Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/463

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VOLUNTARY MOTION.

of the ages, incubated in the primitive submarine protoplasm, born as the simple monad, creeping for aeons of time as the blind-worm upon its belly, swimming for untold ages as the fish of the sea, flying as a bird in the air for hundreds of thousands of years, and, for centuries without number, roaming the earth as a mammal, and walking the globe erect as a man. But, all this time, immense and inconceivable as it is, would be too insignificant to enable one individual, unaided and alone, to learn (were it accomplished by learning) to execute all those infinite muscular contractions, and combinations of contractions, of which we have spoken; and we are only helped out of the difficulty by a knowledge of the fact that, in the evolution of the power of voluntary motion and of the will, in the animal kingdom, during all the immensity of the past ages, the organized experiences and acquisitions of all the millions of individuals of each species of animal life were, by the process of reproduction and the law of heredity, so completely interchanged and shuffled up with each other that the organized experiences and acquisitions of each individual became the organized experiences and acquisitions of the species, and the organized experiences and acquisitions of the species became the organized experiences and acquisitions of each individual.

We are now prepared to make an approximate estimate as to how much of our command over our voluntary muscles is acquired by education and experience, and how much is the result of the simple maturation of an inheritance, which evolution had prepared and stored up for us. If, as we have already shown, many millions of years would be required to enable one individual to acquire as perfect a control of all the voluntary muscles of the body as we know that each adult human being has, how much of that could be acquired by the individual himself after birth? Supposing him to reach the height of his muscular capabilities at thirty years, and that only 3,000,000 years, instead of many millions, are, as we have shown, necessary to enable him to obtain that complete mastery over his voluntary muscles which he actually possesses in. adult life, then his own individual acquirements would bear the same ratio to his inherited acquirements that 30 bears to 3,000,000, or that 1 bears to 100,000. Therefore, he inherits 99,999 parts, and learns but 1—a quantity so small as to dwindle into almost nothingness in the comparison.

An apparent objection to our conclusions is met with in the fact that the child does not use his 450 muscles, at birth, with the same ease, precision, and freedom, that he does in after-years; but, from the helplessness of the babe, which can scarcely be said to make a single voluntary movement, there is a gradual advance in the variety and extent of his control over his voluntary muscles, until we may say that, by the time he reaches adult life, he is completely master of his voluntary muscular system. If, then, it is true that we acquire by education and experience nothing, or almost nothing, of that vast department