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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/342

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338
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

edited by Professor Knight.[1] Those opinions are entirely incidental to his theory of language. Monboddo nowhere discusses the general biological question of the transformation of species, and possibly did not believe in the transformist doctrine as such—so that it is perhaps too much to call him, with Professor Knight, 'a virtual evolutionist, holding an honoured place between Lucretius and Darwin.' The main contention of his book concerns the evolution of man's language, not of man himself, and is to the effect that language can have arisen only after man had for some time lived in the political state, 'which state is not natural to man any more than the language to which it gave birth.' In order to establish such a theory it is desirable, if not essential, to point to instances of societies of men living without language; and it is at this juncture that Monboddo meets the difficulty by bringing forward his doctrine about the orang-outang.

That doctrine is that man and the orang-outang are one and the same species. What the orang-outang is our ancestors were. The orang-outang and chimpanzee are varieties of men that have failed to acquire the art of speech; or—what comes to the same thing, for Monboddo—our ancestors were a community of orang-outangs who succeeded in acquiring that art. It is evident that in such a contention a belief in transformation is not necessarily implied; in fact, in order to establish our descent from the orang, Monboddo seems to think it necessary to establish strict identity of species—thus implying that species can not descend from other species. In the 'Origin and Progress' he explicitly declines to generalize his doctrine. "Though I hold the orang-outang to be of our species, it must not be supposed that I think the monkey or ape, with or without a tail, participates of our nature; on the contrary, I maintain that however much his form may resemble ours, he is, as Linnæus says of the Troglodyte, nee nostri generis nec sanguinis." In one of the letters in Professor Knight's volume, however, Monboddo writes: "I think the simian race is of kin to us, though not so nearly related (as the orang-outang). For the large monkeys and baboons appear to me to stand in the same relation to us that the ass does to the horse, or our gold-finch to the canarybird." What he conceived that relation to be, he does not tell us; but it may fairly be supposed that he was thinking of collateral descent from a common ancestral species.

Monboddo's statements of his position, and his arguments for it, are made somewhat ambiguous by the fact that he, like Herder, is not altogether clear as to what constitutes identity of species, though he notes Buffon's definition, which makes the only test of difference of


  1. 'Lord Monboddo and his Contemporaries,' London and New York, 1900. My citations from Monboddo are taken from the second edition of the 'Origin and Progress,' Edinburgh, 1774.