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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 18. July 30, 1969



Scientific knowledge is cumulative. It follows a Darwinian principle of natural selection. The best concepts tend to survive Prehistoric man began his life with the wheel as man was given a theory, evolved from the wisdom of the ages, and built himself a bomb. Politics and history, unlike the sciences, do not follow this principle for these studies deal not in proven facts, but in interpretations of facts. As time progresses the storehouse of knowledge becomes more vast, but man is no closer to Utopia than he was at the time of the Greek City Stales, despite the fact that modern man can produce his day's supply of meat and potatoes with a mere few hours of labour. There exists in the study of history and politics a certain Darwinism. However, a political theory is too fluid a thing to be disproven. It can only become demode, and then only for the time being. It can be resuscitated at any time for its validity is as ageless as the nature of man. Man has filled his libraries with books on the social sciences. Stack these up and one might have a paper edifice a mile high yet be no closer the truth than Plato was. The mind has proven to be the master of matter but The mind has yet to dissect itself. Man is an irrational animal. The study of politics is an emotional process. There might have been, in the past, wholly analytical, unprejudiced, unemotional political scientists. However, such men do not write books. In fact. I rather doubt that man can be without prejudice, unless he be totally stupid or yet unborn. Political theories and histories are written by men of prejudice. They are born of opinion not fact. Their reputation is equally valid or invalid be it by a fool or a professor. The edifice constructed of political or historical knowledge expands horizontally but rises no higher than the single contributing unit, for the structure has no keystone of fact, and no one block will bear the weight of another. The structure merely widens with the proliferations of opinion. It surrounds, but is not built upon, the age old theme which lies at its centre. Why are Pythagoris and Newton no longer read? Because scientific theories once accepted, are either superceded by more advanced theories or incorporated within larger and more inclusive theories. Having proven that hydrogen is lighter than air we build a balloon. The next generation of scientists begin at this point, accepting the preceeding as given data long established. Their interest is not in the origin of the theory but in the immediate problem of streamlining the balloon. The political philosopher and historian accept nothing as proven fact. He always starts at square one. The first political theory promulgated is no less significant than the most recent. Aristotle is relevant today as his starting point is no less advanced than our own. Politics is not a science. Progress is not made in a scientific science. Aristotle is still read because he has not been superceded. Until man has come the mechanistic, rational, faceless digit, the political mechanic desires, their theories will remain unsuperceded. Facts can be superceded or compounded, opinions cannot.