Page:Origin of Species 1872.djvu/227

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CHAPTER VIII.


Instinct.


Instincts comparable with habits, but different in their origin — Instincts graduated — Aphides and ants — Instincts variable — Domestic instincts, their origin — Natural instincts of the cuckoo, molothrus, ostrich, and parasitic bees — Slave-making ants — Hive-bee, its cell-making instinct — Changes of instinct and structure not necessarily simultaneous — Difficulties on the theory of the Natural Selection of instincts — Neuter or sterile insects — Summary.


Many instincts are so wonderful that their development will probably appear to the reader a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory. I may here premise, that I have nothing to do with the origin of the mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself. We are concerned only with the diversities of instinct and of the other mental faculties in animals of the same class.

I will not attempt any definition of instinct. It would be easy to show that several distinct mental actions are commonly embraced by this term; but every one understands what is meant, when it is said that instinct impels the cuckoo to migrate and to lay her eggs in other birds' nests. An action, which we ourselves require experience to enable us to perform, when performed by an animal, more especially by a very young one, without experience, and when performed by many individuals in the same way, without their knowing for what purpose it is performed, is usually said to be instinctive. But I could show that none of these characters are universal. A little dose of judgment or reason, as Pierre Huber expresses it, often comes into play, even with animals low in the scale of nature.

Frederick Cuvier and several of the older metaphysicians have compared instinct with habit. This comparison gives, I think, an accurate notion of the frame of mind under which an instinctive action is performed, but not necessarily of its origin. How unconsciously many habitual actions are performed, indeed not rarely in direct opposition to our conscious will! yet they may be modified by the will or reason. Habits easily become associated with other habits, with certain periods of time and states of the body. When once acquired, they often remain constant throughout life.