Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/31

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21
INSTINCT IN INSECTS.

cies." Darwin does not enter on the problem with deliberate purpose as a physiologist. He continues to be what he is in the whole work, the zoologist, exclusively occupied with his great theory: he foresees and meets objections; he has particularly anticipated those that might be brought against him in the name of instinct; and he gives, in a few pages, a more complete study of instinct than any philosopher had made before him, and the first study ever made by aid of experiment. He ignores instinct as an essential property, and treats it as a function—that is, he explains it. Instinct, as he holds, is nothing but a result from the intellectual faculties, properly so called, modified in a particular way under the twofold power of habit and inherited influence.

Inherited tendency, like intelligence, is one of those properties peculiar to living beings of which we can prove the existence, while its principle completely and absolutely baffles investigation. When we attempt to pierce the mystery by which the plant that springs from the yelk seed, the bird that grows from the yelk, will be more like the plant or the bird it proceeds from than like any other, we confront the impenetrable unknown. Hereditary tendency does not merely carry down from one generation to another all the imaginable modifications of form, size, coloring; it extends to the cerebral faculties, transmitted doubtless by the help of some physical peculiarity of the organ of intelligence. This is what is called the spirit of race, which decides that one people shall be born brave and crafty, like the Greeks of Homer; industrious, like the Chinese; traders, like the Jews; or hunters, like the red-skin. This is, if we choose to term it so, a kind of instinct that education sometimes allows us to control, but never eradicates. As the wolf, fattened in the kennel, ends by going back to his wretched life of the woods, the child of a savage reared in the midst of civilization preserves in his mind, as upon his features, the deep, hereditary stamp of his origin. Habit, almost as much as hereditary tendency, is another mysterious faculty which we recognize without being able to explain it. Some act, most difficult in appearance, which required on the part of our brain a considerable effort of will and all our mental activity, at last surprises us by almost performing itself. We might say that attention and reflection have gone down into our limbs, which perform the most delicate tasks, and protect themselves against attacks from without, while the mind, occupied with something else, is pursuing a different object.—Revue des Deux Mondes.