The capital, the fundamental sin of method [not of creed] in what we call
the Modern Scientific Spirit, is the substitution of Numerical Synthesis
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
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
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
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 truth.
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.