Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/105

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WHO WAS PRIMITIVE MAN?

man was as old as or older than the last glacial period, anthropologists on the other hand are inclining more and more to the opinion that this pre-glacial and inter-glacial man was really quite as human and quite as capable of civilization as any race now living, except perhaps a few of the most cultivated European stocks. Instead of being the "missing link," our cave-man turns out to be a mere average savage, living a rude and unintelligent life, to be sure, but quite capable, so far as regards his faculties, of becoming as civilized as the Sandwich-Islanders have become within our own memory.

It is, of course, obvious that these facts may be easily turned by opponents of Darwinism into powerful arguments against the theory of man's evolution from a lower form. "Here we accept all your facts," says the defender of the fixity of species; "we allow that man has inhabited the earth for as long a period as you choose, say 200,000 years; and, when we go down to the very beginning of that period, what do we meet with? A missing link? An evolving ape? No; nothing of the sort; a man exactly the same as the man of the present day. However far back we push our researches in the past, we find either no man at all, or else the same man that we now know. Your theory of evolution is disproved by the very facts which you were wont to allege in its favor. We used at first to argue against your facts, because we did not see in what direction they really pointed: nowadays we allow them all, and we find in them the very best bulwark of our own belief."

This argument, or something very like it, has lately been employed with great effect by Dr. Mitchell, of Edinburgh, in his able and interesting work, "The Past in the Present." The Scotch arch├Žologist there shows good grounds for supposing that the cave-men and the river-drift men were really, in faculties and potentialities, the equals of most existing savages, if not even of our own average English population. He gives excellent reasons for the belief that while we have advanced very greatly in social organization and in material comfort since that early date, we may have advanced very little, if at all, in brain-power or in potentiality of thought. There are still isolated communities in out-of-the-way parts of Scotland which use hand-made pottery of the rudest primeval type, and spin with stone whorls of the prehistoric pattern; while their works of imitative art are ruder and more unlike the originals they depict than anything ever attempted by the earliest known men. Yet these people, as Dr. Mitchell rightly observes, are fully the equals in intelligence and moral feeling of their contemporaries in the great manufacturing centers. Hence we must not confound mere material backwardness with lowness of type or intellectual deficiency. It is probable, nay, almost certain, that the ordinary cave-man was superior in ingenuity and mental power to nine out of ten among our modern savages, and quite equal to the fair run of our own laboring classes.