Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/268

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256
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

opment of our own species—a fancied wall of demarkation between man and beast. Had they been really actuated by a scientific spirit, they would have felt it their bounden duty to ascertain whether all the lower animals were, in contrast to man, able to use their limbs soon after their birth. Had they done so, they might have met with evidence similar to what is thus given by an actual observer[1] in describing an infant orang-outang which had come into his possession: "The Mias, like a very young baby, lying on its back quite helpless, rolling lazily from side to side, stretching out his hands into the air, wishing to grasp something, but hardly able to guide its fingers to any definite object, and when dissatisfied opening wide its almost toothless mouth, and expressing its wants by an almost infantile scream. . . . When I had had it for about a month it began to exhibit some signs of learning to run alone. When laid upon the floor it would push itself along by its legs, or roll over, and thus make an unwieldy progression. When lying in the box it would lift itself up to the edge into almost an erect position, and once or twice succeeded in tumbling over."

Thus we see that, the nearer brutes approach to man in their structure, the more gradual is their development. The process which in the colt and the lamb is contracted so as to escape observation is here shown at very considerable length. That the child, especially in the higher races of mankind, makes a still more gradual progress, is plainly a mere question of degree.

The young ape which Mr. Wallace observed was, beyond all reasonable dispute, acquiring the use of its limbs precisely in the same manner as a human child. If the latter learns, by slow and laborious degrees, what muscles he must exert in order to effect any desired movement, so does the young ape. If the child can not judge of the position and distance of objects, till it has by considerable practice learned to refer its sensations to appropriate "ideas," the same must be said of the young Mias. But, if the young apes, and, indeed, all other young animals, inherit from their forefathers a latent knowledge of the use of their organs, which is called into activity as soon as their muscular and nervous systems are sufficiently developed, the same holds good of the human infant.

Of course, it would be unfair to demand of such men as Professor Whewell that, before theorizing and dogmatizing, they should go forth to the forests of Borneo in search of facts. As for Davy, his splendid achievements in chemistry may cover his failure in biology. But surely every man in Europe, though he may never have met with infant apes, must have seen how kittens, when beginning to walk, totter, stagger, and roll over, just like young children; how they pat at, and endeavor to touch, objects beyond their reach; and how, even after the forelegs have gained a considerable degree of firmness and obey volition, the hinder extremities remain feeble, and are often for

  1. A. R. Wallace, "Malay Archipelago," p. 45.