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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/75

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THE FORMS OF SELECTION

THE FORMS OF SELECTION WITH REFERENCE TO THEIR APPLICATION TO MAN
By G. P. WATKINS

CORNELL UNIVERSITY

WHAT is the importance of natural selection in mankind is a question often asked. It is about as often answered without analysis. Put in this very general way, it contains, and confuses, several different questions.

It is alleged that the conditions of life are so much improved by civilization that the struggle for existence is vanishing. Is that struggle, then, the only means of selection? And even if the cruder forms of selection are coming to be of little importance in man—which is doubtless the fact—are there not other kinds of selection still to be considered? It is time to analyze selection and determine its species. Then, when we know the kinds of selection, we may ask, with specific reference to each particular one: What is its importance in the present evolution of man? How far is each kind of selection operative in civilized society?

In our task of classification, let us consider first Darwin's division. By his choice of a name for natural selection, Darwin assigns to nature a work analogous to that of the breeder of domestic animals. Natural and artificial are therefore two kinds or species of selection. The latter species is more definitely named breeder's selection. Thus we obtain a first and provisional classification of the forms of selection as

 

Natural Selection and Breeder's Selection

This simple classification is of importance, rather for an understanding of the meaning of the term natural selection, as Darwin thought of it, than for our particular purposes. But we need to dwell upon it somewhat, and dispose of it, before attempting a more adequate analysis.

The analogy from which the term natural selection is derived suggests a personification of nature. But natural selection is explicitly contrasted with conscious and personal factors.[1] Nature's action is


  1. Though requiring such a caveat, Darwin's use of the term "natural selection" is a just and appropriate development in the meaning of the words. A possible wrong first impression is corrected by the most elementary knowledge of the subject. Not as much can be said for the proposed alternative, "survival of the fittest." The "fittest" can not well be further defined than as the fittest to survive. Thus we get back to mere survival. What we need to add to this