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Gateway to ideas. Gateway to ideas. A new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading. Today's programme will men be modified is moderated by alue Bell science editor of The New York Herald Tribune in the two billion years in which living matter has clung to the Earth a few periods of time of match the last hundred years. Even the last 50 for the rapidity with which environment has changed for at least one species Homo sapiens in our own country we have only to look as far as the automobile in others to the control really for the first time of infectious diseases. New diets the introduction of new chemicals the atom bomb. Extreme urbanization and industrialization all have contributed to this our new environment. Looking at
man as a biological creature and Daoud by eons of evolution with typically human characteristics of high intelligence speech and the capacity for culture one wonders whether the new environment may not change his essential human character. One wonders further if new discoveries in biology translated into medicine might not modify man still further. Perhaps our descendants will look at us as we now perceive our ancestral apes. Or it may be the other way round. Dr Ernst Meyer who is a distinguished student of evolution has pointed out in his book animal species and evolution that for man up to now there is no evidence of biological improvement and at least the last thirty thousand years. And he goes on to quote Julian Huxley's book Evolution in action to the effect that man's genetic nature has degenerated and is still doing so. These are portentous questions.
Today we examine the possibilities lying ahead for the human species in his new environment. I have with me to discuss this problem two leading students of the general question. Dr. Ruth Sager a geneticist at Columbia University and Amram Scheinfeld who is an author of the recently published book your heredity and environment which incidentally succeeded his well-known book Human heredity. Mr. SCHONFELD is also a member of the Columbia university seminar on genetics and the evolution of man. Well a look ahead really can't start without a look behind at the past. And obviously we are discussing in some sense what the genetics of the human race is going to be like 10 20 100 years from now. There was some old ideas about this weren't there. Mr. SCHONFELD about the eugenics of the race so to speak how do we prove it. Well. The principal change in thinking has been that in the past human
beings were considered stratified into upper and lower groups into plus and minus groups into superior and inferior groups and their distinctions were considered quite clear cut and were based on relative achievements what a person and his family was at a given time was supposed to be an indication of what his genetic makeup was. Today we realize much more than we ever did before that what a man is or what in terms of genetics the phenotype of an individual may not necessarily be related to what he can be. This is applied not merely now to individuals individual families and groups. Upper and Lower level groups but also to races. So for the first time we are being fairer much fairer in our appraisal of human beings and what they can
be and all around us we are seeing the changes that are taking place in the makeup and the capacities and the expression of the capacities of individuals. What you're saying then is that the quintessence of the fifth human being is not the laws of the Cabots of the past but perhaps every man. This is the true one might say the democracy of genetics that you're talking about. Yes the one concept I think of fitness has shifted from what the individual is at a given time to what we believe his capacities may be and matter of fact the concept of fitness. From the eugenics standpoint is not the same as the concept of fitness in population genetics which actually refers to the perpetuation of a group the extent of reproduction of a group. Perhaps it's to say that the group that reproduces the most genetically would therefore be the fittest which is
in contradiction to the old eugenic ideas. Well the bit that I quoted from Julian Huxley earlier. He made the point that it seemed to be true whether in Soviet Union or in any other capitalists exciting capitalistic society and I use the word advisedly that those of high intelligence seem to be reproducing at a much slower rate of those of lower intelligence. And this is what he based his whole point on concerning the possible degeneration of the human or human race. And I see Ruth Seder wants to get in on this. Well I think there's one very important problem which should be clarified at the outset. There have been arguments and debates and misunderstandings for a long time about the relative influence of genes and the environment in the final phenotype or the final appearance and ability of of any individual. And this is still an unanswered question. What we know is that the genetic
constitution of every individual sets the limits for achievement. But we have never found out what in fact those limits may be. And I think that as Mr. SCHONFELD has has said the most impressive thing that we're finding out now is that those limits are perhaps limitless and that there are far greater possibilities and potentialities for man than have yet been. Appreciated or have been experienced but that does not mean that the genetic component is not an important one because it still provides the physical and the physiological basis and an important extent the psychological basis but the way in which environment interacts with that with those genes is so complex and affords so many possibilities that we really cannot say. And I think here is the danger of eugenics because who is to say what are the good genes because when you look at an
individual you are really not. Except for extreme examples of obvious genetically controlled diseases. As far as such factors as overall intelligence IQ many personality factors we know that there are genetic factors but how those genetic factors have been influenced by the environmental history of the individual is so unclear that I think that any kind of serious eugenics program is very questionable when you know there is some evidence for what you say in a very specific way. Dr BEN passa Manik who is a. Professor of Psychiatry at Ohio State University made some very careful measurements on the IQ of very young children as careful as you can make it at that age. There are lots of problems involved but many case the major point of his finding is that the IQ whatever that means as he measured it was the same for least children over a very narrow range. Now they began to diverge
only subsequently. That is as they became older and older and these changes these divergences were mainly tied to their environmental condition he found. Now it may be that that this finding is related quite specifically to the way in which he made his measurements. But nevertheless there is an indication there that as far as the human race is concerned that genetically we are fairly uniform. Would you say that so. Well I don't believe that uniformity can be termed uniformity or a normal or abnormal only relative terms. I would go along with Dr Savior on the idea that we should not be minimising the hereditary factor. Actually when people are talking about heredity and environment in human beings and the differences that the environment can make they are referring to are very very small almost a minute range of differences compared with the difference between one species and another. For example they forget the fact that when a baby is born it's not an elephant
it's not a rhinoceros not a mouse. Take for granted that this won't be a human being which on the evolutionary scale is so vastly apart from any other species and that this is due entirely to hereditary to a rarity. Now when you're talking you have used the term almost interchangeably here many people do IQ and intelligence there's an enormous difference. Oh I didn't IQ is a manifestation and intelligence is a potentiality. Now there is no reason to assume that two children even in the given family. Are born with the same potentiality for intelligence is that they are born with the same potentiality for eye color or for stature or for any other trait. Each individual is actually a complex of many genetic potentialities and no two individuals are the same. Yet the point that we're trying to drive out is that the range of variation in the human species with respect to intelligence and a broad sense is
rather small when measured against other species that is right. But this range of intelligence can be the difference between a Nobel Prize winner and a moron actually the difference between an IQ of 80 and an hour. Let's say that this is done on an IQ of 80 and an IQ of 100 and 60 is minute compared to the difference between an IQ of 80 and apes IQ or a mouse's IQ. So what you're really doing here is a very very fine scale. This is the end. Let's say of a graph that could extend from here to Chicago and what you're dealing with is the last few yards. Now in the last few yards calibrated in a very very small. Terms then it makes a very big difference between whether you get into Harvard or don't get into her. But you've got to if you want to meet the Columbia collage Columbia Yes. But in any case you cannot BE DIFFERENT get well about their heredity which goes
beyond and pretty sees this little range. And this is what we are dealing with now. This little that this little difference is becoming so very important today and are very compelling to society. Well let's get back to the central idea namely the possibility of the modification of man Julian Huxley took up this business of intelligence in his book and made the point for good or evil that somehow those individuals in our society of lower intelligence have a higher reproductive rate. I know that this has been questioned in certain certain areas and therefore he sees it that modern society is selecting out or increasing the hereditary predisposition for low intelligence. So may I here interject that this is a question of whether he is talking about intelligence or IQ. Because potential intelligence is an extremely difficult thing to define and IQ is a very crude measurement which is attempting to do it. All that Huxley can be doing here is talking about
manifested intelligence in terms of achievement and in terms of social class and in terms of occupation. This is art he's talking about when you talk about lower levels and upper levels. Well I feel even more strongly. Then you do I think that that Huxley's argument here really misses the point because I don't think that the concern is the relative numbers of children being born to people in different occupations I think the problem is that the potentialities of the people who are said to have low IQ is are in fact so much greater than they have hit any opportunity to express that what we really have on our hands is for the first time in civilization the possibility of giving everybody an opportunity to become to move let us say from an IQ I don't even like the word IQ because no one really knows how to measure intelligence but to whatever that means but to move from
poor opportunities for self development and creativity to much higher possibilities and ever has been in the world before and this is not only due to developments in modern biology but its developments in all areas of modern science but this opens up a new world and I think that to consider how to deal with that is a much more basic. Consideration then to worry about improving the breeding behavior. Well nobody is at the moment discussing seriously I don't think and we used to discuss it seriously in the last century but not this century about improving the breeding behavior of man. Well I may not be talking about improving the breeding behavior of man but they have certainly been talking about this stratification of human beings into groups immigration laws for example that are still on the books. Our immigration laws are based on the assumption that groups of individuals from some countries in Europe are superior in their potentialities for being good industrious law abiding citizens
and groups from other from from other countries of Europe. And certainly we still have large areas in the country today where the assumption is that groups of individuals from one race. Have less potentiality for developing than groups of individuals from other races so that there is these dynamic factors are still very much in force. I see that Ruth Sager is gleefully found a section of a book she's finally what's the book. Well the book is man and his future. It was a symposium of the ceiba Society published in 1963 with some very very provocative and interesting articles by about 20 biologists and Julian Huxley in his introduction. So being contradicted. Well he is very much in favor of eugenics as of the present time and says as follows.
The effects of merely encouraging potentially well endowed individuals to have more children and vice versa would be much too slow for modern evolution. Eugenics will eventually have to have recourse to methods like multiple artificial insemination by preferred donors of high genetic quality. As Professor Muller emphasized a quarter of a century ago and I reemphasize in my recent lecture in other words to set up sperm banks that women can go and say well I want to have a son who looks like Marlon Brando and I notice that you discuss in your book not only sperm banks but ovum banks. That is right. These are what I call the atomic age. Parenthood proposals. They are really far out. And when I say far out I don't mean that they're impossible. They extend to such possibilities as I mentioned there. Saving the eggs or the sound from produce eggs from our outstanding woman and then having the sperms of an
outstanding man which had been preserved for decades after his death and then fertilizing these in a test tube and then putting the ovum into let us say conceivably the granddaughter of this famous woman who will be bearing her child her grandmother's charm. Now these things are I think Dr. Sayer would concede are not scientifically impossible to some extent they are being done with experimental animals. We are transplanting them from one dog to an ova from one dog to another dog we are using bull semen of a brother that's been dead for years. Frozen. These are possibilities but the main point however. Is the question of whether the improvement of the human species today demands any such far out things and whether we do not already have the materials the genetic materials which we can utilize to far better advantage and far more easily. Eventually maybe it will come around to these other things but for
the moment they're they're too far fetched. I think Huxley and Muller who first proposed the frozen sperm are somewhat in the minority here. That is that very few geneticists would go along with this proposal as having any practical meaning for today. And even Huxley himself says that this might be a proposal for the future and I wonder what he anticipates would make this necessary. Well we may for example there are some very practical things Suppose you got a man going into space a young husband. You don't know how long he's going to be gone or when he's never coming back oh you mean to tell me you can today because today it's been done. You can preserve his sperm freeze them and have his wife conceive children by her husband after he is no longer there. This is a possibility this can be done. I'm on the science fiction boys figure this out a long time ago. Yes but there is another angle to it we are today having artificial insemination on a very
large scale there are thousands of babies being born in the United States every day and they are selecting the sperm for most in most cases for better or worse they are young interns or young medical students. But this already indicates a selection whereby they go by certain eugenic principles they check their backgrounds and their health and so on and so this is only another step if you're going to have artificial insemination why not have it by some outstandingly Einstein Bernard Shaw which reminds me of that old story. Bernard Shaw on the famous actress which I mentioned did you mention in that story well I think I'm going to dunk is a door dunk and I was trying to remember her name she was a dancer actually in which she suggested that she'd sure have a child together because the child wouldn't have her looks and she was brains to which I reply but Madame suppose he has my looks and your brains which is a possibility. Well this leads me to suggest that we look at the problem from a different point of view because this is a very serious difficulty there is a phenomenon
of genetic great companies. So that you can't always be sure what you're going to come out with. But I feel that there are other reasons why in answer to Mr. you about this question in the future we may have to have recourse to this sort of operation and that is that many of the activities in the social and political arena at the present time are so irrational and are so many hundreds of years behind our scientific understanding of the world that we may be getting into so much trouble that some recourse to extreme methods may be necessary and I refer not only to the possibility of war war is totally out of date. From not only technological point of view but from the point of view of there are no objectives Nobody needs to plunder another country in order to raise its own standard of living any more so that the whole concept of war is out of date but our politicians don't seem to have become aware of this. Some of them
have. Yeah they've been rather ineffective but and at a more modest level let's look at what we're doing to our own lives for example what's happening to urban society we're becoming as some people say over over urbanized but in fact the world is becoming increasingly unpleasant place in which to live in. In many respects and it seems extremely unnecessary. There is one organization which is now established to try to deal with this and this is the Society for the Study of what is called a kiss ticks. I watched a kid sticks is how do you tell it first of all. EK I asked yes and appropriately enough it has been found in Athens. Well you see the Greeks after all were the first modern. I've just come from
Greece. I'm afraid you're going to have trouble getting me off this topic. But this is an extremely important development. Founded by by a Greek but has now become essentially international organization devoted to urban planning but urban planning and a much more extensive sense it has ever been really visualized before bringing to bear concepts and understanding as from from from biology and from genetics as well as from. From architecture and in art and from public health and so forth to try to build new cities rationally and to try to help in the reconstruction of existing cities to make them into habitable places to live again. You know Ruth I have to disagree with you. If you look over the trend of history and I think our world is becoming a better place to live then not a not a worse place. It's certainly cleaner by a long shot that you don't have
to worry about going into a restaurant and buying a meal as you once did and coming down with something on happy. More people are living to older ages. Now it may be true that the price of this might have been the kind of bucolic scene which the ancient Greeks looked upon and that is the that is we've given the sub to some extent and it may be true that our cities can be better and they are certainly New York can and certainly some other cities can. But looking over the wide range of history I don't think you can draw the conclusion that our lives are getting more terrible. What you should say I think is that with respect to the environment which we're building for ourselves that it can be much better. I'd like to modify there by saying there when people say the world is getting better or that the world is getting worse they may be referring to their own group and their own their own. I think there isn't any question whatsoever but for the overwhelming mass of people in the world the world is
getting much better. They're having education their children are having education which they couldn't. Infant mortality rate has dropped way down life expectancy has gone way up. And I think this one brings us back to this whole question that the potentialities of human beings today are certainly being. Allowed to develop and being exploited to a far greater extent even within the last 50 years and it never happened before. And as far as I see it the most important development that has happened is not the explosion of the atomic bomb but the explosion of the potentialities of human beings as individuals and as groups in the underdeveloped countries. In every country in the social levels that prefer the form of the depressed. And this is really what we're talking about. The question of to what greater extent can we develop the potentialities of human beings and by what means you know it just occurred two things just occurred to me One is that the people who long for the good old days are usually those who had
it good in the old days. The other thing is that what you're saying are men and I think what you're saying Ruth is that what we're doing is we're modifying man by modifying his environment in such a way so as to realize the genetic potential which does exist. And perhaps this is the somewhat broader question to which we address ourselves rather than asking ourselves are we going to end up a thousand years from now with a cyclopean big headed individual with small legs as the science fiction buffs would have us believe. Maybe that will come to some modification of the human biology but I don't know how that is going to look I believe that the any any geneticist or any anthropologist any scientist would agree that modification of the human species is always going on the concept of heredity today or genetics is one of interaction always between heredity and environment. That means that if the environment is not
static the basis of selection and adaptation in human beings will also be changed will be changing. The only difference between us and the caveman or the crow Mannion man or any any any one who has studied this would would agree it is in the difference in the environment which enabled a potentiality which was there 30 thousand years ago to assert itself today. I would like to sum up since we're coming to the end of our discussion. Some of the things which we've covered some of the things which we haven't covered in this half hour. I would like to say that first of all it seems quite obvious to me that in the scuffing the impact of an environment and on genetic material that is on our biology that our human species is being constantly modified as we see it. Namely that what's happened is is that we are for the first time perhaps in history able to realize the genetic potential of each individual having what might be called not necessarily a
race of geniuses but a race of competent human beings operating at the highest level of their potentiality. We haven't really covered and maybe we shouldn't. The possible impact of preserving in our society those deleterious genetic. Materials that is the people who have diabetes the people who have other diseases which I passed on from generation to generation and we're keeping them alive today were in past times they would have died and not reproduced. Maybe this is only a small thing in the top picture of man as a species and maybe it's something that we're building into the species which we may pay for later. You've been listening to gateway to ideas a new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading today's program. Will men be modified as presented. Dr. Ruth Segall research geneticist at Columbia University and Amarin Scheinfeld also of you and
heredity and more recently your heredity and environment. The moderator was a bell science editor of The New York Herald Tribune. To extend the dimensions of today's program for you a list of the books mentioned in the discussion as well as others relevant to the subject has been prepared. You can obtain a copy from your local library or by writing to gateway to ideas post office box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York and PS enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope. That's once again Box 6 for 1 Time Square Station New York gateway to ideas is produced for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. The programs are prepared by the National Book Committee and the American Library Association in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters technical
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Gateway to ideas
Will man be modified?
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WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
American Library Association
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program explores how humans will evolve in the ever-changing environment. The discussion is moderated by L.U. Bell, science editor, New York Herald Tribune. Guests are Dr. Ruth Sager, Columbia University; and Amran Scheinfeld, author, "Your Heredity and Environment."
Series Description
This discussion series, produced by the American Library Association, features noted authors, critics and scholars on various topics.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Announcer: Meyer, Eva
Moderator: Bell, L.U.
Panelist: Sager, Ruth
Panelist: Scheinfeld, Amran
Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Producing Organization: American Library Association
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 65-2-23 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:27
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