|THE POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENT OF THE HUMAN BREED UNDER THE EXISTING CONDITIONS OF LAW AND SENTIMENT.|
IN fulfilling the honorable charge that has been entrusted to me of delivering the Huxley lecture, I shall endeavor to carry out what I understand to have been the wish of its founders, namely, to treat broadly some new topic belonging to a class in which Huxley himself would have felt a keen interest, rather than to expatiate on his character and the work of his noble life.
That which I have selected for to-night is one which has occupied my thoughts for many years, and to which a large part of my published inquiries have borne a direct though silent reference. Indeed, the remarks I am about to make would serve as an additional chapter to my books on 'Hereditary Genius' and on 'Natural Inheritance.' My subject will be the possible improvement of the human race under the existing conditions of law and sentiment. It has not hitherto been approached along the ways that recent knowledge has laid open, and it occupies in consequence a less dignified position in scientific estimation than it might. It is smiled at as most desirable in itself and possibly worthy of academic discussion, but absolutely out of the question as a practical problem. My aim in this lecture is to show cause for a different opinion. Indeed I hope to induce anthropologists to regard human improvement as a subject that should be kept openly and squarely in view, not only on account of its transcendent importance, but also because it affords excellent but neglected fields for investigation. I shall show that our knowledge is already sufficient to justify the pursuit of this, perhaps the grandest of all objects, but that we know less of the conditions upon which success depends than we might and ought to ascertain. The limits of our knowledge and of our ignorance will become clearer as we proceed.
The natural character and faculties of human beings differ at least as widely as those of the domesticated animals, such as dogs and horses, with whom we are familiar. In disposition some are gentle and good
- The second Huxley Lecture of the Anthropological Institute, delivered on October 29, 1901.