Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/781

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SOCIAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL INEQUALITY.

SOCIAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL INEQUALITY.
By HENRY DWIGHT CHAPIN, M. D.,

PROFESSOR OF CHILDREN'S DISEASES IN THE WOMAN'S MEDICAL COLLEGE OF THE NEW YORK INFIRMARY.

THE subject of the hour is the social problem. Viewed in the light of the pressing questions demanding settlement—questions really of life and death—the new science of sociology overshadows all others in importance. The air is full of the angry clamor raised by different cliques and classes, all arguing from the standpoint of their own interests. The strain to which society is thus subjected must be relieved, if possible, by broad and unprejudiced reasoning in the line of causes. In this manner only can the possibilities and limitations of relief be suggested. It is evident that in the present state of society many are hopelessly worsted in the effort to gain, not a competency, but a moderate sustenance. Numerous irrelevant causes and cures are constantly being proclaimed for this glaring evil, leaving the essential causes untouched. The mutterings of discontent heard on all sides have their basis largely in the belief that the fault lies in a friction resulting from an artificial social order. Economic laws are really, at bottom, the outcome of physiological laws and conditions. Assuredly, laws of Nature are fundamental and must underlie economic laws; the latter may be modified, but not essentially altered by artificial social relations. Certain reformers are fiercely attacking our social system as the ultimate cause of misery, entirely overlooking the fact that social conditions are merely the resultant and aggregate of individual characteristics. As long as these remain unchanged, society may be repeatedly disintegrated, but the same abuses will as regularly spring up. Those who are demanding more social equality must first see to it that there is more individual equality. It is a favorite corollary of our political system that all men are born equal. Unfortunately, legal equality is not physiological equality. In fact, there is no such thing as equality. Much of the restlessness of the age is the endeavor to institute formulas and laws of equality while no such real element exists. Two stupendous factors are present in all life, physical as well as mental—heredity and environment. These all-controlling influences are present, for good or evil, in varying proportions in different lives. With the generation of life heredity, whose mysterious effects we must recognize without understanding, has done its best or worst for the beginning existence; its potency has been in the past, acting perhaps through long reaches of time. With commencing life comes in the new element of environment, as the complement of heredity, to enhance the evil trait, or perhaps obliterate it; too often to sow the seeds of physical and mental weakness in a constitution that was given