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appear under the most dissimilar circumstances,
and in ages widely removed from one another.
The forces themselves, then, must be constants,
and we must seek for their origin far below and
away from the surface of recorded history. His-
tory, in fact, like the world around us, gives only
the resultant of these forces. An illustration may
be found in the proposition that is known in
mechanics as that of the '* parallelogram of forces."
In this, two forces meet at an angle, and lines are
drawn to represent them. The direction of the
lines gives the direction of the forces, and the lines
are drawn of a proper length to represent the
magnitude of the forces relatively to one another.
A parallelogram is constructed upon these lines,
and a diagonal is drawn from their point of meet-
ing to the opposite corner of the parallelogram.
This diagonal will represent the resultant of the
two forces under consideration, both in direction
and magnitude.


Recorded history, so far as our present purpose
is concerned, gives only this resultant of two com-
ponent forces, one of these being that which makes
for growth, and the other that which makes for
decay. Of the work of these two forces, apart
from the resultant, there neither is, nor can be,
any record. A further analogy, that is of the
greatest consequence, must be pointed out. As in
mechanics, so in history, from the resultant it is
impossible to divine either the direction or the
magnitude of the components, for the possible
ratios of direction and magnitude that would pro-
duce a given resultant are innumerable.

If, therefore, we would trace their operation in
history, we must first find the components them-
selves. Then, indeed, if our search is successful,
such a discovery will enable us to apportion to
each of them separately the part that it contributes
to the complex that we have before us.

The forces that we seek, or their more or less
analogous predecessors, must be ultimately de-
scended from forces that have been in operation
from the very beginning. We must, then, com-
mence our search, not where the conditions are
so intricate as to make it hopeless not, that is,
even among the records of the most humble
civilisation but far away amid the more simple
methods of animal life. For history itself reports
only the end of a vast journey. The journey
begins with the lowly beginnings of organic life,
and is continued in successive marches ; but it is
the arrival alone that concerns the historian.

When we survey the journey as a whole, we


recognise the broad fact of advance and growth.
Nevertheless it is interrupted occasionally by re-
treat and decay, as, for example, in the case of
the extinction of the monstrous fauna of the


Conditions of Growth.




Conditions of Decay.

Miocene period. Modern forms of life are not
directly descended from the forms that were then
most prominent ; another route was taken, and so
the advance continued. Such periods of decay
show that the journey has been accomplished in


a series of stages, by one method after another,
and not continuously. In this respect the manner
of organic progress shows a curiously close re-
semblance to the course of human invention. It
is a matter of common observation that, w^hen any
human contrivance has been brought to a high
\ stage of practical usefulness, further improvement
on the same lines becomes extremely difficult.
A state of high perfection is reached under the
given conditions, and then a further advance is
attained, not by improvements in the existing
mechanism, but by a fresh start under new con-
ditions. Thus, the sailing ship and the old system
of coaching, when they were superseded by steam
locomotion, were as nearly perfect as their circum-
stances permitted. The steam locomotive seems
now to admit of little further improvement, and
we are witnessing its supersession by electric
traction and the internal-combustion engine.

So also is it in the history of organic advance :
every stage will be found to be governed, not
primarily by a change of form, but by the domi-
' nance of a new method or idea, whereby life can
be maintained on a higher scale; and changes of
form, as in the case of human invention, are but
secondary. The outstanding point is, that each
stage in such a history of invention is dominated
by an entirely fresh method, and that the new
mechanism is but the expression thereof.

Again, it will be found that none of the more
important of the old methods is discarded ; but
that the new methods, one by one, are super-
imposed each upon its predecessor. The horse


still works for us, although the steam locomotive
is already passing into a less prominent position,
and it is still necessary for us to use our feet,
although the horse has been at our service for
unnumbered ages.

In like wise, it is evident that the primitive
methods of organic existence are not discarded,
but that the new method is superimposed upon
the old. Thus considered, the successive steps or
methods of maintaining life during the advance
from the protozoal organism to man may be shown
as follows :

1. Reflex Action.

2. Reflex Action plus Instinct.

3. Reflex Action plus Instinct plus Reason.

4. Reflex Action plus Instinct plus Reason
plus Religious Motive.

Here Reflex Action, the power of involuntary
response to an entirely external stimulus, is the
first and most primitive step. The value of such
power of response to some simple but frequently-
repeated external occurrence is obvious. It is by
the development of Reflex Action that the limpet
contrives to maintain life upon a wave-swept rock.
The waves break upon it, and, in response to the
blows, it must cling intermittently to the rock.
Thus life has succeeded in the occupation of a
more extended area, an area wherein the posses-
sion of reflex power is not merely useful, but is

Nevertheless, that area is strictly limited. In
the first place, the power is only called into action
by a stimulus external to the reflex mechanism


itself. Herein is to be found the disability of
merely reflex power, as contrasted with Instinct
as contrasted, that is, with the possession of useful
inborn impulses.

In the second place, the reflex mechanism,
under the pressure of its accustomed stimulus,
acts inevitably even though the action may be
self-destructive. Thus, for instance, the respiratory
centre is called into action by a stimulus that,
in its case, is a deficiency of oxygen in the blood.
The besoin de 7^espirer is imperative whether the
air inspired be pure or impure carbonic acid or
atmospheric air. Granted the stimulus, there is
no choice : so far as the reflex mechanism is con-
cerned, it is helplessly at the mercy of its immediate
surroundings. In respect to this second disability
Instinct, the succeeding stage, stands in no contrast
to reflex power. The inborn impulses of Instinct
are obeyed just as blindly as the external stimuli
that lead to reflex movement. Thus, for example,
the tragic migrations of the Scandinavian lemming
sometimes end at last by drowning in an attempt
to cross the sea: the roaming impulse may be,
in a majority of their migrations, most useful, but
it is followed as unswervingly as though it were
a reflex action. Pure Instinct, knowing nothing
beyond the immediate gratification of the inborn
impulse, is at the mercy of its immediate sur-
roundings no less than Reflex Action. Thus reflex
power and Instinct share the second disability in
common, and it is not until we reach the develop-
ment of Reason the power of drawing inferences
that we find it made good by the conscious and


deliberate pursuit of interest. In due course
Reason will be found to be marred by a disability
peculiar to itself a disability that, in its turn,
is only to be made good by the adoption of yet
another line of advance.



The higher plane of existence that becomes pos-
sible with the appearance of the method of the
inborn impulses of Instinct is most interesting. But
before we proceed it will be well to be definite as
to the connotation of the words "pure Instinct,"
or, more briefly, '' Instinct," when they are used
in these pages. By them we shall mean the pos-
session of inherited inborn impulse, and the absence
of any tincture of Reason any tincture, that is,
of the power of drawing inferences.

Our interest is excited by the fact that, when
we have seen not only the advantages of Instinct,
but also the limitations of its usefulness, then
we shall perceive the exact manner in which the
succeeding stage of Reason came to be of value.

We have already compared these stages to the
steps of human invention in overcoming the diffi-
culties of locomotion ; and now the analogy may be
carried yet further. The methods of dealing with
this difficulty vary from age to age, becoming, age
by age, more and more efficient. Nevertheless, the
difficulty itself the difficulty of locomotion ever
remains the same problem. It is only the solutions
that are progressive, and succeed one to another.

So it is with the stages of organic advance.



The methods vary whereby life is maintained on
higher and higher planes, but the problem where-
with these methods deal does not itself undergo
any change. What, then, is this underlying and
invariable difficulty ?

The life of the individual organism, as we know
it, is a transitory possession : the life of the species
or Race is age-long, and the life of the permanent
Race is dependent upon the acts of the transitory
Individual. The standing problem is to bring
about the reconciliation of these two in effect, it
is to bring to bear upon the Individual such in-
fluences as shall lead him to secure for the Race a
future in which he has no part or lot.

This is the riddle of the Sphinx to which a
satisfactory answer must be returned under pain
of racial death. At every stage under Reflex
Power, under Instinct, under Reason, under
Religious Motive and at all times, a more or less
efficient modus Vivendi between the transitory and
the permanent must be provided, for extinction is
the penalty of failure to do so.

By what method, then, has this problem been
answered by Instinct ? What are the advantages
of Instinct ?

The problem of the maintenance of the Race
has been solved under the method of Instinct by
the possession of certain inborn impulses, inherited
and transmissible, leading to the perpetuation of
the species. Instinct, that is, transmutes, in the
mind of the individual animal, that which in reality
is essential to racial survival into the gratification
of the immediate impulse.


To the purely instinctive animal, his real in-
terest is all unknown. Knowing nothing beyond
his impulse, he is wholly dominated by it : the
gratification may or may not be to his own
ultimate advantage, but such a doubt cannot rise
above a mental horizon that is bounded by Instinct.
Instinct leaves no judgment to the Individual : the
impulse is inborn and is unquestionable. Thus
regarded, it will be seen that Instinct is purely an
appurtenance of the Race, acts in the interest of
the Race, is inherited by every generation, and
again transmitted, securing the subordination of
the Individual to the Race. An individual end
appears to be sought, but a racial end is in reality
achieved. Its advantages belong to the Race. But
what are its disadvantages ? How as apart from
the species or the Race does the Individual him-
self fare ? How far is his interest consulted, not
in appearance but in reality, under the method of
Instinct ? Let us take the more highly organised
species as more relative to our present argument.
There we find that every individual is impelled, by
an Instinct over which he can exercise no control,
to the care of the young of the species. The point
that it is important here to note is that, beyond
the gratification of the parental Instinct, the adult
individual is in no way advantaged by these labours.
Probably the study of the domesticated animals,
by whom we are chiefly surrounded, gives us no
adequate measure of the severity of these labours
as they exist, let us say, in the jungle. Certainly
it can give us no measure of the dangers and
sufferings there incurred at the bidding of this


tyrannous Instinct. Yet anyone who has watched
a pair of martins, under our own eaves, feeding
their young brood, persuading them to fly, and
preparing them for their migration, can form some
conception of it. The young beaks are incessantly
open and clamorous. Through the livelong day
the parents, thin, and working to the point of
exhaustion, must hunt for the sake of the insatiable
young. This is repeated year after year, through-
out the life of the parents, and generation after
generation takes up the labour. The parents are
but the tools of the Instinct that is the possession
of the Race. Again the advantage of Instinct falls
wholly to the Race ; but here there is a definite dis-
advantage to the Individual : he is deceived by the
gratification of an inborn impulse. His true indi-
vidual interest does not enter into the scheme
at all.

But this instinctive subordination of the Indi-
vidual to the Race has a further effect, an effect
in which we can trace the sacrifice of the Indi-
vidual in favour of the Race upon a yet greater

As a result of the operation of the two instincts
to which we have referred, the animal world brings
forth and rears its kind in numbers that far exceed
the limits of possible sustenance. Thus, these
labours, already so costly to the Individual, bring
about and maintain at a maximum the most ruth-
less competition. The struggle for life begins
soon after life itself, and thereafter knows no
respite. As Sir E. Ray Lankester says,^ in speak-

^ Kingdom of Man, p. 11. Constable & Co., London, 1907.


ing of the stress of competition in the animal
world : " The earth's surface is practically full,
that is to say, fully occupied. Only one pair can
grow up to take the place of the pair male and
female which have launched a dozen, or it may
be as many as a hundred thousand young indi-
viduals on the world. . . . Animal population does
not increase." The animal world, then, has long
ago reached the limit of possible sustenance: its
numbers cannot increase. Thus, while Instinct
leads to the most rapid reproduction that is
possible to any given species, and moreover sub-
ordinates the lives of the parents to the rearing of
the young who are brought forth in such pro-
fusion, only one pair can grow up and succeed to
the position of their parents. In this multitude of
young no two will be absolutely alike ; all will
vary more or less from one another. As the com-
petition is for the absolute necessities of life, the
actual struggle is intei^ se among the young of
every species. The result is that those two who
reach adult life and take the place of their parents
are the two whose variations have fitted them
most accurately for the circumstances under which
they will have to live. The enormous majority
die before the age of parenthood is reached, and
leave no mark upon the future of their race. A
tiny minority, a chosen band selected by the
accuracy of their adaptation to their surroundings,
alone survives, and through them alone the Race
is continued.

It is difficult to realise the awful severity of
the conditions that thus come into existence, but


it is easily perceived that the end secured is the
organic advance and perfection of the Race. Once
again, this racial advantage is achieved at the cost
of the Individual. The method of Instinct not
only condemns individuals, after a brief glimpse
of life, to die in myriads, but exposes the survivors
to a competition that is internecine and lifelong.
We find that, under this method, all the advan-
tages are made over to the Race ; the suffering and
the effort to the Individual. We find that this suf-
fering shows itself in two forms, the first being the
stress involved in the rearing of the young of the
species, and the second, consequent upon the first,
being the stress involved in the competition for
life. By force of his inherited and inborn im-
pulses the Individual is held in subjugation to the
Race, and thus Instinct, answering the riddle of the
Sphinx, brings about the co-ordination of the
transitory and the permanent.

Leaving this aspect of the subject, we have
to go a step further, and to ask whether a method
that is so costly to the Individual is not imperfect,
inherently and in itself? Is all this suffering in-
evitable, or can we discover an underlying flaw
the cause of its imperfection ?

Such a flaw is to be found in its waste of effort
a wastefulness that is practically without a limit.
The myriads of the slain are the product of the
stress of ages; immeasurable effort has been ex-
pended on their evolution, and yet they are cast
away as worthless. The history of progress by the
method of Instinct is the record of a wastefulness
that is beyond our powers of conception.



Nevertheless, this wastefulness is inevitable ; it
is necessarily inherent in the instinctive method.
When we grant the method, then we find that
there is no violation of the well-recognised parsi-
mony of nature. The result is the best that the
method will admit. The flaw is in the method.
To throw light upon this point we must ask the
question : " What can we discern in the method
itself that has necessitated the destruction of life
that has gone on everywhere throughout the



In the vegetable world it is clear that the waste
is inevitable that those among whom it occurs
have not any possible means of learning to avoid it.
To the plant, experience is a word of no meaning
advance is only possible by survival of the best-
adapted variety, and destruction of the remainder.

Neither does pure Instinct great as are its
advantages provide any escape from this neces-
sity. To the purely instinctive animal, as to the
plant, experience is still a word of no meaning.
As we have seen, his impulses are inborn and un-
questionable. He is constructed to live or die
according to their efficiency. They are inherited ;
they belong to the Race ; no possible personal
experience can dictate to him his course of action.
Instinct alone speaks in the imperative mood.

Perhaps our meaning will be most happily illus-
trated by the following observation, recorded by
Darwin : ^ '^ Another and smaller species of Fur-

^ Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the
Countries visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. ^^ Beagle" round the
World, pp. 95 et seq. Murray, London, 1870.


narius (F. Cenicularms) resembles the oven-bird.
. . . From its affinity the Spaniards call it * casa-
rita ' (or little house-builder), although its nidifica-
tion is quite different. The casarita builds its nest
at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical hole, which
is said to extend horizontally to nearly six feet
underground. Several of the country people told
me that, when boys, they had attempted to dig
out the nest, but had scarcely ever succeeded in
getting to the end of the passage. The bird
chooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by the
side of a road or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca)
the walls round the houses are built of hardened
mud ; and I noticed one, which enclosed a court-
yard where I lodged, was bored through by round
holes in a score of places. On asking the owner
the cause of this, he bitterly complained of the
little casarita, several of which I afterwards ob-
served at work. It is rather curious to find how in-
capable these birds must be of acquiring any notion
of thickness, for although they were constantly
flitting over the low wall, they continued vainly
to bore through it, thinking it an excellent bank
for their nests. I do not doubt that each bird,
as often as it came to daylight on the opposite
side, was greatly surprised at the marvellous fact."
Here is an example of the limitation of Instinct
the flaw that involves the wastefulness of the
method. The casarita and we may take her
case as typical was entirely obedient to Instinct.
Yet for want of the faculty of drawing infer-
ences in a word, from the want of Reason she
failed in her attempt at such an essential as nidi-


fication. She flitted to and fro across the wall,
saw how thin it was, but could not draw the
inference that a tunnel driven into it would
merely lead to daylight again, and that an attempt
at nesting there would be labour in vain. Her
instinct was followed blindly. Her faculties did
not include the power of drawing inferences, and
so experience was of no value to her. The waste
that was going on was inevitable, and inherent
in the method under which she worked.

It will, however, be said that many of the
animals that we know do possess, in a certain
degree, the power of reasoning, and that we are
overstating their helplessness. This is not only
true, but is a fact of the most profound signifi-
cance. The animals that we know are those
who have emerged victorious from ages of com-
petition so vast that they can only be expressed
in terms of geological time. We have some
grounds for a belief that the destructiveness of
what we have called the flaw in Instinct was
operative on a far greater scale in the past, and
that the animals with whom we are acquainted
have been the survivors, just in virtue of the
possession of this modicum of Reason. It is prob-
able that a purely instinctive fauna disappeared
before the onset of the very beginnings of Reason,
unable to live in the presence of the competition
of animals whose methods were, to a greater or
lesser degree, not so '* wasteful" as their own.

Thus Sir E. Ray Lankester, F.R.S., writes:^
" The extinct mammals Titanotherium and Dino-

^ Extinct Animals^ p. 209. A. Constable & Co., 1905.


ceras have brains one-eighth the bulk of living
mammals the same size, such as rhinoceros and
hippopotamus. So it v^^as with the huge extinct
reptiles. In some the head itself was ridiculously-
small according to our notions of customary pro-
portion, and even in others, such as Triceratops,
when the bony and muscular parts were big, as
in rhinoceros, yet the brain was incredibly small.
It could have been passed all along the spinal
canal in which the spinal cord lies, and was in pro-
portion to bulk of body a tenth the size of that
of a crocodile."

We may fairly attribute to the small-brained
creatures of past geological periods an existence
that, to all intents and purposes, was entirely
instinctive in character. Their extinction seems
to have coincided in point of time with the earliest
appearance of the larger-brained creatures who
became the primitive ancestors of the animals
that we see around us to-day. There was a
"fault" in the line of descent, and a fresh start
was made. The small-brained the flying lizards
and their congeners became extinct, and, with
few exceptions, they were not the ancestors of
our present fauna. These exceptions, of which
we may take the elephant as an example, are
also instructive, for they appear to have developed
an increased size of the brain at the same period,
and thus to have escaped extinction. In every
case the victory of survival passed to the larger-
brained animals whose descendants we know.

Furthermore, we have to recognise that these,
their descendants, possess not only the larger


brain, but also a tincture of Reason. We may
justly infer that some such tincture went with
the larger brain among their ancestors that the
victory was due to this and to the less " wasteful "
method of life that came with it. To quote
Sir E. Ray Lankester again : ^ "It is a very
striking fact that it was not in the ancestors of
man alone that this increase in the size of the
brain took place at this period, viz. the Miocene.
... It seems that we have to imagine that the
adaptation of mammalian form to the various
conditions of life had in Miocene times reached
a point when further alteration and elaboration
of the various types which we know existed could

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Online LibraryArthur John HubbardThe fate of empires; being an inquiry into the stability of civilisation → online text (page 2 of 14)