Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/80

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
76
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

It is a popular belief that the domestic cat differs in size only from its cousins, tigers and lions. The fact is that the physical changes brought about in that animal by selection are by far less conspicuous than the mental modification. Cats belong to the most ferocious family of the carnivorous order, and no more effective natural weapon can be found than their short jaw, with its long canines, its formidable muscles and its transversal hinge. It was with this weapon that the prehistoric machairodus killed the mammoth. It is the same weapon which to-day enables the small puma to kill in a few seconds animals of the size of an ox. The first consequence of the domestication of cats has been the elimination by angry parents, generation after generation, of those cats which were most inclined to bite children when teased by them. The result of that selection has been a race which can still use its paws, but which seems almost unable to use on man its best and only deadly weapon, although the restriction is entirely of a mental order.

It must be admitted as a sad truth that, while domestic animals are specialized and brought to a high degree of efficiency, nothing is done for the selection and improvement of man, and this in spite of the fact that modern life calls for an increased specialization in every domain. It can not be said that our statesmen are indifferent to the future of our country, but, while they may know some Latin, Greek, psychology, logic, ethics and metaphysics, they and their generation are, as a rule, woefully ignorant of modern scientific thought and truth. To bring education within the reach of all is, in their opinion, the best way to prepare the coming of a superior race of Americans. They are ignorant or forgetful of the fact that neither acquired knowledge, nor acquired qualities or habits are ever transmitted to offspring. For more than a thousand years the Chinese have been changing the shape of the feet of their girls; for many generations the Flat Head Indians have been altering the shape of the head of their children; for over three thousand years the Jews have practised circumcision; all that work has to be done over again in each generation, none of the children born to these people ever showing any proof of the transmissibility of the characteristics acquired by father or mother or by both. Selection would do for them, in a comparatively short time, what mutilation has never done, will never do. It would do for us what education can not do, yet millions are spent annually for education and not a cent for selection.

Not a cent for intelligent, well-directed selection. Some mental selection is practised by man on man, but it is blind selection. Sometimes it improves the race; sometimes it makes it worse, and nobody seems to care whether it acts one way or the other. The military selection kills or keeps away from marriage ties not only the able--