Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/23

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13
INSTINCT IN INSECTS.

to the duties of his post to make a course of connected studies upon the animals committed to his charge: he thought, as Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire did, that such is the sole purpose of establishments of that kind. "There exists in animals," Cuvier tells us, "a faculty distinct from intelligence, which we term instinct. It makes them do acts which each individual performs without ever having seen them done, and which are repeated, from generation to generation, invariably the same. Without having learned, the animal knows; it knows from its birth, and knows so well, that it never makes a mistake, even in acts of extreme complexity, the secret of which it seems to bring with it into the world. Young ducks hatched under a hen go straight to the nearest piece of water, and boldly plunge and swim, in spite of their foster-mother's cries and distress. The squirrel lays up its winter stock of hazel-nuts and filberts; before it knows what winter is. The shepherd's dog and the pointer know how to do the duties expected of them, through a gift at birth. The bird hatched in a cage and reared a captive, if set free, will build a nest like that its parents built, on the same tree, of the same materials, in the same shape. The spider, more amazing still, weaves without any lessons the geometric network of its web; and the untaught bee builds its comb. Man too has his instinct, as animals have. By instinct the new-born child feels for and finds its mother's breast; but instinctive phenomena in man are less easy to determine, and their discovery demands careful research, because intelligence usually veils them. And yet intelligence is not wanting in animals either, only with them instinct has that predominance which intelligence takes in man."

With the exception of a few mistakes in details, Cuvier marked very accurately the line between the instinctive and the intellectual faculties, but he went no further. His character and disposition gave him but little taste for penetrating into problems of that kind. With a lofty disdain to which posterity has done justice, he left to his rival Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire the care of inquiring into the origins of vital manifestations. Cuvier affirmed simply that every species received at its beginning a certain share of intelligence, with a certain provision of instinct, so wisely proportioned as to insure the permanence of that species till the end of time, or at least till the next revolution in our globe. The intelligent race does its part with its faculties as it can; they must suffice for it. The race without intelligence, to make up for its want, brings into the world a supply of instinct which aids it to make its way. This odd theory of compensation, instinct and intellectual faculties respectively complementing each other, misled Cuvier; it agreed with the general scope of his doctrine; but it does not agree with facts. Those among animals that present the most highly-developed instinct are, unquestionably, the insects; the silky tissues of cocoons, the structures wrought by wasps, the beautiful works that are treasured in cabinets, bear witness to astonishing in-