Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats

branch of social science. It is not merely human genetics. True that
it aims at the improvement of the human race by means of the im-
provement of its genetic qualities. But any improvement of the sort
can only be realized in a certain kind of social environment, so that
eugenics is inevitably a particular aspect of the study of man in
Up to the present, eugenics has concerned itself primarily with a
study of the hereditary constitution, and with deductive reasoning on
the effects of selection. It was rightly shocked at the intellectual
excesses of the perfectionists and sentimental environmentalists, who
adhered to the crudest form of Lamarckism and believed that im-
provements in education and social conditions would be incorporated
in an easy automatic way into human nature itself and so lead to
continuous and unlimited evolutionary progress. As a result, it con-
verted the distinction between nature and nurture into a hard anti-
thesis, and deliberately or perhaps subconsciously belittled or neglected
the effects of the environment and the efforts of the social reformers
—except in so far as their real or alleged dysgenic effects might be
used to point a moral or provide a horrid warning.
This was natural, and perhaps necessary; but it was neither scien-
tific nor sufficient. It was an example of the error to which I have
already referred, the error of assuming that the methods of the natural
sciences will serve for the social sciences. The pure natural science
of genetics was able, at least during its early career, to neglect con-
sideration of the environment. It could do this because in its experi-
ments it can and does control the environment in order to deal solely
with constitutional factors. By this means it lias succeeded (and by no
other means could it have succeeded) in making those spectacular
discoveries about chromosomes and their doubling and halving, about
the existence, number and localization of the genes or hereditary
units, their mutation and its effects, which in a brief quarter-century
have raised it to the position of being that branch of biology which in
its method and its progress most nearly conforms to the standard set
by physics.
But in eugenics this is not possible* The purpose of eugenics is on
the one hand to study the presence of different inherited types and
traits in a population, and the fact that these can be increased or
diminished in the course of generations as the result of selection, un-
conscious or deliberate, natural or artificial, and on the other, eventu-
ally to use the results of this study for control. Eugenics studies the
selective implications of human genetic differences.
However, these implications may and often indeed must differ in
c                                       25