Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/680

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ers. We must place all material coming at second-hand by itself, not as worthless, but as calling for special scrutiny. But so long as we have facts only, we have no science; such, indeed, are as the wood and stone for the building, and, unless worked up into scientific form, may prove an incumbrance. Let me, then, briefly indicate some of the problems that have seemed to myself and others as most urgently demanding solution.

One of the questions still far from clear is that which we had under discussion last year, viz.: In how far can the lower animals understand man's various forms of expression, especially his spoken words? A priori, we should not expect that creatures unable to invent words should have the capacity to understand them in the sense in which man himself does. I am inclined to think that more has been claimed for the inferior races of animals in this direction than an exact examination of the subject will warrant. On the other hand, we have probably very much underrated their capacity to comprehend our various forms of unspoken language. The subject calls for close observation. A kindred problem is the degree to which various kinds of animals can communicate with one another. This is a much more difficult subject, and it may prove that the creatures we despise as so very much inferior may have modes of subtile communication which we are, possibly, incapable even of comprehending.

The whole subject of the senses of the lower animals is a field for investigation both by the psychologist and the physiologist; all the more important, as it is scarcely possible to understand one form or degree of sensation adequately, except by comparison with its lower and higher forms. The field is as yet but little tilled, but enough has been done to suggest this very important question: Do the senses of the lower animals and those of man differ only in degree, or also in kind? Is the sense of smell, e. g., in the dog, merely more acute, or is it not also characteristically different? The latter seems the more probable, when we consider how different the hearing of man is in some respects (music) from that of other animals, even the dog.

Among wholly unsolved problems ranks the nature of the mental processes by which many different tribes of animals find their way back to the place from which they have been removed when the distances involved are great, and often when they have never traveled, so much as once the way by which they return.

Akin to this, possibly, though perhaps quite different, is the question as to the nature of the faculties by which animals are enabled to migrate. "How a small and tender bird coming from Africa or Spain, after traversing the sea, finds the very same hedge-row in the middle of England, where it made its nest last season, is truly marvelous" (Darwin). "We are much in need of more facts in regard to the migrations of animals; and it is hoped that the systematic work recently inaugurated by the American Ornithological Association may lead to