Full text: Problems in eugenics

F. C. S. Schiller. Education and Eugenics. 
Now the case is different, for social contra-selection offers manifold 
facilities for the survival of the unfit. It is theoretically interesting to see 
how this is done, but practically such contra-selection is dangerous, and not 
to be regarded with complete complacency, even though we see that it may be 
largely inevitable, and ethically salutary. But it is evident that even now there 
are limits to the power of a society to shield its members. It relieves the 
pressure on the individual largely by weakening the whole; and it is clearly 
impossible to keep a society collectively progressive, and even alive, if its 
members individually degenerate beyond a certain point. In spite of a 
growing control over nature, which better methods of transmitting know­ 
ledge render possible, there must come a point at which ancestral virtue and 
inherited capital can no longer ensure the survival of an effete race of fools 
and weaklings. 
All existing societies, moreover, are probably much nearer this point 
than they usually suppose. For the great institutions, which have the 
social function of transmitting the treasures of accumulated knowledge 
from generation to generation, are always liable to get out of order, and to 
engender so much noxious rubbish as to clog their working and to poison 
humanity. Religions reduce to ritual, and become spiritually dead. States 
ossify into bureaucracies, which crush and sterilize all germs of progress. 
Worst of all, there is a standing danger that educators should become the 
worst foes to education. There is probably no system of education, and 
no university, in the world which does not tend to an over-production of 
pedantry and dogmatism, and which, if it were conducted wholly according 
to the ideas of the “ experts ” whose duty it is to run it, would not become 
worse than useless socially. For the experts, if left to themselves, tend to 
develop professional ideals and standards of value of their own, which 
grow independent of considerations of social welfare, and frequently run 
counter to them. But if there should occur at any time a general break­ 
down in the educational machinery which transmits the knowledge which 
is power and means social security, it is evident that a society may be 
propelled irreparably on the declivity that leads to its destruction. No 
society, therefore, is safe unless it is constantly on its guard against its own 
weaknesses, against the clogging of its institutions by their own waste 
products and by the excesses of their virtues, against the repression of ability 
and the preservation and promotion of unfitness, against the excessive delays 
in perceiving when old adjustments have broken down and new devices 
and new knowledge are needed to adapt human life to new conditions. 
The social problem is so complex, and we are still so ignorant, that 
any extensive or radical scheme of eugenics, which presupposes, or even 
aims at, sudden and drastic changes in human nature, as all the utopias 
have hitherto done, is scientifically out of the question. It is more than 
enough to satisfy any reasonable ambition to counteract to some extent the 
prevalent tendencies to racial decay; and this is not only possible, but 
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