Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/44

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them find place. What in the latter is called a species must in the former often be designated as a race.

Kant's elaboration of an ethnological scheme upon the basis of these definitions does not here concern us. But it is worth noting that he finds that the only character which is "invariably inherited" from both parents—and therefore the only mark of a true or "natural" race—is skin-color; and that, using this criterion, he finds that there are just four races of men, the white, the negro, the Mongolian or "hunnish" and the Hindu. From these four originals Kant was prepared to explain all the hereditary shadings of the various peoples of the earth as the results of diverse hybridizations. The question of greatest interest of all, from the standpoint of biological theory, still remained to be asked. Within the limits of a "natural species," we have seen, Kant recognized that profound modifications of physical characters took place, and became permanent and transmissible through heredity. Thus, he thinks it at least a probable conjecture that the original type of man was white. But from white ancestors black and yellow and brown races have been developed. How did this come about? What, in Kant's words, are "the immediate causes of the origination of these different races"? He has his own entirely confident answer to the question. A natural answer for an eighteenth-century biologist would have been to say that these differentiated racial characters are the results of environmental modifications of individuals, which gradually have become hereditary. But such an explanation Kant emphatically rejects. It would hardly do to call him an eighteenth-century Weismannist; but he was (though not without serious but unrecognized inconsistencies) a vigorous opponent of the supposition that acquired characters can be inherited, and an unqualified partisan of the doctrine of the continuity and unmodifiability of the germ-plasm. His reasons for taking this position betray once more his entire inability to conceive of the transformation of "real" species into other species.

There are current, he admits,[1] many, though poorly authenticated, stories of cases in which acquired characters have been inherited: tales of the "influence of the imagination of pregnant women" upon the fœtus; of "the plucking out of the beard of entire peoples, and of the docking of the tails of English horses, by which nature was compelled to eliminate from the processes of reproduction in these organisms a product for which those processes were originally organized"; accounts of "the artificial flattening of the noses of new-born infants, which peculiarity nature is supposed finally to have taken up into the reproductive faculty." Kant rightly regards all such stories with a sceptical eye; but his theoretical reasons for doing so are significant. These accounts are to be rejected because they conflict with a general

  1. "Conception of Race," § 5, and Anmerkung.