|THE HISTORY OF TWINS, AS A CRITERION OF THE RELATIVE POWERS OF NATURE AND NURTURE.|
THE exceedingly close resemblance attributed to twins has been the subject of many novels and inlays, and most persons have felt a desire to know upon what basis of truth those works of fiction may rest. But twins have many other claims to attention, one of which will be discussed in the present memoir. It is, that their history affords means of distinguishing between the effects of tendencies received at birth and of those that were imposed by the circumstances of their after-lives; in other words, between the effects of nature and of nurture. This is a subject of especial importance in its bearings on investigations into mental heredity, and I, for my part, have keenly felt the difficulty of drawing the necessary distinction whenever I tried to estimate the degree in which mental ability was, on the average, inherited. The objection to statistical evidence in proof of its inheritance has always been: "The persons whom you compare may have lived under similar social conditions and have had similar advantages of education, but such prominent conditions are only a small part of those that determine the future of each man's life. It is to trifling accidental circumstances that the bent of his disposition and his success are mainly due, and these you leave wholly out of account—in fact, they do not admit of being tabulated, and therefore your statistics, however plausible at first sight, are really of very little use." No method of inquiry which I have been able to carry out—and I have tried many methods—is wholly free from this objection. I have therefore attacked the problem from the opposite side, seeking for some new method by which it would be possible to weigh in just scales the respective effects of nature and nurture, and to ascertain their several shares in framing the disposition and intellectual ability of men. The life-history of twins supplies what I wanted. We might begin by inquiring about twins who were closely alike in boyhood and youth, and who were educated together for many years, and learn whether they subsequently grew unlike, and, if so, what the main causes were which, in the opinion of the family, produced the dissimilarity. In this way we may obtain much direct evidence of the kind we want; but we can also obtain yet more valuable evidence by a converse method. We can inquire into the history of twins who were exceedingly unlike in childhood, and learn how far they became assimilated under the
- In my "English Men of Science," 1874, p. 12, I treated this subject in a cursory way. It subsequently occurred to me that it deserved a more elaborate inquiry, which I made, and of which this paper is a result.