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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/142

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

babe can suck—a reflex action; and Mr. Herbert Spencer describes all instinct as 'compound reflex action'; but it seems to be well known that if spoon-fed, and not put to the breast, it soon loses the power of drawing milk. Similarly a chicken that has not heard the call of the mother until eight or ten days old then hears it as if it heard it not. I regret to find that on this point my notes are not so full as I could wish, or as they might have been. There is, however, an account of one chicken that could not be returned to the mother when ten days old. The hen followed it, and tried to entice it in every way; still it continually left her and ran to the house or to any person of whom it caught sight. This it persisted in doing, though beaten back with a small branch dozens of times, and indeed cruelly maltreated. It was also placed under the mother at night, but it again left her in the morning. Something more curious, and of a different kind, came to light in the case of three chickens that I kept hooded until nearly four days old—a longer time than any I have yet spoken of. Each of these on being unhooded evinced the greatest horror of me, dashing off in the opposite direction whenever I sought to approach it. The table on which they were unhooded stood before a window, and each in its turn beat against the glass like a wild bird. One of them darted behind some books, and squeezing itself into a corner, remained cowering for a length of time. We might guess at the meaning of this strange and exceptional wildness; but the odd fact is enough for my present purpose. Whatever might have been the meaning of this marked change in their mental constitution—had they been unhooded on the previous day they would have run to me instead of from me—it could not have been the effect of experience; it must have resulted wholly from changes in their own organization.

The only theory in explanation of the phenomena of instinct that has an air of science about it, is Mr. Spencer's doctrine of Inherited Acquisition. The laws of association explain our intellectual operations, and enable us to understand how all our knowledge may be derived from experience. A chicken comes on a bee, and imagining it has found a dainty morsel, seizes the insect, but is stung, and suffers badly. Henceforth bees are avoided; they can be neither seen nor heard without a shudder of fear. Now, if we can realize how such an association as this—how what one individual learns by experience may, in any degree, be transmitted to the progeny of that individual—we have a key to the mystery of instinct. Instinct in the present generation is the product of the accumulated experiences of past generations. The plausibility of this hypothesis, however, is not appreciated by the majority of even the educated portion of the community. But the reason is not far to seek. Educated men, even materialists—their own positive statements to the contrary notwithstanding—have not yet quite escaped from the habit