Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/107

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

because, as wealth and art increase, corruption creeps in, and the new generations fail in the work of progress because the renewal of individuals is left chiefly to the unfit. The two great factors which secure perfection in each animal race—sexual selection by which the fit are born, and natural selection by which the fittest survive—both fail in the case of mankind, among whom are hosts of individuals which in any other class of beings would never have been born, or, if born, would never survive. He argues that, unless some effective measures are soon adopted and strictly enforced, our case will be irremediable; and, since natural selection fails so largely, recourse must be had to artificial selection. "The drunkard, the criminal, the diseased, the morally weak should never come into society. Not reform but prevention should be the cry." The method by which this is proposed to be done is hinted at in the following passages: "In the true golden age, which lies not behind but before us, the privilege of parentage will be esteemed an honor for the comparatively few, and no child will be born who is not only sound in body and mind, but also above the average as to natural ability and moral force"; and again, "The most important matter in society, the inherent quality of the members which compose it, should be regulated by trained specialists."

Of this proposal and all of the same character we may say, that nothing can possibly be more objectionable, even if we admit that they might be effectual in securing the object aimed at. But even this is more than doubtful; and it is quite certain that any such interference with personal freedom in matters so deeply affecting individual happiness will never be adopted by the majority of any nation, or if adopted would never be submitted to by the minority without a life-and-death struggle.

Another popular writer of the greatest ability and originality, who has recently given us his solution of the problem, is Mr. Grant Allen. His suggestion is in some respects the very reverse of the last, yet it is, if possible, even more objectionable. Instead of any interference with personal freedom, he proposes the entire abolition of legal restrictions as to marriage, which is to be a free contract to last only so long as either party desires. This alone, however, would have no effect on race-improvement, except probably a prejudicial one. The essential part of his method is, that girls should be taught, both by direct education and by the influence of public opinion, that the duty of all healthy and intellectual women is to be the mothers of as many and as perfect children as possible. For this purpose they are recommended to choose as temporary husbands the finest, healthiest, and most intellectual men, thus insuring a variety of combinations of parental qualities which would lead to the production of offspring of the