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Are the Effects of Use and Disuse Inherited?

by William Platt Ball

Civilization largely sets aside the harsh but ultimately salutary action of the great law of Natural Selection without providing an efficient substitute for preventing degeneracy. The substitute on which moralists and legislators rely—if they think on the matter at all—is the cumulative inheritance of the beneficial effects of education, training, habits, institutions, and so forth—the inheritance, in short, of acquired characters, or of the effects of use and disuse. If this substitute is but a broken reed, then the deeper thinkers who gradually teach the teachers of the people, and ultimately even influence the legislators and moralists, must found their systems of morality and their criticisms of social and political laws and institutions and customs and ideas on the basis of the Darwinian law rather than on that of Lamarck.

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