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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/343

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SOME EIGHTEENTH CENTURY EVOLUTIONISTS.

species in animals to be the infertility of their offspring. Monboddo thinks we can find other criteria that are as conclusive and easier to apply. We are entitled, he holds, to assign to the same species all animals which possess in common a large—but an undefined—number of similar characteristics, provided that these characteristics appear to be essential and 'such as have great influence upon their nature.' Now the orang-outang greatly resembles man in his external form, his anatomical structure, and even in his 'inward principle,' the 'natural habits and dispositions of the mind.' Upon this last point of resemblance Monboddo particularly likes to dilate; it seems to be his principal criterion of unity of species. The reason why the baboons and other monkeys are, in the published treatise, denied kinship with us is because, similar to us in other respects, they lack this intellectual resemblance. Of the intellectual parts and the charm of temperament of our brother the orang, Lord Monboddo exhibits an extremely exalted opinion: "The orang-outang has the human intelligence, as much as can be expected in an animal living without civility or arts: he has a disposition of mind mild, docile and humane: he has the sentiments and affections peculiar to our species, such as the sense of modesty, of honor and of justice; and likewise an attachment and friendship to one individual so strong in some instances that one friend will not survive the other: they live in society and have some arts of life; for they build huts and use an artificial weapon for attack and defence, viz., a stick; which no animal merely brute is known to do. They show also counsel and design, by carrying off creatures of our species for certain purposes, and keeping them for years together without doing them any harm; which no brute creature was ever known to do. They appear likewise to have some kind of civility among them, and to practice certain rites, such as that of burying the dead." The female orang-outang, it appears upon the testimony of Bontius the Batavian physician, is modest to the point of prudery; and some of the species are of so fine a sensibility that they shed tears copiously upon being parted from persons to whom they have become attached.

Monboddo 's arguments for his theory come somewhat nearer to the proper homological proofs of evolution when he points out that the os coccygis is plainly nothing but a rudimentary and abbreviated tail, and that the civilized man thus carries about upon him a tell-tale member which hopelessly betrays the secret of his ancestry. Monboddo seems to opine that the loss of the tail by mankind has been comparatively recent, and that it is by no means universal; in justification of this opinion he adduces a number of travelers' stories that are more diverting than plausible. There is, for example, the story told by a Swedish sailor—whose credibility was vouched for by Linnæus—who saw on one of the Nicobar Islands 'a race of men that trafficked and