step by step, gradation by gradation, from man at the summit to specks of animated jelly at the bottom of the series; so that the idea of Leibnitz and of Bonnet that animals form a great scale of being in which there is a series of gradations from the most complicated form to the lowest and simplest—that idea, though not exactly in the form in which it was propounded by those philosophers, turns out to be substantially correct. More than this, when biologists pursue their investigations into the vegetable world, they find that they can in the same way follow out the structure of the plant from the most gigantic and complicated trees through a similar series of gradations until they arrive at similar specks of animated jelly, which they are puzzled to distinguish from those which they reached by the animal road.
Thus they have arrived at the conclusion that a fundamental uniformity of structure pervades the animal and vegetable worlds, and that plants and animals differ from one another simply as modifications of the same great general plan.
Again, they tell us the same story in regard to the study of function. They admit the large and important interval which, at the present time, separates the manifestations of the mental faculties observable in the higher forms of mankind, and even in the lower forms, such as we know them, mentally from those exhibited by other animals; but, at the same time, they tell us that the foundations or rudiments of almost all the faculties of man are to be met with in the lower animals; that there is a unity of mental faculty as well as of bodily structure, and that here also the difference is a difference of degree and not of kind. I said "almost all" for a reason. Among the many distinctions which have been drawn between the lower creatures and ourselves, there is one which is hardly ever insisted on, but which may be fitly spoken of in a place so largely devoted to art as that in which we are assembled. It is this, that, while among various kinds of animals it is possible to discover traces of all the other faculties of man, especially the faculty of mimicry, yet that particular form of mimicry which shows itself in the imitation of form, either by modeling or by drawing, is not to be met with. As far as I know, there is no sculpture or modeling, and decidedly no painting or drawing, of animal origin. I mention the fact in order that such comfort may be derived therefrom as artists may feel inclined to take.
If what the biologists tell us is true, it will be needful for us to get rid of our erroneous conceptions of man and of his place in Nature, and substitute for them right ones. But it is impossible to form any judgment as to whether the biologists are right or wrong unless we are able to appreciate the nature of the arguments which they have to offer.
One would almost think that this was a self-evident proposition. I
- I think that Prof. Allman was the first to draw attention to it.