Popular Science Monthly/Volume 45/August 1894/Correspondence and Editor's Table

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 45 August 1894  (1894) 
Correspondence and Editor's Table
 
CORRESPONDENCE.



"WEISMANN'S CONCESSIONS."

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Dear Sir: In your issue of this month is an article by Prof. Lester F. Ward entitled Weismann's Concessions. In this Prof. Ward endeavors to show that Prof. Weismann has virtually acknowledged his own hypothesis on the inheritance of acquired characters to be untenable. But Prof. Ward's reasoning is vitiated by a thread of error that runs through the whole article, viz., the assumption that, in showing that Weismann concedes modification of the germ-plasm by agencies outside itself, with consequent variety in inheritance, he has shown that Weismann concedes the "inheritance of acquired characters" in the sense in which this expression is used by Weismann, Romanes, Lankester, and most other biologists of note. By the expression "inheritance of acquired characters," as used by Weismann and Romanes, is meant the acquirement de novo of characters by the somatoplasm of an individual (not characters that the somatoplasm has acquired in consequence of a modification of the germ-plasm) which, in some way, so modify that individual's germ-plasm that its descendants inherit the characters that it originally acquired. This is obviously very different from a modification of the germ-plasm by agencies external to it, that causes the development of new characters in the individuals developed from this germ-plasm and in their descendants. This last is not inconsistent with Weismann's theory of the continuity of the germ-plasm, while the "inheritance of acquired characters" (in the sense used by Weismann) is. Prof. Ward also speaks of the Lamarckian law as if he thought what is generally meant by "Lamarckianism" was different from "inheritance of acquired characters" (in Weismann's sense). He makes another obvious mistake where he criticises Weismann's statement on the inheritance of syphilis, and, if my memory serves me, he makes a great deal more out of his quotation from Romanes than Prof. Romanes ever meant, or the context of the words quoted justifies.

Weismann, while one of the clearest reasoners among biologists, is at times a little hard to understand on account of his style, and I think if Prof. Ward will reread his works he will see that he has not done Prof. Weismann justice.

I do not mean to pose as a supporter of all Weismann's views, but he seems to me to have a clearer conception of the problem of inheritance of acquired characters and of the nature of the proof necessary to solve it than almost any other man. At the same time there is hardly an author who is more misquoted and misrepresented — he is one of Darwin's chief rivals in this respect.

Yours very truly, F. R. Welsh.

328 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia,

 June 9, 1894.




EDITOR'S TABLE.


MAN AND WOMAN.

WHEN men and women come to saying ungracious things of one another in a kind of hostile rivalry, the situation is not pleasant, and bodes no good to the coming generation. The evil may be a limited one, yet it is, as far as it exists, a real one, and is already embittering and unsettling a good many lives. Well would it be, therefore, if some one could come forward with an eirenicon that would still the unnatural jarring which is a decided feature of today's civilization.

It is the women today who are in the main on the aggressive. In fiction and essay they are employing their newfound intellectual powers in demonstrating how poor a creature is man. According to some, it would appear as if man had been the great imposture of the ages, and that a certain instinct of preservation had led him to deny culture to woman, lest he should be found out, and the bubble of his reputation eternally collapse. One recent writer, who, however, assumes a man's name, has it that if Nature had not implanted a 5 54

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��blesome amount of affection in woman's composition, she could by her greater force of will and character drive man into a corner of the universe, just as the inferior races of the past have been driven before the superior ones only more so, the disparity being greater.

This is not wholesome. If men have abused their power in the past, it is only what holders of power, who were also fallible mortals, might have been expected to do ; and if women were wise, the lesson they would learn, now that they are more and more being placed in the way of acquiring power themselves, would be, if possible, not to abuse it so much as men in their day have done. There is little to be gained by turning the shafts of feminine wit against men, nor will the feminine character be im- proved by much indulgence in the prac- tice. Better far will be a serious effort to rise to the level of their new oppor- tunities and responsibilities. A man may be a great scholar and a great fool, and so, we venture to say. may a wom- an. It is a much easier thing to stim- ulate the intellect than to strengthen and enrich the moral nature; and it does not follow that, because women now have access to most colleges and universities, they are going at once to show a higher type of cliaracter. It is not impossible even that a reliance on those methods of culture which have been devised for men may tend to im- pair in a greater or less degree those finer intuitions which are claimed as the glory of the female sex, and in which we are quite prepared to declare our own firm belief. The intellectual differences be- tween the sexes may be less than has hitherto been supposed ; but there are differences nevertheless, and it is the manifest interest of the race that these should be developed and made promi- nent, rather tiian weakened and ob- scured. So greatly have tlie claims of women been advanced within the last half generation that it seems almost like offering an indignity to her present state

��to quote the lines of Tennyson so greatly admired in their day :

"For woman is not undeveloped man. But diverse; could we make berastheman, Sweet love were slain."

Still, perhaps, there is wisdom in the words, and, if so, it might be well to suggest a caution lest, in the eager as- sertion on her part of equality in all points with man not to say of superi- ority to him something of inestimable value be, if not lost, allowed to fall into comparative disuse, with more or less of resulting injury.

If the human race is to endure, and if civilization is to advance, the relations between the sexes must not permanently be relations of rivalry. Men and wom- en were not made to struggle with one another for the advantages of life, but mutually to aid one another in reaping those advantages. That "sweet love" of which the poet speaks is given as the reward of right relations between man and woman ; and, where other guidance is lacking, we may profitably ask whether any given line of conduct tends to the gaining or the sacrificing of that rewai-d. If to the former, then it may safely be said to be , right conduct; if to the latter, wrong. "What it is clear that man has to do in these later days is to frame tohimself a higher and completer ideal of manhood than he has hitherto, on the whole, enter- tained, and try to live up to it. The awakened womanhood of the age when allowance has been made for all that is hysterical and morbid and heart less in contemporary feminine utter- ances summons him most clearly and distinctly to walk henceforth on higher levels in the strength of a nobler self- control. Then he bas to recognize in the fullest sense, without a particle of reservation, that he has in woman not a weaker shadow of himself, not a reflec- tion of his glory nor a minister to his pleasures, but a divinely bestowed help- meet, to whom special powers and fac-

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��555

��ulties have been imparted for the in- terpretation of truth and the beautify- ing of life. The ancient Germans", Taci- tus tells us, used to recognize a certain divine power of intuition in their wom- en, and if they did it was probably not without cause. The phenomenon is not an extinct one in our own day, and we venture to say that its frequency will wax or wane according to the respect paid not by man only, but by woman herself, to all in her nature that is most distinctive of womanhood. It is far from certain that woman always recog- nizes what her own best gifts are ; and there is, in our opinion, a specific danger lest, in her new-born zeal for a mascu- line equipment of knowledge, she rele- gate to an inferior place that native truth of perception which is of more importance, we may almost say, than all formal knowledge.

The new times call for new virtues; and not too soon has man been awak- ened or rather is he being awakened, for the process is far from complete from what, with acknowledgments to Kant, we may call his " dogmatic slum- bers." The Spliinx is at our gate again with its everlasting riddles, and woe be- tide us if we do not solve them ! For this will be needed the combined wit and wisdom of the best men and women of the time, and by the best we mean not those who pride themselves on the most encyclopedic knowledge, but those rather who with sufficient knowl- edge to understand the world around them can, by the exercise of the deepest human feeling, place themselves at the heart of the social situation, and so give us a clew to " the master knot of human fate." The great remedy for vain rival- ry and stupid competition of wits is to join hands and hearts in useful work in work for that universal humanity which, though not a fit object of wor- ship, is at least an inspiring object of devotion.

��THE MEANING OF DYNAMITE.

Mr. Auberon Herbert, in the May number of the Contemporary Review, discusses in a very philosophical spirit the dynamite outrages that have been occurring of late in Europe, and partic- ularly in France. The dynamiter, he says in effect, is sitnply a man who, finding that governments are founded on force, and that in many cases they have no higher warrant than their ir- resistible power for the actions they perform, determines to get even with them by the only means within his reach. He has not learned " the trick of the majority," and so can not proceed openly to impose his will upon others. He can not uniform a policeman and arm him with club and pistol, so he arms himself with a dangerous and easily secreted explosive, and places it with lighted fuse where, from his point of view, it will do most good. At first sight it might seem that Mr. Herbert is maintaining an outrageous paradox ; but it is not so: he is entirely serious, and, in our opinion, he fully establishes his thesis that over-government leads to dynamite. He cites France as a con- spicuous example of an over-governed country, and cites a multitude of facts which show how little respect, in spite of tlie republican form of its institutions, is paid to individual liberty, how horri- bly the omnipresent power of govern- ment intrudes into the daily life of the citizens. Mr. Herbert goes on to say :

"What I have said of France might be said, with the necessary difference, of other European countries each coun- try being vexed and harassed by its bureaucrats, and each being affected in its own way according to the genius of the people. But in each country the general effect is the same. Almost every European government is a legalized man- ufactory of dynamiters. Vexation piled upon vexation, restriction upon restric- tion, burden upon burden the dyna- miter is slowly hammered out every-

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��where upon the official anvil. The more patient submit, but the stronger and more rebellious characters are mad- dened, and any weapon is considered right as the weapon of the weaker against the stronger."

England, the writer admits, is in a different position. " We have inherited," he says, "splendid traditions of volunta- ryism, which hardly any otlier nation lias inherited; and it is to voluntraryism, the inspiring genius of the English char- acter, that we must look in the future, as we did in the past, for escape from all difficulties. If we can not by reason, by influence, by example, by strenuous effort, and by personal sacrifice, mend the bad places of civilization, we cer- tainly can not do it by force." At the same time England has entered, he con- siders, on the dangerous path of paternal and protective legislation. As jet she has only soiled her ankles so he ex- presses it where other nations have waded deep, and it is not yet too late " to step back from the mire and slough which lie in front of her." The question is, "Will she? Under the guise of social- ism and humanitariunism, the spirit of compulsion is in the air. The well- meaning everywhere are longing to see whether they are not, or can not com- mand, a majority in order that they may begin to wield tliat compulsive power which it is one of the strange delusions of the modern world that majorities have a right to exercise in everything. Yet if one were to propose to put any one of these well-meaning persons under the absolute control of another well- meaning person, who should prescribe for him his comings and goings, decide for him what causes he should support, how much money he should give in charity and for what particular objects, how much wealth he should accumulate and at what point the fruits of his in- dustry should i)ass over to the state, we greatly fear that well-meaning person number one would make strong objec- tions. True, he wants, with the aid of

��those who agree with liim in opinion, to settle these points for others; but he has never seriously considered what it would be like to part with his own lib- erty. Ordinary human beings require something more than an assurance of another person's good intentions before they are willing to make a surrender to iiim of any large measure of their free- dom of action; and we imagine that many of those who to-day advocate an indefinite increase in the power of the state do so under a fond impression that their particular views and schemes, hu- manitarian or other, will always prevail. They, with the help of others like-mind- ed, want to govern the world for its good. Well, what tyranny ever professed less? Good intentions are excellent things to have, but when they make alliance with the policeman's truncheon they become committed to many devious lines of pol- icy, and quickly assume all the odious characteristics of tyranny.

But does not the present unchecked action of laissez-faire, it may be asked, threaten danger to society ? Society as an organism, we answer, will always be subject more or less to disturbances; but the important thing is to see that we do not interfere with the compen- sating actions which, like organisms in general when thrown out of equilibrium, it has the power to set up. Action and reaction in the social world, as else- where, are equal and opposite ; and given the fact that man's instinct is to pursue happiness, and the further fact that the happiness of each individual is largely dependent on the dispositions of others, the actions and reactions taking place in a society not strangled by gov- ernment control would steadily tend toward an increase of the general wel- fare. Public opinion is, in all free com- munities, a powerful agent of reform; but it would be still more powerful if it did not so often seek to embody itself in law. We have yet to be convinced that the world has suffered injury by any application of laissez-faire. Uuder that

�� � régime things will not always be done rightly, but neither would they always be done rightly under any system of tyranny, socialistic or other, that could be invented. Laissez-faire was probably never carried further in the history of the world than in the early history of the several colonial communities which afterward combined to form these United States; and the principles of paternalism and protection in government were probably never carried further than in the management during the same period of the French colonies to the north and east of us. And what was the result in either case? The neglected colonies of England, with their very loose system of local government, grew strong and vigorous and wealthy, while the overprotected colonies of France seemed smitten with industrial and commercial paralysis. In war the latter were for the most part efficient and formidable, because then they acted in complete submission to leaders accustomed to command; but in peace they languished and withered. The English colonies, the New England ones in particular, might be compared to vigorous youngsters full of animal spirits, and meeting with many a disaster through their recklessness and impatience of control. The French ones, on the other hand, resembled puny and exacting nurslings always crying out for maternal help and succor. Laissez-faire has its drawbacks, but it means, on the whole, wealth, vigor, resource, and capacity for recuperation. It does not mean dynamite; the latter, as Mr. Auberon Herbert has well shown, being the natural concomitant of over-government.