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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

MAN IN THE MODERN WORLD
which are greater than can be met by the environment. And it is
they which suffer; they become stunted, rickety or otherwise dis-
eased, and cannot hold their own in competition with the native
breeds. The native stock will stand a little genetic grading up in
present conditions; but the only chance for radical improvement is
to begin with improvement of the environment—the provision of
mineral .fertilizers, salt-licks, watering facilities, and so on—and then
practise genetic selection to keep pace with the environmental change.
Another example is that of Stapledon's remarkable work on moor-
land grazings.1 By his methods, rough hill grazings can be converted
into real pastures, capable of carrying many more sheep, and carrying
them all the year round instead of only in the summer. But this can
only be done by the simultaneous transformation of the environment
and of the herbage stocks. The environmental transformation con-
sists in breaking up the soil, followed by the application of certain
mineral fertilizers. The genetic transformation consists first in the
destruction of the original plant covering, brought about by the
breaking-up of the soil, followed by the sowing of more nutritious
pasture grasses and clovers. Furthermore, the new plants must be of
special strains, previously bred and selected to resist the climatic
conditions of the higher altitudes; the ordinary strains that give good
lowland pastures will not maintain themselves.
Precisely the same considerations apply to the improvement of
man. Our schemes for improving the genetic qualities of the nation
or the species are meaningless except in relation to some particular
environment, present or future. Our eugenic ideals will be different
according as we relate them to a slave order or a feudal order of
things, a primitive industrial or a leisure order, a this-worldly or an
other-worldly order, a capitalist or a socialist order, a militarist or a
peaceful internationalist order. Even if we imagine we are working
to absolute genetic standards, we are in reality thinking of them,
albeit unconsciously, in relation to some ideal environment of the
future, or to the needs and realities of the present social environment,
or, very frequently, to our bias and a priori views about this present
environment and how in our opinion it ought to be changed. If we
were really treating of absolute genetic standards, we should have
deserted reality for a metaphysical vacuum, and our reasoning and
deductions would have even less value than a discussion of, say,
eugenics in heaven. (Even in this latter case, be it noted, the dis-
cussion would inevitably be related to the environment which we
supposed was awaiting us in the next world!)
1 Stapledon, 1935.
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