EDITOR OF THE JOURNAL OF HEREDITY (ORGAN OF THE AMERICAN GENETIC ASSOCIATION), WASHINGTON, D. C.
ROSWELL HILL JOHNSON PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURG
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BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1918.
The science of eugenics consists of a foundation of biology and a superstructure of sociology. Galton, its founder, emphasized both parts in due proportion. Until recently, however, most sociologists have been either indifferent or hostile to eugenics, and the science has been left for the most part in the hands of biologists, who have naturally worked most on the foundations and neglected the superstructure. Although we are not disposed to minimize the importance of the biological part, we think it desirable that the means of applying the biological principles should be more carefully studied. The reader of this book will, consequently, find only a summary explanation of the mechanism of inheritance. Emphasis has rather been laid on the practical means by which society may encourage the reproduction of superior persons and discourage that of inferiors.
We assume that in general, a eugenically superior or desirable person has, to a greater degree than the average, the germinal basis for the following characteristics: to live past maturity, to reproduce adequately, to live happily and to make contributions to the productivity, happiness, and progress of society. It is desirable to discriminate as much as possible between the possession of the germinal basis and the observed achievement, since the latter consists of the former plus or minus environmental influence. But where the amount of modification is too obscure to be detected, it is advantageous to take the demonstrated achievement as a tentative measure of the germinal basis. The problem of eugenics is to make such legal, social and economic adjustments that (1) a larger proportion of superior persons will have children than at present, (2) that the average number of offspring of each superior person will be greater than at present, (3) that the most inferior persons will have no children, and finally that (4) other inferior persons will have fewer children than now. The science of eugenics is still young and much of its program must be tentative and subject to the test of actual experiment. It is more important that the student acquire the habit of looking at society from a biological as well as a sociological point of view, than that he put his faith in the efficacy of any particular mode of procedure.
The essential points of our eugenics program were laid down by Professor Johnson in an article entitled "Human Evolution and its Control" in the Popular Science Monthly for January, 1910. Considerable parts of the material in the present book have appeared in the Journal of Heredity. Helpful suggestions and criticism have been received from several friends, in particular Sewall Wright and O. E. Baker of the United States Department of Agriculture. PAUL POPENOE.
WASHINGTON, June, 1918.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION BY EDWARD A. ROSS xi
I. NATURE OR NURTURE? 1
II. MODIFICATION OF THE GERM-PLASM 25
III. DIFFERENCES AMONG MEN 75
IV. THE INHERITANCE OF MENTAL CAPACITIES 84
V. THE LAWS OF HEREDITY 99
VI. NATURAL SELECTION 116
VII. ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF THE EUGENICS MOVEMENT 147
VIII. DESIRABILITY OF RESTRICTIVE EUGENICS 167
IX. THE DYSGENIC CLASSES 176
X. METHODS OF RESTRICTION 184
XI. THE IMPROVEMENT OF SEXUAL SELECTION 211
XII. INCREASING THE MARRIAGE RATE OF THE SUPERIOR 237
XIII. INCREASE OF THE BIRTH-RATE OF THE SUPERIOR 255
XIV. THE COLOR LINE 280
XV. IMMIGRATION 298
XVI. WAR 318
XVII. GENEALOGY AND EUGENICS 329
XVIII. THE EUGENIC ASPECT OF SOME SPECIFIC REFORMS 352 TAXATION 352 BACK TO THE FARM MOVEMENT 355 DEMOCRACY 360 SOCIALISM 362 CHILD LABOR 368 COMPULSORY EDUCATION 369 VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE AND TRAINING 371 MINIMUM WAGE 374 MOTHER'S PENSIONS 375 HOUSING 376 FEMINISM 378
OLD AGE PENSIONS 384 SEX HYGIENE MOVEMENT 385 TRADES UNIONISM 388 PROHIBITION 389 PEDAGOGICAL CELIBACY 390
XIX. RELIGION AND EUGENICS 393
XX. EUGENICS AND EUTHENICS 402
APPENDIX A. OVARIAN TRANSPLANTATION 419
" B. DYNAMIC EVOLUTION 421
" C. THE "MELTING POT" 424
" D. THE ESSENCE OF MENDELISM 429
" E. USEFUL WORKS OF REFERENCE 436
" F. GLOSSARY 437
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
1. Four Baby Girls at Once 6
2. The Effect of Nurture in Changing Nature 10
3. Height in Corn and Men 12
4. Why Men Grow Short or Tall 14
5. Bound Foot of a Chinese Woman 42
6. Defective Little Toe of a Prehistoric Egyptian 42
7. Effect of Lead as a "Racial Poison" 63
8. Distribution of 10-Year-Old School Children 76
9. Variation in Ability 77
10. Origin of a Normal Probability Curve 78
11. The "Chance" or "Probability" Form of Distribution 79
12. Probability Curve with Increased Number of Steps 80
13. Normal Variability Curve Following Law of Chance 80
14. Cadets Arranged to Show Normal Curve of Variability 82
15. Variation in Heights of Recruits to the American Army 82
16. How Do You Clasp Your Hands? 100
17. The Effect of Orthodactyly 102
18. A Family with Orthodactyly 102
19. White Blaze in the Hair 104
20. A Family of Spotted Negroes 104
21. A Human Finger-Tip 106
22. The Limits of Hereditary Control 106
23. The Distribution of Intelligence 106
24. The Twins whose Finger-Prints are Shown in Fig. 25 108
25. Finger-Prints of Twins 110
26. A Home of the "Hickory" Family 168
27. A Chieftain of the Hickory Clan 170
28. Two Juke Homes of the Present Day 172
29. Mongolian Deficiency 174
30. Feeble-Minded Men are Capable of Much Rough Labor 192
31. Feeble-Minded at a Vineland Colony 192
32. How Beauty Aids a Girl's Chance of Marriage 215
33. Intelligent Girls are Most Likely to Marry 216
34. Years Between Graduation and Marriage 217
35. The Effect of Late Marriages 218
36. Wellesley Graduates and Non-Graduates 242
37. Birth Rate of Harvard and Yale Graduates 266
38. Families of Prominent Methodists 263
39. Examining Immigrants at Ellis Island, New York, 303
40. Line of Ascent that Carries the Family Name 331
41. The Small Value of a Famous, but Remote, Ancestor 338
42. History of 100 Babies 344
43. Adult Morality 345
44. Influence of Mother's Age 347
45. The "Mean Man" of the Old White American Stock 425
46. The Carriers of Heredity 431
The Great War has caused a vast destruction of the sounder portion of the belligerent peoples and it is certain that in the next generation the progeny of their weaker members will constitute a much larger proportion of the whole than would have been the case if the War had not occurred. Owing to this immeasurable calamity that has befallen the white race, the question of eugenics has ceased to be merely academic. It looms large whenever we consider the means of avoiding a stagnation or even decline of our civilization in consequence of the losses the War has inflicted upon the more valuable stocks. Eugenics is by no means tender with established customs and institutions, and once it seemed likely that its teachings would be left for our grandchildren to act on. But the plowshare of war has turned up the tough sod of custom, and now every sound new idea has a chance. Rooted prejudices have been leveled like the forests of Picardy under gun fire. The fear of racial decline provides the eugenist with a far stronger leverage than did the hope of accelerating racial progress. It may be, then, that owing to the War eugenic policies will gain as much ground by the middle of this century as without it they would have gained by the end of the century.
This book could not have been written ten years ago because many of the data it relies on were not then in existence. In view of inquiries now going on, we may reasonably hope that ten years hence it will be possible to make a much better book on the subject. But I am sure that this book is as good a presentation as can be made of eugenics at its present stage of development. The results of all the trustworthy observations and experiments have been taken into account, and the testing of human customs and institutions in the light of biological principles tallies well with the sociology of our times.
I cannot understand how any conscientious person, dealing in a large way with human life, should have the hardihood to ignore eugenics. This book should command the attention not only of students of sociology, but, as well, of philanthropists, social workers, settlement wardens, doctors, clergymen, educators, editors, publicists, Y. M. C. A. secretaries and industrial engineers. It ought to lie at the elbow of law-makers, statesmen, poor relief officials, immigration inspectors, judges of juvenile courts, probation officers, members of state boards of control and heads of charitable and correctional institutions. Finally, the thoughtful ought to find in it guidance in their problem of mating. It will inspire the superior to rise above certain worldly ideals of life and to aim at a family success rather than an individual success.
EDWARD ALSWORTH ROSS.
The University of Wisconsin Madison, Wisconsin July 1918.
NATURE OR NURTURE?
At the First Race Betterment Conference held at Battle Creek, Mich., many methods were suggested by which it was believed that the people of America might be made, on the average, healthier, happier, and more efficient. One afternoon the discussion turned to the children of the slums. Their condition was pictured in dark colors. A number of eugenists remarked that they were in many cases handicapped by a poor heredity. Then Jacob Riis—a man for whom every American must feel a profound admiration—strode upon the platform, filled with indignation.
"We have heard friends here talk about heredity," he exclaimed. "The word has rung in my ears until I am sick of it. Heredity! Heredity! There is just one heredity in all the world that is ours—we are children of God, and there is nothing in the whole big world that we cannot do in His service with it."
It is probably not beyond the truth to say that in this statement Jacob Riis voiced the opinion of a majority of the social workers of this country, and likewise a majority of the people who are faithfully and with much self-sacrifice supporting charities, uplift movements, reform legislation, and philanthropic attempts at social betterment in many directions. They suppose that they are at the same time making the race better by making the conditions better in which people live.
It is widely supposed that, although nature may have distributed some handicaps at birth, they can be removed if the body is properly warmed and fed and the mind properly exercised. It is further widely supposed that this improvement in the condition of the individual will result in his production of better infants, and that thus the race, gaining a little momentum in each generation, will gradually move on toward ultimate perfection.
There is no lack of efforts to improve the race, by this method of direct change of the environment. It involves two assumptions, which are sometimes made explicitly, sometimes merely taken for granted. These are:
1. That changes in a man's surroundings, or, to use the more technical biological term, in his nurture, will change the nature that he has inherited.
2. That such changes will further be transmitted to his children.
Any one who proposes methods of race betterment, as we do in the present book, must meet these two popular beliefs. We shall therefore examine the first of them in this chapter, and the second in Chapter II.
Galton adopted and popularized Shakespere's antithesis of nature and nurture to describe a man's inheritance and his surroundings, the two terms including everything that can pertain to a human being. The words are not wholly suitable, particularly since nature has two distinct meanings,—human nature and external nature. The first is the only one considered by Galton. Further, nurture is capable of subdivision into those environmental influences which do not undergo much change,—e.g., soil and climate,—and those forces of civilization and education which might better be described as culture. The evolutionist has really to deal with the three factors of germ-plasm, physical surroundings and culture. But Galton's phrase is so widely current that we shall continue to use it, with the implications that have just been outlined.
The antithesis of nature and nurture is not a new one; it was met long ago by biologists and settled by them to their own satisfaction. The whole body of experimental and observational evidence in biology tends to show that the characters which the individual inherits from his ancestors remain remarkably constant in all ordinary conditions to which they may be subjected. Their constancy is roughly proportionate to the place of the animal in the scale of evolution; lower forms are more easily changed by outside influence, but as one ascends to the higher forms, which are more differentiated, it is found more and more difficult to effect any change in them. Their characters are more definitely fixed at birth.
It is with the highest of all forms, Man, that we have now to deal. The student in biology is not likely to doubt that the differences in men are due much more to inherited nature than to any influences brought to bear after birth, even though these latter influences include such powerful ones as nutrition and education within ordinary limits.
But the biological evidence does not lend itself readily to summary treatment, and we shall therefore examine the question by statistical methods. These have the further advantage of being more easily understood; for facts which can be measured and expressed in numbers are facts whose import the reader can usually decide for himself: he is perfectly able to determine, without any special training, whether twice two does or does not make four. One further preliminary remark: the problem of nature vs. nurture can not be solved in general terms; a moment's thought will show that it can be understood only by examining one trait at a time. The problem is to decide whether the differences between the people met in everyday life are due more to inheritance or to outside influences, and these differences must naturally be examined separately; they can not be lumped together.
To ask whether nature in general contributes more to a man than nurture is futile; but it is not at all futile to ask whether the differences in a given human trait are more affected by differences in nature than by differences in nurture. It is easy to see that a verdict may be sometimes given to one side, sometimes to the other. Albinism in animals, for instance, is a trait which is known to be inherited, and which is very slightly affected by differences of climate, food supply, etc. On the other hand, there are factors which, although having inherited bases, owe their expression almost wholly to outside influences. Professor Morgan, for example, has found a strain of fruit flies whose offspring in cold weather are usually born with supernumerary legs. In hot weather they are practically normal. If this strain were bred only in the tropics, the abnormality would probably not be noticed; on the other hand, if it were bred only in cold regions, it would be set down as one characterized by duplication of limbs. The heredity factor would be the same in each case, the difference in appearance being due merely to temperature.
Mere inspection does not always tell whether some feature of an individual is more affected by changes in heredity or changes in surroundings. On seeing a swarthy man, one may suppose that he comes of a swarthy race, or that he is a fair-skinned man who has lived long in the desert. In the one case the swarthiness would be inheritable, in the other not. Which explanation is correct, can only be told by examining a number of such individuals under critical conditions, or by an examination of the ancestry. A man from a dark-skinned race would become little darker by living under the desert sun, while a white man would take on a good deal of tan.
The limited effect of nurture in changing nature is in some fields a matter of common observation. The man who works in the gymnasium knows that exercise increases the strength of a given group of muscles for a while, but not indefinitely. There comes a time when the limit of a man's hereditary potentiality is reached, and no amount of exercise will add another millimeter to the circumference of his arm. Similarly the handball or tennis player some day reaches his highest point, as do runners or race horses. A trainer could bring Arthur Duffy in a few years to the point of running a hundred yards in 9-3/5 seconds, but no amount of training after that could clip off another fifth of a second. A parallel case is found in the students who take a college examination. Half a dozen of them may have devoted the same amount of time to it—may have crammed to the limit—but they will still receive widely different marks. These commonplace cases show that nurture has seemingly some power to mold the individual, by giving his inborn possibilities a chance to express themselves, but that nature says the first and last word. Francis Galton, the father of eugenics, hit on an ingenious and more convincing illustration by studying the history of twins.
There are, everyday observation shows, two kinds of twins—ordinary twins and the so-called identical twins. Ordinary twins are merely brothers, or sisters, or brother and sister, who happen to be born two at a time, because two ova have developed simultaneously. The fact that they were born at the same time does not make them alike—they differ quite as widely from each other as ordinary brothers and sisters do. Identical twins have their origin in a different phenomenon—they are believed to be halves of the same egg-cell, in which two growing-points appeared at a very early embryonic stage, each of these developing into a separate individual. As would be expected, these identical twins are always of the same sex, and extremely like each other, so that sometimes their own mother can not tell them apart. This likeness extends to all sorts of traits:—they have lost their milk teeth on the same day in one case, they even fell ill on the same day with the same disease, even though they were in different cities.
Now Galton reasoned that if environment really changes the inborn character, then these identical twins, who start life as halves of the same whole, ought to become more unlike if they were brought up apart; and as they grew older and moved into different spheres of activity, they ought to become measurably dissimilar. On the other hand, ordinary twins, who start dissimilar, ought to become more alike when brought up in the same family, on the same diet, among the same friends, with the same education. If the course of years shows that identical twins remain as like as ever and ordinary twins as unlike as ever, regardless of changes in conditions, then environment will have failed to demonstrate that it has any great power to modify one's inborn nature in these traits.
With this view, Galton collected the history of eighty pairs of identical twins, thirty-five cases being accompanied by very full details, which showed that the twins were really as nearly identical, in childhood, as one could expect to find. On this point, Galton's inquiries were careful, and the replies satisfactory. They are not, however, as he remarks, much varied in character. "When the twins are children, they are usually distinguished by ribbons tied around the wrist or neck; nevertheless the one is sometimes fed, physicked, and whipped by mistake for the other, and the description of these little domestic catastrophes was usually given by the mother, in a phraseology, that is sometimes touching by reason of its seriousness. I have one case in which a doubt remains whether the children were not changed in their bath, and the presumed A is not really B, and vice versa. In another case, an artist was engaged on the portraits of twins who were between three and four years of age; he had to lay aside his work for three weeks, and, on resuming it, could not tell to which child the respective likeness he had in hand belonged. The mistakes become less numerous on the part of the mother during the boyhood and girlhood of the twins, but are almost as frequent as before on the part of strangers. I have many instances of tutors being unable to distinguish their twin pupils. Two girls used regularly to impose on their music teacher when one of them wanted a whole holiday; they had their lessons at separate hours, and the one girl sacrificed herself to receive two lessons on the same day, while the other one enjoyed herself from morning to evening. Here is a brief and comprehensive account: 'Exactly alike in all, their schoolmasters could never tell them apart; at dancing parties they constantly changed partners without discovery; their close resemblance is scarcely diminished by age."
[Illustration: FOUR BABY GIRLS AT ONCE
FIG. 1.—These quadruplet daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs. F. M. Keys, Hollis, Okla., on July 4, 1915, and were seven months old when the photograph was taken. Up to that time they had never had any other nourishment than their mother's milk. Their weights at birth were as follows (reading from left to right): Roberta, 4 pounds; Mona, 4-1/2 pounds; Mary, 4-1/4 pounds; Leota, 3-3/4 pounds. When photographed, Roberta weighed 16 pounds and each of the others weighed 16-1/4. Their aunt vouches for the fact that the care of the four is less trouble than a single baby often makes. The mother has had no previous plural births, although she has borne four children prior to these. Her own mother had but two children, a son and a daughter, and there is no record of twins on the mother's side. The father of the quadruplets is one of twelve children, among whom is one pair of twins. It is known that twinning is largely due to inheritance, and it would seem that the appearance of these quadruplets is due to the hereditary influence of the father rather than the mother. If this is the case, then the four girls must all have come from one egg-cell, which split up at an early stage. Note the uniform shape of the mouth, and the ears, set unusually low on the head.]
"The following is a typical schoolboy anecdote:
"'Two twins were fond of playing tricks, and complaints were frequently made; but the boys would never own which was the guilty one, and the complainants were never certain which of the two it was. One head master used to say he would never flog the innocent for the guilty, and the other used to flog them both.'
"No less than nine anecdotes have reached me of a twin seeing his or her reflection in the looking-glass, and addressing it in the belief that it was the other twin in person.
"Children are usually quick in distinguishing between their parent and his or her twin; but I have two cases to the contrary. Thus, the daughter of a twin says:
"'Such was the marvelous similarity of their features, voice, manner, etc., that I remember, as a child, being very much puzzled, and I think, had my aunt lived much with us, I should have ended by thinking I had two mothers!'
"In the other case, a father who was a twin, remarks of himself and his brother:
"'We were extremely alike, and are so at this moment, so much so that our children up to five and six years old did not know us apart.'
"Among my thirty-five detailed cases of close similarity, there are no less than seven in which both twins suffered from some special ailment or had some exceptional peculiarity. Both twins are apt to sicken at the same time in no less than nine out of the thirty-five cases. Either their illnesses, to which I refer, were non-contagious, or, if contagious, the twins caught them simultaneously; they did not catch them the one from the other."
Similarity in association of ideas, in tastes and habits was equally close. In short, their resemblances were not superficial, but extremely intimate, both in mind and body, while they were young; they were reared almost exactly alike up to their early manhood and womanhood.
Then they separated into different walks of life. Did this change of the environment alter their inborn character? For the detailed evidence, one should consult Galton's own account; we give only his conclusions:
In many cases the resemblance of body and mind continued unaltered up to old age, notwithstanding very different conditions of life; in others a severe disease was sufficient to account for some change noticed. Other dissimilarity that developed, Galton had reason to believe, was due to the development of inborn characters that appeared late in life. He therefore felt justified in broadly concluding "that the only circumstance, within the range of those by which persons of similar conditions of life are affected, that is capable of producing a marked effect on the character of adults, is illness or some accident which causes physical infirmity. The twins who closely resembled each other in childhood and early youth, and were reared under not very dissimilar conditions, either grow unlike through the development of natural [that is, inherited] characteristics which had lain dormant at first, or else they continue their lives, keeping time like two watches, hardly to be thrown out of accord except by some physical jar."
Here was a distinct failure of nurture to modify the inborn nature. We next consider the ordinary twins who were unlike from the start. Galton had twenty such cases, given with much detail. "It is a fact," he observes, "that extreme dissimilarity, such as existed between Jacob and Esau, is a no less marked peculiarity of twins of the same sex than extreme similarity." The character of the evidence as a whole may be fairly conveyed by a few quotations:
(1) One parent says: "They have had exactly the same nurture from their birth up to the present time; they are both perfectly healthy and strong, yet they are otherwise as dissimilar as two boys could be, physically, mentally, and in their emotional nature."
(2) "I can answer most decidedly that the twins have been perfectly dissimilar in character, habits, and likeness from the moment of their birth to the present time, though they were nursed by the same woman, went to school together, and were never separated until the age of thirteen."
(3) "They have never been separated, never the least differently treated in food, clothing, or education; both teethed at the same time, both had measles, whooping cough, and scarlatina at the same time, and neither has had any other serious illness. Both are and have been exceedingly healthy, and have good abilities; yet they differ as much from each other in mental cast as any one of my family differs from another."
(4) "Very dissimilar in mind and body; the one is quiet, retiring, and slow but sure; good-tempered, but disposed to be sulky when provoked;—the other is quick, vivacious, forward, acquiring easily and forgetting soon; quick-tempered and choleric, but quickly forgiving and forgetting. They have been educated together and never separated."
(5) "They were never alike either in mind or body, and their dissimilarity increases daily. The external influences have been identical; they have never been separated."
(6) "The two sisters are very different in ability and disposition. The one is retiring, but firm and determined; she has no taste for music or drawing. The other is of an active, excitable temperament; she displays an unusual amount of quickness and talent, and is passionately fond of music and drawing. From infancy, they have been rarely separated even at school, and as children visiting their friends, they always went together."
And so on. Not a single case was found in which originally dissimilar characters became assimilated, although submitted to exactly the same influences. Reviewing the evidence in his usual cautious way, Galton declared, "There is no escape from the conclusion that nature prevails enormously over nurture, when the differences of nurture do not exceed what is commonly to be found among persons of the same rank in society and in the same country."
This kind of evidence was a good start for eugenics but as the science grew, it outgrew such evidence. It no longer wanted to be told, no matter how minute the details, that "nature prevails enormously over nurture." It wanted to know exactly how much. It refused to be satisfied with the statement that a certain quantity was large; it demanded that it be measured or weighed. So Galton, Karl Pearson and other mathematicians devised means of doing this, and then Professor Edward L. Thorndike of Columbia University took up Galton's problem again, with more refined methods.
The tool used by Professor Thorndike was the coefficient of correlation, which shows the amount of resemblance or association between any two things that are capable of measurement, and is expressed in the form of a decimal fraction somewhere between 0 and the unit 1. Zero shows that there is no constant resemblance at all between the two things concerned,—that they are wholly independent of each other, while 1 shows that they are completely dependent on each other, a condition that rarely exists, of course. For instance, the correlation between the right and left femur in man's legs is .98.
Professor Thorndike found in the New York City schools fifty pairs of twins of about the same age and measured the closeness of their resemblance in eight physical characters, and also in six mental characters, the latter being measured by the proficiency with which the subjects performed various tests. Then children of the same age and sex, picked at random from the same schools, were measured in the same way. It was thus possible to tell how much more alike twins were than ordinary children in the same environment.
"If now these resemblances are due to the fact that the two members of any twin pair are treated alike at home, have the same parental models, attend the same school and are subject in general to closely similar environmental conditions, then (1) twins should, up to the age of leaving home, grow more and more alike, and in our measurements the twins 13 and 14 years old should be much more alike than those 9 and 10 years old. Again (2) if similarity in training is the cause of similarity in mental traits, ordinary fraternal pairs not over four or five years apart in age should show a resemblance somewhat nearly as great as twin pairs, for the home and school condition of a pair of the former will not be much less similar than those of a pair of the latter. Again, (3) if training is the cause, twins should show greater resemblance in the case of traits much subject to training, such as ability in addition or multiplication, than in traits less subject to training, such as quickness in marking off the A's on a sheet of printed capitals, or in writing the opposites of words."
The data were elaborately analyzed from many points of view. They showed (1) that the twins 12-14 years old were not any more alike than the twins 9-11 years old, although they ought to have been, if environment has great power to mold the character during these so-called "plastic years of childhood." They showed (2) that the resemblance between twins was two or three times as great as between ordinary children of the same age and sex, brought up under similar environment. There seems to be no reason, except heredity, why twins should be more alike. The data showed (3) that the twins were no more alike in traits subject to much training than in traits subject to little or no training. Their achievement in these traits was determined by their heredity; training did not measurably alter these hereditary potentialities.
"The facts," Professor Thorndike wrote, "are easily, simply and completely explained by one simple hypothesis; namely, that the nature of the germ-cells—the conditions of conception—cause whatever similarities and differences exist in the original natures of men, that these conditions influence mind and body equally, and that in life the differences in modification of mind and body produced by such differences as obtain between the environments of present-day New York City public school children are slight."
"The inferences," he says, "with respect to the enormous importance of original nature in determining the behavior and achievements of any man in comparison with his fellows of the same period of civilization and conditions of life are obvious. All theories of human life must accept as a first principle the fact that human beings at birth differ enormously in mental capacities and that these differences are largely due to similar differences in their ancestry. All attempts to change human nature must accept as their most important condition the limits set by original nature to each individual."
Meantime other investigators, principally followers of Karl Pearson in England, were working out correlation coefficients in other lines of research for hundreds of different traits. As we show in more detail in Chapter IV, it was found, no matter what physical or mental trait was measured, that the coefficient of correlation between parent and child was a little less than .5 and that the coefficient between brother and brother, or sister and sister, or brother and sister, was a little more than .5. On the average of many cases the mean "nature" value, the coefficient of direct heredity, was placed at .51. This gave another means of measuring nurture, for it was also possible to measure the relation between any trait in the child and some factor in the environment. A specific instance will make this clearer.
Groups of school children usually show an appalling percentage of short-sightedness. Now suppose it is suggested that this is because they are allowed to learn to read at too early an age. One can find out the age at which any given child did learn to read, and work out the coefficient of correlation between this age and the child's amount of myopia. If the relation between them is very close—say .7 or .8—it will be evident that the earlier a child learns to read, the more short-sighted he is as he grows older. This will not prove a relation of cause and effect, but it will at least create a great suspicion. If on the contrary the correlation is very slight, it will be evident that early reading has little to do with the prevalance of defective vision among school children. If investigators similarly work out all the other correlations that can be suggested, finding whether there is any regular relation between myopia and overcrowding, long hours of study, general economic conditions at home, general physical or moral conditions of parents, the time the child spends out of doors, etc., and if no important relation is found between these various factors and myopia, it will be evident that no factor of the environment which one can think of as likely to cause the trouble really accounts for the poor eyesight of school children.
This has actually been done, and none of the conditions enumerated has been found to be closely related to myopia in school children. Correlations between fifteen environmental conditions and the goodness of children's eyesight were measured, and only in one case was the correlation as high as .1. The mean of these correlations was about .04—an absolutely negligible quantity when compared with the common heredity coefficient of .51.
Does this prove that the myopia is rather due to heredity? It would, by a process of exclusion, if every conceivable environmental factor had been measured and found wanting. That point in the investigation can never be reached, but a tremendously strong suspicion is at least justified. Now if the degree of resemblance between the prevalence of myopia in parents and that in children be directly measured, and if it be found that when the parent has eye trouble the child also has it, then it seems that a general knowledge of heredity should lead to the belief that the difficulty lies there, and that an environmental cause for the poor vision of the school child was being sought, when it was all the time due almost entirely to heredity. This final step has not yet been completed in an adequate way, but the evidence, partly analogical, gives every reason to believe in the soundness of the conclusion stated, that in most cases the schoolboy must wear glasses because of his heredity, not because of overstudy or any neglect on the part of his parents to care for his eyes properly during his childhood.
The extent to which the intelligence of school children is dependent on defective physique and unfavorable home environment is an important practical question, which David Heron of London attacked by the methods we have outlined. He wanted to find out whether the healthy children were the most intelligent. One is constantly hearing stories of how the intelligence of school children has been improved by some treatment which improved their general health, but these stories are rarely presented in such a way as to contribute evidence of scientific value. It was desirable to know what exact measurement would show. The intelligence of all the children in fourteen schools was measured in its correlation with weight and height, conditions of clothing and teeth, state of nutrition, cleanliness, good hearing, and the condition of the cervical glands, tonsils and adenoids. It could not be found that mental capacity was closely related to any of the characters dealt with. The particular set of characters measured was taken because it happened to be furnished by data collected for another purpose; the various items are suggestive rather than directly conclusive. Here again, the correlation in most cases was less than .1, as compared with the general heredity correlation of .5.
The investigation need not be limited to problems of bad breeding. Eugenics, as its name shows, is primarily interested in "good breeding;" it is particularly worth while, therefore, to examine the relations between heredity and environment in the production of mental and moral superiority.
If success in life—the kind of success that is due to great mental and moral superiority—is due to the opportunities a man has, then it ought to be pretty evenly distributed among all persons who have had favorable opportunities, provided a large enough number of persons be taken to allow the laws of probability full play. England offers a good field to investigate this point, because Oxford and Cambridge, her two great universities, turn out most of the eminent men of the country, or at least have done so until recently. If nothing more is necessary to ensure a youth's success than to give him a first-class education and the chance to associate with superior people, then the prizes of life ought to be pretty evenly distributed among the graduates of the two universities, during a period of a century or two.
This is not the case. When we look at the history of England, as Galton did nearly half a century ago, we find success in life to an unexpected degree a family affair. The distinguished father is likely to have a distinguished son, while the son of two "nobodies" has a very small chance of becoming distinguished. To cite one concrete case, Galton found that the son of a distinguished judge had about one chance in four of becoming himself distinguished, while the son of a man picked out at random from the population had about one chance in 4,000 of becoming similarly distinguished.
The objection at once occurs that perhaps social opportunities might play the predominant part; that the son of an obscure man never gets a chance, while the son of the prominent man is pushed forward regardless of his inherent abilities. This, as Galton argued at length, can not be true of men of really eminent attainments. The true genius, he thought, frequently succeeds in rising despite great obstacles, while no amount of family pull will succeed in making a mediocrity into a genius, although it may land him in some high and very comfortable official position. Galton found a good illustration in the papacy, where during many centuries it was the custom for a pope to adopt one of his nephews as a son, and push him forward in every way. If opportunity were all that is required, these adopted sons ought to have reached eminence as often as a real son would have done; but statistics show that they reached eminence only as often as would be expected for nephews of great men, whose chance is notably less, of course, than that of sons of great men, in whom the intensity of heredity is much greater.
Transfer the inquiry to America, and it becomes even more conclusive, for this is supposed to be the country of equal opportunities, where it is a popular tradition that every boy has a chance to become president. Success may be in some degree a family affair in caste-ridden England; is it possible that the past history of the United States should show the same state of affairs?
Galton found that about half of the great men of England had distinguished close relatives. If the great men of America have fewer distinguished close relatives, environment will be able to make out a plausible case: it will be evident that in this continent of boundless opportunities the boy with ambition and energy gets to the top, and that this ambition and energy do not depend on the kind of family he comes from.
Frederick Adams Woods has made precisely this investigation. The first step was to find out how many eminent men there are in American history. Biographical dictionaries list about 3,500, and this number provides a sufficiently unbiased standard from which to work. Now, Dr. Woods says, if we suppose the average person to have as many as twenty close relatives—as near as an uncle or a grandson—then computation shows that only one person in 500 in the United States has a chance to be a near relative of one of the 3,500 eminent men—provided it is purely a matter of chance. As a fact, the 3,500 eminent men listed by the biographical dictionaries are related to each other not as one in 500, but as one in five. If the more celebrated men alone be considered, it is found that the percentage increases so that about one in three of them has a close relative who is also distinguished. This ratio increases to more than one in two when the families of the forty-six Americans in the Hall of Fame are made the basis of study. If all the eminent relations of those in the Hall of Fame are counted, they average more than one apiece. Therefore, they are from five hundred to a thousand times as much related to distinguished people as the ordinary mortal is.
To look at it from another point of view, something like 1% of the population of the country is as likely to produce a man of genius as is all the rest of the population put together,—the other 99%.
This might still be due in some degree to family influence, to the prestige of a famous name, or to educational advantages afforded the sons of successful men. Dr. Woods' study of the royal families of Europe is more decisive.
In the latter group, the environment must be admitted—on the whole—to be uniformly favorable. It has varied, naturally, in each case, but speaking broadly it is certain that all the members of this group have had the advantage of a good education, of unusual care and attention. If such things affect achievement, then the achievements of this class ought to be pretty generally distributed among the whole class. If opportunity is the cause of a man's success, then most of the members of this class ought to have succeeded, because to every one of royal blood, the door of opportunity usually stands open. One would expect the heir to the throne to show a better record than his younger brothers, however, because his opportunity to distinguish himself is naturally greater. This last point will be discussed first.
Dr. Woods divided all the individuals in his study into ten classes for intellectuality and ten for morality, those most deficient in the qualities being put in class 1, while the men and women of preeminent intellectual and moral worth were put in class 10. Now if preeminent intellect and morality were at all linked with the better chances that an inheritor of succession has, then heirs to the throne ought to be more plentiful in the higher grades than in the lower. Actual count shows this not to be the case. A slightly larger percentage of inheritors is rather to be found in the lower grades. The younger sons have made just as good a showing as the sons who succeeded to power; as one would expect if intellect and morality are due largely to heredity, but as one would not expect if intellect and morality are due largely to outward circumstances.
Are "conditions of turmoil, stress and adversity" strong forces in the production of great men, as has often been claimed? There is no evidence from facts to support that view. In the case of a few great commanders, the times seemed particularly favorable. Napoleon, for example, could hardly have been Napoleon had it not been for the French revolution. But in general there have been wars going on during the whole period of modern European history; there have always been opportunities for a royal hero to make his appearance; but often the country has called for many years in vain. Circumstances were powerless to produce a great man and the nation had to wait until heredity produced him. Spain has for several centuries been calling for genius in leadership in some lines; but in vain. England could not get an able man from the Stuart line, despite her need, and had to wait for William of Orange, who was a descendant of a man of genius, William the Silent. "Italy had to wait fifty years in bondage for her deliverers, Cavour, Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel."
"The upshot of it all," Dr. Woods decides, "is that, as regards intellectual life, environment is a totally inadequate explanation. If it explains certain characters in certain instances, it always fails to explain many more, while heredity not only explains all, or at least 90%, of the intellectual side of character in practically every instance, but does so best when questions of environment are left out of discussion."
Despite the good environment almost uniformly present, the geniuses in royalty are not scattered over the surface of the pedigree chart, but form isolated little groups of closely related individuals. One centers in Frederick the Great, another in Queen Isabella of Spain, a third in William the Silent, and a fourth in Gustavus Adolphus. Furthermore, the royal personages who are conspicuously low in intellect and morality are similarly grouped. Careful study of the circumstances shows nothing in the environment that would produce this grouping of genius, while it is exactly what a knowledge of heredity leads one to expect.
In the next place, do the superior members of royalty have proportionately more superior individuals among their close relatives, as was found to be the case among the Americans in the Hall of Fame? A count shows at once that they do. The first six grades all have about an equal number of eminent relatives, but grade 7 has more while grade 8 has more than grade 7, and the geniuses of grade 10 have the highest proportion of nearer relatives of their own character. Surely it cannot be supposed that a relative of a king in grade 8 has on the average a much less favorable environment than a relative of a king in grade 10. Is it not fair, then, to assume that this relative's greater endowment in the latter case is due to heredity?
Conditions are the same, whether males or females be considered. The royal families of Europe offer a test case because for them the environment is nearly uniformly favorable. A study of them shows great mental and moral differences between them, and critical evidence indicates that these differences are largely due to differences in heredity. Differences of opportunity do not appear to be largely responsible for the achievements of the individuals.
But, it is sometimes objected, opportunity certainly is responsible for the appearance of much talent that would otherwise never appear. Take the great increase in the number of scientific men in Germany during the last half century, for example. It can not be pretended that this is due to an increased birth-rate of such talent; it means that the growth of an appreciation of scientific work has produced an increased amount of scientific talent. J. McKeen Cattell has argued this point most carefully in his study of the families of one thousand American men of science (Popular Science Monthly, May, 1915). "A Darwin born in China in 1809," he says, "could not have become a Darwin, nor could a Lincoln born here on the same day have become a Lincoln had there been no Civil War. If the two infants had been exchanged there would have been no Darwin in America and no Lincoln in England." And so he continues, urging that in the production of scientific men, at least, education is more important than eugenics.
This line of argument contains a great deal of obvious truth, but is subject to a somewhat obvious objection, if it is pushed too far. It is certainly true that the exact field in which a man's activities will find play is largely determined by his surroundings and education. Young men in the United States are now becoming lawyers or men of science, who would have become ministers had they been born a century or two ago. But this environmental influence seems to us a minor one, for the man who is highly gifted in some one line is usually, as all the work of differential psychology shows, gifted more than the average in many other lines. Opportunity decides in just what field his life work shall lie; but he would be able to make a success in a number of fields. Darwin born in America would probably not have become the Darwin we know, but it is not to be supposed that he would have died a "mute, inglorious Milton": it is not likely that he would have failed to make his mark in some line of human activity. Dr. Cattell's argument, then, while admissible, can not properly be urged against the fact that ability is mainly dependent on inheritance.
We need not stop with the conclusion that equality of training or opportunity is unable to level the inborn differences between men. We can go even farther, and produce evidence to show that equality of training increases the differences in results achieved.
This evidence is obtained by measuring the effects of equal amounts of exercise of a function upon individual differences in respect to efficiency in it. Suppose one should pick out, at random, eight children, and let them do problems in multiplication for 10 minutes. After a number of such trials, the three best might average 39 correct solutions in the 10 minutes, and the three poorest might average 25 examples. Then let them continue the work, until each one of them has done 700 examples. Here is equality in training; does it lead to uniform results?
Dr. Starch made the actual test which we have outlined and found that the three best pupils gained on the average 45 in the course of doing 700 examples; while the three poorest gained only 26 in the same course of time.
Similar tests have been made of school children in a number of instances, and have shown that equality of training fails to bring about equality of performance. All improve to some extent; but those who are naturally better than their comrades usually become better still, when conditions for all are the same. E. L. Thorndike gives the following tabular statement of a test he conducted:
THE EFFECT OF EQUAL AMOUNTS OF PRACTICE UPON INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN THE MENTAL MULTIPLICATION OF A THREE-PLACE BY A THREE-PLACE NUMBER
Amount done Percentage of per unit of correct figures time in answers
Hours of Practice First 5 Examples First 5 Examples Last 5 or 10 Last 5 or 10 Examples Examples Gain Gain
Initial highest five individuals 5.1 85 147 61 70 78 18 " next five " 5.1 56 107 51 68 78 10 " " six " 5.3 46 68 22 74 82 8 " " six " 5.4 38 46 8 58 70 12 " " five " 5.2 31 57 26 47 67 20 " " one individual 5.2 19 32 13 100 82 -18
Similar results have been obtained by half a dozen other experimenters, using the tests of mental multiplication, addition, marking A's on a printed sheet of capitals, and the like. It would be a mistake to conclude too much from experiments of such restricted scope; but they all agree in showing that if every child were given an equal training, the differences in these traits would nevertheless be very great.
And although we do not wish to strain the application of these results too far, we are at least justified in saying that they strongly indicate that inborn mediocrity can not be made into a high grade of talent by training. Not every boy has a chance to distinguish himself, even if he receives a good education.
We are driven back to the same old conclusion, that it is primarily inborn nature which causes the achievements of men and women to be what they are. Good environment, opportunity, training, will give good heredity a chance to express itself; but they can not produce greatness from bad heredity.
These conclusions are familiar to scientific sociologists, but they have not yet had the influence on social service and practical attempts at reform which they deserve. Many popular writers continue to confuse cause and effect, as for example H. Addington Bruce, who contributed an article to the Century Magazine, not long ago, on "The Boy Who Goes Wrong." After alleging that the boy who goes wrong does so because he is not properly brought up, Mr. Bruce quotes with approval the following passage from Paul Dubois, "the eminent Swiss physician and philosopher:
"If you have the happiness to be a well-living man, take care not to attribute the credit of it to yourself. Remember the favorable conditions in which you have lived, surrounded by the relatives who loved you and set you a good example; do not forget the close friends who have taken you by the hand and led you away from the quagmires of evil; keep a grateful remembrance for all the teachers who have influenced you, the kind and intelligent school-master, the devoted pastor; realize all these multiple influences which have made you what you are. Then you will remember that such and such a culprit has not in his sad life met with these favorable conditions; that he had a drunken father or a foolish mother, and that he has lived without affection, exposed to all kinds of temptation. You will then take pity upon this disinherited man, whose mind has been nourished upon malformed mental images, begetting evil sentiments such as immoderate desire or social hatred."
Mr. Bruce indorses this kind of talk when he concludes, "The blame for the boy who goes wrong does not rest with the boy himself, or yet with his remote ancestors. It rests squarely with the parents who, through ignorance or neglect, have failed to mold him aright in the plastic days of childhood."
Where is the evidence of the existence of these plastic days of childhood? If they exist, why do not ordinary brothers become as much alike as identical twins? How long are we to be asked to believe, on blind faith, that the child is putty, of which the educator can make either mediocrity or genius, depending on his skill? What does the environmentalist know about these "plastic days"? If a boy has a drunken father or foolish mother, does it not suggest that there is something wrong with his pedigree? With such an ancestry, we do not expect him to turn out brilliantly, no matter in what home he is brought up. If a boy has the kind of parents who bring him up well; if he is, as Dr. Dubois says, surrounded by relatives who love him and set him a good example, we at once have ground for a suspicion that he comes of a pretty good family, a stock characterized by a high standard of intellectuality and morality, and it would surprise us if such a boy did not turn out well. But he turns out well because what's bred in the bone will show in him, if it gets any kind of a chance. It is his nature, not his nurture, that is mainly responsible for his character.
MODIFICATION OF THE GERM-PLASM
Every living creature was at some stage of its life nothing more than a single cell. It is generally known that human beings result from the union of an egg-cell and a sperm-cell, but it is not so universally understood that these germ-cells are part of a continuous stream of germ-plasm which has been in existence ever since the appearance of life on the globe, and which is destined to continue in existence as long as life remains on the globe.
The corollaries of this fact are of great importance. Some of them will be considered in this chapter.
Early investigators tended naturally to look on the germ-cells as a product of the body. Being supposedly products of the body, it was natural to think that they would in some measure reproduce the character of the body which created them; and Darwin elaborated an ingenious hypothesis to explain how the various characters could be represented in the germ-cell. The idea held by him, in common with most other thinkers of his period, is still held more or less unconsciously by those who have not given particular attention to the subject. Generation is conceived as a direct chain: the body produces the germ-cell which produces another body which in turn produces another germ-cell, and so on.
But a generation ago this idea fell under suspicion. August Weismann, professor of zooelogy in the University of Freiburg, Germany, made himself the champion of the new idea, about 1885, and developed it so effectively that it is now a part of the creed of nearly every biologist.
Weismann caused a general abandonment of the idea that the germ-cell is produced by the body in each generation, and popularized the conception of the germ-cell as a product of a stream of undifferentiated germ-plasm, not only continuous but (potentially at least) immortal. The body does not produce the germ-cells, he pointed out; instead, the germ-cells produce the body.
The basis of this theory can best be understood by a brief consideration of the reproduction of very simple organisms.
"Death is the end of life," is the belief of many other persons than the Lotus Eaters. It is commonly supposed that everything which lives must eventually die. But study of a one-celled animal, an Infusorian, for example, reveals that when it reaches a certain age it pinches in two, and each half becomes an Infusorian in all appearance identical with the original cell. Has the parent cell then died? It may rather be said to survive, in two parts. Each of these daughter cells will in turn go through the same process of reproduction by simple fission, and the process will be continued in their descendants. The Infusorian can be called potentially immortal, because of this method of reproduction.
The immortality, as Weismann pointed out, is not of the kind attributed by the Greeks to their gods, who could not die because no wound could destroy them. On the contrary, the Infusorian is extremely fragile, and is dying by millions at every instant; but if circumstances are favorable, it can live on; it is not inevitably doomed to die sooner or later, as is Man. "It dies from accident often, from old age never."
Now the single-celled Infusorian is in many respects comparable with the single-celled germ of the higher animals. The analogy has often been carried too far; yet it remains indisputable that the germ-cells of men reproduce in the same way—by simple fission—as the Infusorian and other one-celled animals and plants, and that they are organized on much the same plan. Given favorable circumstances, the germ-cell should be expected to be equally immortal. Does it ever find these favorable circumstances?
The investigations of microscopists indicate that it does—that evolution has provided it with these favorable circumstances, in the bodies of the higher animals. Let us recall in outline the early history of the fertilized germ-cell, the zygote formed by the union of ovum and spermatozooen. These two unite to form a single cell, which is essentially the same, physiologically, as other germ-cells. It divides in two similar cells; these each divide; the resulting cells again divide, and so the process continues, until the whole body—a fully developed man,—has been produced by division and redivision of the one zygote.
But the germ-cell is obviously different from most of the cells that make up the finished product, the body. The latter are highly differentiated and specialized for different functions—blood cells, nerve cells, bone cells, muscle cells, and so on, each a single cell but each adapted to do a certain work, for which the original, undifferentiated germ-cell was wholly unfit. It is evident that differentiation began to take place at some point in the series of divisions, that is to say, in the development of the embryo.
Th. Boveri, studying the development of a threadworm, made the interesting discovery that this differentiation began at the first division. Of the two daughter-cells produced from the zygote, one continued dividing at a very slow rate, and without showing any specialization. Its "line of descent" produced only germ-cells. The products of division of the other daughter-cell began to differentiate, and soon formed all the necessary kinds of cells to make up the body of the mature worm. In this body, the cells from the first daughter-cell mentioned were inclosed, still undifferentiated: they formed the germ-cells of the next generation, and after maturity were ready to be ejected from the body, and to form new threadworms.
Imagine this process taking place through generation after generation of threadworms, and one will realize that the germ-plasm was passed on directly from one generation to the next; that in each generation it gave rise to body-plasm, but that it did not at any time lose its identity or continuity, a part of the germ-plasm being always set aside, undifferentiated, to be handed on to the next generation.
In the light of this example, one can better understand the definition of germ-plasm as "that part of the substance of the parents which does not die with them, but perpetuates itself in their offspring." By bringing his imagination into play, the reader will realize that there is no limit to the backward continuity of this germ-plasm in the threadworm. Granted that each species has arisen by evolution from some other, this germ-cell which is observed in the body of the threadworm, must be regarded as part of what may well be called a stream of germ-plasm, that reaches back to the beginning of life in the world. It will be equally evident that these is no foreordained limit to the forward extension of the stream. It will continue in some branch, as long as there are any threadworms or descendants of threadworms in the world.
The reader may well express doubt as to whether what has been demonstrated for the threadworm can be demonstrated for the higher animals, including man. It must be admitted that in many of these animals conditions are too unfavorable, and the process of embryology too complicated, or too difficult to observe, to permit as distinct a demonstration of this continuity of the germ-plasm, wherever it is sought. But it has been demonstrated in a great many animals; no facts which impair the theory have been discovered; and biologists therefore feel perfectly justified in generalizing and declaring the continuity of germ-plasm to be a law of the world of living things.
Focusing attention on its application to man, one sees that the race must represent an immense network of lines of descent, running back through a vast number of different forms of gradually diminishing specialization, until it comes to a point where all its threads merge in one knot—the single cell with which it may be supposed that life on this globe began. Each individual is not only figuratively, but in a very literal sense, the carrier of the heritage of the whole race—of the whole past, indeed. Each individual is temporarily the custodian of part of the "stuff of life"; from an evolutionary point of view, he may be said to have been brought into existence, primarily to pass this sacred heritage on to the next generation. From Nature's standpoint, he is of little use in the world, his existence is scarcely justified, unless he faithfully discharges this trust, passing on to the future the "Lamp of Life" whose fire he has been created to guard for a short while.
Immortality, we may point out in passing, is thus no mere hope to the parent: it is a real possibility. The death of the huge agglomeration of highly specialized body-cells is a matter of little consequence, if the germ-plasm, with its power to reproduce not only these body-cells, but the mental traits—indeed, we may in a sense say the very soul—that inhabited them, has been passed on. The individual continues to live, in his offspring, just as the past lives in him. To the eugenist, life everlasting is something more than a figure of speech or a theological concept—it is as much a reality as the beat of the heart, the growth of muscles or the activity of the mind.
This doctrine of the continuity of germ-plasm throws a fresh light on the nature of human relationships. It is evident that the son who resembles his father can not accurately be called a "chip off the old block." Rather, they are both chips off the same block; and aside from bringing about the fusion of two distinct strains of germ-plasm, father and mother are no more responsible for endowing the child with its characters except in the choice of mate, than is the child for "stamping his impress" on his parents. From another point of view, it has been said that father and son ought to be thought of as half-brothers by two different mothers, each being the product of the same strain of paternal germ-plasm, but not of the same strain of maternal germ-plasm. Biologically, the father or mother should not be thought of as the producer of a child, but as the trustee of a stream of germ-plasm which produces a child whenever the proper conditions arise. Or as Sir Michael Foster put it, "The animal body is in reality a vehicle for ova or sperm; and after the life of the parent has become potentially renewed in the offspring, the body remains as a cast-off envelope whose future is but to die." Finally to quote the metaphor of J. Arthur Thomson, one may "think for a moment of a baker who has a very precious kind of leaven; he uses much of this in baking a large loaf; but he so arranges matters by a clever contrivance that part of the original leaven is always carried on unaltered, carefully preserved for the next baking. Nature is the baker, the loaf is the body, the leaven is the germ-plasm, and each baking is a generation."
When the respective functions and relative importance, from a genetic point of view, of germ-plasm and body-plasm are understood, it must be fairly evident that the natural point of attack for any attempt at race betterment which aims to be fundamental rather than wholly superficial, must be the germ-plasm rather than the body-plasm. The failure to hold this point of view has been responsible for the disappointing results of much of the sociological theory of the last century, and for the fact that some of the work now carried on under the name of race betterment is producing results that are of little or no significance to true race betterment.
On the other hand, it must be fairly evident, from the pains which Nature has taken to arrange for the transmission of the germ-plasm from generation to generation, that she would also protect it from injury with meticulous care. It seems hardly reasonable to suppose that a material of this sort should be exposed, in the higher animals at least, to all the vicissitudes of the environment, and to injury or change from the chance of outward circumstances.
In spite of these presumptions which the biologist would, to say the least, consider worthy of careful investigation, the world is full of well-intentioned people who are anxious to improve the race, and who in their attempts to do so, wholly ignore the germ-plasm. They see only the body-plasm. They are devoted to the dogma that if they can change the body (and what is here said of the body applies equally to the mind) in the direction they wish, this change will in some unascertainable way be reproduced in the next generation. They rarely stop to think that man is an animal, or that the science of biology might conceivably have something to say about the means by which his species can be improved; but if they do, they commonly take refuge, deliberately or unconsciously, in the biology of half a century ago, which still believed that these changes of the body could be so impressed on the germ-plasm as to be continued in the following generation.
Such an assumption is made to-day by few who have thoroughly studied the subject. Even those who still believed in what is conventionally called "the inheritance of acquired characteristics" would be quick to repudiate any such application of the doctrine as is commonly made by most of the philanthropists and social workers who are proceeding without seeking the light of biology. But the idea that these modifications are inherited is so widespread among all who have not studied biology, and is so much a part of the tradition of society, that the question must be here examined, before we can proceed confidently with our program of eugenics.
The problem is first to be defined.
It is evident that all characters which make up a man or woman, or any other organism, must be either germinal or acquired. It is impossible to conceive of any other category. But it is frequently hard to say in which class a given character falls. Worse still, many persons do not even distinguish the two categories accurately—a confusion made easier by the quibble that all characters must be acquired, since the organism starts from a single cell, which possesses practically none of the traits of the adult.
What we mean by an inborn character is one whose expression is due to something which is present in the germ-plasm; one which is inherent and due to heredity. An acquired character is simply a modification, due to some cause external to the germ-plasm acting on an inborn character. In looking at an individual, one can not always say with certainty which characters are which; but with a little trouble, one can usually reach a reliable decision. It is possible to measure the variation in a given character in a group of parents and their children, in a number of different environments; if the degree of resemblance between parent and offspring is about the same in each case, regardless of the different surroundings in which the children may have been brought up, the character may properly be called germinal. This is the biometric method of investigation. In practice, one can often reach a decision by much simpler means: if the character is one that appears at birth, e.g., skin color, it is usually safe to assume that it is a germinal character, unless there is some evident reason for deciding otherwise, as in the case of a child born with some disease from which the mother had been suffering for the previous few months. In general, it is more difficult to decide whether a mental trait is germinal, than whether a physical one is; and great care should be used in classification.
To make the distinction, one ought to be familiar with an individual from birth, and to have some knowledge of the conditions to which he was exposed, in the period between conception and birth,—for of course a modification which takes place during that time is as truly an acquired character as one that takes place after parturition. Blindness, for example, may be an inborn defect. The child from conception may have lacked the requisites for the development of sight. On the other hand, it may be an acquired character, due to an ill-advised display of patriotism on July 4, at some time during childhood; or even to infection at the moment of birth. Similarly small size may be an inborn character, due to a small-sized ancestry; but if the child comes of a normal ancestry and is stunted merely because of lack of proper care and food, the smallness is an acquired character. Deafness may be congenital and inborn, or it may be acquired as the result, say, of scarlet fever during childhood.
Now the inborn characters (excepting modifications in utero) are admittedly heritable, for inborn characters must exist potentially in the germ-plasm. The belief that acquired characters are also inherited, therefore, involves belief that in some way the trait acquired by the parent is incorporated in the germ-plasm of the parent, to be handed on to the child and reappear in the course of the child's development. The impress on the parental body must in some way be transferred to the parental germ-plasm; and not as a general influence, but as a specific one which can be reproduced by the germ-plasm.
This idea was held almost without question by the biologists of the past, from Aristotle on. Questionings indeed arose from time to time, but they were vague and carried no weight, until a generation ago several able men elaborated them. For many years, it was the question of chief dispute in the study of heredity. The last word has not yet been said on it. It has theoretical bearings of immense importance; for our conception of the process of evolution will be shaped according to the belief that acquired characters are or are not inherited. Herbert Spencer went so far as to say, "Close contemplation of the facts impresses me more strongly than ever with two alternatives—either that there has been inheritance of acquired characters, or there has been no evolution." But its practical bearings are no less momentous. Again to quote Spencer: "Considering the width and depth of the effects which the acceptance or non-acceptance of one or the other of these hypotheses must have on our views of life, the question, Which of them is true? demands beyond all other questions whatever the attention of scientific men. A grave responsibility rests on biologists in respect of the general question, since wrong answers lead, among other effects, to wrong belief about social affairs and to disastrous social actions."
Biologists certainly have not shirked this "grave responsibility" during the last 30 years, and they have, in our opinion, satisfactorily answered the general question. The answer they give is not the answer Herbert Spencer gave.
But the popular mind frequently lags a generation behind, in its grasp of the work of science, and it must be said that in this case the popular mind is still largely under the influence of Herbert Spencer and his school. Whether they know it or not, most people who have not made a particular study of the question still tacitly assume that the acquirements of one generation form part of the inborn heritage of the next, and the present social and educational systems are founded in large part on this false foundation. Most philanthropy starts out unquestioningly with the assumption that by modifying the individual for the better, it will thereby improve the germinal quality of the race. Even a self-styled eugenist asks, "Can prospective parents who have thoroughly and systematically disciplined themselves, physically, mentally and morally, transmit to their offspring the traits or tendencies which they have developed?" and answers the question with the astounding statement, "It seems reasonable to suppose that they have this power, it being simply a phase of heredity, the tendency of like to beget like."
The right understanding of this famous problem is therefore fraught with the most important consequences to eugenics. The huge mass of experimental evidence that has been accumulated during the last quarter of a century has, necessarily, been almost wholly based on work with plants and lower animals. Even though we can not attempt to present a general review of this evidence, for which the reader must consult one of the standard works on biology or genetics, we shall point out some of the considerations underlying the problem and its solution.
In the first place, it must be definitely understood that we are dealing only with specific, as distinguished from general, transmission. As the germ-cells derive their nourishment from the body, it is obvious that any cause profoundly affecting the latter might in that way exercise an influence on the germ-cells; that if the parent was starved, the germ-cells might be ill-nourished and the resulting offspring might be weak and puny. There is experimental evidence that this is the case; but that is not the inheritance of an acquired character. If, however, a white man tanned by long exposure to the tropical sun should have children who were brunettes, when the family stock was all blond; or if men whose legs were deformed through falls in childhood should have children whose legs, at birth, appeared deformed in the same manner; then there would be a distinct case of the transmission of an acquired characteristic. "The precise question," as Professor Thomson words it, "is this: Can a structural change in the body, induced by some change in use or disuse, or by a change in surrounding influence, affect the germ-cells in such a specific or representative way that the offspring will through its inheritance exhibit, even in a slight degree, the modification which the parent acquired?" He then lists a number of current misunderstandings, which are so widespread that they deserve to be considered here.
(1) It is frequently argued (as Herbert Spencer himself suggested) that unless modifications are inherited, there could be no such thing as evolution. Such pessimism is unwarranted. There is abundant explanation of evolution, in the abundant supply of germinal variations which every individual presents.
(2) It is common to advance an interpretation of some observation, in support of the Lamarckian doctrine, as if it were a fact. Interpretations are not facts. What is wanted are the facts; each student has a right to interpret them as he sees fit, but not to represent his interpretation as a fact. It is easy to find structural features in Nature which may be interpreted as resulting from the inheritance of acquired characters; but this is not the same as to say and to prove that they have resulted from such inheritance.
(3) It is common to beg the question by pointing to the transmission of some character that is not proved to be a modification. Herbert Spencer cited the prevalence of short-sightedness among the "notoriously studious" Germans as a defect due to the inheritance of an acquired character. But he offered no evidence that this is an acquirement rather than a germinal character. As a fact, there is reason to believe that weakness of the eyes is one of the characteristics of that race, and existed long before the Germans ever became studious—even at a time when most of them could neither read nor write.
(4) The reappearance of a modification may be mistaken for the transmission of a modification. Thus a blond European family moves to the tropics, and the parents become tanned. The children who grow up under the tropical sun are tanned from infancy; and after the grandchildren or great-grandchildren appear, brown from childhood, some one points to the case as an instance of permanent modification of skin-color. But of course the children at the time of birth are as white as their distant cousins in Europe, and if taken back to the North to be brought up, would be no darker than their kinsmen who had never been in the tropics. Such "evidence" has often been brought forward by careless observers, but can deceive no one who inquires carefully into the facts.
(5) In the case of diseases, re-infection is often mistaken for transmission. The father had pneumonia; the son later developed it; ergo, he must have inherited it. What evidence is there that the son in this case did not get it from an entirely different source? Medical literature is heavily burdened with such spurious evidence.
(6) Changes in the germ-cells along with changes in the body are not relevant to this discussion. The mother's body, for example, is poisoned with alcohol, which is present in large quantities in the blood and therefore might affect the germ-cells directly. If the children subsequently born are consistently defective it is not an inheritance of a body character but the result of a direct modification of the germ-plasm. The inheritance of an acquired modification of the body can only be proved if some particular change made in the parent is inherited as such by the child.
(7) There is often a failure to distinguish between the possible inheritance of a particular modification, and the possible inheritance of indirect results of that modification, or of changes correlated with it. This is a nice but crucial point on which most popular writers are confused. Let us examine it through a hypothetical case. A woman, not herself strong, bears a child that is weak. The woman then goes in for athletics, in order better to fit herself for motherhood; she specializes on tennis. After a few years she bears another child, which is much stronger and better developed than the first. "Look," some one will say, "how the mother has transmitted her acquirement to her offspring." We grant that her improved general health will probably result in a child that is better nourished than the first; but that is a very different thing from heredity. If, however, the mother had played tennis until her right arm was over-developed, and her spine bent; if these characteristics were nowhere present in the ancestry and not seen in the first child; but if the second child were born with a bent spine and a right arm of exaggerated musculature, we would be willing to consider the case on the basis of the inheritance of an acquired character. We are not likely to have such a case presented to us.
To put the matter more generally, it is not enough to show that some modification in the parent results in some modification in the child. For the purposes of this argument there must be a similar modification.
(8) Finally, data are frequently presented, which cover only two generations—parent and child. Indeed, almost all the data alleged to show the inheritance of acquired characteristics are of this kind. They are of little or no value as evidence. Cases covering a number of generations, where a cumulative change was visible, would be of weight, but on the rare occasions when they are forthcoming, they can be explained in some other way more satisfactorily than by an appeal to the theory of Lamarck.
If the evidence currently offered to support a belief in the inheritance of acquired characters is tested by the application of these "misunderstandings," it will at once be found that most of it disappears; that it can be thrown out of court without further formality. The Lamarckian doctrine is now held mainly by persons who have either lacked training in the evaluation of evidence, or have never examined critically the assumptions on which they proceed. Medical men and breeders of plants or animals are to a large extent believers in Lamarckism, but the evidence (if any) on which they rely is always susceptible of explanation in a more reasonable way. It must not be forgotten that some of the ablest intellects in the world have been assidously engaged in getting at the truth in the case, during the last half-century; and it is certainly worthy of consideration that not in a single case has the transmission of an acquired body character ever been proved beyond dispute. Those who still hold a belief in it (and it is fair to say that some men of real ability are among that number) too often do so, it is to be feared, because it is necessary for the support of some theoretical doctrine which they have formulated. Certainly there are few men who can say that they have carefully examined the evidence in the case, and accept Lamarckism because the evidence forces them to do so. It will be interesting to review the various classes of alleged evidence, though we can cite only a few cases from the great number available (most of them, however, dealing with plants or lower animals).
Nearly all the evidence adduced can be put in one of these four classes:
(1) Mutilations. (2) Diseases. (3) Results of use or disuse. (4) Physico-chemical effects of environment.
The case in regard to mutilations is particularly clear cut and leaves little room for doubt. The noses and ears of oriental women have been pierced for generations without number, yet girls are still born with these parts entire. Circumcision offers another test case. The evidence of laboratory experiments (amputation of tails) shows no inheritance. It may be said without hesitation that mutilations are not heritable, no matter how many generations undergo them.
(2) The transmissibility of acquired diseases is a question involved in more of a haze of ignorance and loose thinking. It is particularly frequent to see cases of uterine infection offered as cases of the inheritance of acquired characters. To use the word "heredity" in such a case is unjustified. Uterine infection has no bearing whatever on the question.