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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37

The Method of Science

The Method of Science.

But this philosophy, based on all known truth and vital enough to assimilate all truth that shall from time to time be discovered, must be dominated by a single method. What is wanted is not the discovery page 5 of a new method, but the expansion and universal' acceptance of the method already crowned with such magnificent and triumphant laurels—the method of science itself. Observation and experiment, induction and deduction,—the recognition of all facts, inward and outward, and the application of every mental faculty to interpret them and discover all their bearings,—this is the method, already organized and of unquestioned authority in physical investigations, which is destined to become supreme also in every province of human thinking. The conquest of one dogmatic system by another is of trivial consequence; the pathway of philosophy is white with the bleaching bones of such systems. But the establishment of a new method is of vast moment, for it means the determination of a new road for the human mind.

We are now in the midst of a great conflict of methods. The "transitional period" of which we hear so much vague and vaporous talk (nobody seems to know from what or to what we are passing) is in fact the period of struggle between the old method of Christianity and the new method of science. Dogmatic authority, the Divine revelation of truth which must be accepted without doubt or question as the Divinely authorized basis of belief,—that is the old method once supreme throughout Christendom in the "Ages of Faith;" and it still holds sway to a greater or less extent throughout the entire Christian Church. On the other hand is the new scientific method, only two or three centuries old, which submits every fact and every theory to the severest tests, first objectively by experience, and then subjectively by reason; and this new method is daily gaining ground upon the other. Nearly every great conflict of ideas in modern times, I care not how disguised by superficial issues, can be shown by thorough analysis to be the same eternal conflict of these two principles,—Authority or the Christian method, and Reason or the scientific method. The substitution of the latter for the former is the great reform now going on, and not to be completed until the last trace of dogmatism is wiped out from the human mind.