Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/53

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An Introduction to Eugenics

THERE are two very different ways in which the progress of man may take place, and great error and confusion have arisen from the failure to discriminate them. The one consists of a change in the intrinsic qualities of men as they are born from generation to generation. This is biological progress or evolution. The other process, to some extent independent of the individual, is a change in the things men have, know, and do, and may be called social progress. If, we compare the best tribal stocks of the present with those of two thousand years ago, we find but little innate gain, but the social progress in that time has been astounding.

The comparative slowness of biological progress as contrasted with that of civilization is to be expected when we consider the power of the latter to accumulate and hand down the results of every advance, while in biological evolution there is a constant intervention of heredity on the conservative side. Although the greatest human progress thus far has consequently been wrought in the social rather than the biological field, there have always, since as early as Plato, been patriots and philosophers who aimed to uplift not only the environment of the race, but its inborn character as well. The question is—is it possible to secure for the new-born babies of the future an innate moral, mental and physical nature superior to that of the present generation?

It is as an answer to this question that the new science of eugenics is being mapped out, its field being the study of the biological factors affecting human evolution, with their application to the breeding of a better race of men. Though it deals chiefly with the laws of heredity it must consider also problems of environment and nurture, as will be seen later on.

The chief reason for the impracticability of most plans of race improvement until recent times has been that their advocates failed to regard the complex relations which social and biological progress must always bear to one another. Plato, for example, in his anxiety to allow none but superior children to be born into his Republic, was willing to give up such a valuable institution for social progress as the family. We must aim, therefore, to bring into harmony, as far as possible, the

  1. The author is indebted to Miss Jessie Wallace Hughan for assistance in preparing this manuscript for the press.