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NOTES AND ABSTRACTS.

July

September

November

January

March

May

Recent Literature

134

256

422

560

706

845

566, 842

THE AMERICAN

JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

VOLUME X

JULY, 1904

NUMBER I

EUGENICS: ITS DEFINITION, SCOPE, AND AIMS.1

EUGENICS is the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage. The improvement of the inborn qualities, or stock, of some one human population will alone be discussed here.

What is meant by improvement? What by the syllable eu in eugenics," whose English equivalent is “good”? There is considerable difference between goodness in the several qualities and in that of the character as a whole. The character depends largely on the proportion between qualities, whose balance may be much influenced by education. We must therefore leave morals as far as possible out of the discussion, not entangling ourselves with the almost hopeless difficulties they raise as to whether a character as a whole is good or bad. Moreover, the goodness or badness of character is not absolute, but relative to the current form of civilization. A fable will best explain what is meant. Let the scene be the zoological gardens in the quiet hours of the night, and suppose that, as in old fables, the animals are able to converse, and that some very wise creature who had easy access to all the cages, say a philosophic sparrow or rat, was engaged in collecting the opinions of all sorts of animals with a view of elaborating a system of absolute morality. It is needless to enlarge on the contrariety of ideals between the beasts that prey and those they prey upon, between those of the animals that have to work hard for their food and the sedentary parasites that cling to their bodies and suck their blood, and so forth. A large number of suffrages in favor of maternal affection would be obtained, but most species of fish would repudiate it, while among the voices of birds would be heard the musical protest of the cuckoo. Though no agreement could be reached as to absolute morality, the essentials of eugenics may be easily defined. All creatures would agree that it was better to be healthy than sick, vigorous than weak, well-fitted than ill-fitted for their part in life; in short, that it was better to be good rather than bad specimens of their kind, whatever that kind might be. So with men. There are a vast number of conflicting ideals, of alternative characters, of incompatible civilizations; but they are wanted to give fulness and interest to life. Society would be very dull if every man resembled the highly estimable ·Marcus Aurelius or Adam Bede. The aim of eugenics is to represent each class or sect by its best specimens; that done, to leave them to work out their common civilization in their own way.

* Read before the Sociological Society at a meeting in the School of Economics (London University), on May 16, 1904. Professor Karl Pearson, F.R.S., in the chair.

A considerable list of qualities can easily be compiled that nearly everyone except “cranks ” would take into account when picking out the best specimens of his class. It would include health, energy, ability, manliness, and courteous disposition. Recollect that the natural differences between dogs are highly marked in all these respects, and that men are quite as variable by nature as other animals of like species. Special aptitudes would be assessed highly by those who possessed them, as the artistic faculties by artists, fearlessness of inquiry and veracity by scientists, religious absorption by mystics, and so on. There would be self-sacrificers, self-tormentors, and other exceptional idealists; but the representatives of these would be better members of a community than the body of their electors. They would have more of those qualities that are needed in a state — more vigor, more ability, and more consistency of purpose.

The community might be trusted to refuse representatives of criminals, and of others whom it rates as undesirable.

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