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Are We A Dying Race?

Creator: J.H. Kellogg (author)
Date: 1897
Source: Wellesley College Archives

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The writer is in full accord with the New York professor who believes that our universities ought to build up an aristocracy; but he differs widely from that learned gentleman in the sort of aristocracy which a university education ought to produce. What we want is an aristocracy of Christian manhood and womanhood, an aristocracy of men and women who believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost; that man was made in God's image, and that God himself dwells in the human form divine; that to abuse it is to insult God; that to squander one's vital forces is as much a sin as to break open a safe or execute a forgery. Our race deterioration will not cease until we again write over our sanctuaries of learning and of worship the motto the ancient Greeks carved above the portals of their temples, "A sound mind in a sound body." We must recognize as a solemn reality that religion includes the body, and that the laws which govern the healthful performance of the bodily functions are as much the laws of God as those of the decalogue. So long as man regards his body as a harp of pleasure, to be played upon as long as its strings can be made to vibrate, so long will he continue to travel down the hill of physical decadence and degeneration in spite of quarantine laws and the most minute sanitary regulations. But when he recognizes his divine origin and obligations, and himself as the crowning masterpiece of creation, his body a precious thing, to be sacredly preserved, developed, expanded, and purified for service to humanity, in this world, and a never-ending opportunity for development and joyous existence in the world to come, -- then only will he begin to climb toward the heights from which he has fallen, where he may once more stand forth as the crowning glory of creation, the masterpiece of God, "the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals."




The facts to which the writer called attention in the above paper, read before the Civic, Hygienic, and Philanthropic Conference held at Battle Creek, Mich., seem to have stirred up quite a tempest among the newspapers of the country, hundreds of which have printed the paper or copious extracts from it, with or without comments.


With very few exceptions, the comments made have indicated a recognition of the startling truth to which we have undertaken to call attention; viz., that in spite of our boasted advantages, and the marvelous progress which has been made in sanitary science along many different lines, we are going down both physically and mentally.


That we are not improving physically is shown by the increase of diseases of degeneracy, such as Bright's disease, chronic nervous disorders, insanity, imbecility, and epilepsy, as well as by the patent fact that the capacity for great age is rapidly disappearing, as shown by the rapidly decreasing proportion of individuals who attain the age of one hundred years and upward.


That we are not improving mentally is clearly shown by the increase of crime, which statistics show to be going on at a most appalling rate. Confirmation of this statement may be found in the police court records of any large city. The proportion of city population is steadily increasing. The number of murders committed every year per thousand inhabitants is far greater than a hundred years ago, the number of inebriates many times greater.


The increasing frequency of lynchings, not only in the more recently settled and unorganized portions of the country, but in our older communities, in which it would seem that civilization had had an opportunity to accomplish in the most thorough manner its work of physical and moral improvement, is a matter which is coming to be a cause of grave concern to thousands of serious-minded people. Whether this growing frequency in the application of mob law is due to the increasing frequency of crime and the boldness of criminals or to an increase of disrespect for the civil authorities on the part of the people does not matter much, since the indication is clear in either case that morality is, on the whole, not increasing.


Still another evidence of race deterioration is the extinction of instinct, especially among the civilized branches of the human race. Instinct is the natural means by which an animal is warned of threatened danger. A monkey in a forest knows instinctively what he should eat, and what he must avoid. A savage Indian is almost equally protected by his native instincts. But the civilized man has cultivated perverse tastes and unnatural appetites for so long a time and to so great an extent that the natural protective instincts have been almost wholly obliterated, and the evil practises which grow out of these abnormal appetites and desires are rapidly destroying the civilized races in all parts of the world. Even the savage tribes, which, under the influence of missionary enterprises, are led to adopt the habits of civilization, are thereby soon led into rapid decay and degeneracy, as is illustrated in the rapidly disappearing Sandwich Islanders, and the complete extinction of the natives of Tasmania within a generation.

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