Full text: papers communicated to the first International Eugenics Congress held at the University of London, July 24th to 30th, 1912

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 
Thoughts suggestive of the general principle of evolution have been 
in the minds of many sages for many centuries. Not only have labourers 
in this field been found in all countries, but this great problem has been 
attacked from many different sides. Descartes and Leibnitz advanced from 
the basis of the physical sciences; Harvey viewed it as a physiologist; Kant 
and Spencer as philosophers; Goethe as a poet, and Lamarck and Darwin 
as naturalists, or in that field of science where our present beliefs were most 
recently accepted. And the result of this long struggle for mental victory 
on the part of these and other great men was unquestionably the practically 
universal acceptance of the principle of evolution in all fields of knowledge 
in the nineteenth century. For this great international achievement that 
epoch will ever remain famous. 
And what is this belief which is now so wide-spread? It is indeed 
one which is so simple and now so interwoven with all our, thoughts that we 
are apt altogether to overlook its existence. A belief in evolution merely 
implies a belief that all changes which have taken place and which are 
taking place in this world are changes in which effects follow causes in 
accordance with unvarying laws. It is one of the consequences of our 
belief in this principle, rather than an example of the belief itself, that we 
regard the earth as we now see it—the rocks, hills, and val'leys—as having 
been produced by the action through long ages of those same natural forces 
which we can still see and study in operation to-day; a field of science in 
which Lyell was the great evolutionary pioneer. As regards living beings, 
the belief that a knowledge of the changes going on before our eyes gives 
the key to what has taken place in the past has in like manner led to the 
general acceptance of the view that all animals and plants are the 
descendants of some primitive form or forms from which they have been 
produced by some slow process of change. And this is indeed what the 
public now generally mean by evolution; although its essential feature is in 
reality to be found in the creed that all objects, animate and inanimate, 
are subject to the reign of natural law. Savages when they hear thunder 
hold that it is due to the fortuitous intervention of the thunder god; and 
when we, on the other hand, connect it with the generation in the air of 
electricity by friction or other natural processes, we are in fact asserting our 
belief in this underlying principle. And such a belief we now 
unhesitatingly avow whatever may be our creeds concerning the ultimate 
governance of the universe. Certainly it is in this spirit that all questions 
of fact in every field of science are now being investigated, and this is what 
is meant by the general acceptance of the principle of evolution. 
B
        

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