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But science in this phase was still, to our modern view, unscientific in two major respects—it was traditional and it was esoteric.Scientific knowledge was confined to a limited group among the priesthood and it was cast in a mold of tradition which rendered change and progress slow.Today it seems that we are again in the process of launching a new phase—one in which social as well as natural phenomena are to be made amenable to scientific understanding and rational control.
But at least Marx, like Bacon, gave expression to a new outlook and a new method of attack, and helped to alter materially the intellectual climate so as to make it propitious for scientific work in his field.
The question immediately poses itself as to why the emergence of social science into large-scale and efficient operation has been so long delayed.
He can use the methods of natural science to investigate certain aspects of man—the structure and working of his body, for instance, or the mode of his heredity; but that is because these are shared with other organisms and because they are partial aspects which can be readily externalized.
But when he starts investigating human motive, his own motives are involved; when he studies human society, he is himself part of a social structure.
Being associated with the priesthood, it was also intimately bound up with non-scientific practice and non-scientific interpretation—magic and theology.
The era of groping trial and error lasted from the first dawn of essentially human intelligence, as marked by true speech, to the beginnings of settled civilization—perhaps a million, perhaps half a million years.Marx, on the other hand, developed a system directly based on social facts and directly applicable to them. As natural scientists tend to undervalue Bacon because he himself did not make discoveries or work out experimental techniques, so social scientists tend to underrate Marx because his system is a dialectical one, ready-made and complete with answer to any problem, not sufficiently empirical and inductive for their scientific taste.It is doubtless true that the social scientists must go their own way to work, regardless of doctrine or theoretical system; a precursor cannot take the place of the messiah or the gospel that he indicates.And it had its birth of free speculative enquiry, its parallel to the Greek phase of natural science—but two thousand years later, in the philosophers of the seventeenth and especially the eighteenth centuries.Finally, its modern stage now dawning has had, like the modern stage of natural science, its scattered precursors, its Roger Bacons and Leonardos—and it has had its precursor in the restricted sense, its equivalent of Francis Bacon in the Renaissance.It was almost entirely divorced from industry and practical application; it was exceedingly speculative and did not lay the stress on experimental verification that we do; and, correlated with this, it had not invented the modern methodology of publication of data and methods as well as conclusions.A few centuries later the combination of Greek intellect and ingenuity with the practical spirit of the Roman im-perium made Alexandrian science something much more like modern science in outlook and methods of working.Once agriculture had given the possibility of settled civilizations, with written record and specialized social classes, the hand-to-mouth methods of common sense could be replaced by something much more scientific.Science was born—witness the astronomy and geometry of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.It too passed through the stage of trial and error, in which social organization shaped itself under the influence of unconscious adjustment together with non-rational rules of conduct and non-scientific interpretations of human destiny.It also had its traditional phases, often tightly bound up with philosophical and theological interpretative principles, as witness, for example, the climax of the Middle Ages.