoting themselves to
technical education, which does not rise above the
level of manual instruction.

5. The Scope of Science.
The reader may, perhaps, feel that I am laying all


stress upon method at the expense of solid contents.
Now this is the peculiarity of scientific method, that
when once it has become a habit of mind, that mind
converts all facts whatsoever into science. The field
of science is unlimited ; its solid contents are endless,
every group of natural phenomena, every phase of
social life, every stage of past or present development
is material for science. The unity of all science con-
sists alone in its method, not in its material The man
who classifies facts of any kind whatever, who sees
their mutual relation and describes their sequence, is
applying the scientific method and is a man of science.
The facts may belong to the past history of mankind,
to the social statistics of our great cities, to the
atmosphere of the most distant stars, to the digestive
organs of a worm, or to the life of a scarcely visible
bacillus. It is not the facts themselves which form
science, but the method in which they are dealt with.
The material of science is coextensive with the whole
physical universe, not only that universe as it now
exists, but with its past history and the past history
of all life therein. When every fact, every present or
past phenomenon of that universe, every phase of
present or past life therein, has been examined,
classified, and co-ordinated with the rest, then the
mission of science will be completed. What is this
but saying that the task of science can never end till
man ceases to be, till history is no longer made, and
development itself ceases ?

It might be supposed that science has made such
strides in the last two centuries, and notably in
the last fifty years, that we might look forward
to a day when its work would be practically ac-
complished. At the beginning of this century it


was possible for an Alexander von Humboldt to
take a survey of the entire domain of then extant
science. Such a survey would be impossible for
any scientist now, even if gifted with more than
Humboldt's powers. Scarcely any specialist of to-
day is really master of all the work which has been
done in his own comparatively small field. Facts
and their classification have been accumulating at
such a rate, that nobody seems to have leisure to
recognize the relations of sub-groups to the whole. It
is as if both in Europe and America individual
workers were bringing their stones to one great
building and piling them on and fastening them down
without regard to any general plan or to their
individual neighbour's work; only where some one
has placed a great corner-stone, is it regarded, and
the building then rises on this firmer foundation more
rapidly than at other points, till it reaches a height at
which it is stopped for want of side support. Yet
this great structure, the proportions of which are
beyond the ken of any individual man, possesses a
symmetry and unity of its own, notwithstanding its
haphazard mode of construction. This symmetry
and unity lies in scientific method. The smallest
group of facts, if properly classified and logically dealt
with, will form a stone which has its proper place in
the great building of knowledge, wholly independent
of the individual workman who has shaped it. Even
when two men work unwittingly at the same stone
they will but modify and correct each other's angles.
In the face of all this enormous progress of modern
science, when in all civilized lands men are applying
the scientific method to natural, historical, and mental
facts, we have yet to admit that the goal of science is
and must be infinitely distant.


Here, too, we may note that when from a sufficient
if partial classification of facts a simple principle has
been discovered which describes the relationship and
sequences of the group, then this principle or law
itself generally leads to the discovery of a still wider
range' of hitherto unregarded phenomena in the same
or associated fields. Every great advance of science
opens our eyes to facts which we had failed before to
observe, and makes new demands on our powers of
interpretation. This extension of the material of
science into regions where our great-grandfathers
could see nothing at all, or where they would have
declared human knowledge impossible, is one of the
most remarkable features of modern progress. Where
they interpreted the motion of the planets of our own
system, we discuss the chemical constitution of stars,
many of which did not exist for them, for their
telescopes could not reach them. Where they dis-
covered the circulation of the blood, we see the
physical conflict of living poisons within the blood,
whose battles would have been absurdities for them.
Where they found void and probably demonstrated to
their own satisfaction that there was void, we conceive
great systems in rapid motion capable of carrying
energy through brick walls as light passes through
glass. Great as the advance of scientific knowledge
has been, it has not been greater than the growth of
the material to be dealt with. The goal of science is
clear it is nothing short of the complete interpre-
tation of the universe. But the goal is an ideal one
it marks the direction in which we move and strive,
but never the point we shall actually reach.


6. Science and Metaphysics.

Now I want to draw the reader's attention to two
results which flow from the above considerations,
namely : that the material of science is coextensive
with the whole life, physical and mental, of the
universe, and furthermore that the limits to our
perception of the universe are only apparent, not real.
It is no exaggeration to say that the universe was not
the same for our great-grandfathers as it is for us,

Online LibraryKarl PearsonThe grammar of science → online text (page 2 of 38)