Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/394

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390
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL LIMIT OF EUGENICS
By HERBERT ADOLPHUS MILLER, Ph.D.
PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, OLIVET COLLEGE

THE rapidity with which the eugenic idea has spread is little short of wonderful, and its value can not be overestimated. However, this value has been not only and not chiefly for what it has claimed for heredity, but for the attention it has turned towards sanitation and hygiene.

This is a time of great social unrest and any panacea which offers to solve our problems is eagerly embraced. Eugenics has volunteered for the service, which accounts, in part, for its rapid spread. A second reason is its simplicity. Only one principle is required to dispose of all problems. In this connection Dr. C. A. L. Reed says:

So vigorous, aggressive and all-pervading have become the demands upon the "science of being well born," that many have come wrongly to think that there is no problem other than heredity in the great problem of race culture.[1]

It is the object of this paper to show that even if a perfect eugenic system were in vogue, practically every social problem which we are now trying to solve would still remain, and I wish also to urge that in spite of what good it may have done, it has also done a very great harm in diverting attention from the really fundamental problems which underlie the question of race improvement.

The cocksureness of the eugenist is illustrated by the following quotation from Alexander Graham Bell:

The individuals have the power to improve the race, but not the knowledge what to do. We students of genetics possess the knowledge but not the power; and the great hope lies in the dissemination of our knowledge among the people at large.[2]

In similar strain, but more comprehensive and more confident, we find Davenport saying in a magazine article:

To the eugenist heredity stands as the one great hope of the human race, its savior from imbecility, poverty, disease, immorality.[3]

Let me quote further from Davenport's book, "Heredity in Relation to Eugenics."

Man is an organism—an animal: and the laws of improvement of corn and of race horses hold true of him also. Unless people accept this simple truth and let it influence marriage selection, human progress will cease.[4]
  1. Lancet-Clinic, January 3, 1914.
  2. Journal of Heredity, January, 1914, Pl. 1.
  3. C. B. Davenport, Pop. Sci. Mo.
  4. P. 1.