Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats

the deterioration of the germ-plasm.   Thus the two attacks must be
planned in relation to each other, and also in relation to practicability.
When we think along these lines, we shall find, I believe, that a
system such as ours, a competitive and individualist system based on
private capitalism and public nationalism, is of its nature and essence
dysgenic. It is dysgenic both in the immediate respect of failing to
utilize existing reservoirs of valuable genes, and also in the long-range
tasks of failing to increase them, failing to trap and encourage favour-
able mutations, and failing to eliminate harmful mutations.
Under our social system, the full stature or physique of the very
large majority of the people is not allowed to express itself; neither
are the full genetic potentialities of health permitted to appear except
in a small fraction of the whole, with a consequent social waste of
energy and time, not to mention a waste of individual happiness
which is formidable in extent; and finally, innate high ability is en-
couraged or utilized only with extreme inadequacy. For the first two
wastes, ignorance is partly responsible, but in the lower economic
strata, poverty is the chief cause. For the last, our inadequate
educational system is chiefly responsible.
Then R. A. Fisher has brilliantly and devastatingly shown l the
relentless way in which such a system as ours promotes both infertility
and certain types of talent, and in so doing ties together the genetic
factors responsible. In the course of the generations genes making
for small families become increasingly bound up with those making
for social and economic success; and conversely those making for
social and economic failure become bound up with those making for
high reproduction rates. Eugenically speaking our system is char-
acterized by the social promotion of infertility and the excess fertility
of social failure.
If this be true, then so long as we cling to a system of this type, the
most we can hope to do is to palliate its effects as best we may, by
extending birth-control facilities downwards, instituting graded sys-
tems of family allowances, providing for sterilization here and fin-
ancial relief for children there. But even if we thus reduce the
distortion we cannot hope to change its sign.
Then, in so far as our system remains nationalist, the demand for
man-power and quantity will continue to interfere with the higher
aim of quality. Furthermore, modern war itself is dysgenic. This
has often been pointed out as regards its direct effects. It appears,
however, also to hold for its indirect effects; many among the more
imaginative and sensitive types are to-day restricting their families,
1 Fisher, 1930* chapter xi.