Full text: Problems in eugenics

Whetham.Sociology and Eugenics.239 
slow, intangible process unrecorded by the chronicler, is constantly occur- 
ing in their midst to upset a previous, barely attained internal balance; 
while constant pressure from other societies external to itself, which are 
also in a state of flux, adds to the necessity for ceaseless adjustment in 
external relationships also. In the pages of history, there is probably 
no such thing as a permanently stable society, although till recently, the 
Chinese Empire approximated to that condition. Like a bicycle, most 
social organisms—unless they be of the simplest, patriarchal form that has 
existed from time immemorial in the deserts of Africa and Asia—require 
to be in a state of motion in order to retain their equilibrium. 
As regards all so-called civilized societies, we know enough from the 
records of the past, and from our own observation to realize that the 
changes in the forms of government, which we observe in their progress, 
are not peculiar to any one nation, and are not of themselves the cause 
either of advance or decay. The same changes appear in regular sequence 
in countries that are far apart in space and time. We know that nations 
have prospered exceedingly under every possible form of government, and 
the same constitution and structure of society is seldom in force in 
any one country for many centuries together. These facts again suggest 
that an alteration is taking place silently in the elements of which a 
nation is compounded; and that its form of government and its vitality 
do indeed depend on some variable factor in the quality and quantity of 
the human Jives of which it is composed. What the nature of this altera­ 
tion may be, and how it occurs, is a subject we shall consider presently. 
Human societies consist of a vast number of individuals, all of whom, 
when viewed at close quarters, are dissimilar from each other. Yet, in 
some ways, the more distant appearance gives the truer impression, and 
enables us to group mankind either into families and tribes or social and 
industrial classes, and then into races and nations. The similarities of 
body and mind, of interest and purpose, belonging to these divisions are 
more striking than the differences between the individuals. 
While the nation is a political entity in which sufficient isolation has 
secured a certain homogenity of outlook and action to several different 
stocks, the family, the tribe and the race are expressions which should 
always denote consanguinity of blood, and should stand for a physical 
likeness and a community of ideals, which are innate and inherent. This 
conception of inborn likeness, due to community of descent, is one that 
we shall bear in mind in the course of this paper; it forms the true subject 
of study alike of the ethnologist and of the meeting assembled on this 
occasion. The industrial divisions, and the political intercourse of nations 
—communities kept together by mutual economic interdependence and 
temporary identity of material interests—are best left to the economist 
and the historian.

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