I. PREHISTORIC SCIENCE

Meanwhile, the very existence of such a community implies the recognition on the part of its members of certain individual rights, the recognition of which is essential to communal harmony. The right of individual ownership of the various articles and implements of every-day life must be recognized, or all harmony would be at an end. Certain rules of justice— primitive laws—must, by common consent, give protection to the weakest members of the community. Here are the rudiments of a system of ethics. It may seem anomalous to speak of this primitive morality, this early recognition of the principles of right and wrong, as having any relation to science. Yet, rightly considered, there is no incongruity in such a citation. There cannot well be a doubt that the adoption of those broad principles of right and wrong which underlie the entire structure of modern civilization was due to scientific induction,—in other words, to the belief, based on observation and experience, that the principles implied were essential to communal progress. He who has scanned the pageant of history knows how often these principles seem to be absent in the intercourse of men and nations. Yet the ideal is always there as a standard by which all deeds are judged.

It would appear, then, that the entire superstructure of later science had its foundation in the knowledge and practice of prehistoric man. The civilization of the historical period could not have advanced as it has had there not been countless generations of culture back of it. The new principles of science could not have been evolved had there not been great basal principles which ages of unconscious experiment had impressed upon the mind of our race. Due meed of praise must be given, then, to our primitive ancestor for his scientific accomplishments; but justice demands that we should look a little farther and consider the reverse side of the picture. We have had to do, thus far, chiefly with the positive side of accomplishment. We have pointed out what our primitive ancestor knew, intimating, perhaps, the limitations of his knowledge; but we have had little to say of one all-important feature of his scientific theorizing. The feature in question is based on the highly scientific desire and propensity to find explanations for the phenomena of nature. Without such desire no progress could be made. It is, as we have seen, the generalizing from experience that constitutes real scientific progress; and yet, just as most other good things can be overdone, this scientific propensity may be carried to a disastrous excess.