If the old-time farmer rotated his crops at all, he did it at random. He was, therefore, a little more likely than not, perhaps, to put a crop into a field which had been exhausted of the very elements that crop most needed. By this method and by other superstitious, guesswork, traditional, random, and neglectful methods, he struggled along on an average of about twenty bushels of corn to the acre, proudly defying anybody to teach him anything about farming out of books, or any white-collared dude from an agricultural college to show him anything about raising corn. Hadn’t he been raising corn for nigh on forty years? How could there, then, be anything more for him to learn about its production?
But a little twelve-year-old boy down in what had always been supposed to be the poor corn lands of Alabama, by the painstaking application of a little simple knowledge, produced 232 and a fraction bushels of corn on one acre of land. Other boys in all parts of the South and of the corn belt began producing from 100 to 200 bushels of corn to the acre in the same way.
Because man has lacked accurate knowledge about the world around him, he has been the credulous victim of countless generations of swindlers, fakers, fortune-tellers, mountebanks, and others experienced in chicanery. Speculators used to consult clairvoyants, crystal gazers, astrologists and card-readers for a forecast of business conditions. To-day, through accurate knowledge based upon statistics relative to fundamental factors in the business situation, they forecast the future with remarkable accuracy.
The practice of medicine was once a combination of superstition, incantation, ignorance and chicanery. In those days people were swept into eternity by the millions on account of plague, cholera, and other pestilences. To-day medical practice is based upon knowledge, and people who are willing to order their lives in accordance with that knowledge not only recover from their illnesses, but are scarcely ever ill. The ignorant man pays $1.00 for a small bottle of colored alcohol and water which some mountebank has convinced him is a panacea for all ills. In his blindness he hopes to drink health out of that bottle. The man who knows eats moderately, drinks moderately—if at all—smokes moderately—if at all—does work for which he is fitted and in which he can be happy, secures recreation and exercise according to his own particular needs, and almost never thinks of medicine. Should he need treatment, however, he goes to a man who has scientific knowledge of diagnosis and materia medica. The first man, in all likelihood, goes to an early grave, “stricken down by the hand of a mysterious Providence.” The second man lives to a ripe old age and enjoys life more at eighty than he did at eight or eighteen.
Fifty years ago, mothers relied upon tradition and maternal instinct in the care of their babies. More than one-half of all the babies born died before they were five years old. The wise mother of to-day knows what she is doing, and, as a result, infant mortality amongst the babies in her hands becomes an almost negligible quantity.