« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
A SCIENTIFIC DEMONSTRATION
Bacon's Monument to Common Sense. - The First to recognize the True Value of a Fact. - The Law of Correct Reasoning. Its Simplicity. — The Essentials of a Correct Hypothesis. — Inductive Reasoning. - The Copernican System. - Defective Methods of Reasoning employed by the Greek Philosophers. - Speculative Philosophy subject to the Law of Reaction. - The Inductive Sciences insure Permanent Progress. Natural Theology at a Standstill. - The Conflict between Religion and Science. - Voltaire and Paine. - Their Assaults upon Dogma. - Their Religion. -The Triumph of Science. - The Doctrine of Evolution. A New Controversy. — Religion and Science not Antagonistic. — Immortality a Proper Question for Scientific Investigation. True, it is Important. — If Important, it can be Demonstrated.
"MAN, the minister and interpreter of Nature, does and
understands so much as he may have discerned concerning the order of Nature by observing or by meditating on facts: he knows no more, he can do no more.”
These words are Bacon's; the italics are mine.
If the great Lord Chancellor had written and expounded but that one sentence, he would have been entitled not
1 Novum Organum, book i. p. 1.
only to the eternal gratitude of all mankind, but to the credit of having builded the grandest monument to Common Sense that was ever erected by human genius. This eulogium will not seem extravagant when it is remembered that Bacon was the first man who taught the world the true value of a fact; that is to say, he was the first to discover and formulate the fundamental truth that all successful inquiry concerning the order of Nature must of necessity be founded upon a solid basis of well-authenticated facts. When we contemplate the wondrous civilization of ancient Greece and Rome, their advancement in the science of government, the beauty and grace of their literature, the subtleties and refinements of their philosophy, the transcendent genius of their artists, the grandeur and nobility of their architecture, it seems strange, incomprehensible, incredible, that the discovery of this self-evident truth was left for a civilization built upon a soil which was not rescued from barbarism when the Parthenon began to decay and the Coliseum to crumble. But such was the tardiness
of human progress the conservatism of the human mind -in the days before it had broken the shackles of authority, when opinions had the force of enactments, and dogmas were regulated by statute. What is now, to the unperverted mind of the average school-boy, a self-evident proposition, struck the scientific mind of the Elizabethan age with the force of a revelation; and it is safe to say that the world owes all its subsequent progress in material science to the process of reasoning and of scientific investigation formulated and developed by Francis Bacon. Nay, more. The world not only owes all its substantial progress to that source, but the inductive process is the sure guaranty of the stability of our civilization, and of its constant advancement for all time.
The laws of correct reasoning are as immutable as the law of gravity; and, properly applied, are as certain and
exact in their results as a law of mathematics. They are the natural laws of the human intellect; they are inherent in its nature and constitution. But what is true of every law
of Nature is also true of the law of reason; namely, that until it is discovered and formulated by man, he is not in a position to avail himself of its uses, or to reap the benefits of its beneficence. Like every other law of Nature, when once comprehended the law of correct reasoning was found to be simple to the last degree. It is well stated in the opening sentence of the "Novum Organum," and quoted at the beginning of this chapter. It may be restated thus: Nothing can be known with certainty except by an appeal to facts. This is inductive reasoning.
Broadly speaking, there are but two methods of reasoning; namely, induction and deduction. The former consists in reasoning from particulars up to generals, and the latter in reasoning from generals down to particulars. Each is proper in its legitimate sphere; but all conclusions depend for their validity upon the correct employment of each in its proper domain, by which one is never allowed to take the place or usurp the functions of the other.
Inductive reasoning, then, consists in observing, verifying, and classifying all the facts attainable pertaining to the subject-matter undergoing investigation, with a view of arriving at the general principle or law which underlies all the observable phenomena. This is the first great step in the process, without which man can never be certain that he knows anything. The utmost care, therefore, is necessary in this step in order to avoid the pitfalls which beset the pathway of every honest investigator. The first of these pitfalls is inaccurate observation; the second is insufficient verification; and the third is the constant tendency of the human mind to generalize from an insufficient number of facts. There are many other sources of error which beset
one who would conduct a scientific investigation; but as it would be foreign to the purpose of this book to discuss the subject in detail, I will content myself by pointing out one that does not seem to have attracted its due meed of attention.
Referring to the general tendency of the mind to generalize from an insufficient number of facts, a propensity which also includes inaccurate observation and insufficient verification, — it will be observed that there is also a tendency to range facts into factions, and to determine general principles by suffrage. This often happens after an investigator has committed himself to an hypothesis. He soon finds that his theory is contradicted by some of his facts, but he consoles himself with the reflection that the majority of his facts sustain his hypothesis, and he triumphantly quotes the old maxim that "Exceptions prove the rule." No more pernicious and fatal error can be entertained. There are no exceptions to the operations of a law of Nature. There exceptions do not prove the rule. This maxim holds good only in its application to human laws. It is applicable to them because it often happens that a rule of common law which applies with substantial justice to a great majority of cases, will work irreparable wrong in an exceptional case. Hence courts of equity are established "for the correction of that wherein the law, by reason of its universality, is deficient." But Nature's laws require no courts of equity to provide for exceptional cases. Exceptions prove the rule in human enactments in that they provoke attention to the rule and thus give it emphasis by antithesis. In case of an apparent exception to a supposed law of Nature, one of the two propositions must be true: 1. If it is truly a law, the exception is only apparent, and fuller investigation will demonstrate that fact, and thus emphasize the rule; 2. On the other hand, if one fact refuses 1 Blackstone.