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Grammar of Science 2. Science and Citizenship

Grammar of Science 2. Science & Citizenship

How is such a judgment so necessary in our time with its hot conflict of individual opinions and its increased responsibility for the individual citizen—how is such a judgment to be formed ? In the first place it is obvious that it can only 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 eliminating individual bias ; it ought to be one of the best training grounds for citizenship. The classification of facts and the formation of absolute judgments upon the basis of this classification judgments independent of the idiosyncrasies of the individual mind essentially sum up the aim and method of modern science. The scientific man has above all things to strive 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 unbiassed by personal feeling is characteristic of what may be termed 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 supposing 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 other classes of facts as the occasion arises.

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 carry on earnestly for 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 in- struction 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 in- stitutions, 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 of natural science, his judgments on such problems as Socialism, Home Rule, or Biblical Criticism 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 emphasise.


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