The capital, the fundamental sin of method [not of creed] in what we
call the Modern Scientific Spirit, is the substitution of Numerical
Synthesis for Integration.
Other accompanying errors of method allied to and in particular
proceeding from this capital error shall be noted; but before
proceeding to them it is necessary to explain the terms used and to
show why the substitution of Numerical Synthesis for Integration as a
method of arriving at truth is calamitous, and, far from leading one to
truth, debars one from attaining it.
We mean by integration that faculty in the human mind whereby it is
able to combine an indefinitely large number of impressions
[colloquially we say: "an infinite number of impressions"] in order to
arrive at reality.
For instance, if a man seeing another man coming towards him along a
path says: "Here comes my friend, Brown," he is quite certain of the
truth of what he says, and he is right to be certain. His mind has not
created an image, but appreciated an external object, and his judgment
is coincident with that object.
But he has not noted every detail characteristic of Brown. He has not
cataloged one by one the gestures and the gait, the elements of the
contours and all the rest of it. He has received an indefinitely large
number of indefinitely small impressions and combined them, without
addition, into one immediate whole.
It is the same with a taste, with a color, with the recognition of
anything. A man sees the truth that a distant vessel is of such and
such a rig, if he is familiar with that rig, though the indications, if
he were to set them down, would seem each individually quite
insufficient, and even any sum of them insufficient. Or take what is
perhaps the most lucid example of all, the recognition of a type of
tree. A man looking at a tree a good way off says with complete
certainty, if he is acquainted with such trees: "That is an oak." He
cannot see the individual leaves, and if he did he would be a great
fool to go over them one by one and not be sure of his oak until he had
examined them all. He would be a great fool if he went on to say:
"Well, the leaves seem to be all right; but now I must look closely at
the bark and I must have a section of the grain, and what about the
shape of the boughs?" He, as we say, "knows an oak tree when he sees
one." And that "knowing" is a process of integration. It is the
immediate combining of an indefinitely large number of indefinitely
small indications into one short flash of communion with reality.
The metaphor of "Integration," the best I know in this connection, is
taken from mathematics, in which science the word "Integration" is used
of arriving at a result through the consideration of what are called
"infinitesimals"; an infinitely great number of which, for instance,
give the formula of a curve.
This God-given faculty of Integration is the just and only method of
perception we possess: I mean, of perception sufficient to bring us
into touch with reality and to recognize a thing. It is our only way of
truth. We use it in every moment of our lives, and in proportion to our
vigor in using it are we sane.
Integration lies at the basis, not only of our recognizing things, but
of our judgment upon character and events. Thus, we say that one man
"is of good judgment," because he integrates well, though he may not be
able to give reasons for his judgment; and another man "of bad
judgment," because he integrates badly, although he piles up reasons
and calculations over much. Hence, also, we say that good judgment is
based upon experience, and hence do we rightly mistrust a man's
judgment in practical affairs -- other things being equal -- when he is
inexperienced in the particular matter involved, however well he knows
the theory of the business.
Now, the Modern Scientific Spirit has more and more fettered itself
with a different, false and almost contradictory method of arriving at
It adds together numerically a comparatively small number of
ascertained truths with regard to any object and then propounds its
conclusion, as though by possession of these few gross certainties it
had a sufficient basis for that conclusion. What is more, it very
impudently puts forward such a conclusion against the sound conclusion
arrived at by the powers of integration present in the common man.
I shall never forget a personage of my early youth who gave us boys
lectures in chemistry [for the honor of my old school I must say that
it was not at this school that they were given]. He came out one day
with this enormity: "A diamond is therefore" [Oh, glorious
"therefore"!] "the same thing as a lump of coal." Why, a man might go
to jail for pretending that they were the same thing! A diamond is not
a lump of coal, and a lump of coal is not a diamond. The Science of
this lecturer was the enemy of Truth.
Upon one line of analysis, insofar as the gentleman in question had
knowledge, a lump of coal gave the same results as a diamond. They
both, along that one line of analysis, presented themselves as what he
called "carbon"; and "carbon" was what he called an "element," and an
element consisted of hypothetical "molecules," in which there was but
one kind of hypothetical "atoms." The atoms he was quite sure were
atoms of carbon, and therefore [Oh, glorious "therefore"!] the diamond
and the carbon, whose difference stared him in the face, were the same
thing. But we infants knew very well they were not the same thing. Nor
are they the same thing. Though most of us were of the middle class, we
had seen diamonds -- and with coal we were all familiar. We had done
our little integrations in these affairs, and we knew that a man who
could call a lump of coal a diamond would call cricket, football. Along
one line of analysis cricket and football are both games. Along another
they are both played with a ball. Along another they are both of
English origin. In each case "Experiment on independent lines confirms
the hypothesis of identity." Nevertheless, to affirm identity between
them is to talk rubbish.
The Modern Scientific Spirit is at war with common sense and with
universal judgment -- that is with truth -- principally because it has
fallen into this false method.