Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/47

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37
THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY.

lated and more or less accidental observations have been recorded; and apparently on the strength of these Mr. Spencer has made the following unqualified statement. "A chick, immediately it comes out of the egg, not only balances itself and runs about, but picks up fragments of food, thus showing us that it can adjust its muscular movements in a way appropriate for grasping an object in a position that is accurately perceived." The fact is, that, on emerging from the shell, the chick can no more do any thing of all this than can the new-born child run about and gather blackberries. But between the two there is this great difference, that, whereas the chick can pick about perfectly in less than twenty-four hours, the child is not similarly master of its movements in as many months. Our present point is, that it can be shown by experiment that the performances of the chick a day old, which involve the perceptions of distance and direction by the eye and the ear, and of many other qualities of external things, are not in any degree the results of its individual experiences. Let it now be remembered that, in the absence of conclusive evidence to the contrary, it has been considered a safe position to hold that the early knowledge and intelligent action of the chicken "may be, after all, nothing more than very rapid acquisitions, the result of that experimentation, prompted by the inborn or spontaneous activity." May we now, on the other side, similarly presume, until the contrary is shown, that the more tardy progress of the infant is not because its mental constitution has to be built up from the foundation out of the primitive elements of consciousness, which the chicken's has not, but rather because the child comes into the world in a state of greater physical, and therefore mental immaturity? The progress of the infant, however, has been so continually spoken of as if it were a visible process of unaided acquisition, that it may give some surprise when it is asserted from the other side that we have no sufficiently accurate acquaintance with the alleged acquisitions of infancy to justify the doctrine that they are different in kind from the unfolding of the inherited instincts of the chicken. To give definiteness to the attitude taken up, we would say, for example, that the facts concerning the early movements of the two lambs and the calf observed by Prof. Bain, and which, looked at from his point of view, were strong confirmation of the doctrine of individual acquisition, may be just as readily interpreted as the unfolding of inherited powers; which, as far as we know, start into perfect action at the moment of birth, in no single instance. From observations on several newly-dropped calves, the facts corresponding substantially with those recorded by Prof. Bain, the present writer could draw no conclusive evidence in favor of either the one theory or the other. One observation, however, may here be mentioned that seemed rather to favor the doctrine of inheritance. A calf one hour old, which had been staggering about on its legs for ten minutes, stepped out at the open door of the byre. It no sooner found itself in the