Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/75

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ON more than one occasion I have maintained that intellectual ability is transmitted by inheritance; and, in a memoir published last year in the "Proceedings of the Royal Society," I endeavored to explain what ought to be understood by that word "inheritance." Two points were especially urged; the first, that each personality originates in a small selection out of a large batch of wonderfully varied elements, which were all latent and competing; and, secondly, that these batches, and not the persons derived from them, form the principal successive stages in the line of direct descent. Hence follows the paradoxical conclusion that the child must not be looked upon as directly descended from his own parents. His true relation to them is both circuitous and complicated, but admits of being easily expressed by an illustration. Suppose an independent nation, A, to have been formed by colonists from two other similarly constituted nations, B and C; then the relation borne by the representative government of A to that of B and of C is approximately similar to what I suppose to be the relation of a child to each of his parents. But the existence of a slender strain of direct descent is shown by the fact of acquired habits being occasionally transmitted. We must therefore amend our simile by supposing the members of the governments of B and C to have the privilege of making emigration easy and profitable to their constituents, and also, perhaps, the governments themselves to have the power of nominating a few individuals to seats in the Legislative Council of A.

It appears to me of the highest importance, in discussing heredity, to bear the character of this devious and imperfect connection distinctly in mind. It shows what results we may and may not expect. For instance, if B and C contain a large variety of social elements, it would be impossible, without a very accurate knowledge of them and of the conditions of selection, to predict the characters of their future governments. Still less would it be possible to predict that of A. But if the social elements of B and C were alike, and in each case simple, such as might be found in pastoral tribes, then the character of their governments and that of A could be predicted with some certainty. The former supposition illustrates what must occur when the breed of the parents is mongrel; the latter, when it is pure. Now, no wild or domestic animal is so mongrel as man, especially as regards his mental faculties; therefore, we cannot expect to find an invariable resemblance between the faculties of children and those of