Page:The Idea of Progress.djvu/28

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24
THE IDEA

Besten—a weeding-out of the best; and the new practice of subsidizing the unsuccessful by taxes extorted from the industrious is cacogenics erected into a principle. The best hope of stopping this progressive degeneration is in the science of eugenics. But this science is still too tentative to be made the basis of legislation, and we are not yet agreed what we should breed for. The two ideals, that of the perfect man and that of the perfectly organized State, would lead to very different principles of selection. Do we want a nation of moderately efficient Greek gods, or do we want mastiffs for policemen, human greyhounds for postmen, and so on? However, the opposition which eugenics has now to face is based on less respectable grounds, such as pure hedonism ('would the superman be any happier?'); indifference to the future welfare of the race ('posterity has done nothing for me; why should I do anything for posterity?'); and, in politics, the reflection that the unborn have no votes.

We have, then, been driven to the conclusion that neither science nor history gives us any warrant for believing that humanity has advanced, except by accumulating knowledge and experience and the instruments of living. The value of these accumulations is not beyond dispute. Attacks upon civilization have been frequent, from Crates, Pherecrates, Antisthenes, and Lucretius in antiquity to Rousseau, Walt Whitman, Thoreau, Ruskin, Morris, and Edward Carpenter in modern times. I cannot myself agree with these extremists. I believe that the accumulated experience of mankind, and his wonderful discoveries, are of great value. I only point out that they do not constitute real progress in human nature itself, and that in the absence of any real progress these gains are external, precarious,