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AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE SMALL BRAIN OF CIVILIZED MAN AND ITS EVOLUTION
Chas. E. Woodruff
Am J Psychiatry 1901;58:1-77.
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Abstract

A legitimate conclusion to draw from all this is that as civilization and brain development have gone on hand in hand, the lower races which have not taken part in it are forever unfitted for it. Though specialized enough to take up some few special employments as an intruder in civilization, they cannot carry on the advance by themselves. They are also barred out more effectually the sooner they escaped from the factory of brain. The negro is a survival of men who migrated too soon and whenever he is left alone he invariably reverts to ancestral life as in Haiti. His color and physique bar him from the best parts of this country where he quickly perishes, and the struggle in a civilized environment is causing such degeneration that he is producing a tremendous crop of degenerates in the south from bad food, bad habits and exposure. Crime, consumption and insanity increase and hasten the inevitable extinction. He is sure to become extinct and is not an exception to the rules of acclimatization as Shaler states.The domestic animals are also mentioned as exceptions to the law of acclimatization by change of type, yet almost every one is wholly unadjusted to the climate where man takes it, and would promptly perish were it not protected from the climate. Others, such as dogs, surviving in every climate without protection, have actually changed in type like the bears. Eskimo dogs and polar bears are both killed by the heat, and tropical bears, as well as Mexican dogs, will die in the Arctics unless housed. Human parasites follow the same law and would die unless kept alive in an artificial environment independent of climate. No living thing will stand marked change of climate without change of type through destruction of unfit.When Morel wrote his great epoch-making work on human degeneration prior to the publication of Darwin's and Wallace's theories, he undoubtedly opened a mine of enormous value, but, he was woefully wrong in considering the lower races as degenerate forms of the higher—a mistake following from the general conception of a primitive high type of man. This mistake still tinctures scientific as well as popular literature. The lower races are smaller brained though absolutely normal, and perfectly adjusted to an environment deadly to a Frenchman. I can add my own slight experience to the effect that among the lower races I have found as little or less evidence of degeneration as among the higher. This condition of nervous instability is merely one of the natural methods of cleaning any race of its most unfit. The Chinese seem to lead with the greatest per cent of degenerates and the races on the north shores of the Mediterranean are a close second.Does it not seem also that evolution of brain stopped in Asia long ages before it did in Europe and that all Asiatics are jetsam of evolution? The only ones who went ahead were the restless ones who were forced into Europe from the teeming areas of the north of Asia—and who became the ancestors of the Celto-Slavic or Alpine stock who certainly have helped civilization as much as any other race, and who are part of the newest and most vigorous of moderns—Russia.Our New York Indians are doing very well, as they had evolved a large brain and were really the pre-historic Aryans of the new world, yet they are not able to do anything towards the advance of civilization, though far in advance of the Peruvians and Aztecs. Some of them are living about as the lower Italians, both survivors of lower races in a civilization built up around them by brainier intruders.Comparative theology has long shown the strict relation between the kind of religion and the kind of civilization, and it really should not be necessary to call attention to the fact that they both depend upon brain development nor to deny that religion causes civilization as Dr. Reid states ("The Present Evolution of Man"), and as the clergy have been in the habit of preaching for generations. If there is any relation it is the other way, for in mediaeval times theology has done the most to retard civilization. The further natural selection increases the brain the higher are the religious concepts. Mohammedanism is always found no higher than barbarism because that is the limit of the religious conception of people who have not brain enough to go beyond barbarism after their migration south, and it is absurd to say that it is a cause of their civilization. These people refuse to accept Christianity because they are incapable of understanding it, and if they could accept it, then, if that religion is the cause of civilization, they should at once become highly civilized, which we know the Christian Abyssinians have not done. When Christianity arose it was too abstract and advanced for the mass of Jews and it had to travel north in search of brain. The Romans too could not understand it and they only accepted it as a political measure from outside influence from the north. Indeed races accepting Christianity invariably change it to accord with their own mental state, our own negroes even mixing it with voodooism. Taylor has shown that in Europe ("Orig. of the Aryans") there is a close relation between race and religions, that Italy cannot become Protestant nor Scandinavia accept the southern form, and that religious wars have always been race wars and we know that the latter are always wars of expansion for more room. Thus there has been a regular and progressive evolution of religion going on side by side with the evolution of brain and civilization, and in a geometrical ratio like civilization, for at the present time the theology of our pulpits would have caused the burning at the stake of its believers only a few centuries ago. Even thirty years ago the clergy would have been scandalized by present sermons.Instead of recognizing that brain, which had developed for the sole end of surviving natural adversities, had subsequently been devoted to another purpose—civilization—writers announce all sorts of causes of man’s brain development. The long period of infancy is stated as a cause by John Fiske, but it is a result of an evolution having nothing to do with the brain. Mammals arose simply because by normal variations some animals were able to give a trifle of nourishment to their young, and this slight advantage was really a tremendous one in the end, for it was the determining cause for survival where others like the saurians, though highly specialized became extinct as soon as enemies increased. It followed that those giving nourishment and care longest were able to survive in spite of physical feebleness. Hence the prolonging of infancy and pregnancy resulted ages before the brain developed to its maximum, and the earlier mammals were almost as brainless as the saurians. It is undoubtedly true that the more intelligent beings were able to look after their young the best and survived in larger numbers, but a long infancy by itself without other conditions of severity in the environment will not enlarge the brain any faster than it has done for the apes.Articulate speech has also been given as a cause of brain development, whereas we have shown that it is a very recent result of brain development. The erect posture freeing the anterior limbs for development into arms and hands, is very closely connected with brain development, for the two went on simultaneously, each the cause, as well as the effect, of the other, for one is impossible without the other. Brainier animals not having the best variations in arm and hand were not as favorably situated as those which happened to have both variations— slight increase of brain as well as slight increase of arm specialization.Let us relegate to the scientific garret all those predictions of the future big-headed man with attenuated body and the widehipped women with birth canals large enough for the children's heads. We need never be afraid of the narrow-hipped women dying out from inability to give birth to children. Future specialized brains will be small enough—they are small enough now, too small for their possessors' judgments to be trustworthy except in their narrow specialty and often not even in that. Nor need we be afraid of the future specialist being as limited as the idiot Blind Tom, such variations being always the result of degeneration and doomed to extinction. The fittest is and will be the specialist having sufficient intelligence besides to think over and utilize his special abilities to the greatest good. Such evolution cannot possibly be racial deterioration as Col. H. Elsdale asserts (19th Cent., Aug.). Far from deterioration, it is evidence of very high social evolution. Men who do not know that evolution means the survival of the fittest and not necessarily the survival of what they may consider the best, are apt to enlarge upon the forced survival, of the criminal, the feeble-minded and the specialist and claim that man upsets the laws of evolution. Man is unable to upset any law any more than he destroys the laws of gravitation by the invention of a balloon. He is just as much subject to evolution now as ever for "there is no truce to the struggle for existence." The evolution of the specialized small-brained man in civilization is never lawless but follows the law of the survival of the fittest—he is an item in that " change from a state of indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a state of definite heterogeneity" of the modern social body. He becomes an artist in the "harmonious orchestration of specialists."Writers like John Fiske who think we have, through intelligence, escaped the influence of evolutionary laws, have wholly missed the essential idea of evolution. Instead of having escaped man seems now to be in a second stage of tremendously rapid evolution in the direction of specialization, an evolution more rapid even than that of the glacial times, for there is a marked change in the last 2000 years. It is another of Le Conte's "critical periods" (see p. 14), separating eras. The glacial period separated long eras of anthropoids and man, and this new critical period separates Le Conte’s "Psychozoic era" into two parts of era of savage man, and the future era of specialists. Civilization will change us but we will not be degenerated, anymore than frail hairless man is a degenerate gorilla.In very many other respects man is now undergoing a most rapid evolution, but as it involves other characters than the brain we need only touch upon it. Men are always overcrowded for that is the basis of evolution, but the density of population is so great now that if we did not keep pace with it in our sanitary arrangements, to remove our own poisons, more than 9/10 of us would die. Thus in unsanitary England in the 14th century it is said that half of the four million people died of plague and onefourth of the ioo millions in Europe. We are now eliminating those least immune to diseases of crowds such as consumption and typhoid, for these susceptibles are unfit for the environment. The most immune survive as the fittest, so that eventually all men will be immune to lung diseases like the Jews. We will also be immune to typhoid, or the crowd diseases will no longer be fatal, just as mumps, measles, etc., have ceased to be fatal in infancy. We need not follow it further, for it has been enlarged upon by Reid in "The Present Evolution of Man," it is only mentioned as further evidence that in other characteristics, as well as in brain, we are in a "critical period" of Le Conte, and undergoing a most tremendously rapid evolution. The cause of the last "critical period," the glacial climate, is not a bit more powerful factor, than the changes in living brought about by the present critical period—recent civilization.In a remarkable posthumous paper (Cosmopolitan, March, 1901), Grant Allen rails against the British social system which preserves as parasites in the aristocracy, such inferior men and does its best to repress its best brains. He shows that there is great variation in all families and states that "all men are born free and unequal." This is a curious mixture of two axioms and is not true. It is an axiom of political life, that "all men are born free and equal"and this is true; but in their other relations it is only true of paleolithic savages, for it is a law that, Civilized men are born dependent and unequal.

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