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Inquiries into Human Faculty
We must free our minds of a great deal of prejudice before we can
rightly judge of the direction in which different races need to be
improved. We must be on our guard against taking our own instincts of
what is best and most seemly, as a criterion for the rest of mankind. The
instincts and faculties of different men and races differ in a variety of
ways almost as profoundly as those of animals in different cages of the
Zoological Gardens; and however diverse and antagonistic they are, each
may be good of its kind. It is obviously so in brutes; the monkey may
have a horror at the sight of a snake, and a repugnance to its ways, but a
snake is just as perfect an animal as a monkey. The living world does not
consist of a repetition of similar elements, but of an endless variety of
them, that have grown, body and soul, through selective influences into
close adaptation to their contemporaries, and to the physical
circumstances of the localities they inhabit. The moral and intellectual
wealth of a nation largely consists in the multifarious variety of the gifts
of the men who compose it, and it would be the very reverse of
improvement to make all its members assimilate to a common type.
However, in every race of domesticated animals, and especially in the
rapidly-changing race of man, there are elements, some ancestral and
others the result of degeneration, that are of little or no value, or are
positively harmful. We may, of course, be mistaken about some few of
these, and shall find in our fuller knowledge that they subserve the public
good in some indirect manner; but, notwithstanding this possibility, we
are justified in roundly asserting that the natural characteristics of every
human race admit of large improvement in many directions easy to
I do not, however, offer a list of these, but shall confine myself to
directing attention to a very few hereditary characteristics of a marked
kind, some of which are most desirable and others greatly the reverse; I
shall also describe new methods of appraising and defining them. Later on
in the book I shall endeavour to define the place and duty of man in the
furtherance of the great scheme of evolution, and Previous page Top Next page