Eugenics as a Creed and the Last Decade of Galton's Life 227
The topic, he stated, had not hitherto been approached along the, path that recent knowledge has laid open, and as a result the subject had not held as dignified a position in scientific estimation as it ought to do. "It is smiled at as most desirable in itself and possibly worthy of academic discussion, but absolutely out of the question as a practical problem" (p. 523*). The object of the lecture was to show cause for a different opinion.
"Indeed I hope to induce anthropologists to regard human improvement as a subject that should be kept openly and squarely in view, not only on account of its transcendent importance, but also because it affords excellent but neglected fields for investigation. I shall show that our knowledge is already sufficient to justify the pursuit of this, perhaps the grandest of all objects, but that we know less of the conditions upon which success depends than we might and ought to ascertain. The limits of our knowledge and of our ignorance will become clearer as we proceed." (p. 523.)
Thus Galton attempted to introduce the science of Eugenics to anthropologists, cautiously screening the label on his draught !
He first pointed out that the natural characters and faculties of human beings differ at least as widely as those of domesticated animals, such as dogs and horses
"In disposition some are gentle and good-tempered, others surly and vicious; some are courageous, others timid; some are eager, others sluggish; some have large powers of endurance, others are quickly fatigued ; some are muscular and powerful, others are weak ; some are intelligent, others stupid; some have tenacious memories of places and persons, others frequently stray and are slow at recognizing. The number and variety of aptitudes, especially in dogs, is truly remarkable ; among the most notable being the tendency to herd sheep, to point and to retrieve. So it is with the various natural qualities which go towards the making of the civic worth in man. Whether it be in character, disposition, energy, intellect or physical power, we each receive at our birth a definite endowment, allegorized by the parable related in St Matthew, some receiving many talents, others few." (p. 524.)
It is to be noted how artfully Galton chose the very characteristics of the dog which correspond to those of man, and led up his artless listeners without direct statement to the inference that what you can certainly breed for in the dog, you might equally well breed for in man ! Galton realised to the full that the best method of making converts is to allow the average man an opportunity of independently discovering your truth. In the pride of himself finding a nugget (conveniently placed), he is far less inclined to assert without examination that the whole field is non-auriferous.
Pushing the parable of the talents further, Galton, rather quaintly, proceeds to put it into numbers, taking the quartile deviation (" probable error ") to represent one talent, and using the normal frequency distribution to express the frequency of the various grades of qualities in a nation. He justifies the use of the normal distribution on the ground that experience has shown that it is a fair approximation in the case of a number of qualities.
* My references are to the pages of the Smithsonian Report.