While it is necessary to point out the importance of “heredity” as a determining factor in human life, it is fatal to elevate it to the position of an absolute. As with environment, the concept of heredity derives its value and its meaning only in so far as it is embodied and made concrete in generations of living organisms. Environment and heredity are not antagonistic. Our problem is not that of “Nature vs. Nurture,” but rather of Nature x Nurture, of heredity multiplied by environment, if we may express it thus. The Eugenist who overlooks the importance of environment as a determining factor in human life, is as short-sighted as the Socialist who neglects the biological nature of man. We cannot disentangle these two forces, except in theory. To the child in the womb, said Samuel Butler, the mother is “environment.” She is, of course, likewise “heredity.” The age-old discussion of “Nature vs. Nurture” has been threshed out time after time, usually fruitlessly, because of a failure to recognize the indivisibility of these biological factors. The opposition or antagonism between them is an artificial and academic one, having no basis in the living organism.
The great principle of Birth Control offers the means whereby the individual may adapt himself to and even control the forces of environment and heredity. Entirely apart from its Malthusian aspect or that of the population question, Birth Control must be recognized, as the Neo-Malthusians pointed out long ago, not “merely as the key of the social position,” and the only possible and practical method of human generation, but as the very pivot of civilization. Birth Control which has been criticized as negative and destructive, is really the greatest and most truly eugenic method, and its adoption as part of the program of Eugenics would immediately give a concrete and realistic power to that science. As a matter of fact, Birth Control has been accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenists themselves as the most constructive and necessary of the means to racial health.(7)
(1) Galton. Essays in Eugenics, p. 43.
(2) Eugenics Review, Vol. Xiii, p. 349.
(3) Cf. Martin, The Behavior of Crowds, p. 6.
(4) Cf. Democracy
and the Human Equation. E. P. Dutton &
(5) Cf. The Salvaging of Civilization.
(6) Common Sense in
Racial Problems. By W. Bateson, M. A.
A., F. R. S.
(7) Among these are Dean W. R.
Inge, Professor J. Arthur
Thomson, Dr. Havelock Ellis, Professor William Bateson,
Major Leonard Darwin and Miss Norah March.
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel
And “Thou shalt not” writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.