MA 8- Victorian Sources


"The Relation of Science to Culture" -Popular Science 1884 [I'm afraid I didn't photocopy quite enough of the magazine so I haven't any more information- i.e. author, date...]

In this piece, the author tackles a subject which clearly would be of interest to Mr. E. Abbott Abbott, the interplay between science and culture. While Popular Science is not a British publication, many Victorian influences can be observed in the tone of the essay. The author postulates that for the "general nourishment of thought and advancement of civilization," each individual must have a thorough knowledge of all facets of science. He states (forgive my assumption that the author is a man, but given the era I think it's likely) that the benefits of scientific inquiry to culture are as follows:

1. It imparts actual knowledge of the condition and constitution of the external world.

2. It trains the observing and reasoning faculties. 3. It imparts a knowledge of its own methods, and by doing so gives the mind a new consciousness of its powers.

How enlightened! Surely Mr. Abbott would approve of such unbiased intellectual pursuit, for "the general nourishment of thought and advancement of civilization," as "the intellect that has worked out and established these methods is not any individual intellect, but the intellect of the race." Actually, I think he would not approve; this author in fact falls quite neatly into the closed-minded attitude criticized in Flatland, by failing to recognize that his science is not that of the entire human race, but only of his own Western culture, and that, in the context of the other writers of the time, it can be seen that many thinkers of the time only delighted in scientific advances inasmuch as they could be applied to the perpetuation and advancement of their own segment of the population. In many instances, the Victorian era seems to be a time when the manipulation of science replaces the manipulation of religion as the means by which the upper classes maintain control over the lower.

And so, I believe, Abbott would not approve of the attitudes of this author, for he fails to see science as an opportunity to observe the human condition from an objective viewpoint and as a tool to correct its injustices- the poor fellow is stuck in three-space.