Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/46

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36
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

they find it possible to maintain that it still remains unproved that any species of animal possesses either knowledge or skill not wholly acquired by each individual. A better acquaintance with the mental peculiarities of the animals is certainly a desideratum, and we hope that this rich field of investigation will not long remain uncultivated. In Macmillan's Magazine for February there is an account of a series of observations and experiments on young animals by the present writer, which, unless they can be discredited, may reasonably be expected to go far to establish the fact of instinct, the fact of innate knowledge and unacquired skill; in other words, the phenomena on which the experience-psychology, minus the doctrine of inheritance, can throw no light whatever. Now, had not Mr. Darwin banished from every scientific mind the hypothesis of the miraculous creation of each distinct species of animal just as we see it, with all its strange organs, and, to most people, still stranger instincts, the presumption against a system of human psychology that not only can give no account of the most striking phenomena in the mental life of the animals, but which strongly inclines those who hold it to pronounce such phenomena incredible, might not have been so apparent. But, in the present state of our scientific knowledge, such a psychology, professing to be a complete system, is self-condemned. In its fundamental principles the science of mind must be the same for all living creatures. Further, if man be, as is now believed, but the highest, the last, the most complex product of evolution, a system professing to be an analysis and exposition of his mind, yet confessing itself incompetent to deal with the necessarily simpler mental processes of lower creatures, must surely feel itself in an uncomfortably anomalous position.

It is, however, on the first-mentioned circumstance, the immaturity of the infant at birth, that most stress can be laid. The newly-born babe cannot raise its hand to its mouth, and doubtless for a long time after birth it has no consciousness of the axiom, "Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to one another." The helplessness of infancy is pointed to as furnishing ocular demonstration of the doctrine that, whatever may be the case with the animals, all human knowledge, all human ability to perform useful actions, must be wholly the result of associations formed in the life-history of each individual. But it can surely require little argument to show that this is an entirely unwarranted assumption. It might as well be maintained that, because a child is born without teeth and without hair, the subsequent appearance of these must be referred wholly to the operation of external forces. Of the several lines of argument that might here be employed, let us, for the sake of freshness, take the analogy from the lower animals. We are not aware that it can be asserted, as the result of prearranged and careful observations, that any creature at the instant of birth exhibits any of the higher instincts. A number of iso-