These words have no obscure significance, and when we regard the character of the one who wrote them, his cautious methods of research, and the long deliberation he was wont to give to all such questions, then they become doubly important.
Recognizing clearly the existence of these lower and earlier stages in man, it has been one of the most difficult problems to solve the first steps toward his society and family relations. Prof. John Fiske, in his "Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy," has given for the first time a rational explanation of the origin and persistence of family relations, and thence communal relations, and, finally, society.
Never before has there been presented so clear an idea of man's physical changes, and the effects of natural selection in seizing upon attendant or correlated nervous changes, as in the work of this author.
Prof. Fiske says: "Civilization originated when in the highest mammals variations in intelligence became so much more important than variations in physical structure that they began to be seized upon by natural selection, to the relative exclusion of the latter."
Starting from the researches of Sir Henry Maine, Lubbock, and others, he finds social evolution must have originated after families temporarily organized among the higher mammals had become permanently organized. But how this step was effected has been an insoluble problem. Bagehot, in his remarkable work on "Physics and Politics," says: "It is almost beyond imagination how man, as we know man, could by any sort of process have gained this step in civilization." Darwin supposes that men were originally weak and inoffensive creatures, like the chimpanzee, and were compelled to band together to make up in combined strength what they lacked as individuals.
That man, for his age, is a weak animal physically, there can be no doubt. Fiske shows that "increase of intelligence in complexity and specialty involves a lengthening of the period during which the nervous connections involved in ordinary adjustments are becoming organized." From these conditions arose the phenomena of infancy, and he shows that with increase of intelligence infancy becomes longer. In the human race it is longer than in any other mammal, and much longer in civilized man than in the savage.
In the orang-outang the infant does not begin to walk till it is a month old, and in performing this act it holds to various objects for support, as in the human infant. Previous to that time it reposes on its back, and becomes absorbed in gazing at its hands and feet. Now, still lower down among the monkeys, at the age of one month the young are fully matured so far as walking and prehension are concerned. It is shown, furthermore, that where infancy is very short, parental feeling may be intense for a while, but soon dies out,
- "Cosmic Philosophy," vol. ii., p. 340.