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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/490

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

for nothing can be so disastrous as to believe that the laws of Nature are subject to change. We may require to modify our views as to what the laws of Nature really are, but so far as the world has yet learned these laws are invariable.

I must confess myself to have had at one time almost unbounded faith in the changes that the environment could work, and especially that part of it that we call education, in the narrower sense. But a close study of the subject by observation and experiment in breeding some of our domestic animals for a term of years has very strongly impressed upon my mind the strength of heredity. Galton, Ribot, and others have given us the most convincing proofs that heredity is stronger than its antagonist variation or than its modifier environment. In accounting for variations—for no two beings are quite alike—we must admit great ignorance; however, it is impossible to ignore or disbelieve in the effect of the environment. We know that unless there be some favorable features in the environment the best nature can never develop.

The very same breeder we before visited might possibly be able to show us an animal that through accident, inadequate feeding, or other unfavorable condition in the environment had never proved worthy of its parentage, and the observer will meet many cases like this among human beings. They are instructive inasmuch as they illustrate the relative part played by heredity and environment in the total result. Galton, after most exhaustive and careful examination of large classes of men, as statesmen, judges, commanders, divines, authors, artists, and others, shows that of all those that attained great distinction a fair proportion left posterity worthy of them. He concludes also that if a man be possessed of really high-class native ability he will rise in spite of the environment, or, as Shakespeare has it, "Some men are born great."

But what of the mediocre? Do the same laws as to heredity and environment apply? The best way, in my opinion, to become convinced on this point is to make an honest and careful study of one's self. It sometimes takes years to realize the extent to which we represent, often in an occult manner, our ancestors; and we must remember that law, which Darwin has emphasized, that traits of ancestors tend to appear at the same period of life in the offspring as in the parents. It is further to be remembered that by a study of parents alone we can not get nearly so good an idea of the heredities of any individual as if more distant ancestors and collateral lines (uncle, cousins) be taken into account. Indeed, the believer in man's evolution from lower forms of life takes a much wider view of the whole subject.

It must be plain that each individual in some measure is the