Isreal Smith Clare.

Library of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) online

. (page 12 of 60)
Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 12 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


have done so also; and conversely, if one came into being by special
miraculous creation, so also must the other, and not only the other, but
all the innumerable varieties of distinct species, now, and in past geo-
logical times, existing upon earth.

It is only when we come to the higher intellectual and moral faculties,
that the wide gulf appears between man and the animal creation, which it
is so difficult to bridge over. It is true that all or nearly all of these
faculties appear in a rudimentary state in animals, and that not only apes
and monkeys, but dogs, elephants, and others of the higher species, show
a certain amount of memory, reasoning power, affection, and other human



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. 93

qualities; while, on the other hand, some of the inferior races of mankind
show very little of them. The chimpanzee Sally, in the Zoological
Gardens, and Sir John Lubbock's dog Van, can count up to five; while it
is said that three is the limit of the counting power of some of the
Australian tribes. The gorilla, in his native forests, according to the
accounts of travellers, lives respectably with a single wife and family, and
is a better husband and parent than many of our upper ten who figure in
Divorce Courts. Still, there is this wide distinction, that even in the
highest animals these faculties remain rudimentary, and seem incapable
of progress, while even in the lowest races of man they have reached a
much higher level, and seem capable of almost unlimited development
No human race has yet been discovered which, however savage, is en-
tirely destitute of speech, and of the faculty of tool-making in the widest
sense of adapting natural objects and forces to human purposes. As
regards speech, no animal has advanced beyond the first rudimentary
stage of uttering a few simple sounds, which by their modulations and
accent give expression to their emotions. They are in the first stage of
of what Max Muller calls the "bow-wow and pooh-pooh theory," and
even in this they have advanced but a little way. They have a very few
root-sounds, and those are all emotional. A dog or ape can express love,
hatred, alarm, pain, or pleasure, but has not risen even to the height of
coining roots imitating sounds of nature such as "crack " and "splash,"
and still less to that which all human races have attained to, of multiplying
these primitive roots indefinitely, by extending them by some sort of mental
analogy, to more abstract ideas; and connecting them by some sort of
grammar, by which they are made to express a variety of shades of mean-
ing and modifications of human thought Animals understand their own
simple language perfectly well, and to a certain extent some of the higher
orders, such as dogs and monkeys, can be taught to understand human
language, but no animal has ever learned to speak in the sense of using
a series of articulate sounds to convey meaning, though, as in the case of
the parrot, the vocal organ may be there, capable of uttering imitation
words and sentences.

As regards' tool-making, no human race is known which has not shown
some faculty in this direction. The rudest existing tribes, such as Bush-
men or Mincopies, chip stones, and are acquainted with fire and with the
bow and arrow, spear, or some corresponding weapon for offence and
defence. The highest apes have not got beyond the stage of using objects
actually provided for them by nature, for definite objects. Thus mon-
keys enjoy the warmth of a fire and sit over it, but have never got the
length of putting on coals or sticks to keep it up, much less of kindling
it when extinguished. Sally and Mafuca perfectly understood the use of
the keeper's key, and would steal and hide it, and use it to let themselves
out of their cage; but no chimpanzee or gorilla has ever been known to
fashion any implement, or do more than USP tU >e sticks and stones pro-



94 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

vided by nature, for throwing at enemies or cracking nuts. Their near
est appproach to invention is shown in constructing rude huts or nests
from branches and leaves, for shelter and protection ; an art in which
both apes and savages are very inferior to most species of birds, to say
nothing of insects. The difference is a very fundamental one, for in the
case of man, we can trace a constant progression from the rudest form of
paleolithic chipped stones, up to the steam-engine and electric telegraph ;
but in the ape, we can discern no signs of progress, or of a capacity for
progress. It is conceivable that by taking a certain number of Bushmen
or Australians when young, placing them in a favorable environment,
and breeding selectively for intelligence, as we breed race-horses for speed,
or short-horns for fat, we might, in a few generations, produce a race far
advanced in culture; but it is not readily conceivable that we could do
the same with orangs or chimpanzees. It would be a most interesting
experiment to try how far we could go with them in this direction, but
unfortunately it cannot be tried, as we have no sufficient number of spec-
imens to begin with, and the race cannot be kept alive, and much less
perpetuated in our climate. Even if it could, there is no reason to ex-
pect that it would succeed up to the point of making a race of apes or
monkeys who could speak a primitive language or make primitive tools.
For the fundamental difference between them and man may be summed
up in the words " arrested development"

At an early age the difference between a young chimpanzee and a
young negro is not very great. The form and capacity of the skull, the
convolutions of the brain, and the intellectual and moral characters are
within a measurable distance of one another ; but as age advances, the
brain of the negro child continues to grow, and its intelligence to increase
up to manhood ; while in the case of the ape the sutures of the skull close,
the growth of the brain is arrested, and development takes the direction
of bony structure, giving rise to a projecting muzzle, protuberant crests
and ridges, and generally a more bestial appearance ; while the char-
acter undergoes a corresponding change and becomes less human-
like.

It is evident, therefore, that these two branches of the Primates, man
and ape, follow diverging lines of development, and can never be trans-
formed into one another, and that the "missing links" to connect the
human species with the common law of evolution of the animal kingdom,
are to be sought in other directions than that of direct descent from any
existing form of ape or monkey.

There are three lines of research which may be followed in looking
for traces of such missing links.

i. We may compare the higher with the lower varieties of the existing
human species, and see if we can discover any tendency towards a lower
form of ancestral development.

a. We may observe the results in the cases of arrested development



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. 95

which occur in those unfortunate beings who are born idiots or microce-
phali,that is, with deficient brains.

3. We may explore the records of the past, of which we have now
numerous remains preserved in the fossil state.

The first and second of these lines give us a certain amount of clear
and positive result. Comparing civilized man with the Negro, Austra-
lian, Bushman, and other inferior races, we invariably find differences,
which all tend in the direction of the primitive " pentadactyle, plantigrade,
bunodont." The brain is of less volume, its convolutions less clearly
marked, the bony development of the skull, face, and muzzle more pro-
nounced, the legs shorter and frailer, the arms longer, the stature less.
The most primitive savage races known to us are apparently those
Pygmies who, like the Akkas and Bushmen of Africa, the Negrillos of
Asiatic islands, some of the hill tribes of India, and the Digger Indians of
North America, have been driven everywhere into the most inaccessible
forests and mountains by the invasion of superior races. The average
stature of many of these does not exceed four feet, and in some instances
fall as low as three feet six inches ; and in structure, as well as in appear-
ance and intelligence, there is no doubt that they approximate towards
the type of monkeys.

In the case of idiots, the resemblance to an animal type is carried
much further, so far, indeed, that they may be almost described as furnish-
ing one of the missing links. As Vogt says, " we need only place the
skulls of the negro, chimpanzee, and idiot side by side, to show that the
idiot holds, in every respect, an intermediate place between them."

Thus the average weight of the brain of Europeans is about 49 oz.,
while that of Negroes is 44 i-4 oz., and in some of the inferior races it is
still lower, descending to about 35 oz. in the case of some skulls of bush-
women. This approaches very closely to the limit of 32 oz. which Gra-
tiolet and Broca assign as the lowest weight of brain at which human in-
telligence begins to be possible, but in many cases of small-headed idiots
the weight descends much lower, and has even been observed as low as
10 oz. The average weight of the brain of the large anthropoid apes is
estimated at about 20 oz. , and in some cases is even higher, so that the
brains of some of the inferior human races stand about half-way between
those of the superior races and of the anthropoids, which latter again
differ more from those of the lemurs and inferior monkeys than they do
from those of man.

The approximation towards primitive conditions shown by a compari-
son of superior with inferior races, and of normally developed men with
idiots and apes, might have been expected to derive further confirmation
from tracing back the third line of inquiry, that of fossil remains.

And yet it is just here, where we might expect to find conclusive
evidence, that it has hitherto failed us. Not only have we found no foss.'l
remains which stand to modern man in something of the same relation as



96 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

the Hipparion does to the horse, but nothing has yet been discovered
which seems to carry us so far in that direction as is done by a compari-
son with some of the existing savage rates. The number of skulls and
skeletons dating back to early Quaternary times, distant from us certainly
not less than 50,000 years, and probably much more, is now so great as
to enable us to speak confidently as to their character, and even to classify
their different types. The oldest is that known as the Canstadt type,
the next oldest that of Cro-Magnon. Now the Cro-Magnon type is not
only not a degraded one, but, physically speaking, that of a fine race,
tall in stature, with large and symmetrical brain-structure, and on the
whole on a par with some of the best modern races.

The Canstadt type is somewhat more rude, and in extreme cases, like
that of the celebrated Neanderthol skull, so simious in the low forehead
and massive bony ridges, that at first sight it was thought that one of the
missing links had really been discovered. But further inquiry showed
that this was only an extreme instance of a type which is presented by nu-
merous other skulls of a character entirely human, certainly not inferior to
that of existing savages, and which may be traced as surviving among
many of the best European races. Even in the extreme case of the Ne-
anderthol skull, the brain was of fair capacity, and a modern skull, that
of Lykke, a Dane of distinguished intellectual capacity, is preserved in
the museum at Copenhagen, which closely resembles it in all its principal
peculiarities.

If the Tertiary skulls of Olmo, Castelnedolo, and Calaveras are ac-
cepted as genuine, they carry us back much further in the same direction.
Everything about these remains is entirely human, and in the female skull
of Castelnedolo, M. Quatrefages thinks he can discover a specimen of one
of the milder and less savage forms of the Canstadt type.

Reports occasionally reach us of discoveries of alleged missing links,
but they lack confirmation. The nearest approach to a scientific fact is
afforded by a human jaw found in the Cave of La Naulette, in Belgium,
in which Mortillet and other good authorities assert that the genial tuber-
cle is wanting. This is a small bony excrescence on the chin, to which
the muscle of the tongue is attached, and is said to be necessary for the
movements of the tongue which render speech possible. It is absent in
the monkey and all non-speaking animals, and Mortillet asserts that in
the Naulette skull the bone is absent, and its place shows a hollow. He
argues that the primitive men of the Neanderthol or Canstadt type were
incapable of speech, and his conclusion is thought probable by several
good authorities. But the induction seems too wide to be drawn from a
single instance, and as far as I am aware, it has not been confirmed by
any other undoubted specimen of early palaeolithic man.

We are still therefore without any conclusive evidence of human evolu-
tion from fossils, and the negative evidence remains, that while so many
rik>oene and Miocene formations have been explored, and so many miss-



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. 97

ing links of other animal forms have been discovered, no such links have
yet been found in the case of the human species.

What can be said to these facts ? Only this, that if the missing links
exist, they must be sought much further back. From the wide diffusion
of mankind over nearly the whole of the habitable globe in early Quater-
nary times, it is clear that if the race originated like other animal races
from evolution, the origin must be sought in a much more remote antiq-
uity. The existence of the Dryopithecus and other anthropoid apes in
the Middle Miocene, shows that the development of another branch, so
closely allied to man in physical structure, had been completed in the
first half of the Tertiary period. Unless we assume direct descent, and not
parallel development for the two species, why should the starting-point of
man be later than that of the Dryopithecus ? The horse, whose ancestral
pedigree is the best established of any of the existing mammals, was already
in existence in the Pliocene period, and the Hipparion, which is the first
of the links connecting him with the primitive mammal, is first found in
the Miocene and not later than the Pliocene. Why should the develop-
ment of man have begun later, and followed a more rapid course than
that of the horse? Man, as M. Quatrefages observes, must, from his.
superior intelligence and knowledge of fire and clothing, have been more
able to resist changes of climate and environment than many of the animals
which undoubtedly outlived the change from the Tertiary to the Quarter-
nary period, and even survived the excessive rigor of the Glacial epoch.

If, as seems almost certain, the first origins of man are to be sought as
far back as the Miocene, we can hardly expect to find many specimens of
the missing link. If we find such an abundance of palaeolithic remains
early in the Quaternary period, it must be because the human race had
long existed, and been driven by the pressure of increasing population to
diffuse themselves over nearly the whole of the habitable globe. But this
radiation from the original birth-place must have been extremely slow,
and immense periods must have elapsed before it reached the countries
which have been the fields of scientific research. Again, great geological
changes have taken place since the Miocene period, and it is quite prob-
able that the earliest scene of man's development may be now submerged
beneath the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans.

In Miocene times, when Greenland and Spitzbergen supported a luxuriant
vegetation, such a continent would be found to the north, possibly in that
submerged northern continent which afforded a bridge for the passage of
so many forms of animal life between the Old and New Worlds. In
fact, many geologists incline to the conclusion that the more recent forms
of animal and vegetable life have migrated southwards from this circum-
polar Miocene land, and not northwards from tropical regions.

In any case the conclusion seems certain, from the failure to discover
any missing links in the later formations, that either a vast period of time
must have elapsed since man first began to be specialized from the



98 BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

tive mammalian type, or that he is an exception to the general law of
evolution, and owes his origin to some miraculous act of secondary super-
natural interference. The solution of this question must be sought in
two directions: firstly, the probable duration of the Quaternary period,
during which the existence of man as a component part of the Quaternary
fauna is no longer doubtful; secondly, the evidence for his existence
much farther back into the Tertiary period in common with many of the
animal types with which he is associated. This evidence is accumulating,
and any day may bring us conclusive proof by the discovery of some
"missing link" in the Miocene or Eocene formations, bearing the same
relation to man as the Hipparion and its ancestors do to the horse. In
the meantime, the attitude of the scientific world must be described as
one of eager expectation rather than of assured knowledge, and this most
important and interesting of all problems must be relegated among the
problems of the future.



CHAPTER VII.

ANIMAL MAGNETISM AND SPIRITUALISM.

THE volume by Messrs. Binet and Y6r6, published in the International
Scientific Series, gives a lucid view of the recent researches by
which the mysterious subjects comprised under the cognate heads of ani-
mal magnetism, hypnotism, somnambulism, catalepsy, hallucination, and
spiritualism have been, to a considerable extent, brought within the do-
main of experimental science. The existence of extraordinary phenomena
in this misty region had been known since the time of Mesmer, and at
times professors of what seemed to be something very like the black art,
had excited a temporary sensation, which died out as their tricks were ex-
posed, or as folly changed its fashion. But there was such an atmosphere
of imposture, delusion, and superstitious credulity about the whole subject,
that rational men, and especially men of science really competent to make
experimental inquiries, turned from it in disgust

The first step towards a really scientific inquiry was made by Dr. Braid,
a well-known surgeon in Manchester, about forty-five years ago. He
proved conclusively that the state known as mesmerism, or artificial som-
nambulism, could be produced by straining the eyes for a short time to
look at a given object.

A black wafer stuck on a white wall could do just as much as a Mes-
mer with his flowing robes and magic wand. This led to the further con-
clusion that anything that strained the attention, or in other words ex-
cited certain sensory centres of the brain abnormally, threw it, so to speak,
out of gear, and caused both sensory and motor nervous centres to behave
in a very extraordinary and unusual manner.

Thus it produced a state of anaesthesia, and if chloroform had not
proved a more generally efficacious and manageable agent, hypnotism
would probably have been employed to this day in surgical operations.
Healing effects also were produced, which bordered very closely on what
used to be considered as miraculous cures, and in several cases Braid liter-
ally made the blind to see and the lame to walk, by directing a stream of
vital energy to a paralyzed nerve.

Still more extraordinary were the effects produced in exalting the facul-
ties and paralyzing the will. Muscular force could in certain cases be so
increased that a limb became as rigid as a bar of iron, and memory so
stimulated that words and scenes scarcely noticed at the time, and long
since forgotten, started into life with wonderful vividness and accuracy.

99



ioo BEACON LIGHTS OF SCIENCE.

Thus in one of Dr. Braid's experiments, an ordinary Scotch servant-
girl startled him by repeating a passage from the Bible in Hebrew. It
turned out that she had been maid to a Scotch minister who was learn-
ing Hebrew, and who used to walk about his study reciting passages from
the Hebrew text.

Another instance shows the remarkable obliteration of the will in
hypnotized subjects. A puritanical old lady, to whom dancing was an
abomination, was sent capering about the room by playing a reel tune on
a piano, and telling her to join in the dance.

Dr. Braid's experiments, however, did not carry the subject much
farther than to make people believe that there was really something in it,
and the subsequent rise of spiritualism, with its vulgar machinery of
table-turning and spirit-rapping, and frequent exposures in police-courts,
once more repelled rational men and consigned the subject to oblivion.

But within the last few years a school has arisen of French medical
men, connected with the hospital of Salpetriere, at Paris, who have taken
up the subject in a thoroughly scientific spirit, and have arrived at truely
wonderful results. This hospital, affording as it does a constant supply
of hysterical and epileptic patients, presents peculiar facilities for con-
ducting a series of experiments. In cases of individual experiments there
is always danger of error from simulation on the part of the patient, or
delusion on that of the operator. But here the experiments were con-
ducted by a body of scientific and sceptical men, selected from the flower
of French surgeons and physicians, and the patients were so varied and
numerous, that by proper precautions it was possible to eliminate the
element of conscious imposture. This supply of a large number of
patients, suffering from hysteria and other nervous disorders, was an es-
sential element for success, for it is with this class of patients, and espec-
ially of female patients, that the phenomena can be produced with most
completeness and certainty. It is a moot point whether all human
organisms are subject more or less to the influence of hypnotism; but it
is certain that with healthy adults not more than one out of every five or
six subjects can be hypnotized at the first attempt, and a great majority
of those who can, are only so in a slight degree.

The liability, however, to hypnotic influence increases rapidly by prac-
tice, so that nervous patients on whom the process is repeated, may be
soon brought into a state in which the slightest hint or suggestion is suf-
ficient to produce the abnormal condition. Thus a highly sensitive
patient may be hypnotized, if led to believe that an operator is making
passes in an adjoining room, although he is not really there; while, on
the other hand, the weight of evidence is against any effect being pro-
duced by real passes, if the patient is totally unaware of anything of the
sort going on, or being expected.

But with the class of patients at the Salpetriere, the various effects can,
in many cases, be produced with as much precision and certainty, as



PROBLEMS OF THE FUTURE. loi

when a bar of iron is magnetized or de-magnetized by turning on or off
an electric current through a coil of copper wire surrounding it

These effects may be classed under two heads physical, and mental
or psychical. Not but that the latter depend ultimately on mechanical
movements of nerve-centres of the brain, but they are connected with will,
consciousness, and other phenomena which we are accustomed to con-
sider as mental. The purely physical efforts, again, may be classified
under three heads, viz. : those of lethargy, catalepsy, and somnambulism.
The divisions shade off into one another, but the typical states are suffi-
ciently distinct to justify this classification, which is due to M. Charcot,
the Director of the Salpetriere.

In lethargy the patient appears to be in the deepest sleep. In fact, all
the functions of mind and body, except the bare life, seem to be sus-
pended. The eyes are closed, the body is perfectly helpless ; the limbs
hang slackly down, and if they are raised they drop heavily into the same
position. The characteristic feature of this state is that any excitement
of the muscles either direct or through a stimulus applied to the connect-
ing motor nerve produces what is called a contracture. Thus if the ulnar
nerve is pressed, the third and fourth fingers of the corresponding hand
are forcibly contracted, and so for every other nerve and corresponding
muscle of the body. This evidently affords a perfect security against
simulation, for no one who was not a skilled anatomist would know what



Online LibraryIsreal Smith ClareLibrary of Universal history and popular science ... (Volume 20) → online text (page 12 of 60)