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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/81

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77
SHALL WE IMPROVE OUR RACE?

bodied, but also the intelligent, men, and leaves at home for reproductive purposes the weak-minded. On the other hand, we keep the robbers in prison, but this wise measure was meant for a result which it does not produce, the terrorizing of malefactors, and produces a result for which it was not meant, a decrease in the posterity of offenders. Men of genius and their families have to-day a better chance to survive than they had in the paleolithic age, but how many eminent men spend their whole life in a desperate struggle against poverty and connected diseases, because their genius is not of the kind which brings wealth through the sale of patents!

And if through sheer chance, some great mathematician is evolved one day out of the crowd, the state—who should be ever on the watch for such events and whose main care should be to preserve and increase such sources of light, progress and national glory—does nothing to protect the man of genius against care, disease or anything likely to shorten life nor to multiply the splendid thinking machine which that man is. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred our mathematician marries a woman whose family did not count a single astronomer, physicist or other mathematical mind among its members. The result of such a union is what could be expected. Although genius does not generally die out right away in the first generation, it decreases by half, and further dilutions soon bring it down to nothingness. We know that half a dozen Goethes, Longfellows, Pasteurs, Edisons or Curies will do more to illustrate a period and raise a nation in the eyes of posterity than the most prosperous trade, the most thriving industry or than ten successful wars, yet we rely on chance and on chance alone to get those men. Breeders in their treatment of cattle are more up to date in that respect than the state in its management of men.

Such is our error and some may think that it is beyond correction. In our present state of civilization, compulsion in matter of marriage is out of the question. That is true, but compulsion need not be considered when inducement will succeed. If we bear in mind that lack of money delays or prevents many marriages and that a dowry everywhere increases a girl's chances to be married, we shall have an idea of the way in which the next generation will probably solve the problem. Most young men would consent to take a wife in England rather than in their own city if they were given a life pension for so doing; most men of genius would consent to take a wife from a number of selected young ladies rather than in the crowd if they were forever freed from pecuniary cares and moreover given the assurance that another dowry would be paid at the birth of every one of their children. Why such unions should be less happy than others is not easy to see. The best conjugal harmony is not necessarily found where one of the two