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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/136

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It would be out of place here to attempt to indicate the full psychological bearing of these facts. But this much may be affirmed, that they put out of court all those who are prepared only to argue against the instinctive perception by the eye of the primary qualities of the external world. When stripped of all superfluous learning, the argument against this and every other alleged case of instinctive knowledge is simply that it is unscientific to assume an instinct when it is possible that the knowledge in question may have been acquired in the ordinary way. But the experiments that have been recounted are evidence that prior to experience chickens behave as if they already possessed an acquaintance with the established order of nature. A hungry chick that never tasted food is able, on seeing a fly or a spider for the first time, to bring into action muscles that were never so exercised before, and to perform a series of delicately adjusted movements that end in the capture of the insect. This I assert as the result of careful observation and experiment; and it cannot be answered but by observation and experiment at least as extensive. It is no doubt common for scientific men to discredit new facts, for no other reason than that they do not fit with theories that have been raised on too narrow foundations; but when they do this they are only geologists, or psychologists—they are not philosophers.

Before passing to the perceptions of the ear, it may be mentioned that, instead of hooding chickens, which had the advantage of enabling me to make many interesting observations on them when in a state of blindness, I occasionally put a few eggs, when just chipped, into a flannel bag made for the purpose. In this bag the hatching was completed artificially, and the chickens allowed to remain in the dark from one to three days. When placed in the light they deported themselves as regards sight in the manner already described. For the purpose

    a few hours, begin, immediately after the covering was removed, and while they still sat nestling together, to pick at each other's beaks and at specks of oatmeal when these were dropped on them, all noise being as far as possible avoided. (2) Each of the twenty chickens made subjects of the experiment described in the text, began to eat without any assistance from the sense of hearing; the greatest possible stillness being maintained and required during the experiment. (3) Chickens picked up food though rendered deaf while yet in the shell. One of these, deprived of both sight and hearing at its birth, was unhooded when three days old, and nine minutes after it vigorously pursued a large blue fly a distance of two feet, pecking at it several times: the bird proved perfectly deaf. Another with its ears similarly closed, was taken from the dark when a day and a half old, and when an experiment was being tried to ascertain whether it was perfectly deaf—which it turned out to be—it began to pick up and swallow small crumbs. What in this case really surprised me was that, the gum employed in closing its ears having also sealed up one of its eyes, it nevertheless picked up crumbs by sight of its one eye almost if not altogether as well as if it had had two.