Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/118

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108
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
FOUR-HANDED SINNERS: A ZOÖOLOGICAL STUDY.

By FELIX L. OSWALD, M.D.

EDMOND ABOUT used to tell a good story of a Spanish prelate who studied anatomy for the special purpose of describing the fragments of a miraculous skeleton, but who was so astounded by the discovery of a rudimentary tail-bone that he relinquished his study in dismay, and declined to specify the results of his investigation.

In a similar way the comparative study of human and animal psychology would often surprise a close observer. There was a time when the mere suggestion of such studies would have been overruled by the prevalent tenet which denied the affinity of our mental apparatus to any part of the animal organism, the attribute of "reason" being reserved for the primate of the animal kingdom, while the actions of his humble fellow-creatures were supposed to be prompted by a blind and semi-automatic agency, called "instinct." Intelligence, we were told, might be compared to a "keyed instrument, from which any music it is capable of producing may be called forth at the will of the performer," while the modus operandi of instinct was supposed to resemble that of a "barrel-organ, which plays with the greatest exactness a certain number of tunes that are set upon it, but can do nothing else." The mechanism of that living barrel-organ was, moreover, believed to act chiefly in the interest of the species, while reason subserved the interests and momentary caprices of individuals.

The subjective motives of that view were, however, clearly identical with the prejudice which long denied the analogies between the physical organism of men and brutes. Every step in the progress of comparative anatomy has more plainly demonstrated the fact that the alleged contrasts in the construction and the functional characteristics of human and animal bodies are mere differences of degree, and a similar conclusion must force itself upon the unprejudiced observer of animal soul-functions. Even our domestic birds often manifest symptoms of passions, whims, and moral aberrations, clearly analogous to those of their biped proprietors; and in the higher animals those manifestations become so unmistakable that a student of moral zoölogy is often tempted to indorse the view of that school-girl who defined a monkey as "a very small boy with a tail."

According to Arthur Schopenhauer's theory of moral evolution, the conscious prestige of our species first reveals itself in the emotions of headstrong volition that make a little baby stamp its feet and strike down its fists, "commanding violently before it