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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/282

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

for adaptation to the grade that society may happen to hold at that time, but to create in men the habit of discriminating and of choosing that which leads to something higher.

The importance of this point of view is not lessened even if it be shown that natural selection is not the only force operative in producing change. New characteristics may appear suddenly, so-called mutations, but their persistence is after all dependent upon the environment. True, they may persist without being of immediate advantage, but only when conditions are not too unfavorable. Here, again, it should be the purpose of an intelligently endowed society to make conditions that will preserve incipient and less stable individual variations that have appeared, according to the supposition, through no direct environmental influence, but which may tend toward a higher social organization. It is not enough that conditions permit the survival of such varieties under difficulties; they should favor their continuance. While some "mutations" may exist under conditions not altogether favorable, others will require social recognition and society should see to it that the persistence of such sensitive "mutations" is not too hazardous. In this way a tendency to vary, a characteristic which means much for progress, may be fostered. In his work with plants Vilmorin found, according to Darwin, that "when any particular variation is desired, the first step is to get the plant to vary in any manner whatever, and to go on selecting the most variable individuals, even though they vary in the wrong direction, for the fixed character of the species being once broken, the desired variation will sooner or later appear," and Burbank has recently made the same observation.

Among lower animals variation facilitates new adaptations, but in man it has assumed an added function, that of suggesting new departures, new lines of progress, and in doing this it makes important contributions to the growth of experience. Education is always in danger of arrest from compression by immediate or "practical" aims. It should be of a sort that admits of indefinite expansion so that in the end it may become commensurate with life; but this capacity for enlargement requires something more than knowledge. Inability to see this led to the fallacy of the educational system of the middle ages; and we have fallen heir to their infatuation for formal training and learning. Information did fairly well for the simple conditions of early times when the necessary adaptations of life were neither complicated nor numerous, but if education is to be adequate to the life of to-day it must take the whole plexus of social forces into account and these social forces are, after all, only biological principles working in human society, to be intelligently interpreted and used for the greater life of society.

One of the elements in progress, and by no means an unimportant