Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/568

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of proof lies definitely upon those who fear disastrous consequences from biological degeneration to-day to show that those degenerative processes are proceeding so rapidly as soon to threaten the rate of increase of somatic and extra-somatic surplus energy combined. To prove their case they must show that the decrease in somatic surplus, if it exists, will offset the increase in extra-somatic surplus produced by invention and imitation. There are two and apparently only two possible ways of proving such a thesis. The first is to show that somatic surplus is likely to decrease much more rapidly than it has in the past. The second is to show that the increase in extra-somatic surplus, which has registered itself in a continuous elevation of the plane of living since voluntary imitation began, is to turn itself into a deficit.

Now it is self-evident that, however much variation there may be among men with respect to individual traits, the vast mass of humanity is endowed at birth with potentialities that render an elementary education of advantage. Though there are few men of genius, there are also few individuals unable to exercise voluntary imitation. Even if the devolutionary process feared by the eugenic school were to take place with some degree of rapidity, it would take many generations of "reversed selection" to undo the work of the indefinitely longer period of evolution which was required to produce man's present equipment of innate abilities. Genealogical records show no disappearance of family names rapid enough to indicate that even under the most unfavorable circumstances much change could be effected by selection in less than several centuries. If this be true, sociologists, however much they may approve the extension of particular eugenic methods that have demonstrated their efficiency, may wait patiently, if necessary several centuries, for the psychologist and biologist to produce exact results respecting the variation and heredity of psychic traits before they admit great danger from biological degeneration.

It is undoubtedly true that the increased surplus has permitted society to care for many of its unfortunates who in more strenuous times would have been left to perish. But with all the assistance that has been given for centuries the proportion of dependents does not seem to have done more than retard the increase of social surplus in much the same way that the surplus has been affected by modern expenditures for luxuries, whether these have taken the form of individual extravagance or national waste in accoutrements of war.

At least such seems to be the case in the western world, where, thanks to free land, a century of invention and a lowered birth rate, the economic problem, we are told, has transformed itself from one of production to one of distribution. Whether the eastern world is likely to attain an equal surplus is perhaps to be the most interesting question of the coming century. The western world is teaching the east the