Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/383

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

A STATISTICAL STUDY OF EMINENT MEN.

377

on by the rule of thumb, not because this is the best way, but because we lack the knowledge to prescribe a better way. The struggle for existence, careless of the individual, proceeds with reckless waste of life, and it is only the fit that survives, and not what we regard as the best. The Chinese civilization of the age of Confucius was more stable than that of classical Greece. The progress to our present civilization may have depended largely on the comparatively few men who have guided it, and the civilization we hope to have may depend on a few men. Can we not with the knowledge we have and with the knowledge we should acquire do more to produce such men, to select them, to train them and to use them?

We can not perhaps apply the methods of horticulture to society, nor carry Plato's Republic into effect. But great men tend to be proportional in numbers to the total populations producing them and to the average of the stock. If we can improve the stock by eliminating the unfit or by favoring the endowed—if we give to those who have and take away from those who have not even that which they have—we can greatly accelerate and direct the course of evolution. If the total population, especially of the well endowed, is larger, we increase the number of great men. We should make sure that all are given such preliminary education and opportunity that none fail through lack of these. Lastly great men and also the well endowed should be so placed that their abilities are not spent on trivial or selfish ends.

We may have still stocks that are immature—the Slavs, the Czechs and the Scandinavians—and there is a possibility of vitality in the negroes. But we have finally broken the links between us and the lower animals. When our stock is exhausted, when there are no longer variations towards what we regard as advance, then for thousands of years the human race may be dependent on the social tradition now set. We are perhaps beginning to fail in art and in poetry, but for a century or more science and its applications will probably be at their maximum. What is accomplished during this short period must be either the foundation for a new stock or the endowment policy for a long old age.