A Trifle Belated

GALLIO, OR THE TYRANNY OF SCIENCE. By J. W. N. Sullivan. (Dutton).

“AT a time when the physicists are abandoning materialism, the artists are accepting it. They are accepting, as the last word of science, a picture of the world that belongs to the early bad manner of physics.”

This statement by the author of “Gallio,” himself a scientist, is obviously true to anyone who has taken the trouble to note the main trends of both science and the arts in our generation; yet the force of that truth cannot be expected to act upon the realm of higher values until the newer concepts of science shall have become a part of the general social atmosphere.

Anyone who has traced prevalent theories and attitudes of literature, the arts and morals back to their source in economic and scientific theory, will have noted how tendencies originating in the lower levels of human activity slowly invade the whole scale of values upward, reaching the top only after the tendency is no longer to be noted in the realm of its origin. For instance, the doctrine of individualism in economics had been discarded, some 30 years, for the more effective idea of organic combination in industry when the individualistic, laissez faire notion struck the realm of our higher values like a whirlwind. When it arrived, it was renamed impressionism.

The process suggests the mounting of the bloom on a hollyhock; the flower at the bottom of the spike has already seeded before the tip breaks forth.

And so it is that we have a narrow, sense-bound, materialistic dogma operating in our literature at a time when advanced science has resolved matter, the once apparently solid foundation of materialism, into immaterial vortices of energy, a mere word, which is itself as highly charged with mystery as ever the word God could be. And so also it is that those who are hailed as most “advanced” in literature are really many years behind the actual working theory of the world.

The foregoing suggestion as to the genesis of literary, artistic and moral fashion is not a part of the argument in “Gallio,” but it may serve to furnish a viewpoint from which to approach the book.

It is not the purpose of the author to discredit science, but rather to make clear for the average reader what science really is, what its necessary limitations are, to what extent it can be regarded as authoritative in its attempts to interpret the world for human beings, and what science now believes.

Everyone who goes in for modern realism in the belief that it is scientific and therefore the true literary method, and everyone who believes that human life can be explained in terms of “matter” as commonly conceived, should read this illuminating essay. It should help many to see that the cynical, low-minded view of life now in vogue, far from being based upon some solid rock of truth, is really silly, and that life may be worth living in spite of what our misled sophisticates would lead us to believe.