Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/463

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
445
MAN IN NATURE.

MAN IN NATURE.
By M. PAUL TOPINARD.

MAN is an animal, by the same title with other animals, without any more rights than those conferred upon him by virtue of the law of the strongest, by his physical organization, his physiological attributes, and his success in the struggle for existence. His body is of the same substance, is composed of the same tissues, and possesses the same organs. His forms are simple variants, produced by the same force that urges other beings to differentiation. Like every animal, he participates in the everlasting round of being born, reproducing, and dying. He was such when Galen dissected the ape to study it, and he has continued the same, resembling the ape in some respects and differing from it in others, subject to the same wants, the same physical experiences, the same instinctive impulses, the same inner feeling urging him to take everything to himself. In consideration of the highly developed properties of his cerebral organ, of his judgment, which permits him to see things exactly as they are, of his memory, which enables him to store up observations and draw inductions of the whole from them, of his routine-breaking initiative, and of his ideal conceptions, he may by a turn of mind regard himself as forming a separate kingdom in the Cosmos. But, in his body he is and always will be an animal—a vertebrate, a mammal, a monodelph, a Primate. None of the characteristics of these groups is wanting in him; eminently none of those of the Primates. He possesses peculiar characteristics which give him a special place of favor among them; but he begins by having their general characters.

"Then," you will tell us, "you place man by the side of the monkeys, of those beings which are often so abject. Could you not find a nobler animal?" That is prejudice, judgment by appearances. The monkeys are not disinherited beings, but the contrary. Some of the ungulates—the deers and the horses—have reached a high grade in the scale of the mammals: we esteem them because of the perfect adaptation of all their parts to an ideal of existence; their forms are elegant, their paces are graceful and rapid; they render us service while contributing to our pleasures; they are the last efflorescence of a branch which has been growing and blooming since the Eocene epoch. Some of the carnivores, like the cats, are likewise objects of our admiration for the complete harmony of their whole organisms to their peculiar modes of life; they have power, nobility, and freedom. But neither of these possess what the humble monkeys have—a cerebral type, predicted among them all from its origin, and already