Improving on Instinct

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An Answer To Mr. Lloyd

MR. J. WILLIAM LLOYD offers in the June issue of The Birth Control Review, some critical remarks on birth control that are plausible, but hardly fundamental. He does not seem to have gone far enough in his analysis of the underlying theory of Neo-Malthusianism. I beg to add a few words of comment on several points made by him.

Lloyd—"Nature herself is a pretty good guide as to what is of first importance, and it is significent, is it not, that nature has made birth instinctive and almost inevitable and has not furnished instinctive knowledge of birth control?"

Comment—No, there is nothing at all significant about the facts as Mr. Lloyd presents them. He is advancing a discredited teleology that is no longer ascribed to Nature. What is instinctive birth? There is instinctive union of the sexes, resulting frequently in births. People used prudishly to say "procreative instinct" when they meant "sex instinct." It is doubtful if there is such a thing as a pure "procreative instinct." The relation between sexual union and procreation, as we understand it, is the result of intelligent observation, not of instinctive or intuitive knowledge.

Mr. Lloyd forgets that man's directive power corrects Nature's blind mistakes and immeasurably improves her results. For detailed proof of this read Lester F. Ward's "Applied Sociology." To prevent the birth of syphilitic or other kinds of diseased and defective children, for instance, is certainly an improvement on Nature's inevitable tendency to produce them. Because there is no "instinctive knowledge of birth control" is no reason for our neglecting to use intelligence. Such neglect of intelligence is what Mr. Lloyd tacitly asks of us. There is no "instinctive knowledge" of a good many things necessary today to the life of man. Why urge us to rely only on instinct and discard intelligence? We use intelligence in production. Society would crumble if it depended only on instinct to provide food. Why not use a little intelligence in reproduction? Our failure to do this is one trouble with the world today, as Neo-Malthusians constantly insist. In the basic business of procreation too much is left to instinct

LLOYD—"The need of children after the war will be worldwide and tremendous. . . . Universal co-operation to exploit the undeveloped resources of the earth and seas, destroy disease, drain marshes, irrigate deserts, terrace mountains, build sea-walls, create islands . . . these are vastly more important than birth control."

Comment—Here is a fundamental oversight in all Utopian socialist schemes. The projects suggested by Mr. Lloyd are often highly desirable and feasible. But let us not forget that first of all, especially under democracy, it takes time to induce people to co-operate. After you have succeeded in convincing them that they would gain by working together, it takes time to carry out plans, assuming that those agreed upon are really wise and from an engineering standpoint, not visionary. Between the budding of the first idea of vast social enterprise and its actual creation as an external fact, (Continued on page 12)

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