Ohio History Journal

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Professor of Botany, Oberlin College


My theme is law. It is a curious paradox that science, whose

practitioners proudly boast that they take nothing for granted,

rests upon faith. Science is, in fact, what our theological friends

would call an act of faith. The faith to which I refer is a pro-

found belief that the universe of our experience is a universe of

law and order.2 Without a conviction that the world of experi-

ence must be consistent I doubt that anyone would have the cour-

age to pursue the truth by painful step upon painful step. It

takes courage and confidence for an accountant to tackle the an-

alysis of a set of business transactions. If he were not sustained

by his belief that there is a fundamental order in arithmetic, he

could not go ahead. The natural scientist believes that what is

true of the realm of numbers is true throughout the universe.

Unfortunately, not many of us act as though the reign of law

were universal. We are like bookkeepers whose records and

additions are meticulous, but who fail to look behind each day's

transaction to examine the larger truths--to distinguish between

income and depreciation and to see how the details fit into the

whole enterprise. This comparison is almost literally exact. I

have known many men, privileged to own a portion of the surface

of the State of Ohio, who took heavy returns from it and called

them profits, when in fact these returns were destroying the capital

value of their land. These returns were not profits, but pledges

against the future.


1 This is an address given November 14, 1946, by Dr. Sears in the annual

Lecture Series of the Ohio State Museum.

2 The fact that many phenomena are so complex that statistical analysis must be

used and probability invoked, does not invalidate this statement.