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Inquiries into Human Faculty
with a little power and intelligence, he ought, I submit, to awake to a
fuller knowledge of his relatively great position, and begin to assume a
deliberate part in furthering the great work of evolution. He may infer the
course it is bound to pursue, from his observation of that which it has
already followed, and he might devote his modicum of power,
intelligence, and kindly feeling to render its future progress less slow and
painful. Man has already furthered evolution very considerably, half
unconsciously, and for his own personal advantages, but he has not yet
risen to the conviction that it is his religious duty to do so deliberately and
The fact of an individual being naturally gifted with high qualities,
may be due either to his being an exceptionally good specimen of a poor
race, or an average specimen of a high one. The difference of origin
would betray itself in his descendants; they would revert towards the
typical centre of their race, deteriorating in the first case but not in the
second. The two cases, though theoretically distinct, are confused in
reality, owing to the frequency with which exceptional personal qualities
connote the departure of the entire nature of the individual from his
ancestral type, and the formation of a new strain having its own typical
centre. It is hardly necessary to add that it is in this indirect way that
natural selection improves a race. The two events of selection and
difference of race ought, however, to be carefully distinguished in broad
practical considerations, while the frequency of their concurrence is borne
in mind and allowed for.
So long as the race remains radically the same, the stringent selection
of the best specimens to rear and breed from, can never lead to any
permanent result. The attempt to raise the standard of such a race is like
the labour of Sisyphus in rolling his stone uphill; let the effort be relaxed
for a moment, and the stone will roll back.  Whenever a new typical
centre appears, it is as though there was a facet upon the lower surface of
the stone, on which it is capable of resting without rolling back. It affords
a temporary sticking-point in the forward progress of evolution. Previous page Top Next page