Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/73

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
65
EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN INTELLECT.
he always asks if it has a mouth. The other day he was examining a plant, to see if it had a mouth. He was told not to break it, and he said, "Oh, it won't bite, because I can't find any mouth."

Nowhere in the animal kingdom do we find the psychological elements of reasoning save where there is a mental life made up of the definite feelings which I have called 'ideas' but they spring up like magic as soon as we get in a child a body of such ideas. If we have traced satisfactorily the evolution of a life of ideas from the animal life of vague sense impressions and impulses we may be reasonably sure that no difficulty awaits us in following the life of ideas in its course from the chaotic dream of early childhood to the logical world-view of the adult scientist.

In a very short time we have come a long way, from the simple learning of the minnow or chick to the science and logic of man. The general frame of mind which one acquires from the study of animal behavior and of the mental development of young children makes our hypothesis seem vital and probable. If the facts did eventually corroborate it we should have an eminently simple genesis of human faculty, for we could put together the gist of our contention in a few words. We should say:

"The function of intellect is to provide a means of modifying our reactions to the circumstances of life so that we may secure pleasure, the symptom of welfare. Its general law is that when in a certain situation an animal acts so that pleasure results, that act is selected from all those performed and associated with that situation so that when the situation recurs the act will be more likely to follow than it was before, that on the contrary the acts which when performed in a certain situation have brought discomfort tend to be dissociated from that situation. The intellectual evolution of the race consists in an increase in the number, delicacy, complexity, permanence and speed of formation of such associations. In man this increase reaches such a point that an apparently new type of mind results, which conceals the real continuity of the process. This mental evolution parallels the evolution of the cell structures of the brain from fewer and simpler and grosser to many and complex and delicate."

Nowhere more truly than in his mental capacities is man a part of nature. His instincts, that is his inborn tendencies to feel and act in certain ways, show throughout marks of kinship with the lower animals, especially with our nearest relatives physically, the monkeys. His sense powers show no new creation. His intellect we have seen to be a simple though extended variation from the general animal sort. This again is presaged by the similar variation in the case of the monkeys. Amongst the minds of animals that of man leads, not as a demigod from another planet, but as a king from the same race.