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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/305

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THE PROBLEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

of consciousness until we can renew it with much larger resources of knowledge.

The psychologists ought now to apply the comparative method on a grand scale. They are just beginning to use it. Years of patient labor must pass by, but the reward will be very great. The psychic life of animals must be minutely observed, the conditions of observation carefully regulated and the results recorded item by item. The time has passed by for making generalizations on the basis of our common, vague and often inexact notions concerning the habits of animals. Exact experimental evidence will furnish a rich crop of psychological discovery. Scientific psychology is the most backward in its development of all the great divisions of biology. It needs, however, little courage to prophesy that it will bring forth results of momentous importance to mankind. After data have been gathered, generalization will follow which, it may be hoped, will lead us on to the understanding of even consciousness itself.

The teleological impress is stamped on all life. Vital functions have a purpose. The purpose is always the maintenance of the individual or of the race in its environment. The entire evolution of plants and animals is essentially the evolution of the means of adjustment of the organism to external conditions. According to the views I have laid before you, consciousness is a conspicuous, a commanding, factor of adjustment in animals. Its superiority is so great that it has been, so to speak, eagerly seized upon by natural selection and provided with constantly improved instruments to work with. A concrete illustration will render the conception clearer. In the lowest animals, the cœlenterates, in which we can recognize sense organs, the structure of them is very simple, and they serve as organs of touch and of chemical sensation resembling taste. In certain jelly fishes we find added special organs of orientation and pigmented spots for the perception of light. In worms we have true eyes and vision. In vertebrates we encounter true sense of smell. Fishes cannot hear, but in the higher vertebrates, that is from the amphibians up, there are true auditory organs. In short, both the senses once evolved are improved and also new senses are added. It is perfectly conceivable that there should be yet other senses, radically different from any we know. Another illustration, and equally forcible, of the evolution of aids to consciousness might be drawn from the comparative history of the motor systems, passing from the simple contractile thread to the striated muscle fiber, from the primitive diffuse musculature of a hydroid to the highly specialized and correlated muscles of a mammal.

It is interesting to consider the evolution of adjustment to external reality in its broadest features. In the lowest animals the range of the possible adjustment is very limited. In them not only is the variety