Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/272

This page has been validated.
258
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

our brain to have, by a process of gradual improvement, become more highly developed than the brain of the men of the stone age, 100,000 years ago? And this brain, more perfect as it is by nature, has been, at an early period of its life, subjected to innumerable unconscious influences, and, later, to the conscious influences of education, which render it in some sense incommensurable with the brain of those as yet half-brute creatures.

The instinct of causality, the questioning about the "why" of things, which we greet in our children as a precious token of their awakening human intelligence, is by some philosophers regarded as an original characteristic of man's mind. Others hold even this to be a derived faculty—that it results from the faculty of generalization. So much is certain, that, among men in a low grade of culture, the instinct of causality is satisfied with reasons for things that hardly deserve the name of reasons. Nothing, we are told by Charles Martins, strikes one so forcibly in conversing with the inhabitants of the Sahara as their lack of development in this respect. These people have no idea of "cause" or of "law" as we understand those terms. For them it is the natural, and not the supernatural, that has no existence. The French officer of engineers who sinks through the gypsum crust of the desert an artesian well, thus procuring for them the blessing of a new date-grove, is, in their eyes, not a man of superior acquirement whose eye penetrates to the interior of the earth, and who knows how to discover what there is hid, but a miracle-worker, who, albeit an infidel, is on better terms with Allah than themselves, and who, like Moses of old, strikes water from the rock.

In that stage of human progress science does not as yet exist. It is the childhood period of our race, and as such it has many points of resemblance to the childhood of the individual man. As this is par excellence the period of unconscious inferences, so it is to be admitted that such inferences, guided by experiment, have led to the invention of the first tools. These were invented, not by one man, nor at one spot upon the earth, but by many, and at points very distant from one another. Thus originated levers, rollers, wedges, and axes; clubs and spears; slings, sarbacands, lassos; bows and arrows; oars, sails, and rudders; fishing nets, lines, and hooks; finally, the use of fire, by which, as by speech, man is best distinguished from animals, and which even anatomically stamps him with the character of a soot-stained lung. Man, therefore, at an early period was unquestionably entitled to the epithet bestowed upon him by Benjamin Franklin of "the tool-making animal."

 

II.—The Anthropomorphic Age.

Now, whatever confronted him in the shape of a compelling power of Nature, being either beyond or adverse to his own will, and whether the same affected him favorably or unfavorably, in it, owing to a propensity deeply rooted in the human mind, he recognized the act of