Popular Science Monthly/Volume 76/January 1910/The Evolution of Man and its Control
|THE EVOLUTION OF MAN AND ITS CONTROL|
By ROSWELL H. JOHNSON
An Introduction to Eugenics
THERE are two very different ways in which the progress of man may take place, and great error and confusion have arisen from the failure to discriminate them. The one consists of a change in the intrinsic qualities of men as they are born from generation to generation. This is biological progress or evolution. The other process, to some extent independent of the individual, is a change in the things men have, know, and do, and may be called social progress. If, we compare the best tribal stocks of the present with those of two thousand years ago, we find but little innate gain, but the social progress in that time has been astounding.
The comparative slowness of biological progress as contrasted with that of civilization is to be expected when we consider the power of the latter to accumulate and hand down the results of every advance, while in biological evolution there is a constant intervention of heredity on the conservative side. Although the greatest human progress thus far has consequently been wrought in the social rather than the biological field, there have always, since as early as Plato, been patriots and philosophers who aimed to uplift not only the environment of the race, but its inborn character as well. The question is—is it possible to secure for the new-born babies of the future an innate moral, mental and physical nature superior to that of the present generation?
It is as an answer to this question that the new science of eugenics is being mapped out, its field being the study of the biological factors affecting human evolution, with their application to the breeding of a better race of men. Though it deals chiefly with the laws of heredity it must consider also problems of environment and nurture, as will be seen later on.
The chief reason for the impracticability of most plans of race improvement until recent times has been that their advocates failed to regard the complex relations which social and biological progress must always bear to one another. Plato, for example, in his anxiety to allow none but superior children to be born into his Republic, was willing to give up such a valuable institution for social progress as the family. We must aim, therefore, to bring into harmony, as far as possible, the two great modes of progress., choosing such methods of biological improvement as may help rather than hinder civilization, and, where this can not be done, judging carefully in any specific case between social and biological values.
That the modern preachers of eugenics are quick to recognize their unity of interest with the workers for social and institutional progress is shown by Dr. Francis Galton:
Eugenic belief extends the function of philanthropy to future generations. It renders its actions more prevailing than hitherto by dealing with families and societies in their entirety, and it enforces the importance of the marriage covenant by directing serious attention to the probable quality of future offspring. It strongly forbids all. forms of sentimental charity that are harmful to the race, while it greatly seeks opportunity for acts of personal kindness as some equivalent to the loss of what it forbids. It brings the tie of kinship into prominence and strongly encourages love in family and race. In brief, eugenics is a virile creed, full of hope, and appealing to many of the noblest feelings of our nature.
Chapter I. The Method of Evolution
Before coming to a decision upon radical schemes for race improvement, it is of vital necessity that we consider first the factors of human evolution, and second the possibility and means of their control, with the relations of these means to progress that is social rather than biological. We must ascertain from biology those factors which are actively producing change in other organisms, and then determine to what extent they are potent in human beings as well.
Natural selection, though a dominating factor, is not the sole one in evolution, determinate variation and the direct influence of environment being also of great importance. Of these two the former is noncontrollable, and affects eugenics only in so far as its presence may make our work easier or more difficult; so we may confine our interest at present to natural selection and the direct influence of environment.
The latter factor brings us at once to the time-honored controversy over the "inheritance of acquired characteristics." The dispute seems to have ended in a drawn battle, one party having established its claim that modifications of the body are not inherited in kind, while the other has proved that the environment is able to originate certain inheritable characteristics, provided only the action in question is able to penetrate to the germ cells themselves. This modification of the germ cells caused by environment is called blastophthory by Forel, and is thus described (p. 35, "The Sexual Question"):
I mean by blastophthory or deterioration of the germ that which can also be called false heredity, that is, the consequence of every direct pathogenic or disturbing action, in particular, of certain intoxicants, upon the germ-cells, of which the hereditary determinants are also changed.
An illustration of this direct influence is afforded by the experiments of Professor Wm. Tower, at the University of Chicago. It was found that potato beetles subjected to hot, dry conditions were made lighter in color and that part of their progeny raised under normal environment retained this characteristic.
Mere modifications of muscle or brain, accordingly, as in the trained mind of a savant or the brawny arms of a blacksmith, are not inheritable, but such is not necessarily the case with a quality like smallness of stature due to under-feeding, an influence affecting the mechanism of inheritance itself.
By far the best known of the factors working upon the lower animals is natural selection; that evolution which takes place when, without conscious selective action, one generation has been contributed by a part of the previous one differing from the non-contributing portion, as when wild deer of one generation are descended only from those previously existing deer who have been able to live to maturity because of their superior swiftness. Variations are thus seized upon by natural selection and perpetuated by heredity. The evidence of such a selection in the case of man has been tangibly presented by Sir Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and others working with them.
Natural selection stands opposed to artificial selection, that which is accomplished by conscious effort, such as Burbank's famous work in the production of improved varieties of fruit. It consists of two main processes, each containing several subdivisions, and a common error has been to confine the term natural selection to the first of these main processes, which may be called lethal selection. The case of the deer mentioned above is an instance of lethal selection—that which results from the death of some individuals before reproduction is completed.
The second process of natural selection, of perhaps even more importance at present in man, is reproductive selection, the result, not of premature death, but of a differential number of progeny. This may sometimes counterbalance lethal selection, as in the survival of some of the lower species of animals, whose marvelous reproductive ability preserves them in the face of a very high death rate.
When the cause of the absence of progeny is a failure in the individual to mate at the proper time, it is called sexual selection, but if, for other causes than success in mating, the number of offspring varies among individuals, fecundal selection results.
Sustentative selection, the type of natural selection most commonly recognized, comes from a pressure upon the means of subsistence by proportionately excessive numbers, such as that which sent the successive waves of Aryan migration over Europe. A non-sustentative form of natural selection takes place from the destruction of the individual by some adverse feature of the environment, such as excessive cold, bacteria or some bodily deficiency, and is independent of mere foodsupply. As Plymouth Harbor, for example, kept growing gradually muddier, the broad crabs were subjected to a heavier death rate, so that the general type of crab in the harbor became comparatively narrow. Selection of this sort may depend on some physical advantage, or sometimes on differences in mentality, as in the survival of races of mankind intelligent enough to overcome a hostile environment—to escape cold by the use of fire or smallpox by the invention of vaccination.
The classification of the modes of natural selection is shown by the following diagram:
An indirect form of sustentative selection may be said to exist when malnutrition has the effect of destroying resistance to an adverse environment, as in the case of tuberculosis. Both modes of lethal selection, moreover, may act upon groups, as well as upon single individuals. Though group selection is best typified by a war between two tribes, such cases as the decline of the Alaskan aborigines illustrate its occurrence without combat.
Chapter II. Artificial Selection
Throughout the measureless ages before man natural selection worked without let or hindrance.
At last, however, the life of the tree-dwellers evolved that ape-like ancestor of ours, the tailless arboreal mammal with four hands. The hand, originally an adaptation for the purpose of grasping limbs, gradually became fitted for grasping other things than limbs, that is, for "handling" tools. Naturally such an organ made slight variations of brain structure of great advantage, for a better way of handling objects in hunting and fighting might lead to survival, not only of the individual, but also of the tribe. The resulting complexity of brain development brought with it the capacity to think, to hand on thoughts from generation to generation by oral and written tradition, and thus to formulate ideas into science.
Here, however, came a marvelous change in the methods of evolution. Although our primitive ancestors had been, up to this time, like the lower animals, a mere bagatelle under the influences of environment and heredity, thinking man now acquired the power of reflection, and even of discovering and criticizing the laws of evolution themselves. In certain cases we are able to register our dissatisfaction with the course which nature is leading us, and to make definite attempts at turning this course from the merely fittest to our notions of the best. We have learned that the forces at work changing our species are themselves partially under our control, and that, if, like the powers of the physical world, they may at last be harnessed to the service of reasonable man, the future is largely in our hands.
Man early utilized the forces of heredity in the culture of plants and animals, and his achievements in this direction, from the prehistoric domestication of animals to the great successes of our modern breeders, have been amazing. It is natural, therefore, that philosophers should have begun their eugenic activity by recommending the direct control of heredity by thoroughgoing artificial selection, and from Plato onward we have had various projects for the deliberate improving of the human stock. Such modifications admit of accomplishment in two ways, by the prevention of breeding from the worst and by very extensive breeding from the best.
Little can be hoped from this latter method in connection with making superior women the ancestresses of the race, for at best a mother can bear and do justice to but few children. Accordingly, some polygynous device must needs be resorted to in order to utilize fully the men of best type as fathers. Such suggestions vary from free love or crude polygamy, involving as it does greater parenthood for the economically successful, to Noyes's "stirpiculture," as practised in the Oneida community, whereby a few picked men were the authorized fathers of all the children, or to G. Bernard Shaw's licensing of supermen for extra-matrimonial relations. The directness and sensational character of these projects has given them, to be sure, great notoriety, and it is perhaps to be regretted that the Oneida experiment, at least, was not allowed to work itself out as an attempt at artificial selection for the light it would have thrown on the subject.
Here, however, we must bear in mind that we are seeking social, as well as biological progress. No wholesale plan can ever prevail which denies to the majority the right of parenthood, and the family, notwithstanding the aspersions of Mr. Shaw and others, has proved too valuable a social institution to be lightly discarded. Moreover, from the viewpoint of heredity alone, any of these schemes might tend to perpetuate instincts generally considered undesirable, by breeding most extensively from those who voluntarily embraced polygynous relations.
We must have far more light from investigation and experiment before such plans as the foregoing can be profitably adjudged, and, as they are obviously out of immediate consideration, their discussion does little more than arouse prejudice and postpone real progress.
We reach solid ground for the first time when we consider the prevention of breeding from the very worst. A definite beginning of such prevention has already been made in our prisons and institutions of public charity, and the only difference of opinion can be as to just what class of inferior men and women should be cut off altogether from parenthood, and as to what methods can be employed that will not endanger social progress.
Although the limits of this class must always vary with the advance of criminology and pathology, we can almost all agree as to the inclusion of certain individuals. Among the mentally unfit for parentage may be counted the insane, the feeble-minded, and the epileptic, leaving to the future the question of "backward" children. While the criminal classes mark roughly the boundaries of the morally unfit, political offenders must of course be excluded from the category, and we must not forget that many of our criminals are made, not born, and may represent valuable variations from type. Our laws in general would better follow the tendency seen in Ferri's positive school of criminology, and determine the treatment from the nature of the criminal rather than of the crime. Those malefactors who show no improvement under reformatory influences or the indeterminate sentence may surely be included, as also all those whose record displays an excessively anti-social nature, from the murderer to the habitual drunkard.
Any attempt to weed out the physically unfit must proceed still more carefully, for we are not yet competent to point out just who come under this classification. We may be tolerably sure as to those afflicted with syphilis and with congenital defects of the senses, among the latter being reckoned many cases of deafness. Schuster's investigations give the high rate of.54 for parental and.73 for fraternal inheritance in deafmutism, and other statistics give the percentage of deaf among the children of deaf parents as eight per cent, as compared with one tenth per cent, in the population as a whole. As to all others action should be very conservative, since natural selection may be trusted to take care of mere weakness and susceptibility to special bacterial diseases. In any case, it is a long and tedious process to weed out a disease susceptibility from man. A certain consumptive stock, for example, may happen to be of high social value, and there is better prospect of conquering tuberculosis by medical means than by the severe processes of artificial selection.
The prohibition of marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity would doubtless assist these preventive measures materially and here a beginning was made many ages ago. As far back as the Mosaic law, we see certain degrees of consanguinity proscribed under severe penalties, and this eugenic regulation forms a part of every civilized code.
As the list of unfit must vary considerably with scientific advance, it is best for the present to agree on the obvious defectives just mentioned, to study human heredity with redoubled vigor, and to consider carefully the means by which this prevention of parenthood may be brought about.
The choice of methods must be governed by considerations of social welfare and individual happiness, and means must always vary with persons and circumstances.
The most radical remedy of all is proposed by McKim in his scheme of a lethal chamber. Since our one relic of the death penalty, however, in the case of murderers, is falling into disuse on excellent grounds, it is undesirable to suggest any such violent method of assisting evolution. Public opinion would be equally opposed to Plato's scheme of surreptitiously disposing of babies that failed to come up to specifications. Respect for human life as such has been established by society at too much sacrifice to admit of its being recklessly.
Castration is too severe a penalty for general application, though perhaps advisable in cases of rape, but Eentoul's operation, a simple process by which sexuality is retained but sterility produced, has much in its favor. In Indiana such a method has been enacted, but in general it could not fail to meet with great opposition among voters and legislators.
The most practical method under present conditions seems to be compulsory segregation, already followed in prisons and reformatories and needing only to be extended and modified. Since the confinement of the proscribed classes ought to be made terminable only by old age or voluntary sterilization, humanity dictates that in many cases celibate isolation be substituted for imprisonment. It is advisable that islands be used for one-sex colonies, thus interfering less with the happiness and health of the defective persons, allowing some degree of self-support, and making it possible for ability in special directions to manifest itself. The great advantage of this method is that, while combining effective eugenics with far greater humanity than the present prison system, it would remove the more powerful influences for evil permanently from the environment of the next generation, thus accelerating social progress to a marvelous extent.
In the case of certain congenital defectives such as the deaf, it might be sufficient to prohibit marriage with blood-relations or with other similarly afflicted persons. Some of the congenitally blind, deaf and epileptic might even be allowed their liberty under parole to refrain from reproduction or under a suspended sentence of celibate isolation.
Chapter III. The Direct Action of the Environment
Our review of the projects of artificial selection has shown that deliberate breeding from the best is for the present impossible, as well as opposed to ethical and social progress, but that the prevention of breeding from the worst is both practicable and in accordance with the best present interest of society.
The direct action of the environment has been mentioned as, aside from natural selection and the non-controllable determinate variation, the most important factor in evolution. Since characteristics resulting from outside forces can be inherited in cases where the germ plasm itself is affected, it follows that much can be accomplished eugenically by public action with a view to environmental improvement. It is quite probable, for example, that exposure to cold, underfeeding and impure air may cause inheritable defects, judging from the before-mentioned experiments of Professor Tower on potato-beetles and the observations of Bezzola.
The seriousness of the environmental influence, furthermore, arises largely from the fact that it is not confined to one generation, but may, after once becoming established in the germ plasm of an individual, be transmitted to many generations by the ordinary processes of heredity.
As it is precisely upon combating such evils as these causes of germ deterioration that the social reformers place their emphasis, we have here an opportunity for the eugenicist to lend his support to those who would improve the race by modifying its environment for the better. While we can not trace accurately the germinal effects of the windowless tenement, the unventilated street-car and the factory where women work a]l day in poisonous fumes, yet the indications are sufficient to range the eugenicist on the side of those who demand pure air by building and factory laws.
Excessive fatigue as a probable cause of defective offspring brings us again into the domain of labor legislation, for children stunting themselves in factories and railroad men compelled to run their trains for an excessive number of hours are merely glaring instances of what may prove a most spendthrift drain upon the future in the interest of our breathless industrialism.
Since scurvy and rickets by improper food, and gout, rheumatism and Bright's disease brought on by unbalanced indulgence, might both pass on a taint to the offspring, education in hygiene assumes special importance. Our recent pure food legislation, furthermore, is an indication of what enlightened public opinion can do to protect the careless and the ignorant against the evils of malnutrition and improper feeding.
There is definite work for special legislation against certain diseases, such as syphilis, the toxin of which is known to affect the offspring, and the same may be said with regard to the excessive use of opium, cocaine and especially alcohol.
Forel gives startling facts as to the action of alcoholic poison (p. 294, op. cit.):
The bearing of these facts upon the regulation of intoxicating liquors need not be pointed out.
Though spread of knowledge and ethical training must be the ultimate reliance in dealing with these deleterious influences in the environment, yet they work but slowly, and legislative methods must be resorted to where feasible. In the whole great field of environmental betterment, eugenics is at one with social reform. The time has gone by when the cry of "paternalism" could block the path of protective legislation, for, even though the individualist may still claim the right to destroy himself, society must restrain him from dragging with him unborn generations to suffering and degeneracy.
Chapter IV. The Action of Lethal Selection
As natural selection is most often represented as a struggle for existence, or war between individuals or races, lethal selection of the direct group variety, by which a weaker tribe is exterminated or subjugated by a stronger, has been made much of by historians.
War, however, is losing its place as a factor in group selection, as has been graphically shown by David Starr Jordan, in "The Human Harvest." In former days, every able-bodied man was a soldier, victory depended upon personal prowess and generalship, and thus the tribe of inferior warriors was not unfrequently exterminated. At present the army is not the whole tribe, but merely a professional class, so that its personal might is no necessary criterion of the fitness of the nation. A modern victory depends on such a complex of circumstances, commerce, finances, organization and alliances, that any fitness indicated by military survival, while perhaps a very important attribute of the social organism as such, has no direct relation to the inheritable qualities of the race. Even when defeated, moreover, a modern tribe stands little chance of extermination, and may even lose fewer men than its conqueror.
When we consider selection within the race, on the other hand, war becomes a definite influence toward degeneration. The modern military system involves a selection among the adult males as to who shall be the soldiers and thus be subjected to a high death rate from disease as well as battle. Those selected as marks for bullets and fever are always, to some extent, superior, being compelled, even in our army, to reach a good standard of physique, and in the case of officers of mentality as well. In vital struggles such as our own civil war, that appeal rightly or wrongly to principle or idealistic feeling, the ethical selection within the group, is appalling. The stagnation from which the southern states are now only just awakening after so many years is but the natural consequence of the wholesale destruction of superior men in the last generation, and much of the governmental progress of the Australasian colonies is probably due to their freedom from war under British allegiance.
Since war now means, therefore, the destruction of the young, the strong and often the mentally superior, and the survival for reproduction of those whom war can not use, it has clearly lost whatever eugenic value it once possessed, becoming on the contrary a dangerous agent of deterioration. Since to this biological cost must be added also the terrible social waste that war entails, the setting back of the hands of progress in ethics, economics and social organization, the present movement toward universal peace by arbitration must be counted as a factor tending to accelerate, rather than retard, the course of human evolution.
The old necessity for physical conflict will doubtless soon disappear as a declining birth rate removes the old cause for the seizing of territory. Indirect selection, moreover, is taking the place of war in eliminating many of the inferior peoples through an unequal struggle with disease, unfriendly nature or the complexities of civilization. Resulting largely from the superior hygienic and medical status of an economically successful people, it is now a factor of preeminent importance in the replacement of inferior races, as in North America and Australia. As advancing ethics does away with the military factor, it would be well for us to take full advantage of this indirect mode of selection, by the discouragement of miscegenation between markedly unequal races such as our whites and the negroes; it may even be desirable to prohibit, as far as possible, such marriage and cohabitation. It appears that the Aryan blood of India has been preserved effectually by the caste system, though here the racial advantage may have been outweighed by the social cost of such interference with the individual.
Immigration offers a wide and legitimate field for the application of eugenic principles. As every one knows, the old migration to our shores of such kindred stocks as the Irish, Germans and Scandinavians has gradually given way to an influx of inferior peoples from southern and central Europe, and more recently to the great stream of Asiatic and eastern European folk that are now beating, some of them ineffectually, at our doors. Shall we continue and extend the policy already inaugurated of excluding undesirable stocks? Shall illiteracy be made the test of suitability, or some deeper qualification? Or, on the contrary, shall we hospitably ignore all race distinctions in the interest of the American employer and impose upon our public school system the superhuman task of assimilating to our own standard this polyglot avalanche? An artificial element has here been introduced into group selection, which, as wholly under man's control, deserves careful study.
Sustentative selection, in the sense in which it depends upon a supply of food and shelter insufficient for the population, has been considerably overvalued as an evolutionary factor. Very few species are affected directly by it, as is shown by the rarity of starvation among the lower animals, and in man it has practically disappeared, unless it be in India, Siam or a few savage and barbarous tribes. The advance in the sciences and arts which has so wonderfully extended our supply of wealth has abolished any necessity for sustentative selection in the civilized world, except through the artificial scarcity often maintained by the ability of some individuals to divert to their own use, or even disuse, the possible subsistence of a multitude.
Even under these conditions, our growing sense of sympathy has tempered the severity of the struggle, and among the western nations men do not starve with the conscious consent of the community. Nevertheless, in spite of charity and the poorhouse, an indirect sustentative selection is shown clearly enough by the statistical correlation between poverty and the death rate, resulting probably from improper clothing and care, or in the case of infants, from a sort of semi-starvation due to lack of suitable food. Mortality among the poorer school-children results quite as often from lack of rubbers or medical attendance as from literal under-feeding, and the deaths from tuberculosis and drunkenness, so often the result of poverty, are not put down under the head of starvation.
Spencer, among others, has urged that charity be abandoned, in order that sustentative selection be again allowed full scope, but, aside from the terrible expense in human suffering that this method would entail, we can not afford thus to imperil social progress by allowing poverty to work its havoc unchecked. The moral and physical diseases originating in the submerged classes do not stop at the boundaries of the slums, and may corrupt both the fit and the unfit in their progress.
In deciding as to the eleemosynary projects, however, it is desirable that legislators and philanthropists should give the preference, other things being equal, to those institutions which save people with good inheritable qualities, running all others, as far as possible, on a celibate basis. The hospice for the goitrous in Aosta described by President Jordan, in which crétin mates with crétin, is a horrible perversion of charity to the service of degeneration.
Though civilization demands that lethal selection be reduced as far as possible within the group, the possible rate of this reduction has been much exaggerated. In spite of all our charities 45 per cent, of the present generation die before the average age of marriage, indicating a great penalization of ignorance and immorality in the broad sense. As this selection is especially active among the physically unfit, these need not give so much concern to the eugenicist as the mentally and morally deficient. While we have no assurance that the children of the criminal and the imbecile will not live to hand down the curse, the weak and diseased are more likely to die out unless vitalized with fresh blood. The one exception is in the case of defectives in special senses, the deaf and blind, for example, being quite capable of perpetuating their defects through generations.
On the whole, lethal selection is attended with too much suffering and social sacrifice to be deliberately retained, but can never wholly disappear. We may always rely upon it to some extent as a weeder of the physically unfit, but the mentally and morally infirm are left to be dealt with chiefly by the projects of artificial selection previously mentioned.
Chapter V. Sexual Selection
While lethal selection shows a gradually decreasing action as we rise in the scale of evolution, and works by means generally opposed to civilization, the second great form of natural selection, that which acts not by premature death but by differential success in leaving progeny, reaches its greatest importance in man. Its first mode, sexual selection, has always been valuable in developing human aspects which lethal selection is powerless to invoke, including many of the esthetic and moral characteristics. Since it is not, like lethal selection, inextricably bound up with human suffering, it can be looked to whole-heartedly for progress. However, as this is a factor lying wholly outside the province of social control and within the bounds nearly universally left sacred to the individual, little has hitherto been attempted in the way of utilizing it in human evolution.
The influence of sexual selection is often belittled on the grounds that almost any man can marry and that love is often aroused by trivialities rather than worthiness. However badly it may work, however, its existence is proved by the fact that there are many people precluded from marriage by some obvious defects. Another very large group of inferiors, the criminals, tramps, paupers and prostitutes, largely substitute promiscuity for marriage, which leads to few births because of the consequent frequency of sterility and abortion. Those who marry are usually conscious of having made a selection from several, in spite of the fatalistic impression current in this field and finding voice in the proverbs "Marriage is a lottery" and "Love is blind."
Sexual selection, then, is an active force. The question is, Does this selection work to insure the marriage of the fittest according to our best moral, mental and physical standards?
In the absence of any Bradstreet's of marriageability, we should be able to take our college graduates as a picked class, probably for all three ratings, and the indications here are not encouraging. According to the Yale Alumni Weekly, the percentage of married men in twenty classes, twenty years after leaving college, is estimated at only 61 per cent., less than two thirds. The annual report of the president of Harvard College (1901-2) gives for the classes of 1872-7, twenty-five to thirty years after graduation, 28 per cent, still unmarried, and Dr. G. Stanley Hall estimates that, while three fourths of the men graduates of colleges remain single for twenty-five years after graduation, one half of the women graduates are still unmarried after ten years.
Since, then, the marriage rate of men and women of education and achievement is below the average of the population, the eugenicist is at one with the advocate of social progress who seeks definite means to raise the choosing of a mate to a higher plane than at present. The aims are two—first to induce all the suitable to embrace matrimony, and second to make the choice as discriminative as possible of the characteristics most socially desirable.
Legislation is here out of the question, and the only hope is in a gradual modification of public opinion in regard to personal evaluations. That this is not a forlorn hope is shown by the changes that have already come about in sexual desirability, in response to social and esthetic progress. Women no longer require proofs of personal prowess in their mates, and masculine beauty possesses on the whole less attractiveness in our times than achievement. The criterion of feminine excellence has varied from the physical perfection of ancient times to the spirituelle attenuation of our grandmothers, and now fortunately back to a standard into which physique again frankly enters. We have some justification also in saying that the moral standard for masculine and the mental for feminine excellence have risen since the days of "Tom Jones" and "The Vicar of Wakefield."
While it is undeniable that love when once established defies rational considerations, yet we must remember that sexual selection proceeds usually through two stages, the first being one of mere mutual attraction and interest. It is in this stage that the will and the reason are still operative, and here alone that any considerable elevation of standard may be effective. There is in this book, therefore, no suggestion of substituting the planned marriage for the romantic, but merely of bringing the preliminary psychological stage of the latter under the control of reason rather than chance.
It is worth while, accordingly, to indicate some directions in which the public opinion of the twentieth century may well be modified.
Beauty of face still carries far too much weight as a desideratum for matrimony, but this quality is not without some eugenic value. Far more serious is the modern tendency to substitute for mere beauty another characteristic which, for want of a better name, we may term flashiness. In our sober moments we all recognize the flashy man or woman as per se inferior, but it is undeniable that, other things being equal, the matrimonial chances of this class are above, rather than below the average. There is hope in the consideration that this demand is largely artificial, stimulated by the press, the popular magazine, and, above all, the stage. A moment's recollection of the standard of sexual desirability displayed in the ordinary farce will illustrate forcibly the disparity between the artificial qualities there emphasized and the characteristics really desired by the general public in wife or husband.
Along with a shifting of values from this false emphasis there is needed the general cultivation of conscious selection, this again depending largely upon the attitude of the press and the stage. While a large percentage of our current witticisms inculcate the cynical, and many of our novels and plays, the fatalistic view of marriage, it is not to be wondered at that sexual selection still falls far short of the ideal.
Although an elevation of standard is of preeminent value not only for eugenic, but for social progress, it is obvious that too rigid a criterion might have the effect of leaving many desirables unmated. We must balance this tendency, therefore, by doing away with certain obstacles to free sexual selection which have hitherto worked to produce celibacy in superior men and women.
Social caste lines, for example, if closely drawn, tend to leave unmarried many individuals who, though unable to find mates in their own class, might easily do so in another: the diplomat's daughter whom propriety forbids to fall in love with her father's secretary, and the butler's daughter to whom exceptional endowment has made distasteful the suitors of her own walk of life, are alike the victims of convention, their line being extinguished in this way as effectively as if they were undesirables.
Extreme inequality of wealth has an even more unfortunate effect, as confining choice within limits much more arbitrary than those of hereditary class, and thus keeping possible mates in widely distant spheres. Such luxuries as the parlor car, the country estate and the many-barriered ocean steamer have fixed a gulf between the millionaire and the lower middle class that is seldom traversed matrimonially except through the medium of the stage.
While the legislative interests of the eugenicist and the social reformer here again coincide in their common opposition to extreme inequalities of wealth and rank, something may be accomplished even under the present economic disadvantage by the mere enlargement of circles of acquaintance. All social functions that are not merely formal, but give opportunity for real acquaintanceship should be encouraged, in order that young people of both sexes may meet under favorable cir- cumstances and frequently enough to admit of knowledge of and friend- ship with many individuals. Intelligent opposition to such functions is largely because of their restriction to narrow circles and their excesses in late hours, dress, food and decorations, none of these being essential accompaniments of social intercourse. The churches have hitherto done excellent work in this direction of social mingling, and the same may be said of the various organizations in which young men and women meet together for definite purposes.
That social intercourse is definitely recognized by the public as a means for rational sexual selection is shown in the series of letters to the New York Times through October, 1908, resulting in the proposed formation of the Lonely Club.
Since the college at its best is one of the last bulwarks of social and economic democracy, and affords our nearest approach to an environ- ment unspoiled by convention, where individuals are given opportunity to display their true moral, mental and physical mettle, much may be expected from coeducation in the selection of the future. In the west, where coeducation is comparatively wide-spread, there is apparent a higher marriage rate among educated women than in the east, and a thorough investigation of such rates in educational institutions of both classes is needed to bring the attention of educators to this important matter.
The character of the college courses desirable for women is another point that must soon be considered in the educational world. It is quite possible that their too academic nature at present is partly responsible for the low marriage rate of women graduates, and that training more adapted to the needs of wives and mothers than to those of scholars and teachers should be adopted. The preponderance of women teachers in girls' colleges may be another contributing cause, in its setting up of ideals other than domestic.
Clerical celibacy in former times, continuing at present in the Roman Catholic Church, though instituted in the interest of the spirit- ual, has worked rather to the weeding-out of the gentle, the spiritual and the intellectual. Much of the decline in modern Spain and Italy may be ascribed to this custom, together with the prevalence in the past of religious persecution. It may not be wholly useless for the eugenicist to lift up his voice against this suicidal institution, for, soon some progressive pope, seeing that the practise is clearly detrimental to the interests of his institution, will set himself against it.
To the degenerating effect of modern warfare already mentioned should be added the interference with sexual selection brought about by a standing army and navy, through which a large proportion of picked men are, for the best period of their lives, placed in an environment where immorality thrives and marriage is discouraged, if not absolutely excluded. The movement toward universal disarmament thus comes into eugenic favor, and, even at present, some reform might be effected by the abandonment of the practise of isolation of troops and the permission of soldiers to reside out of barracks, responding to roll-call at definite hours.
Among the many evils that follow in the train of sexual immorality may be mentioned the hindrance to sexual selection of the highest sort brought about by the corruption of the emotional nature, by which a man's choice when he eventually marries is likely to be far inferior to that which otherwise might have been possible for him. Here, once more, therefore, eugenics gives its hearty support to all movements for the raising of public morality.
A change in social values as to reputability and honor is greatly needed for the better working of sexual selection. The conspicuous waste and leisure that Veblen points out as our chief criterion of reputability have no necessary connection with mental or moral qualities, and, in the present somewhat illogical inequality of distribution, do not always bear a direct ratio even to the traits that make for genuine economic progress. On the other hand, the fact that the insignia of success are too often awarded to trickery, callousness and luck does not argue the abolishing of these signs altogether in favor of a "dead level" of egalitarianism. Distinctions, if rightly awarded, are an aid, rather than a hindrance, to selection, and effort should be directed no less to the proper recognition of true superiority than to the moderation of our excessive social differences.
Galton has devised a definite, if matter-of-fact method of establishing a better standard of social esteem. This is a plan of issuing certificates to such young persons as would voluntarily present themselves for examination and decimal evaluation, those reaching a higher standard to form a social elite naturally sought after as desirable husbands or wives. Though this scheme would be far from infallible, owing to the elusive nature of many characteristics, the difficulty of allowance for growth, and our ignorance of the exact laws of heredity, such a true aristocracy, would certainly possess great advantages over the present classifications of The Four Hundred, Daughters of the Revolution, hereditary nobility and social cliques. Even its somewhat humorous deficiency in romanticism arises largely from its novelty, since idyllic love seems to have survived the equally unpoetic institutions of the dowry, the license and the divorce regulations.
Valuable as are these suggestions, however, no mere device can ever wholly take the place of a lofty and rational idea of marriage, to be brought about by an uplifting of public opinion. It is difficult to bring under the control of the mind a province that has for so long been left almost superstitiously to caprice, but much can be done, in an age of growing social responsibility, to produce a genuine respect and desire for marriage as a necessity to the complete life. More and more we see an appreciation of the immortality achieved by the training up of children to the betterment of the world.
Chapter VI. The Distribution of Births
Even if it were possible to attain the ideal working of sexual selection the task of eugenics is not completed.
Fecundal selection, or the principle of descent from those leaving the most numerous offspring, seems to be the most powerful influence in the contemporary evolution of mankind. Throughout the western civilization we find, between 1870 and 1880, the beginning of a marked decline in the birth rate, which, while affecting the backward races least of all, shows no signs of abating at present.
Among the causes of this decrease may be mentioned the more expensive standard of living in civilized countries, the competition of other than domestic activities, greater ambition for the child coupled with greater fluidity of social classes, and, last and most important, a greater knowledge of the physiology of reproduction and the prevention of conception.
Though this general decline in the birth rate gives in itself no special cause for alarm, the serious consideration is that this decline is distributed very unevenly through the social classes. Pearson brings out this point very clearly, the differential character being shown by the fact that in Copenhagen 25 per cent, of one generation is producing from 50 to 60 per cent, of the next. The personnel of this 25 per cent, is not encouraging. The analysis of Pearson, Heron and others for London shows that the decrease in birth rate is greatest among families of the highest income and social position, while Passy gives the birth rate for rich Paris as 1.9, of poor Paris as 2.8. Figures for the United States show that the decline affects American blood far more heavily than that of the immigrants, the Massachusetts birth rate in 1890 being only 2.4 for the native as against 4.3 for the foreign population. The old Puritan families are gradually disappearing—that of John Alden, for instance, will in the next generation be extinct in the male line—while the Finns, Portuguese and French Canadians are spreading over New England. College-bred men and women are apparently failing even to replace themselves, the married members of the Harvard classes above referred to, themselves but a small proportion, having an average of but two surviving children twenty-five years after graduation.
A glance at the causes as given above will explain this disproportion in the decline of the rate. It is the more individuated who feel the greatest interest in those activities which compete with child-raising, and the better informed who know the efficient methods of preventing the unwelcome child. The majority of large families at present are the result not so much of deliberation as of ignorance. As with the increase of knowledge and the complexity of civilization the situation is likely to become more pronounced, it is a pressing problem to ascertain by what means we may increase the birth rate of the superior stocks, and keep down at least proportionately the children of inferior blood.
There is need for a direct appeal to make child production a matter of religion and ethics rather than of mere whim, though too much must not be expected from it. A plea such as Roosevelt's, however, for indiscriminate large families is certainly uncalled-for, and "race progress" rather than "race suicide" should be the cry. If the decline in the rate were evenly distributed, it might not even be regrettable, for the old rate could not have been maintained indefinitely without undue pressure on the productivity of the earth. The only logical excuse for the Roosevelt attitude is the military one, but the favorable geographical position and commercial supremacy of the United States may save us from anxiety on this score, and the disadvantage of a rapidly growing population in greater poverty, poorer education and a slower rate of social progress is a far more important consideration for us at present.
The appeal for large families is of use only when directed especially to persons of superior ability, as from the innately inferior the fewer children the better. The average parents should replace themselves by bringing at least two children to maturity and marriage, four births in general being required for this result.
A most desirable means for limiting the families of the inferior, as falling in with the noblest efforts for social progress, would be the abolition of child labor. While every additional child in the lowest stratum of society may be made a means of profit within ten or fifteen years, we must expect the lazy and the incapable to multiply at the expense of those to whom the child is an object of care and sacrifice.
Another definite advantage in the redistribution of the birth rate would be gained by ceasing to treat as illegal the knowledge of the prevention of conception. Thus the ignorant would no longer be favored in fecundity, and a more reasonable proportion would result. Though it is true that the rate might in this way be brought somewhat below the point of maximum advantage, yet we should then, granting selected immigration, be placed in a position to build up the population by an increase of membership from the best stocks.
The divorce laws also might be made of beneficial effect. The eugenic value of divorce at present is that it removes from the parental possibilities of marriage certain individuals who are inferior in one way or another, and that it permits a remarriage of some superior persons to better partners. In order to increase this action it might be advisable to extend the recognized grounds for divorce. Such defects as epilepsy, feeble-mindedness, extreme cruelty, moral perversity, repeated conviction for crime, or habitual drunkenness should be made of equal weight with unfaithfulness and desertion, as indicating innate inferiority rather than an "occasional crime."
Venereal disease, in so far as it causes infecundity among the vicious, may be regarded as a eugenic agent. In view of its great cost to society, however, the eugenicist should encourage every effort to stamp it out by education, medical control and the enforcement of social morality. While the vicious would, at best, only gradually become exempt, the innocent should at once be protected and society freed from the evil which now causes the sterility of 45 per cent, of its childless women.
The measures just mentioned, though important, do not effect the deplorable decline of the desire for children among the best men and women that is menacing the future. The work of Sir Francis Galton and Karl Pearson in England illustrates the efforts that should be brought to bear upon the enlightened classes to recognize the rearing of children as a duty to the race. Men and women should be made to realize the feeling of nothingness that is the portion of the childless in old age and the gratification that lies in living youth over again in one's children. The surest immortality, as well as the noblest fulfilment of life, is to be found in marriage and parenthood.
The strongest single influence in the voluntary limitation of the family is the complexity of modern life, with its abnormally high standard of expenditure. Not only does the selfishness of parents forbid any curtailing of personal extravagance for the sake of children, but parental love itself causes a restriction of the family to one or two, lest it be impossible to lavish upon a larger number all the care and luxury demanded by present-day standards. Dress, education and launching into life are all to be considered, and as a result we have the family too small to replace the parents and a stock that quickly dies out before the prolific immigrant peasant.
Both from the eugenic point of view and from that of the social reformer, there is need of an ethics of expenditure. As Professor Poss points out, a high valuation placed upon the things money can buy has as its reverse side, a low valuation of the things money can not buy—the integrity of the politician, the virtue of the woman and the ideal of the artist—and there is something alarming in the standard of "conspicuous expenditure" which sacrifices to itself both the souls of the present and the lives of the next generation.
A further result of the too extravagant standard is the postponement of marriage until the young people can begin life upon the same plane as their parents, too often resulting in an abandonment of marriage altogether, and almost always in a limitation of the family. Why can not young men and women return to the simpler ideals of "love in a cottage" and leave ostentation, if it be necessary at all, to their elders? The French and Chinese custom of giving financial assistance to children during the first years of marriage is commendable as tending to perpetuate families of ability, but the method of bestowing dots has the counterbalancing disadvantage of reacting unfavorably upon the parents, by a restriction of the number of children in a zeal to enlarge the dowry.
Unfortunately those youths who are destined for the more exacting professions are now obliged to spend a long unproductive period in education. While the past generation of A.B.'s, after leaving college at about twenty, found immediately open to them some field of professional usefulness, the young man of the present is compelled more and more to supplement his bachelor's degree by some definite technical training, or, if he seeks livelihood in the academic world, he must usually add to his previous study years of advanced research. Marriage is thus unduly delayed among the young men of greatest social value. Our universities, in granting many fellowships too small for the support of a wife, are increasing this tendency. A practise far more favorable eugenically would be the bestowal of the same income upon fewer men and in amounts large enough to insure a living, increasing the sum with marriage and the birth of children.
The marriage of the finest young women, on the other hand, is often delayed and sometimes even prevented by an exaltation of the "career" at the expense of wifehood and motherhood. This striving, probably propagated more in radical feminist circles than in the colleges themselves, leads some women of the highest ability and character to remain celibate, or if married to be content with but one or two children. The various movements for the higher education of women, with all their furthering of social progress, are doubtless partly responsible by their emphasis on "culture" and neglect of the training for the work of wife and mother. The large proportion of women professors and instructors in the women's colleges has the unfortunate effect of exalting "careers" for women.
While due care must be observed not to lose sight of the qualitative principle in sexual selection, by an encouragement of too early marriages, yet it is clear that fecundal selection can work satisfactorily only when the superior men and women marry in time to more than replace themselves by their children.
The whole factor of reproductive selection, both sexual and fecundal, is, to sum up, a greater power in modern life than lethal, often called natural, selection. Sexual selection, though operating somewhat more beneficially as civilization progresses, is still far from ideal, and needs to be placed upon a basis of ethics and judgment rather than caprice and convention. Fecundal selection is in a still more unsatisfactory condition owing to the steady diminishing of families among the better stocks and the consequent propagation of the race by inferiors. Though certain social devices would be of some advantage, our main hope again must be in raising the ethical standard, by placing child production as a goal of manhood and womanhood.
Chapter VII. The Mission of Eugenics
It has been shown that, while improvement of the race in innate quality is almost a sine qua non for permanent social advancement, the factors which make for it frequently fail to coincide with the influences tending toward social progress. Pearson says:
Consciously or unconsciously, we have suspended the racial purgation maintained in less developed communities by natural selection. We return our criminals after penance, our insane and tuberculous after "recovery" to their old lives, and we leave the mentally defective flotsam on the flood tide of primordial passions. We disregard on every side these two great principles: (a) the inheritance of variations, and (b) the correlation in heredity of unlike imperfections.
The eugenicist urges, therefore, scientific investigation as preliminary to action. He proposes, first, that the registration laws of both federal and state governments be so amended as to make vital statistics reliable and comprehensive, and, second, that the students of biological and sociological laboratories be encouraged to wider and more accurate study of the laws of human heredity according to the methods of Galton and Pearson.
Like all contributions to the sum of social ideas, eugenics must work by the successive steps of invention, generalization and tradition, corresponding to the biological processes of variation, survival of the fittest and heredity. Invention, or discovery of the laws of eugenics, is here the part of the laboratory specialist, and should loom high in the attention of the sociologists of this generation.
We must not wait, however, for full knowledge before proceeding to the next step, for full knowledge can never be attained. The exact concontribution of the parents or degree of inheritableness need not be ascertained before we begin work, for we know already a certain number of characteristics possessing a high degree of inheritability. Though cattle breeders know little quantitatively of the inheritance of milk production, they have acted upon this little for many years with marvelous results; if, on the contrary, they had waited for elaborate statistical investigation and experimentation, we should now be using goats for milk instead of cows.
Not until tradition has played its part, however, can the schemes for eugenic reform become actual. As Professor Kellar reminds us, the folkways and customs of the race must be deeply affected before mere education and legislation can exercise an appreciable influence upon action, and such a change at best is slow, though permanent.
The immediate mission of eugenics becomes, then, the advocacy of all measures tending to race improvement and not involving heavy social cost, the examination of all proposed reforms from both the biological and the social points of view, and, perhaps most important of all, the creation of a new standard of ethics with regard to marriage and the family. It is time for American men and women to leave the vital subject of race progress no longer to social iconoclasm on the one hand and fatalist superstition on the other, but to consider it seriously and religiously, aided by the best resources of modern science, and then to give their support to such measures as may seem to them best, freed alike from flippancy, conventionality and sensationalism.
- The author is indebted to Miss Jessie Wallace Hughan for assistance in preparing this manuscript for the press.
- K. Pearson, "Scope and Importance to the State of the Science of National Eugenics," p. 28.