Evolution Of Science
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The history of Science reveals a fair type of the complex methods and varied means of progress which we have learned to recognize as the evolutionary process.
It was originally supposed that gods and goddesses were continually manipulating various forces. When the conception became possible that the antecedent causes of the wind, rain, fire, earthquakes, thunder and lightning, etc., were natural and not personal, Science had its origin. Mythology ruled the minds of men until Science was born. Explanations which we now recognize as natural were slowly evolved by long and laborious processes. It has always been part of the mission of Science to purify these explanations from superstition and error. And the end is not yet in sight—for the mass of the people at least.
Thus it is evident that several different processes have been proceeding simultaneously : First, an evolution of classified knowledge or Science; second, an evolution of the means, tools and methods of the Scientist; third, a very complex evolution which has produced a type known as the Modern Scientist; fourth, a still more complex evolution of the people with reference to their common interpretations of natural phenomena.
Quite within modern times another and even more important process of evolution has been begun and is now being perfected. This consists in the ability to analyze and the process of analysis of each of these kinds of evolution. Science now includes the ability to analyze four things, namely : Science, the Methods of Science, the Scientist, and the Effects of Science upon the people.
These various kinds of growth are all governed by regular, natural laws. Therefore, they are susceptible of scientific analysis and classification. Furthermore, the growth of Science is accelerated by the discovery and application of a scientific method. And, more important still, the effect is immediately apparent upon individuals and ultimately upon the race, in the development of personal qualities, such as courage, mental grip, perseverance and intelligence.
The evolution of the Scientist will probably result in producing a class of men who can be specialists and yet who will recognize that their department is but a small section of the whole realm of Knowledge. They will be gladly conscious that Truth fills the universe and that anyone may discover something valuable. They will accept Truth from whatever source it comes and know that the title or lack of title of the discoverer does not make Truth either more or less true. They will extend courtesies to everything announced as Truth and give it a fair opportunity to establish itself. Without panic they will listen to everyone who claims to have overthrown any old explanation by a new one.
Truth cannot suffer, but a man does himself injustice by slamming the door in its face. There are additional facts in us and around us which we need to know. The interpretations of the facts are being continually revised. "Exact Knowledge" is a term rather than a fact. Nobler and ampler philosophies are being continually deduced from the facts.
Science is knowledge put in shape for use. All knowledge is valuable, but all knowledge is not equally valuable. The value is proportionate to man's ability to use it in his own development. For example : Knowledge of electricity is useful, but its value is proportionate to the kind and quality of the machinery at hand to which the force can be applied. Furthermore, knowledge of electricity is useful in proportion to the real and permanent value of the results to the human race.
Thus, there have been three stages in man's utilizing natural forces :
1. Recognition of their existence.
2. Knowledge of their use.
3. Ability to grip conditions and master them in succession.
Accompanying the growth of use of natural forces has been the invention of machinery. All high-class, rapid-action machines are the results of development, of evolution. The inventors of the latest improvements have been successful because of the previous efforts and attainments of others. Thus, there have been three phases of this evolution, namely :
1. Simple machines, the results of the first efforts of inventors.
2. The use of simple machines to manufacture more powerful and more complex machinery.
3. Matured ability to grasp principles and apply knowledge.
In like manner there are three stages of the ethics which govern the use of both natural forces and machinery, and the attainment of the last stage is the test of the real and permanent value of all Science :
1. Personal, innocent, self-interest in values.
2. Selfishness in monopolizing the results of combined efforts.
3. Proper division of results in proportion to useful labor and human need.
An individual can spend a whole lifetime in inventing machines or in studying his environment. Any department of any one Science is more than he can master. Every department of knowledge presents vast problems and important solutions. Such study and invention are valuable means and methods for development. But the proper study of man is himself. The enlargement of Science to include man and the whole of man is the most important phase of its evolution.
From the nature of the case, each person considers the universe with himself as the center. He judges all things by their effect upon his own consciousness, and does this by his own sensations, emotions, desires and impulses. Everything of which he is not conscious has no existence to him. Therefore, the range of his faculties is the extent of the universe to him, practically. To overcome these limitations, it is a great help to study Astronomy, though every other Science also soon reaches out into unlimited vistas.
The majority of men are woefully ignorant of themselves. Their own capabilities and potentialities have not been estimated. Their possibilities have been only dimly shadowed forth in the greatest characters of the past. It is impossible to tell from what family, race or environment yet greater men and women will proceed to act still nobler parts.
Science of human nature is more valuable than any other because the Soul of Man is the final and highest product of nature's long evolutionary process, so far as we know. All that has been accomplished by the efforts of ages seems but a beginning. Furthermore, we see only dimly the capacities and powers to be unfolded and the attainments to be made.
A worthy Science will analyze and explain an individual with strong impulses, high motives and pure aspirations; one who believes he has a right to develop his powers and satisfy his soul longings for knowledge, wisdom and companionship.
What is the answer of Science to the question,—What is the object of life? The object of life is self-completion or self-realization, the normal and complete unfoldment of inherent potentialities and possibilities.
What are the means and methods for its accomplishment? This question tests and exhausts Science, Philosophy and Religion.
Man is a wonderful organism. A lifetime may be spent in studying his physical body and then only part will be known of its composition, anatomy, physiology and functions, with their possible complications and diseases.
The Soul of man is more complicated and more important than his physical body. His possibilities and his destiny are more important than his origin. The greatest use we have for Science is to secure self-knowledge and self-realization.