Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/14

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2

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I will not dwell on the fallacy of the above conclusions as referring to the relative mortality of widows—a fallacy sufficiently obvious to any one who thinks awhile. I will confine myself to the less-conspicuous fallacy in the comparison between the mortalities of married and celibate, fallen into by M. Bertillon as well as Dr. Stark. Clearly as their figures seem to furnish proof of some direct causal relation between marriage and longevity, they really furnish no proof whatever. There may be such a relation; but the evidence assigned forms no warrant for inferring it.

We have but to consider a little the circumstances which in many cases determine marriage, and those which in other cases prevent marriage, to see that the connection which the figures apparently imply is not the real connection. Where attachments exist, what most frequently decides the question for or against marriage? The possession of adequate means. While some are so reckless as to marry without means, yet it is undeniable that in very many instances marriage is delayed by the man, or forbidden by the parents, or not assented to by the woman, until there is reasonable evidence of ability to meet the responsibilities. Of those men whose marriages depend on getting the needful income, which are the most likely to get the needful income? Those who are best, physically and mentally—the strong, the intellectually capable, the morally well-balanced. Often bodily vigor achieves a success; and therefore a revenue, which bodily weakness, unable to bear the stress of competition, cannot achieve. Often superior intelligence brings promotion and increase of salary, while stupidity lags behind in ill-paid posts. Often caution, self-control, and a far-seeing sacrifice of present to future, secure remunerative offices that are never given to the impulsive or the reckless. But, what are the effects of bodily vigor, of intelligence, of prudence, on longevity, when compared with the effects of feebleness, of stupidity, of deficient self-control? Obviously the first further the maintenance of life, and the second tend toward premature death. That is, the qualities which, on the average of cases, give a man an advantage in getting the means of marrying, are the qualities which make him likely to be a long liver; and conversely.

There is even a more direct relation of the same general nature. In all creatures of high type, it is only when individual growth and development are nearly complete that the production of new individuals becomes possible; and the power of producing and bringing up new individuals is measured by the amount of vital power in excess of that needful for self-maintenance. The reproductive instincts, and all their accompanying emotions, become dominant when the demands for individual evolution are diminishing, and there is arising a surplus of energy which makes possible the rearing of offspring as well as the preservation of self; and, speaking generally, these instincts and emotions are strong in proportion as this surplus vital energy is great.