The Zoologist/4th series, vol 5 (1901)/Issue 715/Notices of New Books
NOTICES OF NEW BOOKS.
When Prof. Lloyd Morgan publishes a book, we know we shall have a real contribution to the little-known subject of animal psychology. Much, very much, is now published on this phase of evolution, and the study of the habits or behaviour of animals other than man demands two factors—carefully observed facts, and the psychological method. The last is here present in its best form; the first is probably still insufficient for the purpose.
The attitude of the writer of this interesting volume to the position of the two dominant schools of thought on the subject, represented by the Neo-Lamarckians and Neo-Darwinians, is one of caution. To the query, "Are acquired modes of behaviour inherited?" a negative answer "is here provisionally accepted." "Granted that acquired modifications, as such, are not directly inherited, they may none the less afford the conditions under which coincident variations escape elimination"; and we read again, "The acceptance of the conclusion that acquired modes of behaviour are not hereditary, nowise commits us to the belief that heredity has nothing whatever to do with them."
Not only are observational facts required, but the right interpretation of those observations is a matter of no little difficulty, requiring a trained mind and a scientific method. A rapid observation too frequently promotes a hasty conclusion. Prof. Lloyd Morgan gives a good instance of the danger of this mental pitfall. He had been experimenting with a dog and a crooked stick. A man who was passing, and who had paused for a couple of minutes to watch the proceedings, said, "Clever dog that, sir; he knows where the hitch do lie." The remark was the characteristic outcome of two minutes' chance observation, and was directly opposed in its essence to the conclusions prompted by the author's half-hour study of the antecedent actions. The detailed observations of our contributor, Mr. Selous, in these pages are an object-lesson in possible bionomics.
The author is somewhat pessimistic as to the solution of the riddle of life. He regards the questions as to "What makes organic matter behave as we see it behave? what drives the wheels of life, as it drives the planets in their courses? what impels the egg to go through its series of developmental changes?" &c., as beyond the sphere of science, which should give one answer and one only: "Frankly, I do not know; that lies outside my province; ask my sister Metaphysics." But this advice does not prevent Prof. Lloyd Morgan from giving us a really wonderful contribution to the psychological interpretation of animal behaviour; every sentence bears the imprimatur of "thought out." Much more evidence might have been procured, but what is given has been selected with care, and is exhaustively and judicially considered and placed before the reader, to whom the verdict must be left. As an example, we will give one more extract:—"The question has again and again been asked: Do animals reason? And different answers are given by those who are substantially in agreement as to the facts and their interpretation, but are not in agreement as to their use of the word 'reason.' Perhaps, if the question assume the form, Are animals capable of explaining their own acts and the causes of phenomena? the position of those who find the evidence of their doing so insufficient may be placed in a clearer light. This is what is generally meant by the statement that animals have probably not reached the level of rational beings."
Problems of Evolution. By F.W. Headley. Duckworth & Co.
This is an able advocacy of the universal action of natural selection, written by a Neo-Darwinian, who we read belongs "to those Darwinians who have thrown overboard Lamarckism"; in other words, followers of a Darwinism freed from all taint of Lamarckian heresy. The book itself belongs to that everincreasing literature to which the conception of "Darwinism" has given birth, and is one which cannot be neglected by the student of the dominant phase of thought which now distinctly influences all philosophy, and less evidently moulds ethics and theology as well. Darwinism is no longer the sole property of the naturalist; it has invaded the "social contract," and the doctrine of "natural selection" as loosely used in social economy is often little different from utilitarianism, or what has been well called the cult of laisser faire. The last remarks are opportune, because Mr. Headley devotes the second part of his book to "Problems of Human Evolution," and in these pages we can now only refer to his first instalment dealing with the factors of organic evolution.
Mr. Headley surveys these factors under the usual different classifications, viz. Heredity, Variation and Death, the Lamarckian Principle, Natural and Sexual Selection, and Isolation, and describes and estimates their powers from the standpoint of his own analysis. The result is a most readable and instructive representation of much evolutionary evidence with advocacy of "selectionist" principles. (The term "selectionist" must now be recognised; it is largely used, and seems to have an extra Darwinian definition.) If there were no struggle for existence, many animals would, in a short time, become dominant by number. We have had many examples given us, and now Mr. Headley, who is an ornithologist, adduces the case of the House-Martin (Chelidon urbica):—"It is quite common for them to have three broods in the year, and we are not beyond the mark in allowing them four in each brood. In order to avoid any possible exaggeration, we will assume that each pair has eight young ones each season. At this rate, if there were no deaths, there would in five years be six thousand two hundred and forty-eight House-Martins sprung from one pair."
We are glad to find our author is free from the crass Cartesianism so prevalent among many "Neo-Darwinians" of the present day. "The problem of the origin of consciousness puts us on the horns of a dilemma. Either consciousness is present in the lowest forms of life, or else it was introduced at a higher stage of development. The latter alternative is abhorrent to the very principle of evolution. We are driven, then, to believe that even the micro-organisms, whether animal or vegetable, have some consciousness, however dim."
Reminiscences of a Falconer. By Major Charles Hawkins Fisher.John C. Nimmo.
This is the account of an old sport genially described by one of its devoted followers, and if we cannot all go "a hawking," we shall still find much sound ornithological information in the volume. It has become almost a proverb that Hawk does not eat Hawk, but Major Fisher gives us instances of a trained Falcon striking dead and "coolly eating a Sparrow-Hawk," and of another trained Falcon most pertinaciously chasing a Merlin. We also read in reference to the nidification of Rooks that it is believed by many falconers and game-keepers, "and specially by that observant class of men, the shepherds on the Wiltshire downs, that Rooks are not adult and do not breed, and are not allowed by the others to make a nest until they are fully two years old or upwards." We were also not aware that Hawks that have been well entered to game may be lost for a time and be none the worse for it. "Indeed, they may be improved by a temporary restoration to freedom, and forget nothing of what they have learnt."
The author charms us with his sincere love of the sport and its Falcons. After one exciting and successful chase of a Woodcock, the Hawk was not disturbed from her well-earned quarry. The whiskey was served out, "and we drank her health all round. Then we, too, set to work at our lunch, and when this very tame pet Hawk had nearly done hers, I went up to her and took her up, and having replaced the swivel in her jesses, and the leash in her swivel, and cleaned her feet and wiped her beak and kissed her, I fastened her to a stone in a lonely burn close by, and witnessed her bathe and dry herself in the sun, preening her feathers to her and our entire satisfaction."
This should be a sport for our recently annexed South African territories. The Transvaal veld is an unequalled area for the pursuit, birds of prey are plentiful, and the right sort can be easily obtained and afterwards trained. Coursers, Plovers, Sand-Grouse, and Francolins would provide good quarry, and we suggest falconry and this book as its introduction to those sportsmen who will gladly welcome a change of occupation to that which has now so long been dominant in that region.
The illustrations, chiefly portraits, are excellent. It may perhaps interest the subject of the frontispiece to know that he has a double in Surrey, and that the writer of this notice very much astonished a peaceful and non-sporting gentleman by showing him the portrait of Major Fisher as that of himself.
In no carping spirit of criticism, we would point out that the same narrative is given on both pages 54 and 99, which seems to prove that the printer's "reader" had not the keen eye of the trained Falcon.
The very name of Cardiff inspires a view of docks and coalmines rather than the sylvan haunts of birds, and we read in the introduction to this very handsomely printed avian enumeration that the establishment of the iron industry and the working of the coal-measures have contributed to reduce the number and variety of "our bird species." Still, Glamorgan is not wholly given up to the devastating instincts of commercial man, and a list of its birds compiled to-day will be material to compare a hundred years hence with what its avian fauna may be then.
The list contains the names of two hundred and thirty-five species, including such rarities as the Rusty Crackle (Scoleocophagus ferrugineus), a native of boreal regions, shot near Cardiff in 1881; the Little Carolina Crake (Porzana Carolina), captured at Cardiff in 1888; and Pallas's Great Grey Shrike (Lanius major), shot near Bridgend in 1881. We quite agree with the condemnation of the practice of providing a violent death for strange birds; but may we not ask how we should have recorded the presence of two out of the three above birds without the aid of the gun. It is pleasant reading to find that the Kingfisher still abounds, that the Goldfinch is on the increase, the Hawfinch is pushing westward and is breeding in the county, the Merlin is regarded as common, the Kestrel is abundant, and the Sparrow-Hawk fairly numerous, notwithstanding the persecution of the gamekeeper; but, on the other hand, the Marsh-Harrier is supposed to be now extinct, and the Hen-Harrier as almost so, the Chough has decreased very much of late years, while the same remark applies to the Land-Rail.
The excellent print and general "get up" of this book is worthy of all commendation.