Full text: Problems in eugenics

Presidential Address.5 
The filling up of the blanks in our knowledge of the laws of lffe ought 
undoubtedly always to stand in the forefront of our programme. But 
our ignorance certainly does not forbid us to enquire whether our present 
knowledge is not sufficient to enable some steps to be taken with the 
view of safeguarding the race from the evil effects likely to be felt in 
the future as the results of our existing social policy. Certainly Sir 
Francis Galton, whose name we hope will ever in future be associated 
with the science of Eugenics, a science to which he devoted the best years 
of his long life, declared with no uncertain voice that something should 
be attempted -without further delay. The necessity for some action now 
being taken can, indeed, no longer be denied on account of the absence 
of witnesses, non-scientific as well as scientific, in its favour. If we 
toll the breeders of cattle that their knowledge of the laws of heredity 
is so imperfect that it is useless for them either to attempt to avoid 
breeding from their worst stocks or to try only to breed from their best 
stocks, why they would simply laugh at us; and the number of those 
who now see matters as regards mankind in the same light is steadily 
increasing. No doubt the paramount necessity of maintaining a moral 
code introduces vast difficulties in the case of man which are unknown 
in the stock yard, and unquestionably the possibilities open to us are 
thus greatly limited. No doubt also our ignorance imperatively com­ 
mands us to be cautious in our advance. But stagnation is to be feared 
as well as error; and when we see good reason to believe that some step 
could now be taken tending to benefit future generations, both as 
regards their minds,' and their bodies, our fears must not be allowed to 
stand too much in the way of our actions. 
It must, however, be remembered that it is not sufficient to satisfy the 
students of biology and sociology in order to ensure the adoption of the 
needed reforms; for the knowledge which has convinced experts must be 
widely disseminated before it can produce this result. Again to adopt 
the analogy of the weather, the knowledge of the meteorologist, even if 
it should make him a perfect prophet, would be useless for practical 
purposes if his forecasts merely remained on record in his laboratory for 
his own edification. The elaborate system of telegraphing the weather 
forecasts all over the country is essential if the sailor and the farmer are 
to have any chance of utilizing them practically. In the same way, 
our knowledge of the laws of heredity, however perfect it may become, 
will continue to be of comparatively little use as a method of ensuring 
the progress of mankind until it is not only widely known but actually 
incorporated in the moral code of the people. The man of science is 
right in regarding truth as a mistress to be sought for her own sake only, 
for in that way, certainly, she is most likely to be captured. But it must 
not be forgotten that the results of the labours of many sages during 
many centuries will continue to be of no value to mankind in general so

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