Date of publication: 2017-07-08 19:44
When this debate began, I was extremely unhappy at the quality of it. The two first speakers really seemed to me to be living forty years ago they displayed so little knowledge of what has been done since. More than one of the later speakers were really not acquainted with the facts, and they ought not to have spoken at all. We are much indebted to Professor Weldon for raising the debate to a higher level.
The aim of eugenics is to bring as many influences as can be reasonably employed, to cause the useful classes in the community to contribute more than their proportion to the next generation. The course of procedure that lies within the functions of a learned and active society, such as the sociological may become, would be somewhat as follows:
I know I am speaking heresy in the presence of Dr. Galton. Some of these doctrines I am enunciating ought to be qualified. But, broadly and generally, and in practice, it is so, that we cannot predict from the parentage what the offspring is going to be, and we cannot go back from the offspring and say what the parentage was. [f we follow the custom of the Chinese and ennoble the parents for the achievements of their children, are we to hang the parents when the offspring commit murder ?
In view of these difficulties of the subject, it has always seemed to me that we must not be hasty in coming to conclusions and laying down any rules for the breeding of humans and the development of a eugenic conscience. In fact, we must be on our guard against the overzeal, which Dr. Galton has very properly cautioned us against. For, after all, there is the passion of love and the forces referred to in his quotation from Bacon and I am not sure but that nature, in its own blind impulsive way, does not manage things' better than we can by any light of reason, or by any rules which we can at present lay down. I am inclined to think that, as in the past, so in the future, it may be, as Shakespeare said:
With the objects of the paper everyone will sympathize, and there can be no doubt that this discussion will do something to promote the study of heredity and the introduction of scientific method in the breeding of man and other animals. An exact knowledge of the laws of inheritance will be a factor in the destiny of mankind, as large as, if not larger than, any yet brought to bear.
The "actuarial" method will perhaps continue to possess a certain fascination in regions of the inquiry where experimental methods are at present inapplicable, but conclusions drawn from facts not capable of minute analysis can at best be regarded as interim conclusions, awaiting a test which, in all likelihood, they will not endure.
We have frequently been told that no city family can persist for four generations unless fortified by country blood. That, I believe, is a complete error. Country blood does not strengthen city blood. It weakens it, for country blood has been less thoroughly purged of weak elements. It is true, owing to the large mortality in cities and the great immigration from the country, it is difficult to find a city family which has had no infusion of country blood for four generations. But to suppose on that account that country blood strengthens city blood against the special conditions of city life is to confuse post hoc with propter hoc.