Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/48

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38
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

was observed: apparently several sparrows had the desire and the intention to go into the trap, and these were obviously the young, inexperienced birds which had been hatched since the trap was last set"; but the older birds sounded the cry of warning, and kept the venturesome young sparrows away.

Let us next view the prolongation of human infancy in the light of the law of habit. This law declares that every reaction of an organism to a condition in its environment renders the repetition of that reaction quicker, easier, more certain, more uniform; and the existence of habits implies an environment sufficiently constant to repeatedly present to the organism the same or closely similar conditions. Mere existence in a world so full of regularities, of rhythm and law, of recurrences of the same needs, results in the performance of definite actions in definite ways; and it equally results that the earliest experiences will produce the strongest impressions and will gradually render more difficult the learning of other modes of reaction, even though these others, owing to a change of conditions, would be more useful. Accepting the power of adaptation to an extensive and variable environment as an if not the index of a high intelligence, it follows that prolongation of the period during which acquisition is possible and easy will greatly further intellectual progress. The supreme significance of education thus appears as an outcome of the long preparatory period of human life; the modifiability of the individual is what makes possible training, education, alike in animals and men, and modifiability involves immaturity. Man attains his high intellectual position by entering the world the most helpless of living kind; but, because less freighted with the ingrained habits of his ancestors, is he freer to develop habits of his own. "It is babyhood," says Mr. Fiske, "that has made man what he is."

Pursuing our thought in another direction, we find that organisms entering life more nearly mature will be more like one another, will present fewer individual differences than animals with extended periods of immaturity; and in turn one generation will be more like the preceding and the progress of the species be proportionately slow. The early independence of the young involves action upon inherited instincts, which naturally are closely the same for all members of the species; there thus results a fundamental similarity, leaving a relatively small margin for individual differences. A further result of a prolonged infancy is the group of emotions it arouses and perpetuates on the part of the parents. Motherly devotion and affection, fatherly interest and supervision extend over a larger and longer period as the species is more and more highly developed, until among the highest races of man it continues in a modified form throughout life, and in this modified