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TAKING THE FAIRIES OUT OF T!jE WOODS A DIALOGUE A. R. M. LowER Characters: SMITH, a man of knowledge JONES, a man of faith SMITH: I happened to get into conversation this afternoon with Testubes , whom I think you know. He dropped in just when there was some ' discussion going on about the Japanese Canadians. JONES: Yes I know Testubes. A very able scientist. What did he· want to do with the Japanese Canadians? SMITH: He said that what we ought to do with them was plain enough: send. them all back where they came from, and at once. JONES: Well, Testubes is a bit of a social obscurantist, I am afraid. But I hardly think it would be fair to take him as typical of his ·brethren.· As a good laboratory man, he,s rather contemptuous of us. "social scientists ,: all we do is talk, I imagine he would say. He's accustomed to acting ... to weighing and measuring... ' SMITH: · And similar executive acts. The trouble with many scientists like him is that they are hardly aware of the existence of human beings. They think in terms of centigrams or molecules or sulphuric acid. For Testubes, "the Japs,, I suppose, are just objects to be manipulated, like 100 cc. of H 20, not human beings with flesh and blood like his own. JoNES: They probably are irrational numbers-presences that disturb the smoothness of his equations. . 1 SMITH: I have rarely known a sCientist who seemed able to carry his objectivity outside his laboratory with him. He is prepared to be the strict observer when looking at his experiment but when he gets .into ordi~ary affairs, your affairs and my affairs-that is, politics-he often seems to me just an innocent, just a man of ordinary passions, without any special capacity [qr detached observation at all. JoNES~ We perhaps malign the scientist in his ahsence. He might contend that people who dub themselves "social scientists" are simply masquerading under a name to which they have no right. SMITH: Well, if science is organized knowledge and knowledge acquired · by detached observation, I don't see how he could sustain that argument. JoNES: He could, up to a point: most "sciences" proceed by way- of experiment, experiment repeated and repeated. The social scientist is not able to repeat experiments. 1 SMITH: He cannot even make experiments. An election·, a battle, or a business depression, such things are not experiments, and they cannot be 349 350 TH~ ,UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY repeated at will. All I am saying is that the so'cial scientist is a ~cientist if he is a detached observer. · JoNES: That is difficult, too, for the matter of social science is the warm and moving stuff of human affairs: it is harder to keep your prejudices outof politics than out of a Florence flask. SMITH: Quite, but the social scientist is at least trained in that direction. When the scientist gets separated from his Florence flask, he falls into the abyss, just like any other unsuspecting citizen. The social scientist does not; at least, not so easily. JoNES: There are social scientists and social scientists; · some of them are just as innocent as are the natural scientists. You yourself are a historian; do you consider yourself a scientist? SMITH: Yes, as to method: I try to be sure of my facts, and I put them together with as much objectivity as I can summon. JONES : But you are also a citizen, you are influenced by your own past and by the past of your count.ry. You would be more than human if you did not have feelings on these matters. SMITH: I certainly don,t deny that I have feelings, and if you like, prejudices. · Nevertheless I subdue them as best I can. JONES: What are your notions of subjugation? Are you afraid of your feelings? Feelings can be as valid as knowledge. SMITH: No, I am not afraid of -them, and they probably drive me forward, giving a certain validity to my work that dispassionate intellect alone could perhaps not furnish. Nevertheless, despite the presence of feeling in the historian, I contend that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 349-356
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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