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Crime and Eugenics

Mendel's Law a Detailed Statement of the
Second of the Ten Commandments. The Bridge
of Heredity Between the Parents and the Child



ILL NYE once wrote an essay intentioned people do believe that benev

on church-going in which he olence can cure poverty. They believe quoted that part of the Second also that religion can cure crime. Indeed, Commandment which says “crime, poverty, and disease” are usually

that “the iniquity of the fathers linked in their minds, as if these three is visited upon the children unto the third things were essentially alike. But they and fourth generation." Nye's comment are not. Crime and poverty are not on this was that he did not believe it: in diseases. They are only symptoms. fact, he “would sit up all night to doubt In other words, scientific students of it.”

human society are finding more and more In this remark, Nye reflected the reasons for believing that the Second feeling that has dominated the churches Commandment contains sound science themselves for the last half-century. as well as theology. The "visiting of the The clergy and the congregations alike iniquity of the fathers upon the children” have stressed the doctrines of love and is usually read as a threat. Probably it redemption so much that sight has often was not so intended. More likely it was been lost of the stern truth that a person's meant to be read as a plain statement of a acts have inevitable consequences, and fact which, by its very nature, is also a that these consequences may be very un- warning, but not a threat. If a footpath pleasant and far-reaching, and may even skirts a precipice, it is not a threat to put be irremediable. Most people prefer up a sign reading, “Persons who step to believe that nothing can be so bad that beyond this sign will fall three thousand it cannot be mended. And, indeed, the feet.” The nature of this piece of inworks of philanthropy and social service formation is such that it is a warning; which have grown out of this benevolent but, aside from that, it is merely a plain feeling have enormously increased the statement of an ascertained fact. That comfort of millions of unfortunates. No this fact is awful does not make the person possessed of common humanity statement a threat. Much more imwould wish these works lessened or portant than that, it does not make the undone.

statement untrue. Nor does it make the On the other hand, scientific students fact itself an injustice. Nobody would of human society are coming to realize cry out against the injustice of heaven if that benevolence bears the same relation some poor child should plunge over the to social ills that morphine bears to precipice in the dark-at least no one cancer-it relieves the pain but it does would base the complaint on the injustice not cure the disease.

No humane person of there being such a thing as a law of would stop doctors from using morphine gravitation. A heart-rending tragedy?to relieve the pain. But no doctors yes! But precipices and the force of suppose for a moment that morphine gravitation are inevitable parts of the cures the cancer. Yet millions of well- order of nature.

Exactly so are the laws of heredity. much clearer if we turn aside for a Like the other laws through which God or moment to explain what is here meant nature, as you will, controls the operation when the word "science" is used. The of the universe, these laws operate Latin word scire, from which it comes, uniformly and invariably. If the law of simply means to know. But when does gravitation worked differently on different anybody know anything? A man says he days, or if it stopped working entirely on knows Miss Smith when he has danced certain days, the order of the universe with her twice; but a year later, after would become chaos. Imagine what several months of married life, when he would happen if suddenly, when anybody ought to know her much better, he admits jumped over a mud-puddle, he were not that he “never knows what she will do pulled back to earth on the other side, but next.” This phrase suggests exactly went sailing off into space. No less what the scientist means when he says he unreasonable is it to expect that a law of knows something—he means that he heredity shall not work with equal does know what that something “will do uniformity. Nor is it less unreasonable next.” He knows, for example, if he mixes to expect that there shall not be any law of two parts of hydrogen with one part of heredity. So long as human life is a gift oxygen that what happens next is somefrom an earlier life, there must be some thing apparently different from either, ordered and invariable process by which namely, water. And he knows that this gift may be passed on. Unfortunate invariably this same result will follow from results of misuse of this process are no this same cause. This ability to predict proof of injustice, even if the misuse arises correctly is his test of whether or not he from ignorance.

really knows a certain thing.

Scientists know many things that they NOT A THREAT

have never seen. Nobody ever saw HE Second Commandment is not a electricity, or the force of gravitation,

threat. It is a plain statement of but everybody knows that they exist; one of the laws of heredity. Its truth has and though even scientists do not know been confirmed by ages of human ob- what they are, they do know how they servation. The children of cretin im- work. When they get this kind of beciles are cretin imbeciles, "to the third knowledge about something that cannot and fourth generation,” for example. be seen, they have to invent an imaginary Of recent years, the Second Command picture of that something and give it a ment has been “scientifically” confirmed, name, so that they can have some tangible which means merely that it has been object to think about when trying to tested by innumerable conscious experi- figure out more about how it works. ments, which have uniformly given the Thus, for practical purposes, it was same results. Scientists would not use necessary for electrical scientists, in order the word "iniquity,” which involves a to have a common language in which to question of morals that is beside the discuss electricity, to invent the ether to point of their immediate interest. They express the idea of free space in which would probably substitute the phrase electricity does a lot of things that they "certain known characteristics. In- knew it did, but that did not fit in with deed, they would re-phrase the whole the facts known about plain air. Air sentence to read: Certain known doesn't extend into the spaces between characteristics of the fathers, including the stars, but electricity does, so without undesirable as well as desirable character- the idea of the ether, a lot of ideas about istics, are passed on to the children to the electricity would become confused in the third and fourth generation.” That is a mind with ideas about the air. statement of known physical fact, which What, then, do scientists know about is the sole province of science.

the physical operation of the second of All that follows in this article will be the Ten Commandments?


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Consider the size of the humble punc- hereditary in human beings; and scientuation mark that ends this sentence. tists know at least how these genes This “period” is a little speck of soot, (beads) work, even if they do not know about one sixtieth of an inch in diameter. that they actually look like beads on a Yet, tiny as it is, it is just about twice as string. Furthermore, the scientists know large as the human cell from which you, that every species of animal has its disthe reader, grew. “Great oaks from little tinctive number of chromosomes, which acorns grow" is as nothing to what never varies within the species. Thus happens when the seed of human life they know, for example, that human starts expanding. If that seed were one beings have twenty-four chromosomes in inch in diameter instead of one one every cell, and that the banana fly has hundred-twenty-fifth of an inch, and if only four. the adult grew proportionately, men In this latter species (the banana fly) would be nearly seven hundred feet high. they know which beads (genes) are on That is like saying that the Woolworth which strings (chromosomes); and still Building in New York grew from a further, they know the order in which pebble. This comparison gives a fair they are strung. Thus, if we imagine a idea of the relative size of man and the red bead to stand for color, and a black speck of matter from which he came. bead to stand for size of wings, and a

But, tiny as that speck is, scientists purple bead to stand for male sex, they have looked inside of it and have found know whether or not these three beads that it is only a house that shelters a much are on the same string, and, if they are, smaller and even more important group whether the black bead is strung between of occupants. Most of this house is the red and purple beads, or however. filled with a fluid, but about one eighth These relations control certain kinds of of it is occupied by a more solid mass inheritances. They explain, for example, which, when dyed with chemicals, reveals why color blindness is fairly common itself as a group of pairs of little strings of among men and extremely rare among varying lengths. These are called women, though that explanation, being chromosomes, because the Greek word rather complicated, is too long to be chroma means color, and the only way given here. chromosomes can be seen, even micro It is an interesting fact that the chroscopically, is by coloring them. Thus far, mosome device for transmitting life from scientists have seen the things they are one generation to another is essentially talking about, with the aid of a micro the same for all species, from insect to scope. From this point on, what they say is based upon what they have seen One word in passing: No scientific only with the eye of reason, backed by eugenist regards it as any of his business experiments which worked out the way how or for what reason people marry. the theories said they ought to work. His business is to find out the facts and

present those facts to the world. What BEADS DETERMINING HUMAN CHARACTER

the world does with the facts is the ACH of these chromosomes is, in world's business, not his. He knows

effect, a string of beads; and each of enough facts now to be very useful to these beads is the determiner of a specific people who are sufficiently far-sighted to characteristic of the adult human being use them-as a good many wise people who will grow from the cell in which it is are now doing. But he has not enough housed. Thus, there is a bead that facts to claim the right to offer the world determines that this adult shall have red a panacea for divorce, unhappy marriage, hair; a second, that he shall be color or the ills of society. The most he hopes blind; a third, that he shall be high is that some day he will have so many tempered, and so on. These three qual- facts, so clearly proven, that only the ities (and many more) are known to be very ignorant will not know how nature


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deals with human heredity, and only the in England, France, and America. Then fools will be rash enough to try to beat Professor T. H. Morgan, of Columbia nature. But that's a century or two University, made the most extensive ahead yet.

experiments in heredity that have ever Modern genetical knowledge began been carried out. He used for this with Gregor Mendel, the abbot of the

purpose the pomace fly, or banana fly, monastery Brünn, in Moravia. because "it has many well-defined charMendel's experiments were made with acters that can be observed under the flowers in the garden of the monastery. microscope and it lives successfully upon He chose the sweet pea, because its a bit of banana in a milk bottle plugged flowers fertilize

with cotton. Every themselves and can

ten or eleven days easily be guarded Poets Usually Precede Scientists a pair produces two against the pollen

to three hundred of near-by plants, so “They see the great coincidences of

descendants that in nature long before the scientists do. that he could make They call attention to them in such

turn are ready to sure of the parent alluring terms that men of the patient

produce similar famage of every plant explorer type enter the field which the

ilies of their own, in every genera poet saw from afar, and by long search so that the investition. He made unearth the actual diamond whose gator who begins experiments in in gleam caught the distant poet's eye. with them needs to breeding and crossThe poet is excited by the gleam because

be an expert bookbreeding for eight he believes it to be a reflection of a

keeper in order to celestial light. The scientist is excited years, and kept an

record his results. by the search because he believes the accurate record of act of perpetual searching brings him

In Professor Morevery individual nearer to God. The poet calls the gleam

gan's laboratory plant-its own char

Beauty. The scientist calls the dia over ten million of acteristics and the mond Truth."

these animals have characteristics of

passed in review every one of its

under the microdescendants. When he analyzed these scope, while pedigrees of over three hunrecords, he found that they followed a rule dred generations have been obtained and of heredity that could be expressed by a recorded.” simple formula, which he published in 1865. The foregoing quotation is from HerWe shall return to this formula later. bert E. Walter's “Genetics,” a college

textbook that is commended to readers MENDEL AND HIS SUCCESSORS

who may wish a detailed review of the ENDEL'S contact with the scien vast field of experimental results that has tific world was

was through Karl been covered by hundreds of investigators Nägeli, of the University of Vienna, and in the last quarter of a century. to him he sent his results in pea culture. Two other great pioneers in the study of Nägeli failed to see their importance, and heredity should be mentioned. The late Mendel's work was buried until 1900, Sir Francis Galton first applied to the subor sixteen years after his death. In that ject the statistical method, that is to say, year, three botanists, working independ the accumulation of a vast number of facts ently in Germany, Austria, and Holland, bearing upon a particular phase of the published their results from experiments matter and the analysis of these facts in similar to those of Mendel and all giving terms of their mathematical proportions. the same formula. Mendel's work was By applying this method to the related then resurrected and he was given proper sciences of genetics and anthropology, credit for his pioneer labors in this field. Galton created the modern science of A little later, the same formula was eugenics, or heredity of man. And Auproved to apply to animals by biologists gust Weismann, between 1880 and 1890,



Rise of the Study of Heredity

used the method of pure logic. Start- bodily structure, bodily growth, and ing with what was known about the bodily perpetuation of life. Every plant structure and growth of plants and ani- and every animal is made up of body cells mals, he reasoned out by logic what that are different in one important respect should be the mechanism for perpetuating (to be noticed later) from the life cells. structure and growth. From Weismann These body cells multiply themselves by we first derived, by logic, what is now the simple process of doubling in size and generally accepted by scientists as being dividing themselves in two, each cell

, inevitably implied in the results of their thereby becoming two cells. This process actual experiments, namely the idea of a starts from the meeting of two life cells, continuing stream of life, which he called which unite and form the one body cell the germ-plasm.

which then proceeds to divide into two What is the germ-plasm?

cells which divide into four cells and so Its nature can be suggested by a some- on, until the plant or animal is complete. what poetical analogy. Imagine that the But, instantly this process starts, a few of old Greek legend of Prometheus were the dividing cells are made containers of true, and that he really stole fire from the the elements of future life; and these lifehome of the gods and brought it to earth containing cells do not divide but are for the use of man. Suppose, further, stored away in the body till they, in turn, that the gods had then set a sleepless are called upon to join with other life watch over their fire, so that men might cells in starting anew the endless process.

, never again steal a brand from it. And Life that is transmitted by means of suppose that men could not make fire by these coals (life cells) is all life that is any means except lighting from some transmitted by "seeds.” Most plants descendant fire of that original brand. and most animals, including man, are If all that were true, even to this day it perpetuated by "seeds” in the sense here would be the custom, when a young man meant. And, as the essence of the "seed" left his father's house to make a home of is the chromosomes, it is proper to give his own, to hand him a torch which he another and more literal definition of would carry to his own hearth to kindle "germ-plasm,” by saying that the chrothe fire that should warm him and his mosomes are the germ-plasm. children.

Some plants and some animals, how

ever, can be otherwise perpetuated. We THE RESEMBLANCE TO PROMETHEUS

can cause a new begonia plant (of the N OUR analogy, that continually re- variety Gloire de Lorraine) to rise from

plenished, never-dying fire is the germ- the soil by planting only a fragment plasm. Weismann conceived the idea of one leaf torn from another begonia. that every plant and every animal carries What happens here is that the process of within itself, distinct from the cells that division and multiplication of body cells build the body, a small group of cells that goes on uninterruptedly and perpetually. carry on the fire of life itself. To carry The new plant is not a new plant: it is our analogy further, we may liken this simply a branch of the old plant that germ-plasm, these life cells, to the keeps on growing even when detached

, handful of glowing coals which remained from the main stem. In this case of the when Prometheus's torch burned out. begonia, there is no heredity involved, These coals have not the power to flame because there is no succession of generathemselves, but they continue to burn and tions. The begonia of to-day is not the they have power to put flame into fresh grandchild of the begonia of ten years torches, which in turn burn to coals ago; it is the same plant. There is only having like limitations and like power. one begonia plant of this variety in the

Practicing biologists have found by world; the piece of it in our garden is a experiment that Weismann's conception piece of the original plant. fits in with all the ascertained facts of Numerous lower orders of animals,


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