Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/169

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163
THE WORLD'S CONSERVATION PROBLEM

THE WORLD'S MOST IMPORTANT CONSERVATION PROBLEM
By STEWART PATON, M.D.
PRINCETON, N. J.

THE world's most important problem is the discovery of methods of conserving and increasing the brain power of mankind. If we are judged by our ignorant and reckless dissipation of energy of the most complicated organ, which the process of evolution brings to us as a priceless heritage, we are still in the infancy of the race. Life, movement and being depend upon the activity of the brain and nervous system, our superiority over the lower animals is the result of greater brain power, while our relative ranking as members of the human family is commonly rated by the amount of "brains" we possess. Individual success no less than national greatness is proportional to brain power. A victory in modern warfare is a sign of greater mental efficiency than was necessary among the soldiers a century ago, while the efforts to win success in peace have lined the roads leading to the mountain tops with a far larger number of those who are mortally wounded in spirit than ever fell on the field of battle.

One of Napoleon's greatest errors was his failure to become interested in Pestalozzi's scheme of national education on the ground that he had no time to trouble about the alphabet. The conqueror forgot that brains and not brawn rule the world. In the great struggle of modem civilization, success as well as life depends upon the functional capacity of the brain and nervous system. What will the lessons of history profit or the teachings of wise men avail if these organs are too weak to translate precept into action?

It is a mere truism to affirm that the ultimate destiny of our civilization will depend upon the degree of efficiency developed by the brains of the members of future generations; but the importance of self-evident truths is seldom appreciated. If human intelligence is measured by the interest we take in the problem of the greatest importance in determining the destiny of the race, what shall we say of our ignorance and lack of forethought with regard to the most vital of all human problems? Modern civilization is constantly increasing the strain on the most delicate organ in the human body, while but puny efforts are made to supply the opportunities for obtaining the information about the brain necessary to avert disaster from overwhelming the