There should be such a thing as social science. Society is composed of units the nature of which is pretty well known. As much should be known about man as is known about the atom, and the atom is the basis of physical science. Man, with his capacity to do destructive things, should be able to construct social organization which would serve him and make use of his powers for good. Powers that he can exercise alone he should be able to exercise jointly with his fellow men. If he were as capable of harmonious action with them as he is of acting alone, he could create a world of beauty, achievement, justice, and peace--the world of his dreams. But factors of social creation, such as war, prevent his advancement. He has organized himself. Can he organize himself together with other men more effectively to eliminate the untoward events and promote the beneficent? Can he translate his vast knowledge and understanding into social action to serve for his good?
One obstacle stands in the way. It resides in the ineluctable facts of heredity and the accumulation of knowledge. No evidence can be found over six thousand years of historic time to show an improvement in man's capacity to think. Knowledge has continuously increased throughout that period. Accumulation of available knowledge has been advanced by the art of printing. Each discovery now is built upon accumulated knowledge of the past. Nothing is wholly new. The new is the climax to a succession of knowledge. Science builds upon its own foundations as it grows. The curve of accumulated knowledge moves constantly upwards. Improvement in capacity to think shows no upward curve parallel to that of knowledge.
A new social phenomenon is to be observed during the past half century. Methods for preventing pregnancy have come widely into use. If all strata of society were affected alike, it would be less important. But this does not occur. The more intelligent classes breed fewer children than the less intelligent. Where contraceptive methods are equally accessible to unintelligent and to intelligent, the latter breed fewer children. One reason for this is that use of these methods requires intelligence and restraint possessed in a larger degree by one class than by the other.
A time once was when the intelligent bred as many children as the unintelligent--in some situations more. They have always raised more of their children to maturity. But these conditions are changing. Political government has made saving of unpromising infants its business. Offspring of the ignorant and unintelligent now enjoy an increasing chance of survival--not yet as good as that of the intelligent, but still increasing.
Where the state wants an increasing birth rate for military and labor purposes, or where poor families want to raise more breadwinners, to be supported by the state, or where uncontrolled sexual intercourse breeds excessively, the result is a deterioration of the product. One needs only to examine countries where propaganda for increase of breeding prevails to see the results. Decrease in the sum total of intelligence leads also to the decline of the sum total of knowledge. This vicious circle is making its mark upon a world desperately in need of an increase of both
Dearth of intelligence is displayed in the inability of the people to recognize ways to prevent poverty, injustices, slums, prostitution, crime, and war. It is displayed in their inability to put into operation methods to eliminate these evils when such methods are freely presented. Hunger in the presence of abundance still prevails. Increase of laws, of police, of jails, of insane asylums, and the practice of war are not the answer of intelligence to any of these questions.
No comprehensive statistics are available, but assuming that the intelligent breed fewer children than the unintelligent, then there is the possibility of a steady deterioration of average intelligence throughout the world. Many factors which can not be here described, operate to modify this trend. At least there is the fact that no class of society remains constant. Strata of society and individuals move from one to another--some up, some down. There are sports and other progeny whose characteristics are from ancestors antedating immediate parents. But if the primary thesis here set down is tenable, the world is threatened with a progressive deterioration of its average intelligence.
This is evidenced in events to be seen on every hand. Accumulation of knowledge has resulted in the automobile, a complicated and destructive instrument which tears along the highways in the hands of drivers who neither understand its mechanism nor are capable of guiding it safely. The accumulation of ages of knowledge has resulted in the airplane, armored tank, the deadly bomb, radar, and a multitude of instrumentalities which might be used wholly for man's benefit. But because of his inability to think wisely, because of his low intelligence which does not measure up to the knowledge of these complicated things, he puts them to evil uses. He kills and destroys with these devices which intelligence should prompt him to use for constructive purposes. Agencies which might provide him with abundance, shorten his hours of labor, and add to his civilization, he uses to destroy men and property and thus lengthen his hours of labor, increase his cost of living, deprive himself of food, clothing, and housing, impose a tax burden upon his children for ages to come, and degrade his civilization.
It is as though a keg of powder and matches were put in the children's nursery. These two products of long years of knowledge would be in the hands of intelligences not capable of using them wisely. The children would blow themselves up and wreck the nursery. This is precisely what goes on in the world of adults where intelligence has not kept up with knowledge. The man with a bag of gunpowder should at least be denied a seat next to the fire.
How can heredity and eugenics be made to increase human intelligence? Darwin and Mendel and a generation of experimental breeders and growers have shown how any quality maybe expanded and increased by controlled breeding. Human beings are more difficult to control and experiment with than are pigs and pumpkins. But it can be done. The voluntary method must be invoked with humans. A man and a woman of high intelligence are more apt to produce children of high intelligence than a couple of low intelligence. If this is so, then increase of intelligence in many may be improved by breeding from superior intelligences. This is to a certain degree going on but, perhaps, not to an extent sufficient to overcome the greater number bred by the less intelligent. At the present time, economic stringency, inadequate housing, future uncertainty, and desire for freedom on the part of parents keep down population among the more intelligent classes. In the United States, extramarital gratifying of sexual urge is becoming more prevalent. Marriage is postponed or foregone. Family and home as central institutions are declining.
To promote breeding of superior quality, (1) stability of society and a greater degree of assurance for the future must prevail; (2) employment and economic security must be restored; (3) the joys and satisfactions of parenthood must be understood; (4) the fading esteem of family and home must be brought back; and ( 5 ) the degenerate, the psychopathological, the vicious, the moronic, and the improvident must be discouraged from breeding. A cooperative democracy prevailing throughout a nation or over a vast area, and expanding into the rest of the world, offers the conditions most favorable for eugenic results needed to improve the quality of society. Cooperative democracy stabilizes society and provides economic security. Under these conditions only can home and family life be restored, and under these conditions satisfactions of parenthood can be most enjoyed.
Measures for lessening breeding by the undesirables is the most difficult problem because it involves personal liberty and the decision as to who is undesirable. But in a cooperative democracy rewards can be bestowed upon those who promote and exemplify justice, beauty, and knowledge. That means, on the contrary, those who do not are not rewarded. These disadvantages suffered by the unfit, administered in the hands of intelligent society bent upon its own improvement, may be worked out when the time and opportunity have arrived. They are more or less remote and not for detailed development at this early time. They offer a fruitful field for speculation. The immediate and important step is development of a cooperative form of society, with world-wide expansion. To attempt eugenic reform under autocratic or coercive auspices does not offer hope of success.
This problem has much to do with peace and world reconstruction. A society based upon the interests of consumers will reject the demand of political and sectarian groups for breeding more material to fit into definite totalitarian patterns. Such breeding means more unthinking, docile, and subservient products. The masses of people are benefited by an improving rather than by a deteriorating quality of additions to their number. Interests of the masses are different from interests of special groups. The masses do not need a bigger mass, they need better quality. Special groups want numerical strength irrespective of quality. The communist-fascist-nazi classes offer rewards for breeding. The masses need democracy which can be attained only by quality. The classes, in general, are not based on democracy. The classes fear quality, for quality is a threat to fixed ideas and to the undemocracy of classes.
Forms of social organization that make the interests of the masses paramount promote democracy and whatever makes for democracy is in the interest of the masses. Cooperative organization of the people and the carrying on of cooperative business is impossible except in the presence of democracy. If this biological tendency toward deterioration is to be overcome, the first step must be dominance of the democratic method. With this accomplished, self-interest may be expected to take its course. It would place a premium upon breeding by superior parents and discourage breeding by inferior parents. A society democratically controlled in its best interests should be able to control to some degree the quality of members admitted to the society whether by way of a membership committee or by way of the parturient canal.
Parents like to control the number and time of birth of their children. This is natural and intelligent. They do this in a steadily increasing degree. The Public Health Director of the Arabic Kingdom of Trans-Jordan has appealed to the United Nations for measures to control the too rapidly increasing population. This country has increased its population from 240,000 to 400,000 in the last 20 years, in the presence of frightful poverty, infant mortality, dirt, and crime. Italian sociologists report that Italy's 48 million can not live comfortably or morally unless 10 million are sent away to other countries. Population is increasing at the rate of nearly half a million a year and malnutrition, disease, and delinquency are rife.
An outstanding cause of war is overpopulation. The world's surface area is limited. Its population is increasing at the rate of about 20 million a year. The earth is being robbed of its productive soil. The British economist, the late Lord Keynes, said: "The problem of population is going to be not merely an economist's problem, but in the near future the greatest of all political questions . . . When the instability of modern society forces it, a great transition in human history will have begun, with the endeavor by civilized man to assume conscious control in his own hands away from the blind instinct of mere predominant survival."
At the rate the world is growing smaller it will soon be too small for its population. As countries become crowded, people will fight for "living room." Control of the birth rate may become as important for humanity as control of the hydrogen bomb.
By improving economic and social conditions of the people, their knowledge and understanding may be increased. By decreasing the proportion of population among the so-called inferior classes and increasing the so-called superior classes, breeding of the proportion of welcomed and wanted children may be increased. By these means the example and influence of superior classes upon inferior classes may expand and habits of the former may be more and more adopted by the latter. Not by penalties but by rewards, not by rewards for number, but by rewards for quality, may the quality of offspring be improved. Placing premiums upon offspring of superior parents is the problem for geneticists to solve. But when the world has progressed to the point where it is ready to have man's intelligence applied to improving quality of the race, there will be ideas and plans to solve the problem. There is time. Civilization moves slowly. It can be known that civilization is advancing when popular and official demand is for quality rather than for quantity.
When that day comes, the cooperative way should be in full operation, and it should have played a large part in bringing about the improved social conditions that lead to still greater improvement. Whatever is good for society and makes better the lot of man operates progressively toward a bettered civilization, which itself becomes a cause of betterment.