Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/271
I.—The Primordial Period, or Age of Unconscious Inferences.
THE relation of man to Nature primordially and of savage races in the present day is, as we know, very different from what it has been represented to be by poets and philosophers. In the delightful pictures their fancy painted there was nothing true: the idyllic conditions amid which they fancied the still youthful human race as living never have existed anywhere. The history of man the world over has its beginning not in a golden age, but in an age of stone. Instead of noble shepherds and lovely shepherdesses, who, under benignant skies amid picturesque scenes, live in innocence on the produce of their flocks, decorously enjoying all the purest gifts of fortune, the reality presents to our view rude, uncouth hordes struggling against hunger, against wild beasts, against the inclemency of the seasons; buried in filth, in groveling ignorance, and brutal selfishness; their women made slaves, their old people cast out; practising cannibalism first out of necessity, and then because superstitious usage had hallowed the custom. Into the mental state of such beings we can enter as little as into that of children. We cannot strip ourselves of the acquisitions made by the generations whose successors we are, and whose priceless hoardings of the fruits of their labor now inure to our benefit. If, as Paul Broca teaches, the mean cerebral mass of Parisians in the present day exceeds that of Parisians in the twelfth century, may we not assume
- An address delivered before the Scientific Lectures Association of Cologne. Translated from the German by J. Fitzgerald, A. M., and carefully revised by the author.