Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/542

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

strictive influence on fecundity; it should tend, then, to re-establish that equilibrium between the increase of population and the increase of subsistence which scientific philanthropy seeks to realize, and which it reproaches sentimental charity with destroying. The point is worthy of examination.

What are the laws of the multiplication of species, neglect of which, according to Malthus, Darwin, and Mr. Spencer, is as prejudicial to the philanthropist as to the naturalist, in the connected problems of population, selection, civilization, and benevolence? The first of these laws, as formulated by Messrs. Howorth, Doubleday, and Spencer, is that a greater development of individuality brings on a diminished fecundity for the species: if animals of one species, the human species, for instance, have a more intense individual life than those of another species, the progress in the volume of the brain, in physical or moral development, and in the complexity and activity of the functions, is compensated for as to that species by a lessened generative aptitude. Man is the living species in which individuality and its functions are carried to the highest point; and it is also the least prolific of the species. The reason of this law, according to Mr. Spencer and M. de Candolle, is that the intensity of the individual life implies a taking possession of materials which can no longer serve for other organisms; generation, on the contrary, is a disintegration which subtracts from the organism a part of its substance. In short, individuality is an acquisition; generation is a loss. Now, that which completes individuality, which is what we might call its highest expansion, is the life of the intellect and affections. Consequently, the animal species, or the human races that live most by thought and feeling, are those which have the least generative power. To the objection that, in fact, civilized races are more numerous than others, Mr. Spencer answers that civilization, by diminishing a host of destructive forces, augments the means of subsistence, and thus maintains population at a superior figure; but the height of this figure is dependent on individuals having a greater faculty of conserving themselves, not on the species having a greater generative power.

The second law that regulates the multiplication of beings is, that richness of nutrition augments fecundity, while the expenditure produced by the exercise of the functions of relation, and chiefly the intellectual expenditure, diminishes it. Poor and badly-fed races are naturally the least prolific. The Irish seem to form an exception; but the increase in number among them is dependent on their marrying early (whence is derived a faster succession of generations), and on their improvidence in imposing no restraint upon themselves; in short, upon quite other causes than the generative force proper. Reciprocally, the increase of the vital expenditure, especially of the intellectual expenditure, tends to lower the degree of fecundity. This law still proceeds from the same principle: that what the individual ac-