Accretion Quotes (5 quotes)
Our truest systems of science had small beginnings, gradual and countless contributions, and finally took their place in use, as each of you, from helpless childhood and feeble boyhood, have grown to your present strength and maturity. No such system could be born in a day. It was not as when nature in fitful pulsations of her strength suddenly lifted the land into mountain ranges, but rather, as with small accretions, gathered in during countless years, she builds her islands in the seas.
Science progresses by a series of combinations in which chance plays not the least role. Its life is rough and resembles that of minerals which grow by juxtaposition [accretion]. This applies not only to science such as it emerges [results] from the work of a series of scientists, but also to the particular research of each one of them. In vain would analysts dissimulate: (however abstract it may be, analysis is no more our power than that of others); they do not deduce, they combine, they compare: (it must be sought out, sounded out, solicited.) When they arrive at the truth it is by cannoning from one side to another that they come across it.
Scientific inquiry would thus he conceived of as analogous to terrestrial exploration, whose product—geography—yields results of continually smaller significance which fill in ever more minute gaps in our information. In such a view, later investigations yield findings of ever smaller importance, with each successive accretion making a relatively smaller contribution to what has already come to hand. The advance of science leads, step by diminished step, toward a fixed and final view of things.
The child asks, “What is the moon, and why does it shine?” “What is this water and where does it run?” “What is this wind?” “What makes the waves of the sea?” “Where does this animal live, and what is the use of this plant?” And if not snubbed and stunted by being told not to ask foolish questions, there is no limit to the intellectual craving of a young child; nor any bounds to the slow, but solid, accretion of knowledge and development of the thinking faculty in this way. To all such questions, answers which are necessarily incomplete, though true as far as they go, may be given by any teacher whose ideas represent real knowledge and not mere book learning; and a panoramic view of Nature, accompanied by a strong infusion of the scientific habit of mind, may thus be placed within the reach of every child of nine or ten.
The most successful men in the end are those whose success is the result of steady accretion. That intellectuality is more vigorous that has attained its strength gradually. It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider—and progressively better able to grasp any theme or situation—persevering in what he knows to be practical, and concentrating his thought upon it, who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.