Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/491

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ÆSTHETICISM AND RELIGION IN ANIMALS.

while its heel is carried in the air and never touches the ground, thus attaining a springiness and swiftness of motion beyond the reach of the human plantigrade. Whatever lightness and elasticity of step man possesses is due less to the perfection of his bodily organism than to the uplifting influence of his intellect. With the decay of his mental powers Homo sapiens slouches like a bear, as may be observed in the ungainly and unsteady gait of cretins and idiots, however vigorous they may be physically.

The objection urged by Prof. Kedny against the doctrine of evolution—namely, that man's helpless infancy proves him to be different in kind from other animals—ignores the fact that the soko and many other species of the genus simia pass through a period of infant helplessness almost as long as that of some savage tribes. The babyhood of the anthropoid apes is much longer and more helpless than that of the cynopithecoids, the platyrhines, or the lemurs; and the higher the order of the monkeys, the more they resemble man in this respect. Mr. Wallace captured a young orang-outang, which had to be fed and cared for like a human infant, lay rolling on the ground with all fours in the air, and could hardly walk when it was three months old; whereas a macacus of the same age seemed to have already acquired full use of its limbs and mental faculties. The long duration of this complete dependence on parental care in the case of the human infant, so far from disproving the doctrine of evolution, furnishes one of the strongest arguments in its favor, since it helps to explain how man gradually attained his intellectual primacy among the primates. The American platyrhines, marmosets, and other smaller long-tailed monkeys reach maturity in three or four years, whereas the African dog-headed apes require ten or twelve years for their full development, and with the larger anthropoids this period of growth is nearly as long as with human beings.

The fact that quadrumana have flexible organs of prehension, can grasp and handle things and imitate human actions, gives them a great advantage over quadrupeds. A dog may be as intelligent as a chimpanzee, but he is unable to "show off" as well; he can not untie knots with his paws, nor put on clothes, nor eat with knife and fork, nor uncork bottles, nor drink wine by lifting the glass to his lips, nor use a toothpick, nor perform a variety of tricks which make the monkey appear to be relatively far more richly endowed with mental gifts than is actually the case, and throw into the shade the most conspicuous exploits of the poodle and the collie.

Nevertheless, this manual and digital dexterity can scarcely be overestimated as a means of disciplining the mind and increas-