Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/214

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deprived of its legitimate exercise, have always been a disturbing force in society. On the other hand, emasculation, instead of—as might have been perhaps, a priori, anticipated—increasing the powers of body and mind, enfeebles both. What would be the moral and social effects of the appearance of a neutral form of the human species analogous to the working bee or ant it is impossible to foresee; but we may venture to surmise that they would not be entirely desirable.[1]

It may be suggested that the institution of caste among so many human races is an adumbration of the natural castes existing among social insects, each devoted to some especial function.

The remarkable intelligence of ants has from very early ages made a profound impression on man. Cicero considered them possessed of "mind, reason, and memory."[2] To the present day those who watch the formicary, not in order to defend prepossessions, but to arrive at truth, come to the same conclusion, unpopular though it may be. We sometimes wonder whether ants, like men, consider themselves the sole reasonable beings on the globe, prove their position by sound a priori arguments, and accuse those who take a different view of "skepticism" or "agnosticism."

When it is no longer possible to meet with a flat denial all instances of correct inferences drawn and of happy contrivances adopted by brutes in general and by ants in particular, the writers who still claim reason as the exclusive prerogative of man bring forward a curious objection: they urge that we should likewise collect proofs of animal folly and stupidity, and seem to think that these latter instances would nullify any conclusion that might be drawn from the former. That instances are numerous where some animal fails to draw an inference—very-obvious, in our view—or to adopt some very simple expedient, we do not deny, and that their conduct hence seems strangely checkered, we admit. What, e. g., can seem more inconsistent than the following cases? Sir John Lubbock, to test the intelligence of ants, placed a strip of paper so as to serve as a bridge or ladder for some ants which were carrying their pupæ by a very roundabout way. The slip was, however, purposely left short of its destination by some small fraction of an inch. It would have been very easy for the ants either to have dropped themselves and their burden down this short distance, or to have handed the pupæ to the other ants below, or to have piled up a small amount of earth from below, so as to meet the slip of paper, and thus make the descending road continuous. They adopted, however, none of these expedients, but continued to travel the roundabout way.

  1. It is very remarkable that among the Termites, which, though improperly called "white ants," belong to a different order of insects, neuters exist. These, however, do not appear to be imperfectly developed females. It would thus seem that among insects social organization necessitates a class of sexless individuals.
  2. "Mens, ratio, et memoria."