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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/303

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THE PROBLEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

another with resemblance. The difference which resembles we term an homology. Our arm, the bird's wing, the lizard's front leg are homologous. The conception of homology both of structure and of function lies at the basis of all biological science, which must be and remain incomprehensible to any mind not thoroughly imbued with this conception. Only those who are deficient in this respect can fail to understand that the evidence is overwhelming that animals have a consciousness homologous with the human consciousness. The proof is conclusive. As regards at least mammals—I think we could safely say as regards vertebrates—the proof is the whole sum of our knowledge of the structure, functions and life of these animals.

As we descend the animal scale to lower forms there is no break and therefore no point in the descent where we can say here animal consciousness ends, and animals below are without it. It seems inevitable therefore to admit that consciousness extends far down through the animal kingdom, certainly at least as far down as there are animals with sense organs or even the most rudimentary nervous system. It is unsatisfactory to rely chiefly on the anatomical evidence for the answer to our query. We await eagerly results from psychological experiments on the lower invertebrates. A sense organ however implies consciousness, and since such organs occur among cœlenterates we are led to assign consciousness to these animals.

The series of considerations which we have had before us lead directly to the conclusion that the development and improvement of consciousness has been the most important, really the dominant, factor in the evolution of the animal series. The sense organs have been multiplied and perfected in order to supply consciousness with a richer, more varied and more trustworthy store of symbols corresponding to external conditions. The nervous system has grown vastly in complexity in order to permit a constantly increasing variety in the time dislocations of sensation. The motor and allied apparatus have been multiplied and perfected in order to supply consciousness with more possibilities of adjustment to external reality which might be advantageous.

If we thus assign to consciousness the leading role in animal evolution we must supplement our hypothesis by another, namely, that conscious actions are primary; reflex and instinctive actions secondary, or, in other words, that, for the benefit of the organism, conscious actions have been transformed into reflexes and instincts. Unfortunately we must rely chiefly on future physiological and psychological experiments to determine the truth of this hypothesis. Its verification, however, is suggested by certain facts in the comparative physiology of the vertebrate nervous system, which tend to show that in the lower forms (amphibia) a certain degree of consciousness presides over the