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And then cry ‘Hold-jee'
Do you remember old Father John,
Through the moonlit dusk?
NOTES FROM A FRONT-PAGE LABORATORY
BY SIMEON STRUNSKY
Newts and Salamanders. Paul Kam- Kammerer's conclusions have been reMERER is a Viennese biologist who ceived with skepticism by the scientifis now engaged in defending the ic world as known to the Anglo-Saxon.
ingly overwhelming odds. Nearly one his experiments must be duplicated and hundred and twenty-five years ago La- verified by other observers. In the secmarck believed that one potent factor ond place, it is a question whether his in the transformation of species was the newts and lizards, even if they have inheritance of acquired characteristics. changed as Kammerer says they have, New traits developed by one generation will stay put, or whether some day under the stress of use or disuse or Kammerer will not find himself consome other environmental force might fronted with a startling reversion of his be transmitted to succeeding genera- newts and salamanders to the original tions, along with traits inherited from type. It would appear that man is not the very beginnings of life. So Lamarck. the only backslider in the world of The doctrine became scientific heresy animate nature. And thus the controwhen August Weismann, a human gen- versy moves merrily on. eration ago, proved, or is believed Serajevo and Versailles. Suppose, to have proved, that nothing ever gets then, that we leave this conflict between itself transmitted from father to environmental change and the predeterson which the father in turn has not mined plasm to be fought out in the inherited. One might say that until laboratory tanks and cages, while we recently Lamarck was disproved by look about for the test of Lamarckism himself. His doctrines failed to be in the world as known to the man in the transmitted to succeeding generations. street, with a newspaper. This being
Now comes Kammerer and asserts very soon after the tenth anniversary that he has demonstrated the inherit- of the outbreak of the World War, we ance of acquired traits. He has changed might look back to the summer of the color of salamanders by breeding 1914 and later. Here it is immediately generations of them against a differently manifest that the evidence is strongly tinted background. He has adapted against Lamarck. The story of the last and lizards to a marine environment. ten years shows, at first sight, that acle has taken newts in whom the eye, quired characteristics decidedly are not om d isuse in the dark, had become transmitted. Imed over and sunken into the skull Of the Great War, it is frequently and cket, and by exposing them to the correctly said that it vindicated, in sht has bred newts in whom the eye tragic form, the principle of primal nas pierced forward into prominence. heredity. The war showed that man in
1914 was still very much the heir of this great Lamarckian process was comtraits imbedded in the germ plasm of pletely undone. Russia, Prussia, and millions of years ago. The war showed Austria have lost their acquired Polish that our celebrated ‘human nature' traits as decisively as Kammerer's ophas been transmitted through the ages ponents say his newts and lizards may virtually unaffected by the acquired find themselves stripped of their accharacteristics of civilization. The war quired 'foreign' traits. was a conflict of age-old passions, com- And elsewhere in the world's geogpetitions, frontiers, manifest destinies, raphy the same anti-Lamarckian procspheres of interest, and white man's ess has been manifesting itself. The acburdens of all sorts. Man, in the course quired characteristics of the Ottoman of the centuries, had acquired many Turk in Arabia, Syria, Palestine, and characteristics. He had acquired peace Mesopotamia have disappeared. Japan societies, Red Cross societies, interna- has lost her acquired characteristics in tional Socialism, international scien- Shantung. Hungary has sloughed off tific congresses, exchange professors, all her Slav taxpayer characteristics. arbitration courts, international finance, The Egyptian traits are fading out of humanitarianism, safeguards for women the British Empire; and things are stirand children, and many other pleasing ring in India. traits which, by continuous use, were Low Acquisibility. Even more notaexpected to transform the human spe- ble have been the anti-Lamarckian cies. And then came a sudden outburst effects of the war in the economic-bioof poison gas and submarine sinkings to logic sphere. Here we have to do with show how easily the acquired character- the most celebrated of all acquired charistic of many years could be sloughed acteristics — namely, Wealth or Propoff under the impact of a violent self- erty. Wealth is the one characteristic assertion of the primal germ,
which men have always set out deliberThe war produced some extraordi- ately to acquire. In this respect, propnary examples of reversion to type. erty would even out-Lamarck Lamarck. Take, for instance, the case of Poland. The salamander does not say to himself, Between the years 1772 and 1798 Poland 'Go to, I will migrate from a brighthad ceased to be an individual entity green to a soft-yellow environment in and had become the acquired charac- order to acquire a lovely lemon tinge teristic of no less than three other in- for my posterity.' For that matter, not dividuals -- Russia, Prussia, and Aus- even man, the self-conscious one, has tria. For nearly one hundred and fifty ever said, “I will now proceed to develop years, the czars continued to transmit an exceptionally spatulated thumb or Warsaw to their heirs as an acquired supernormal power of eyesight for the characteristic. Hapsburg continued to benefit of my grandchildren.' If these transmit Cracow to Hapsburg as an ac- things happen, they do just that: they quired characteristic. Hohenzollern happen. There is no conscious purpose continued to transmit Posen and Dan behind it. But in the matter of bank zig to Hohenzollern as acquired charac- stock and railway bonds and real-estate teristics. By 1914, it was pretty gener- mortgages a man does consciously ally assumed that this acquired Polish strive for an acquired characteristic. trait had become an integral part of the And what is more, he is eager to acquire Romanoff, Hapsburg, and Hohenzollern that characteristic for the very purpose, germ plasm, destined to run on in these mainly, of transmitting it. best families forever. Five years later And not only in the sense of being highly transmissible has private prop- of the right to dictate the specific chanerty, hitherto, been true to Lamarck. nel along which their acquired realBroader than the principle of the in- estate characteristics shall be transmitheritance of acquired characteristics is ted. The individual was compelled to the Lamarckian principle of functional let his acquired traits flow along the use and disuse as factors in the evolution channels deemed most desirable from of species. If a newt uses its eye steadily the point of view of the social interest. and purposefully, that eye develops in England to-day is frequently considscope and power. If a newt uses its eye ered to be what it is because of the laws ill, that eye atrophies. So with wealth. that encouraged real-estate transmisSuppose John Smith has acquired a mil- sion to the eldest son, leaving for the lion dollars in the course of his lifetime younger sons the army, the church, or and has transmitted that valuable char- the colonies. In France, on the other acteristic to his son. If John Smith 2nd hand, the Code Napoléon decreed that makes proper use of that million-dollar a man's landed-property characterischaracteristic, the chances are that it tics should be distributed equally will manifest itself in the third John among all his children; and France's Smith in the form of a five-million-dol- sturdy peasant proprietorship to-day lar trait. On the other hand, successive is usually traced to this popularization generations, by improper use of a trans- of Lamarck by Bonaparte. mitted million-dollar trait, or a five- The Weismannian Tax-Collector. million-dollar trait, or even an eighty- But there has been a change. Why are million-dollar trait, may lose that trait the people of the United States, at the altogether and revert to the original moment of this writing, more deeply state of the original John Smith before concerned with the problem of tax-rehe began acquiring Dun and Brad- duction than with any other question of street characteristics. This Lamarck- general interest? Why is this also true ian truth has been summed up in the of the people of Great Britain, of Italy, familiar remark that in this country and of the greater part of the civilized it is usually three generations from and tax-paying world? Because someoveralls to overalls.
thing happened a few years ago which Society has looked with extreme fa- largely destroyed the Lamarckian charvor upon the Lamarckian conception of acter of property, and tax-reduction is property. Society has encouraged the a desperate endeavor on the part of the transmission of property from genera- world's population to get back to Lation to generation. Indeed, there is a marck. That something was the World very respectable body of opinion which War. Wealth emerged out of the war, holds that property is the basis of the with anywhere from thirty to one hunsocial order; and the right to property dred per cent of its transmissible qualobviously means not only the right to ities destroyed. The normal citizen can accumulate and possess, but the right no longer transmit property to his deto transmit. There is no need here to scendants as readily as he used to do, for discuss all the historic codes and laws of the very good reason that his Governinheritance which until recently were ment takes a very large part of his propdesigned to reënforce a biological prin- erty away from him, and leaves him ciple with a social sanction. This sanc- with that much less to transmit. For tion finds its fullest development in the many millions of people in Europe the laws of entail and primogeniture, by war left nothing at all to transmit. The which individuals are actually deprived struggle to get back from war-taxes to normal taxes, to get back from Weis- ercised the right to conscript the bodies mann to Lamarck, will be in the fore of its citizens together with their freefront for a great many years to come in dom of opinion, of utterance, and of every civilized country — or at least in movement, and various other normally every country sufficiently civilized to inalienable characteristics. Therefore, have participated in the World War. it is argued, Government should have no
Great Britain is to-day the most anti- hesitation about conscripting the wealth Lamarckian nation on earth. The sub- of its citizens to pay for the war. jects of King George hand over more of In the course of the war, millions of their acquired property characteristics young men were deprived of the power to the tax-collector than do any other to transmit to their issue, not only their participants in the World War. British acquired characteristics, but all characinheritance taxes mount as high as teristics whatsoever, by the simple fact forty per cent, meaning that this portion of dying on the field of battle or in the of a defunct British citizen's property hospitals and the prison camps. Young has been rendered untransmissible. And men were killed who might have transit is not merely succession taxes. The mitted to their unborn children a vast normal taxes paid by the British citizen accumulation of energy, aptitude, genaverage one third of his annual income. ius, aspirations, dreams. It is only just, This means that, for a very considerable it is argued, that the survivors should portion of the British middle-class, deny themselves, to a considerable exwealth has virtually ceased to be hered- tent, the privilege of transmitting their itary. The business of making both ends property accumulations to their chilmeet is so difficult that there can be lit- dren. If it is to be Weismann against tle question of saving for one's heirs. Lamarck, then it should be Weismann England to-day expects every man to all round. So runs the argument. Its do his duty by the tax-collector six soundness may be left for the reader times as hard as before the war; and to to pass upon. that extent one's duty by one's heirs On the Other Hand. But in somust suffer.
ciety, as in the biological sciences, it is Inother countries the loss of the trans a very rare principle that enjoys smooth missible character of property has been sailing. Hypotheses have a disconcertsomewhat less notable, but still enor ing way of running up smack against an mous when compared with the pre-war obstinate set of hostile facts. So in this standard of taxation. In France, per- after-war world and on this issue of prihaps twenty per cent of an individual's vate property, where everything has income is rendered unavailable for trans- seemingly been running against Lamission to the next generation, by the marck, we find ourselves suddenly conactivities of the tax-collector. In the fronted with a very startling vindicaUnited States it is ten per cent, on the tion of Lamarck. I have been pointing average. Federal taxation to-day is out how much more difficult war has probably five times as high as before rendered the inheritance of the most the war.
popular of all acquired characteristics, • What is the justification for war- namely, wealth. In all fairness, it should taxes? In the first place, of course, ne- now be pointed out that in one respect cessity. But in many quarters there has Lamarck has been very emphatically been an attempt to moralize the proc- justified; that, as a result of the war, ess. It is a familiar argument. The wealth has been more rapidly and more State, in the course of the war, had ex- thoroughly transmitted from individual