In primitive groups, the individual was practically nil. But modern civilized society is able to survive without the rigid control of individual activities which the old economy entailed. Man comes to choose more and more for himself individually instead of for the group, uniformity weakens and individualism becomes more pronounced. As control of environment becomes more complete and easy, natural selection grows harder to detect. We turn our interests and activities toward the search for what we want and take survival largely for granted—something the savage cannot do. Natural selection becomes unreal to us, because the things we do to survive are so intricately mixed up with those we do for other reasons. Natural selection in gregarious animals operates upon groups rather than upon individuals. Arrangement of these groups is often very intricate. Some have territorial boundaries and some have not. Often they overlap, identical individuals belonging to several. Hence it is not strange that natural selection phenomena often escape attention.
But this must not lead us to suppose that natural selection is wholly inoperative in civilized society. We see some nations outbreeding others, or dominating them through superior organization. Within nations, some racial and religious groups outbreed others and thus gradually supplant them—for the future is to those who furnish its populations.
RACIAL DEGENERATION AND THE NECESSITY FOR RATIONALIZATION OF THE MORES
Racial decay in modern society; Purely “moral” control dysgenic in civilized society; New machinery for social control; Mistaken notion that reproduction is an individual problem; Economic and other factors in the group problem of reproduction.
From the discussion in the preceding chapter, it becomes apparent that for the half of the female element in a savage society possessing the most vigor and initiative to turn away from reproduction would in the long run be fatal to the group. Yet this is what occurs in large measure in modern civilized society. Reproduction is a biological function. It is non-competitive, as far as the individual is concerned, and offers no material rewards. The breakdown of the group’s control over the detailed conduct and behaviour of its members is accompanied by an increasing stress upon material rewards to individuals. So with growing individualism, in the half of the race which can both bear children and compete in the social activities offering rewards, i.e., the women who are specialized to the former and adapted to the latter, there is a growing tendency among the most successful, individualized strains, to choose the social and eschew the biological functions.
Racial degeneration is the result. Recorded history is one succession of barbarous races, under strong, primitive breeding conditions, swamping their more civilized, individualized neighbours, adopting the dysgenic ways of civilization and then being swamped in their turn by barbarians. This is especially pronounced in our own times because popularized biological and medical knowledge makes it possible for a tremendous class of the most successful and enlightened to avoid reproduction without foregoing sex activity.