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- Mankind in the Making - 6/49 -


about the thing?" Before the _Humanitarian_ period I was entirely in agreement with the _Humanitarian's_ cause. It seemed to me then that to prevent the multiplication of people below a certain standard, and to encourage the multiplication of exceptionally superior people, was the only real and permanent way of mending the ills of the world. I think that still. In that way man has risen from the beasts, and in that way men will rise to be over-men. In those days I asked in amazement why this thing was not done, and talked the usual nonsense about the obduracy and stupidity of the world. It is only after a considerable amount of thought and inquiry that I am beginning to understand why for many generations, perhaps, nothing of the sort can possibly be done except in the most marginal and tentative manner.

If to-morrow the whole world were to sign an unanimous round-robin to Mr. Francis Galton and Mrs. Victoria Woodhull Martin, admitting absolutely their leading argument that it _is_ absurd to breed our horses and sheep and improve the stock of our pigs and fowls, while we leave humanity to mate in the most heedless manner, and if, further, the whole world, promising obedience, were to ask these two to gather together a consultative committee, draw up a scheme of rules, and start forthwith upon the great work of improving the human stock as fast as it can be done, if it undertook that marriages should no longer be made in heaven or earth, but only under licence from that committee, I venture to think that, after a very brief epoch of fluctuating legislation, this committee, except for an extremely short list of absolute prohibitions, would decide to leave matters almost exactly as they are now; it would restore love and private preference to their ancient authority and freedom, at the utmost it would offer some greatly qualified advice, and so released, it would turn its attention to those flaws and gaps in our knowledge that at present render these regulations no more than a theory and a dream.

The first difficulty these theorists ignore is this: we are, as a matter of fact, not a bit clear what points to breed for and what points to breed out.

The analogy with the breeder of cattle is a very misleading one. He has a very simple ideal, to which he directs the entire pairing of his stock. He breeds for beef, he breeds for calves and milk, he breeds for a homogeneous docile herd. Towards that ideal he goes simply and directly, slaughtering and sparing, regardless entirely of any divergent variation that may arise beneath his control. A young calf with an incipient sense of humour, with a bright and inquiring disposition, with a gift for athleticism or a quaintly-marked hide, has no sort of chance with him at all on that account. He can throw these proffered gifts of nature aside without hesitation. Which is just what our theoretical breeders of humanity cannot venture to do. They do not want a homogeneous race in the future at all. They want a rich interplay of free, strong, and varied personalities, and that alters the nature of the problem absolutely.

This the reader may dispute. He may admit the need of variety, but he may argue that this variety must arise from a basis of common endowment. He may say that in spite of the complication introduced by the consideration that a divergent variation from one ideal may be a divergence towards another ideal, there remain certain definable points, that could be bred for universally, for all that.

What are they?

There will be little doubt he will answer "Health." After that probably he may say "Beauty." In addition the reader of Mr. Galton's _Hereditary Genius_ will probably say, "ability," "capacity," "genius," and "energy." The reader of Doctor Nordau will add "sanity." And the reader of Mr. Archdall Reid will round up the list with "immunity" from dipsomania and all contagious diseases. "Let us mark our human beings," the reader of that way of thinking will suggest, "let us give marks for 'health,' for 'ability,' for various sorts of specific immunity and so forth, and let us weed out those who are low in the scale and multiply those who stand high. This will give us a straight way to practical amelioration, and the difficulty you are trying to raise," he urges, "vanishes forthwith."

It would, if these points were really points, if "beauty," "capacity," "health," and "sanity" were simple and uniform things. Unfortunately they are not simple, and with that fact a host of difficulties arise. Let me take first the most simple and obvious case of "beauty." If beauty were a simple thing, it would be possible to arrange human beings in a simple scale, according to whether they had more or less of this simple quality--just as one can do in the case of what are perhaps really simple and breedable qualities--height or weight. This person, one might say, is at eight in the scale of beauty, and this at ten, and this at twenty-seven. But it complicates the case beyond the possibilities of such a scale altogether when one begins to consider that there are varieties and types of beauty having very wide divergences and made up of a varying number of elements in dissimilar proportions. There is, for example, the flaxen, kindly beauty of the Dutch type, the dusky Jewess, the tall, fair Scandinavian, the dark and brilliant south Italian, the noble Roman, the dainty Japanese--to name no others. Each of these types has its peculiar and incommensurable points, and within the limits of each type you will find a hundred divergent, almost unanalyzable, styles, a beauty of expression, a beauty of carriage, a beauty of reflection, a beauty of repose, arising each from a quite peculiar proportion of parts and qualities, and having no definable relation at all to any of the others. If we were to imagine a human appearance as made up of certain elements, a, b, c, d, e, f, etc., then we might suppose that beauty in one case was attained by a certain high development of a and f, in another by a certain fineness of c and d, in another by a delightfully subtle ratio of f and b.

A, b, c, d, e, F, etc. a, b, _c_, _d_, e, f, etc. a, _b_, c, d, e, _F_, etc.,

might all, for example, represent different types of beauty. Beauty is neither a simple nor a constant thing; it is attainable through a variety of combinations, just as the number 500 can be got by adding or multiplying together a great variety of numerical arrangements. Two long numerical formulae might both simplify out to 500, but half the length of one truncated and put end on to the truncated end of the other, might give a very different result. It is quite conceivable that you might select and wed together all the most beautiful people in the world and find that in nine cases out of ten you had simply produced mediocre offspring or offspring below mediocrity. Out of the remaining tenth a great majority would be beautiful simply by "taking after" one or other parent, simply through the predominance, the _prepotency,_ of one parent over the other, a thing that might have happened equally well if the other parent was plain. The first sort of beauty (in my three formulae) wedding the third sort of beauty, might simply result in a rather ugly excess of F, and again the first sort might result from a combination of

a, b, c, d, e, _F_, etc., and _A_, b, c, d, e, f, etc.,

neither of which arrangements, very conceivably, may be beautiful at all when it is taken alone. In this respect, at any rate, personal value and reproductive value may be two entirely different things.

Now what the elements of personal aspect really are, what these elements a, b, c, d, e, f, etc., may be, we do not know with any sort of exactness. Possibly height, weight, presence of dark pigment in the hair, whiteness of skin, presence of hair upon the body, are simple elements in inheritance that will follow Galton's arithmetical treatment of heredity with some exactness. But we are not even sure of that. The height of one particular person may be due to an exceptional length of leg and neck, of another to an abnormal length of the vertebral bodies of the backbone; the former may have a rather less than ordinary backbone, the latter a stunted type of limb, and an intermarriage may just as conceivably (so far as our present knowledge goes) give the backbone of the first and the legs of the second as it may a very tall person.

The fact is that in this matter of beauty and breeding for beauty we are groping in a corner where science has not been established. No doubt the corner is marked out as a part of the "sphere of influence" of anthropology, but there is not the slightest indication of an effective occupation among these raiding considerations and uncertain facts. Until anthropology produces her Daltons and Davys we must fumble in this corner, just as the old alchemists fumbled for centuries before the dawn of chemistry. Our utmost practice here must be empirical. We do not know the elements of what we have, the human characteristics we are working upon to get that end. The sentimentalized affinities of young persons in their spring are just as likely to result in the improvement of the race in this respect as the whole science of anthropology in its present state of evolution.

I have suggested that "beauty" is a term applied to a miscellany of synthetic results compounded of diverse elements in diverse proportions; and I have suggested that one can no more generalize about it in relation to inheritance with any hope of effective application than one can generalize about, say, "lumpy substances" in relation to chemical combination. By reasoning upon quite parallel lines nearly every characteristic with which Mr. Galton deals in his interesting and suggestive but quite inconclusive works, can be demonstrated to consist in a similar miscellany. He speaks of "eminence," of "success," of "ability," of "zeal," and "energy," for example, and except for the last two items I would submit that these qualities, though of enormous personal value, are of no practical value in inheritance whatever; that to wed "ability" to "ability" may breed something less than mediocrity, and that "ability" is just as likely or just as unlikely to be prepotent and to assert itself in descent with the most casually selected partner as it is with one picked with all the knowledge, or rather pseudo-knowledge, anthropology in its present state can give us.

When, however, we turn to "zeal" or "energy" or "go," we do seem to be dealing with a simpler and more transmissible thing. Let us assume that in this matter there is a wide range of difference that may be arranged in a direct and simple scale in quantitative relation to the gross output of action of different human beings. One passes from the incessant employment of such a being as Gladstone at the one extreme, a loquacious torrent of interests and achievements, to the extreme of phlegmatic lethargy on the other. Call the former a high energetic and the latter low. Quite possibly it might be found that we could breed "high energetics." But before we did so we should have to consider very gravely that the "go" and "energy" of a man have no ascertainable relation to many other extremely important considerations. Your energetic person may be moral or immoral, an unqualified egotist or as public spirited as an ant, sane, or a raving lunatic. Your phlegmatic person may ripen resolves and bring out truths, with the incomparable clearness of a long-exposed, slowly developed, slowly printed photograph. A man who would exchange the slow gigantic toil of that sluggish and deliberate person, Charles Darwin, for the tumultuous inconsequence and (as some people think it) the net mischief of a Gladstone, would no doubt be prepared to substitute a Catherine-wheel in active eruption for the watch of less adventurous men. But before we could induce the community as a whole to make a similar exchange, he would have to carry on a prolonged and vigorous propaganda.


Mankind in the Making - 6/49

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