Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Encroaching on territory not its own"

An essay, "Evolution and Ethics, Revisited," by the always worth reading Gertrude Himmelfarb, sends me to John Henry Newman's Idea of a University, from which:
[N]o science whatever, however comprehensive it may be, but will fall largely into error, if it be constituted the sole exponent of all things in heaven and earth, and that, for the simple reason that it is encroaching on territory not its own, and undertaking problems which it has no instruments to solve. ....

.... What happens to the ignorant and hotheaded, will take place in the case of every person whose education or pursuits are contracted, whether they be merely professional, merely scientific, or of whatever other peculiar complexion. Men, whose life lies in the cultivation of one science, or the exercise of one method of thought [....] must have something to say on every subject; habit, fashion, the public require it of them: and, if so, they can only give sentence according to their knowledge. .... Hence it is that we have...principles, all of them true to a certain point, yet all degenerating into error and quackery, because they are carried to excess, viz. at the point where they require interpretation and restraint from other quarters, and because they are employed to do what is simply too much for them....