Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/753

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out of every 1.000 fishes as useless for her purposes, and two out of every five human beings.

Many see in this relentless weeding out and destruction of her inferior products a remarkable illustration of the wisdom of Nature's methods. What would they think of a workman so bungling that two fifths of the products of his handicraft were only fit for destruction?

The "struggle for existence" is a murderous scramble to get rid of this vast surplusage. The "survival of the fittest" is the success of the minority in demonstrating that the majority are superfluous. It is the Kilkenny-cat episode multiplied by infinity. It will be remembered that the whole trouble arose from their common belief that two cats were a surplus of one for the Kilkenny environment.

Darwin's theory recognizes in this super-fecundity of Nature her most potent agency for improvement. He says, in effect, that the impossibility of providing subsistence for more than a fraction of the multitudinous creation causes a mortal struggle, in which the weaker and inferior are exterminated, and only the stronger and superior survive. These in turn have offspring like the leaves of the forest, which in like turn are winnowed out by alien enemies, and ruthless reciprocal extermination, the process going on continually with the sanguinary regularity of the King of Dahomey's administration of the internal economy of his realm. The benignity of this method of arranging the order of Nature is not so apparent as a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals might desire.

But our opinion of this law is not cared for. The main importance attaches to the recognition of the fact that it is a law. Its application to society is obvious: Since the propagation of human beings goes on with entire recklessness as to the quality of the product and the means of subsistence, some strong corrective is absolutely necessary to establish limits to population, and to secure the continued development of the race. If every begotten child lived to the average age of forty, in a very few years there would not be standing-room on the earth for its people! Even with such limited propagators as the elephant, each female of which produces but six offspring in her bearing period of ninety years, we are told that, if the species had no parasitic or other enemies, it would only be 740 years until elephants overran the earth. Where, then, should we assign limits to the productiveness of the 700,000,000 human females on the globe, each of whom is capable of producing twenty children in her thirty years of bearing? If, too, every child had the same chance of life, without reference to its mental and physical fitness to live, humanity would soon become a stagnant slough of vicious vitality. As there are only food and room for the best, and as the development of the race demands it, only the best survive, and continue the work of propagation. The rest are destroyed. By "the best" is understood those having that harmony of mental and