The same motives which had roused the minds of men from their long lethargy, must also have directed their exertions. Reason could not be appealed to for the decision of questions, of which opposite interests had compelled the discussion. Religion, far from acknowledging its power, boasted of having subjected and humbled it. Politics considered as just what had been consecrated by compact, by constant practice, and ancient customs.
No doubt was entertained that the rights of man were written in the book of nature, and that to consult any other would be to depart from and violate them. Meanwhile it was only in the sacred books, in respected authors, in the bulls of popes, in the rescripts of kings, in registers of old usages, and in the annals of the church, that maxims or examples were sought from which to infer those rights. The business was never to examine the intrinsic merits of a principle, but to interpret, to appreciate, to support or to annul by other texts those upon which it might be founded. A proposition was not adopted because it was true, but because it was written in this or that book, and had been embraced in such a country and such an age.
Thus the authority of men was every where substituted for that of reason: books were much more studied than nature, and the opinions of antiquity obtained the preference over the phenomena of the universe. This bondage of the mind, in which men had not then the advantage of enlightened criticism, was still more detrimental to the progress of the human species, by corrupting the method of study, than by its immediate effects. And the ancients were yet too far from being equalled, to think of correcting or surpassing them.
I assumed that nature would "evaluate" my work as I went along. If I was doing what nature wanted done, and if I was doing it in promising ways, permitted by nature's principles, I would find my work being econom¬ ically sustained—and vice versa, in which latter negative case I must quick¬ ly cease doing what I had been doing and seek logically alternative courses until I found the new course that nature signified her approval of by pro¬ viding for its physical support.
Vherefore, I concluded that I would be informed by nature if I proceeded in the following manner:
(A) committed myself, my wife, and our infant daughter directly to the design, production, and demonstration of artifact accommodation of the most evident but as-yet-unattended-to human-environment-advantaging physical evolutionary tasks, and
(B) paid no attention to "earning a living" in humanity's established eco¬ nomic system, yet
(C) found my family's and my own life's needs being unsolicitedly provid¬ ed for by seemingly pure happenstance and always only "in the nick of time," and
(D) being provided for "only coincidentally," yet found
(E) that this only "coincidentally," unbudgetable, yet realistic support persisted, and did so
(F) only so long as I continued spontaneously to commit myself unreservedly to the task of developing relevant artifacts, and if I
(G) never tried to persuade humanity to alter its customs and viewpoints and never asked anyone to listen to me and spoke informatively to others only when they asked me so to do, and if I
(H) never undertook competitively to produce artifacts others were developing, and attended only to that which no others attended
then I could tentatively conclude that my two assumptions were valid: (1) that nature might economically sustain human activity that served directly in the "mainstream" realization of essential cosmic regeneration, which had hitherto been accomplished only through seeming "right-angled" side effects of the chromosomically focused biologicjical creatures; and (2) that the generalized physical law of precessional be¬ haviors does govern socioeconomic behaviors as do also the generalized laws of acceleration and ephemeralization.
The 1927 precessional assumptions became ever-more-convincingly substantiated by experiences—only the "impossible" continued to happen. I became ever more convinced that I must go on developing artifacts that would make possible humanity's successful accomplishmentit of survival activities so much more logically and efficiently as to render the older, less efficient ways to be spontaneously abandoned by humanity. I resolved never to at¬ tack or oppose undesirable socioeconomic phenomena, but instead committed myself to evolving and cultivating tools that would i accomplish humanity's necessitous tasks in so much easier, more pleasant, and more efficient ways that, without thinking about it, the undesirable ways would be abandoned by society. (I liked the popular 1944 song, "Accentuate the Positive. Eliminate the Negative.")
When you enter some grove, peopled with ancient trees, such as are higher than ordinary, and whose boughs are so closely interwoven that you cannot see the sky; the stately loftiness of the wood, the privacy of the place, and the awful gloom, cannot but strike you, as with the presence of a deity.
The power that produced Man when the monkey was not up to the mark, can produce a higher creature than Man if Man does not come up to the mark. What it means is that if Man is to be saved, Man must save himself. There seems no compelling reason why he should be saved. He is by no means an ideal creature. At his present best many of his ways are so unpleasant that they are unmentionable in polite society, and so painful that he is compelled to pretend that pain is often a good. Nature holds no brief for the human experiment: it must stand or fall by its results. If Man will not serve, Nature will try another experiment.
A grove of giant redwoods or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a great or beautiful cathedral. The extermination of the passenger pigeon meant that mankind was just so much poorer; exactly as in the case of the destruction of the cathedral at Rheims. And to lose the chance to see frigate-birds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach—why, the loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time.
It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of missiles and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings. This last I regard as the most criminal artifice that has been devised by the human mind; for, as if to bring death upon man with still greater rapidity, we have given wings to iron and taught it to fly. ... Nature, in conformity with her usual benevolence, has limited the power of iron, by inflicting upon it the punishment of rust; and has thus displayed her usual foresight in rendering nothing in existence more perishable, than the substance which brings the greatest dangers upon perishable mortality.
Nature is a vast tablet, inscribed with signs, each of which has its own significancy, and becomes poetry in the mind when read; and geology is simply the key by which myriads of these signs, hitherto indecipherable, can be unlocked and perused, and thus a new province added to the poetical domain.
What is a scientist?… We give the name scientist to the type of man who has felt experiment to be a means guiding him to search out the deep truth of life, to lift a veil from its fascinating secrets, and who, in this pursuit, has felt arising within him a love for the mysteries of nature, so passionate as to annihilate the thought of himself.
The mighty steam-engine has its germ in the simple boiler in which the peasant prepares his food. The huge ship is but the expansion of the floating leaf freighted with its cargo of atmospheric dust; and the flying balloon is but the infant's soap-bubble lightly laden and overgrown. But the Telescope, even in its most elementary form, embodies a novel and gigantic idea, without an analogue in nature, and without a prototype in experience
Thus the system of the world only oscillates around a mean state from which it never departs except by a very small quantity. By virtue of its constitution and the law of gravity, it enjoys a stability that can be destroyed only by foreign causes, and we are certain that their action is undetectable from the time of the most ancient observations until our own day. This stability in the system of the world, which assures its duration, is one of the most notable among all phenomena, in that it exhibits in the heavens the same intention to maintain order in the universe that nature has so admirably observed on earth for the sake of preserving individuals and perpetuating species.