Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/560

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A very large amount of the elements of success consists in the advantages with which an individual may start in life, and over which he himself may have no control. The case of Smith and Brown already referred to may serve to illustrate this fact. When conclusions are arrived at relative to hereditary genius, these advantages may he considered. The son of a judge becomes a judge, and we may claim hereditary genius as the cause. We should, however, be scarcely justified in assuming hereditary genius because the son of a general officer became this general's aide-de-camp. A general officer with five thousand efficient troops gains a complete victory over fifteen thousand indifferently armed savages, and he is looked upon as a hero. Another general with a like number of men is defeated by an army of ten thousand well-armed but unsolder-like-looking men, and he is regarded as a failure; and yet, of the two, the defeated army may have possessed the better general. In order, therefore, to judge of the relative powers of two individuals, we must take into consideration all the advantages or difficulties with which each starts in life, or in any undertaking. The relative success is by no means the only criterion from which to judge of capacity, any more than it would be correct to judge of the capacity of two whist-players, when one held four by honors and six trumps and his adversary held a necessarily poor hand.

In the great battle of life these conditions are perpetually interfering with the results to be derived from the relative value of brainpower, and are so numerous as to have an extensive influence. For example, a man possessing great brain-power has succeeded in attaining an official position of eminence. He selects a nephew or particular friend to be his assistant. We have competed with this assistant in various things, and there is no doubt as to his inferiority. Time goes on, and this assistant succeeds to the post of his relative merely from what may be called departmental claims, and he is ex-officio supposed to be possessed of the talents and knowledge which appertain to his post. Our opinion, if opposed to that of the official, will by the superficial outsiders be considered valueless; yet ours may be correct, and that of our opponent erroneous. It is by such means that very feeble men often occupy official scientific positions to which they are by no means entitled in consequence of their intelligence.

When such an event occurs, an immense amount of damage is done to the cause of truth and real science, because the individual thus raised by personal interest to the position of a scientific judge or referee, too often fails to judge of a question on its merits, and condemns it if it be not in accordance with routine. A question thus disposed of is very difficult to again bring into notice without prejudice. There is no doubt that even among the so-termed educated people, the majority possess only stored minds, and are incapable, consequently, of reasoning on any problem, other than by bringing to bear on it their stock of knowledge which, probably, granting the problem is original,