The Wages of Biological Sin





BIOLOGICAL sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of Nature — a definition achieved by a slight distortion of the meaning of plain sin given in the dictionary. Like theological sin, biological sin falls into two classes: original sin and actual sin.Original sin — in a strictly biological sense — is the inherent weakness of the human species accumulated and transmitted through the course of evolution. In our sense actual biological sins are those committed either deliberately or ignorantly by man since he has reached a status of intelligence and culture which has permitted him to bungle his own organic evolution.

In this biological sermon, therefore, I shall first expound original anthropological sin, since we must initially acquaint ourselves with the frailties of the human vessel, which is well known to be made of clay but is not always realized to be only half-baked and frequently cracked. We shall then proceed to discuss the actual sins whereby man himself has made a bad matter considerably worse.

Man is an animal organism which has been evolved by the impact of shifting environments upon a variable hereditary endowment. The intrinsic and extrinsic forces which have been involved in this process are variation, adaptation, and selection. Variation is the result of nature’s inability to produce two organisms which are exactly alike, owing to the imprecision of reproductive processes and to the instability of the essential germinal matter which clings to life through fluctuating environments. Adaptation is not mere organic plasticity; it is a process of adjustment which, although unconscious and involuntary, demands something that I call organic initiative — a quality notably displayed by all higher primates. Selection is not an intelligent process; environment does not pick and choose organisms for survival or for extinction. It merely sets up a series of barbed-wire entanglements placed without purpose. The animals or plants which continue to ‘get by’ achieve survival as a result of their own adaptability, or merely because they possess, by sheer chance, a combination of organic variations which maintains their equilibrium in an environment as long as the latter remains stable. The more highly evolved the organism, the more complex and manifold in its parts and functions, the more it has to depend upon its own organic resources in the continual struggle against an impersonal but hostile environment.

Copyright 1939, by The Atlantic Monthly Company, Boston, Mass. All rights reserved.

It seems probable that evolutionary immortality (if there is such a thing) is more likely to be vouchsafed to very simple organisms, since these proliferate in such vast numbers that the odds are always against total extinction. Moreover, the fewer the parts, the rarer the weak spots, and the less vulnerable is the organism. Yet man seems as little regardful of his evolutionary peril as were those nit-brained, colossal dinosaurs which trailed their ungainly bulks over the Mesozoic landscape until they bogged down into extinction through the organic stupidity of overspecialization upon unessential and gross size. One can hardly expect the man in the street to develop an anxiety neurosis over the prospect of human extinction within the next thousand years. When altruism toward contemporaries is so rare, a vicarious foresightedness on behalf of the nth generation is unimaginable. Yet man is such a complicated organism and has built up so intricate a civilization that an evolutionary slump — a deterioration in the quality of the species — immediately upsets the delicate biosociological equilibrium and causes cultural ructions. Whether the present biological depression is the beginning of a fatal evolutionary decline or merely a temporary lapse, it threatens to bring about the downfall of our present civilization and the destruction of many or most of its human participants.


Sixty million years ago the first primates developed from a group of primitive little mammals much like the present-day tree shrews. These were long-snouted, small-brained quadrupeds that climbed about the trees, eating everything an arboreal life provides and grasping branches and picking food with their five-digited hands and feet. The modern lemurs of Madagascar are specialized descendants of these early primates. In the same fossil-bearing strata are found fragmentary remains of other small tree-dwelling primates, whose feet have become specialized for hopping, whose arms have been shortened, whose snouts have receded. These were erect-sitting, hand-feeding tarsioids, relatively unchanged in modern representatives of the Malay Archipelago. They mark an evolutionary advance toward the monkey stage. Many millions of years were required to establish the larger-brained monkeys that possess stereoscopic vision, vastly increased intelligence, and a generally more complex bodily organization. These are still arboreal or ground-living quadrupeds with primitive pentadactyle hands and feet capable of skillful grasping movements, and with digestive systems still suitable for a generalized diet, although showing some tendency toward herbivorous or frugivorous specialization.

The evidence of fossils suggests that the first small anthropoid apes emerged soon after the monkey stage had been reached. Unspecialized ancestors of the long-armed gibbon were probably the first on the scene. These animals may well have moved through the trees by swinging from their arms. Their viscera were probably hitched up in the body cavities so that they would not slump when the animal sat up; the external tail had degenerated and disappeared. The foot was still a grasping organ, after the pattern of all primates except eventual man. Probably not more than fifteen million years ago, in the Middle Miocene period, many primates of gigantic size came into being from small and primitive apes. These large apes ranged from the southern slopes of the Himalayas to Western France and over the whole African continent. Living specialized descendants of some of these families are the African gorillas and chimpanzees and the Asiatic orangutan. Various genera and species, some of them much more manlike than the great apes of to-day, became extinct. One or more of these groups of generalized anthropoids took to the ground, adopted the erect posture, and attained human status. The development from ground apes to man must have taken place during the Pliocene period, which is estimated to have begun seven million years ago. By the beginning of the Pleistocene or glacial period, perhaps a million years back, the human animal had acquired most of its distinguishing anatomical features and was already making recognizable stone implements.

It is important to realize that the very remote Miocene period witnessed a proliferation of large anthropoid forms, some differentiating in a generally human direction and others toward the more conservative organic patterns found in the present great apes. Most of these succumbed in the struggle for existence. Nature is a prodigal experimenter, a waster of laboratory material.

Man, in surviving these evolutionary vicissitudes, has inherited weakness of every main division of his organism: skeletal framework, musculature, alimentary apparatus, nervous and circulatory systems, endocrines and reproductive organs, sense organs and integument.


The human skeleton has been modified from that of the generalized quadrupedal mammal. The most radical alterations have taken place between the hypothetical stage of the arm-swinging, arboreal, protohuman ape and the erect, ground-walking, human biped. We are concerned here only with those which have left the human organism vulnerable to disease and liable to trauma as a result of mechanical defect. These are concentrated in the spine, the pelvis, and the feet. Tilting the animal up on his hinder end has shifted the entire weight-transmitting and supporting function of the skeleton to these bony parts. The head and the forequarters ride; the posterior half does all the work.

The primitive quadrupedal spine is roughly bow-shaped, with the concavity directed toward the ground and with the neck and tail ends slightly turned up. The spines of the vertebræ converge toward the central keystone of the arch — the anticlinal vertebra. The fore and hind limbs are the supporting pillars of this arch, the elements of which are separated by elastic pads of fibrocartilage, like mortar between stones. This horizontal spinal arch is an admirable mechanical structure until it is tipped up on end. It then becomes S-shaped, because a forward bend just above the pelvis is required for the erection of the trunk. This lumbar curve is a weak point in the column, liable to overflexion under the weight-bearing strain, particularly as a result of faulty posture. The specialization in the use of the right hand for skilled movements causes hypertrophy of that half of the body, with consequent lateral skewing or curvature, which compresses the vertebral disks on one side or the other, and possibly, as osteopaths claim, pinches the spinal nerves as they emerge from the intervertebral foramina. At any rate, the unbraced lumbar column is a legacy of backaches, slipped vertebræ, and a promising prey for attacks of inflammatory disease.

The human pelvis is a makeshift contraption. Its worst feature is the articulation of the triangle of fused vertebræ (called the sacrum) with the lateral parts of the pelvis or haunch bones. In man this central spinal element is like the keystone of an arch, but all the weight of the upper portion of the body bears upon this keystone and transforms it into a wedge which tends to be driven downward through the arch. The human articulation of the sacrum with the pelvic bones is not mortised or interlocked as in the anthropoid apes, but is practically a bevel. Consequently it slips, with dire results. Appendicitis has yielded to sacroiliac trouble as the fashionable ailment of the day. The lowering of the front wall of the pelvis in man renders the male liable to extrusion of the abdominal viscera, or hernia, while the opening of the pelvic floor in the female, essential for childbearing, also opens the door for slumping of the uterus and for other ailments resulting from the losing battle with gravity.

I need say little of the human feet except that they too are decidedly of clay. Ill-constructed and wobbly arches, vestigial and superfluous toes, the lack of an adequate protecting integument — all these faults raise the question of the evolutionary advisability of warping an organ designed for grasping branches into one ill-suited for support and locomotion. Man has been footsore ever since his forbears took to the ground. Perhaps the real Primate Garden of Eden was up a tree, and the expulsion was the descent therefrom.

As for the muscles of the body, they labor under the disadvantage of frequent shifts of their points of origin and insertion to mechanically disadvantageous positions, necessitated by man’s unnatural erect posture. If we accept the conclusions of students of living anthropoid apes, we have to admit that pound for pound our muscles are much weaker than those of our poor relations, and probably less efficient.

The digestive tract of man, inherited ultimately from quadrupedal ancestors that lived upon leaves, shoots, fruits, and nuts, with occasional small additions of animal food, has also been embarrassed by man’s assumption of the erect posture. The elongation of the legs, in connection with their increased function, has been accompanied by an abbreviation of the trunk, the pelvis, so to speak, having climbed up the spine. This change, together with the flexion of the backbone in the lumbar region, has shortened the body cavities and cramped the viscera. The enormous lengths of gut are subject to more snarling and twisting in the abdominal cavity of the erect animal than in the longer-bellied quadrupeds. In the latter they may rest upon the abdominal wall without compression from diaphragmatic breathing or danger of slumping into the cavity of the pelvis and jamming the pelvic organs.

This well-intentioned gut has not kept pace with the evolutionary trend of the human organism as a whole and has remained inconveniently long. It was adapted in our quadrupedal ancestors for passage of large masses of coarse vegetable food which moved through it in a generally horizontal direction, keeping it physiologically well scoured. It is less suitable for the digestion and elimination of a small bulk of concentrated food consisting of meat and processed cereals with little or no roughage. Kinks, adhesions, and inflammations result from a comparative atrophy of function, together with the accumulation and decay of food waste in out-of-the-way corners. Without going further into indelicate detail one may conclude that Homo flatulens would be a better name for our species than Homo sapiens.

The circulatory system of man also has to work against gravity because of the erect posture. This difficulty naturally affects most seriously the arterial supply to the brain above the heart and the return of venous blood from the regions below the heart. L. J. Henderson has pointed out that the maintenance of the upright posture involves an accumulation of lymph in the legs and a thickening of the blood, so that the military position of rigid attention is unsupportable to the average middle-aged man for as long as fifteen minutes. Hardening of the arteries and dilatation of the veins are almost inevitable consequences of erect posture in the aging human organism. Experiments carried out by the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory demonstrate all too clearly the vast inferiority of man to ordinary domesticated quadrupeds, such as dogs and burros, in maintaining for protracted periods a moderate level of work without physiological prostration due to cumulative biochemical changes. The factors involved include particularly insufficient intake and transportation of oxygen, loss of water and salts through perspiration, and disturbance of carbon dioxide balance. Thermostatic control of the human organism is also very imperfect.1

I am informed that the rhesus monkey or macaque is the only mammal of which the reproductive cycle is adequately known and understood by modern science. There exists, then, no sufficient knowledge for comparing man with other animals in regard to the quality of the reproductive system. However, the exaggerated loss of blood which is a feature of the oestrous cycle in the human female of childbearing age is equaled in no other mammal. It is barely perceptible in the great anthropoid apes, and discernible as a purely microscopic phenomenon in some of the monkeys. Surely this fact suggests wastage and lack of efficiency of the human reproductive system. The mechanical difficulties encountered by woman in the course of pregnancy and parturition and the disarrangements which are frequent aftereffects of childbearing are partially attributable to the unsatisfactory modifications of the female organism for the erect posture, complicated further by the enormous size of the head of the human foetus. On the whole, however, I should be inclined to judge that the human reproductive system works altogether too well — especially in those who ought not to reproduce at all.


The normal processes of growth, development, and functioning of the human organism are governed by the secretions of the ductless glands or endocrines, and a delicate balance of these several glands is essential to the wellbeing of the individual. Something is also known of the dire effects of disease or abnormal functioning of the pituitary, the thyroid, the adrenals, and so on. Morphology, physiology, psychology, total personality, and, ultimately, social behavior are in the individual the resultant in a large measure of the endocrine forces operating within each of us. It seems improbable that anyone knows enough to offer an adequate appraisal of the merits and defects of the endocrine system in the light of comparative physiology. However, to the lay mind of the physical anthropologist, the available evidence suggests that man has altogether too complex and delicate a system of endocrines, which easily gets out of kilter and is likely to go mysteriously and wildly haywire not only in individuals, but possibly in whole groups — whether through hereditary or environmental causes, heaven knows.

There can be no doubt that the development of the central nervous system has dominated the evolution of the primate stock which gave rise to man. The enormous and, occasionally, magnificent brain of the human animal is responsible for man’s unique cultural achievement and for his leadership of the parade of living organisms. I cannot enter here into certain unfavorable effects upon the rest of the organism exerted by the dictatorship of a predatory central nervous system. The excessive development of any part of the organism takes place at the expense of other parts. Enlargement or hypertrophy involves the necessity of an increased blood supply, and of heavier drafts upon the store of vital energy which in any organism at any time is strictly limited by the physiological capacity of the animal to ingest food and to convert it into energy. I wish here rather to emphasize as the heaviest evolutionary liability of man his inheritance of a preponderant brain mass which is terrible in its potentiality for malfunction.

Evidently the increase of brain size in the protohuman stock was due to the selection of a favorable variational trend which promoted the survival of the species. I think it may be presumed (without taint of Lamarckianism) that this generous cerebral endowment was largely, if not fully, utilized in the struggle of an otherwise physically inferior animal to survive by its wits. Starting from scratch as a tree-dwelling animal which had outgrown the arboreal habitat or had been forced to the ground through some environmental cataclysm, or (most probably) had been impelled by sheer organic initiative to pursue the more abundant opportunities of a terrestrial existence, man simply had to use his brain. ‘Dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’ was not achieved by morons carrying a dead weight of atrophied brain mass. Constant cerebration was necessary. However, with the accumulation of material culture and with the development of complicated social orders, the rigors of natural selection were abated and the larger portion of mankind could survive and propagate its kind in the low status of domestic animals, kept and fed for the produce of their unthinking labors. The full effect of this survival of the mentally unfit, this stultification of man’s cerebral endowment, was not felt until the advent of the modern industrial, mechanized age.

I must emphasize the fact that an insufficiently exercised brain is not like an unused muscle. It does not merely shrivel and become weak, but either continues its activity in the irrational and unbalanced functioning which is called insanity, or, under the conditioning of vicious propaganda and the stimuli of ‘mob psychology,’ energizes its possessor to inhuman types of behavior of which lower animals are incapable. However stupid he may be, the human individual can draw upon the cerebral endowment transmitted through the inertia of heredity to reenforce his feeble muscular strength by a malevolent cunning or ingenuity in misbehavior which makes him infinitely more dangerous than an ape or any other lower animal of superior physical power.


Now, when we add together all of man’s original or inherited sins, we arrive at a sum total of potentialities for an evolutionary mess which seems a trifle depressing, even to an incorrigible optimist like myself. Evidently the optimum functioning of all of the indifferently constructed parts of the organism is essential for a tolerable state of well-being. There is very small leeway for healthful or ‘normal’ variation within the limits of the pathological and the defective. If the kinks of the spine are a trifle exaggerated, either through hereditary variation or through bad postural habits, this small defect initiates far-reaching organic disturbances, which almost immediately affect the dominating nervous system and ultimately distort mental processes and pervert behavior. Man’s behavior is rational, if ever, only when the entire organism is in tune. Moreover, irrelevant and trivial difficulties of bodily origin, which under primitive cultural conditions affect only the individual, are likely to determine the fates of entire races and peoples under the integrated political and economic systems of modern congested civilizations.

Actual biological sin includes the practices and policies of man which accentuate his original hereditary weakness, or inflict upon his organism a biological regime for which it is not. adapted, or, finally, interfere with those natural processes which, in lower animals, eliminate the unfit and prevent them from propagating their kind. We may consider the extent to which modern culture remedies or accentuates the evolutionary defects I have described as our legacy of original biological sin.

First of all, we have that delicately adjusted, upright spine with its dangerous lumbar curve. Even before the infantile vertebræ are completely transformed from cartilage to bone we begin to prop up the babies in a sitting posture which is likely to distort that plastic spine. Soon we thrust them into schools where they sit for hours acquiring rudimentary scholarship and advanced scoliosis, or lateral curvature of the spine. Meanwhile the shoulders are hunched, the chest contracted, and the organs of vision strained by a premature concentration upon the dubious wisdom of the printed word. The mysterious human predisposition to specialized use of the right hand is exaggerated into a physiological abnormality, and bilateral asymmetry advances to the threshold of deformity. The human foot is so radically modified for support and locomotion that it requires optimum physiological utilization if it is to do its work at all. Straightway we encase this delicate organ in rigid, ill-fitting shoes which cramp it, distort the already vestigial toes, and by artificial support destroy the strength of the makeshift arches which have been bestowed by a casual heredity. Then we lay hard and inelastic pavements and floors upon which the imprisoned feet are condemned to stand and walk during the remainder of their unnatural life.

Before the child has cut his first permanent tooth, he is ripe for the ministrations of the orthopedist, because his spinal curves are askew, his foot arches flattened, and the entire muscular tone, essential for proper maintenance of the erect posture and for bipedal progression, has been destroyed. Then we cap the climax by substituting for the ordinary animal method of locomotion the conveyance of a stinking mechanical contraption, which more than any other invention of modern civilization is responsible for bodily and mental atrophy, the breakdown of social organization, and the decay of public and private morals. It is not strange that unaccustomed strains or sudden movements of the body result in sacroiliac slips and other joint difficulties when the flabby automobile addict attempts to indulge in exercise.

One look into the mouth of the civilized child reveals the havoc wrought by unbalanced diets of manufactured foods. Dental decay usually sets in before the milk teeth have been shed. Mal-erupted teeth and deformed arches are the concomitants of defective nutrition and loss of masticatory function. If we could look into the rest of the alimentary tract, we should probably see similar evidences of pathology and degeneration. In the upper economic levels of American society, mother love may still survive, but mother’s milk has vanished. The hapless infant is raised on synthetic substitutes for natural foods. His upbringing is not mammalian but chemical. The earliest tactile experience of the groping baby hand is not the warmth and softness of the maternal breast but the vitreous surface of a fusion of silica with various bases — in short, a glass bottle.

For a long time it has been known that primitive hunters and food gatherers the world over almost invariably have excellent teeth, practically immune from decay. But no one has had the common sense to go and find out why savages have good teeth except Dr. Weston Price of Cleveland. He has been all over the world inspecting mouths and recording diets and he has found the answer. Primitive man is guided by instinct and by experience to seek a sufficient variety of all kinds of food, however coarse and unpalatable, to furnish all of the constituents necessary for bone and tissue building, as well as for the production of energy. The savage generally has to cat everything masticable within reach, and, by hook or by crook, he achieves a balanced diet which keeps his teeth and his entire alimentary tract in healthy working order.

Civilized man, on the contrary, has a wide choice of cheap processed foods which have usually been deprived of vitamins and other essential constituents in the course of manufacture and preservation. He might better, like the prodigal son, fill his belly with the husks the swine eat, rather than stuff himself with these devitaminized, energy-producing foods which build neither bone nor muscle. His teeth decay, his digestive system goes sour, and he literally starves amid plenty. We grovel in admiration at the feet of the medical scientists who keep on discovering new vitamins until the alphabet bids fair to run out, yet it seems possible that the untutored savage who knows not Vitamins A to X, but nevertheless eats all of them, has the better of the bargain. Medical science is principally occupied with uncovering the needless actual biological sins man has committed against his organism by developing an artificial civilization. But civilization moves forward at such a pace that the doctor is always a few laps behind. He chases on foot the ambulance of civilized ailments.

However, man has done a much more thorough job in deteriorating his nervous system and the working of his mind than he has accomplished in any other part of the organism. This statement may seem false and even silly when we consider the time and effort which have been lavished upon education, and the stress laid upon intelligent planning for machines and measures which are supposed to promote material and social progress. Yet it is easy to demonstrate that the vast majorities of the populations of civilized mankind are suffering from cerebral dry rot because they are supported by machines which not only produce for them but actually think for them, and that the small minorities which do cerebrate constructively are so overdeveloped and overstimulated on the nervous side of their organism that they are prevailingly neurotic and not infrequently psychotic.


I wish to concentrate upon the imbecility of educational and social policies which are based upon mainly metaphysical conceptions of the nature of man, and completely erroneous evaluations of the importance of culture. The mortal sin which has accelerated the deterioration of the human organism is man’s stubborn refusal to recognize that he is an animal which has evolved from simpler forms and is subject to the same natural laws which govern the development and decline of other animal groups. It must have dawned upon human consciousness at a very early stage that man is more intelligent than any other animal and that only by virtue of that excess of intelligence has he achieved mastery of the animal kingdom and ability to shape for his own ends the material resources of nature. This recognition led to the three fundamentally erroneous human beliefs: that human intelligence is fixed and immortal; that man’s lofty evolutionary status is permanent; and that the perfecting of human culture will provide a panacea for the ills of mankind.

The most cherished of human beliefs is the separability and immortality of man’s soul. Since this belief arises from man’s realization of his individual consciousness, it is firmly and naturally established. The transition to a conception that the human soul is a unique divine gift, inalienable and immutable, is easily made. It is unfortunate that our ideas about mind and intelligence have been mixed up with this belief in the immortal soul. From this confusion there arises the conviction that a godlike intelligence is also divinely implanted in each human being, irrespective of the quality of his animal organism, which is recognized to be a frail and corruptible thing. So we have persisted in the ancient error of divorcing mind from body, of perfuming the former without washing the latter. It is true that many schools of magico-religious therapeutics have recognized the inseparability of mind and body, but they have usually gone at the business backwards by attempting to treat the body through the mind.

There is one terribly vital fact which must be grasped by the small fraction of mankind that is concerned about the social present and the biological future, if our species is not to destroy itself. It is merely that the mind of man and his social behavior are essentially functions of his animal organism, although susceptible to considerable environmental modification. Defective anatomical structure and inferior physiological functioning are inseparable from stupidity, lack of educability, insanity, and generally antisocial behavior. This does not mean that an ingrowing toenail necessarily causes an ingrowing disposition, nor that a partial paralysis of the leg inevitably effects a partial paralysis of the mind, but only that enfeebled bodily structure, physiological malfunction, and inferior mentality are the indivisible and unholy trinity of the degenerate organism.

It should be sickeningly obvious to every person who is capable of an intelligent survey of past and present human affairs that no accretions of factual knowledge and no process of ethical education, moral suasion, or religious teaching can permanently improve that human conduct which is the expression of low-grade mentality.

It is discouraging to reflect that, because of this persistent disregard of the animal nature of man, progress in the two noblest fields of human endeavor — humanitarianism and science — has contributed to man’s organic delinquency. The idealistic code of humanitarianism is wholly admirable in so far as it insists upon the brotherhood of man, mutual help, and the protection of the weak by the strong. It is wholly vicious when it exalts the sanctity of human life above the welfare of society and the value of that life to itself, when it insists upon human equality to the extent of according the same rights and privileges to the feeble-minded, the insane, and the criminalistic as to the mentally and physically sound, the economically capable, and the sociallyminded. When it prescribes that the resources of those who work and earn should be used to an inordinate extent for the support of those who will not or cannot work, it penalizes human initiative and puts a premium upon inferior human quality.

It is true that, under a capitalistic regime, vast wealth may accumulate in the hands of comparatively few individuals who may be adjudged to have taken toll of the earnings of others without undue effort on their own part. No one denies that some human beings have been exploited by others or that huge unearned increments should be taxed for the public good. But the extreme policies of humanitarianism apparently operate under the theory that human beings earn copiously only by depriving other equally deserving or more deserving human beings of their just share in this world’s goods. These errors of humanitarianism are based upon the assumption that it is underprivilege which makes the underdog, and that the potentialities for intellectual and cultural development are essentially equal in all men — in short, upon the delusion that mind and social capacity in man are independent of the organism and that an equalization of opportunity will bring the millennium.

The only alternative explanation of the theory underlying this policy is that the unproductive and inefficient human being either is a desirable member of society or is possessed of some inalienable human right to exist upon the labor of others. This policy results not only in the preservation and multiplication of degenerate human stocks; in a democratic country it also leads to political and social domination by the inferior elements as soon as their rapid proliferation makes them constitute the majority. But the worst is still to come, since dull and witless human beings are unduly suggestible and quickly become subjected to the rule of fanatics and lunatics of moderate to superior intellectual endowment who have become mentally unbalanced without losing their energy and their capacity for leadership.

The mechanical inventions of a few clever men have made it possible for millions to live comfortably and luxuriously without even understanding the machines which produce for them. The control of nature achieved by the cerebration of a few active minds has created delusions of grandeur in the otiose brains of countless morons. Others, even more numerous, have been dulled and crazed by the monotonous repetition of muscular movements which they must perform incessantly as human adjuncts to machine production. Worst of all, the natural forces which have been harnessed to do the will of man can be utilized for the destruction of human culture and human beings much more effectively than for their benefit. A nation possessed of a somewhat archaic Oriental culture is able within the space of two generations to borrow the techniques of science which have been developed elsewhere during many centuries and to convert them to devastating purposes of predacity. Another nation that is peculiarly gifted in mechanical invention repeatedly threatens the ruin of Western civilization, because this nation is composed of organic blends which, for some unknown genetic reasons, combine marvelous understanding of mechanical techniques with utter obtusity in human relations, and which are of a suggestibility so extreme that they are more easily possessed by devils than were the Gadarene swine.

Medicine to-day is an extension of the maternal instinct mixed up with scientific techniques. It operates in an odor of sanctity and formaldehyde. Any objective criticism of medical science is difficult, merely because every one of us is, or has been, or hopes to be, a grateful patient. My remarks upon medicine do not constitute in any way a repudiation of the personal debt of gratitude which I owe to the profession. However, the real question at issue is not what advantage you or I individually may have enjoyed from medical science, but rather the value of the cumulative effect of medical ministrations upon the entire human species. Medicine has alleviated suffering and prolonged life, but it has, in so doing, also prolonged suffering and nullified the purging effect of natural selection. It has saved hundreds of thousands of debilitated organisms which are adding to the burden of society by reproducing more and worse offspring.

Medical science has committed this sin against the species because its members are not sufficiently enlightened or not courageous enough to declare their independence of the dogma of the sanctity of human life. Although medical men have arrogated to themselves the entire field of human biology, although they pride themselves upon their professional code of ethics and are unremitting in their efforts to elevate the qualifications of their personnel, they seem to have no clear conception of what they are doing to man, of what man is, or of what he ought to be. They have hung back and let others lead whenever unpopular biological measures are necessary. I am not aware that they have taken any united professional stand in favor of birth control, nor in the matter of sterilization of the feebleminded, the insane, and the criminalistic, nor even in the establishment and enforcement of rigorous medical examinations for persons intending marriage. They have taken almost no interest in the study of the normal anatomical and physiological variations of man which should be the bases for their investigations of pathology. Not only have they neglected the study of man’s biological evolution, but they have contented themselves with a minimum of general biological knowledge which would hardly suffice a practitioner of animal husbandry. While they have accumulated vast files of medical histories, they have not, for the most part, learned the elementary methods and principles of accurate scientific recording and are usually incapable of analyzing massed data from which valid general conclusions may be drawn. Although the social sciences and all other biological sciences have long relied upon mathematical statistics as the only dependable means of elucidating quantitative or qualitative data affected by a multiplicity of causes, medical science stands aloof in obdurate and self-satisfied ignorance. There are, of course, individual exceptions to each one of these strictures, but I do not think that I am unfair when I state that they are only exceptions.

Yet I am the last to deny medical science credit for remarkable achievement in the conquest of disease and for disinterested devotion to human betterment. Actually I think that medicine is doing its job admirably if that job is conceived to be only the care of the human organism, taken ‘as is,’ and the remission of venial biological sins which are consequent upon civilized man’s abuse of his bodily inheritance.

I appeal to medicine because it is the one branch of applied science which might be expected to realize not only that human behavior is a function of the human organism, but that all animal organisms exist and transmit their qualities through the mechanism of heredity. The fundamental principle of organic evolution is improvement or retrogression through the selection of inherited anatomical features and physiological functions. And I reiterate the statement which I have bellowed up and down this country for years, until I am thoroughly sick of it and everyone else is equally sick of me. Our entire system of education is upside down because it studies only human behavior and not the human organism; we know virtually nothing at all of the most vital factor in human evolution — human heredity.

I ask whether medical science is prepared to accept the responsibility for the reckless deterioration of human stock which it promotes by lavishing its skill and care upon the preservation of the unfit, when it takes no measures whatsoever for beginning the study of human inheritance by which alone permanent improvement of the species can be anticipated. I call upon this profession which is actually directing the course of human evolution downward to reflect upon the wages of biological sin.

Human deterioration can be checked if we tincture our humanitarianism with biological common sense. Human conduct can be corrected through education if only we have sound organisms to develop and to instruct. We can actually improve the quality of the sound human organism if we are willing to devote biological attention and generous medical cooperation to the study of human inheritance through several consecutive generations. We must found institutes for the study of human heredity in which every pathological and normal variation is followed from birth through reproduction and on to death with the purpose of determining the physiological, psychological, and sociological correlates of each of these variations. This is not the task of the physician alone. It will require the services of the geneticist, the psychologist, the sociologist, and even of the anthropologist. It is, in my opinion, the most exigent need of the human species, for upon the acquisition and application of this knowledge of human heredity is staked not only the immediate fate of our probably evanescent civilization, but also the survival or extinction of man himself. ‘The wages of biological sin is evolutionary death.’

  1. David B. Dill, Life, Heat, and Altitude.