Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/449

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445
HEREDITY AND THE HALL OF FAME

HEREDITY AND THE HALL OF FAME
By FREDERICK ADAMS WOODS, M.D.

LECTURER ON EUGENICS IN THE MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

WHAT is there in heredity? Ask the horseman, the dog fancier and the horticulturalist, and you will find that a belie! in heredity is the cardinal point of all their work. Among animals and plants nothing is more obvious than the general resemblance of offspring to parents and the stock from which they come. With the highest-priced Jersey, the blue ribbon horse or a prize-winning dog, goes always the pedigree as the essential guarantee of worth.

So in the general bodily features of human beings, no one questions the great force of inheritance or is surprised because those close of kin look very much alike. Similarities in eyes, nose, mouth, complexion, gestures or physique are accepted as a matter of course, and we never stop to wonder at what is in reality one of the greatest of all mysteries, the substantial repetition of the same sort of beings generation after generation. If heredity does so much in moulding the physical form, may it not do as much in determining the shape and quality of the brain, in short, the mental and moral man in his highest manifestation of genius—indeed the ego itself?

Here we find differences of opinion, for man usually thinks of himself as in part at least a spiritual being, free to act according to his own will, unsubject to the laws of matter. In addition there is the fixed belief in so many quarters, that in the development of character and personality surroundings are of the first importance.

Thus heredity, environment and free will may be called the three rival claimants in the causation of mental and moral traits.

The last two have had many supporters, especially among philosophers and theologians. All the great schools of the past have taught that man's proneness to good and evil was either a fixed principle implanted within him without reference to heredity, or else was something to be modified by an effort of the will or by the influence of surroundings.

The advocates of environment have been, and still are, numerous, especially among the educators and all those who hope to make over the world by drastic reforms, or are interested in improving the condition of the lower classes.

Who then are the advocates of heredity? This view has been largely championed by the scientists and is of comparatively recent de-