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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/285

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EDUCATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION OF NATURE

Recent studies[1] suggesting that the human brain has not increased in average size for 20,000 years or more, also point to improvement in cerebral organization as the distinctive feature of the civilized brain. Further, both Kaes and Vulpius have shown that there are additions to the association fibers in parts of the brain long after thirty-eight years of age.

Every age brings its change of view. Acts that were once considered the most virtuous are to-day abominable. Why did not the people of past ages see at least some of these things as we do and know that they were wrong? What will future generations say of us in this respect? Are we never to reach a stage of culture that will enable us to think out these questions experimentally and intellectually, so that we may jump the trying experience of intervening ages? Are we never to eliminate dark ages? The processes of human progress are extremely crude. They are simply naturalistic. Now one of the ultimate functions of education, considered in the large, is to develop a science of progress. The naturalistic way is too expensive.

We are comparing the animals with their instinctive view of nature in its simplicity—an inherited mode of behavior developed on the basis of narrow experience—with man's mode of action. Man has developed his larger view of nature as complex through a more varied experience, but he acts to-day preponderantly on the instinctive method of the animals. While he has acquired the use of reason this has been only grafted on to the instinctive method of reaction. The cause of man's tardiness in abandoning the instinctive and adopting the intelligent method is that science is of modern and comparatively recent growth, and it is science that has entirely changed our conception of things by giving us a new view of life in revealing more of the inner nature of the universe. This has made the simple animal view inadequate. Wireless telegraphy by which England and America converse with one another through space, the X-ray with which we see through matter, and radio-activity which has established the complexity of the atom, indicate the incredible revolution that is going on in the character and scope of man's universe. But the animal takes the simple, immediate, and direct view of the world. It assumes and accepts without question that it sees the whole thing in its simple perceptions, and man has hardly at all emancipated himself from this method of interpreting.

We have found ability to profit by experiences the test of survival among all animals. With organisms low in the scale this learning is not an individual matter, but belongs to the species and takes the form of adaptation, and the advantage is bought at an enormous cost of life. A little higher, and individuals break away somewhat from inherited modes of behavior and action begins to be influenced by past


  1. Amer. Jour. of Insanity, Vol. 58, p. 1.