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EUGENICS IN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE SIR JUUAN HUXLEY, M.A., D.Sc, F.R.S.* I am honored at having been twice asked to give the Eugenics Society's Galton Lecture. The first occasion was a quarter ofa century ago, when Lord Horder was our President, and I am proud ofthe remarks which he and my brother Aldous made about these. Let me begin by broadly outlining how eugenics looks in our new evolutionary perspective. Man, like all other existing organisms, is as old as life. His evolution has taken close on three billion years. During that immense period he—the line ofliving substance leading to Homo sapiens— has passed through a series ofincreasingly high levels oforganization. His organization has been progressively improved, to use Darwin's phrase, from some submicroscopic gene-like state, through a unicellular to a twolayered and a metazoan stage, to a three-layered type with many organsystems , including a central nervous system and simple brain, on to a chordate with notochord and gill-slits, to ajawless and limbless vertebrate, to a fish, then to an amphibian, a reptile, an unspecialized insectivorous mammal, a lemuroid, a monkey with much improved vision, heightened exploratory urge and manipulative ability, an ape-like creature, and finally through a protohominid australopith to a fully human creature, bigbrained and capable oftrue speech. This astonishing process ofcontinuous advance and biological improvement has been brought about through the operation ofnatural selection— the differential reproduction of biologically beneficial combinations of mutant genes, leading to the persistence, improvement and multiplication ofsome strains, species, and patterns oforganization and the reduction and extinction ofothers, notably to a succession ofso-called dominant types, * 31 Pond Street, Hampstead, London, N.W. 3. This paper was delivered as The Galton Lecture in London, June 6, 1962, and was published in The Eugenics Review (54:123, 1962). It is reprinted here by kind permission. I55 each achieving a highly successful new level oforganization and causing the reduction ofprevious dominant types inhabiting the same environment. During its period ofdominance, which may last up to a hundred million years or so, the new type itselfbecomes markedly improved, whether by specialization of single subtypes like the horses or elephants, or by an improvement in general organization, as happened with the mammalian type in general at the end of the Oligocene. Eventually no further improvement is possible, and further advance can only occur through the breakthrough ofone line to a radically new type oforganization, as from reptile to mammal. In biologically recent times, one primate line broke through from the mammalian to the human type oforganization. With this, the evolutionary process passed a critical point, and entered on a new state or phase, the psychosocial phase, differing radically from the biological in its mechanism , its tempo, and its results. As a result, man has become the latest dominant type in the evolutionary process, has multiplied enormously, has achieved miracles ofcultural evolution, has reduced or extinguished many other species, and has radically affected the ecology and indeed the whole evolutionary process of our planet. Yet he is a highly imperfect creature. He carries a heavy burden ofgenetic defects and imperfections. As a psychosocial organism, he has not undergone much improvement. Indeed, man is still very much an unfinished type, who clearly has actualized only a small fraction ofhis human potentialities. In addition, his genetic deterioration is being rendered probable by his social setup, and definitely being promoted by atomic fallout. Furthermore, his economic, technical, and cultural progress is threatened by the high rate ofincrease ofworld population . The obverse of man's actual and potential further defectiveness is the vast extent ofhis possible future improvement. To effect this, he must first of all check the processes making for genetic deterioration. This means reducing man-made radiation to a minimum, discouraging genetically defective or inferior types from breeding, reducing human overmultiplication in general and the high differential fertility ofvarious regions, nations , and classes in particular. Then he can proceed to the much more important task ofpositive improvement. In the not too distant future the fuller realization ofpossibilities will inevitably come to provide the main motive for man's over-all efforts; and a Science of Evolutionary Possibili156 SirJulian Huxley...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 155-187
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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