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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/460

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

ventures to assert that man and all other living creatures are one with the mind-stuff of the inorganic world—and this, I believe, is only the logical extension of the genetic and mechanistic hypotheses. However this may be, science holds that human structure is animal structure, and that human lives are biological phenomena.

Man is structurally inferior in many respects to some of his zoological relatives—he is a degenerate, indeed, in many parts of the alimentary, muscular and skeletal systems—yet he finds in the higher development of his nervous system an advantage that offsets the weaknesses of his constitution elsewhere. He holds his supreme place by virtue only of superior and more effective control of his organization.

Behind their seeming structural differences, only one real distinction can be found to separate man from the apes—the higher development of the brain. The erect posture, the correlated modifications of skeletal and muscular structures, and apparently the powers of speech and reason, seem to be dependent upon the enlargement of this organ, which, so to speak, has pushed the face around under the brain-case. Therefore he who would be ὀ ἄνθρωπς—he who looks ahead—must needs stand erect in order to prevent his eyes from looking straight into the ground. But the most careful analysis has so far failed to detect any essential differences in either structural or functional respects between the human brain and the corresponding organs of the higher apes. In brief, then, differences in degree and not in kind or category seem to distinguish man from the apes—as far as science goes.

Moreover, the human body is a veritable museum of rare and interesting relics of antiquity—the useless vestiges and rudiments of structures that are more developed in other animals. The complete coat of hair of the embryo, the disappearing thirteenth rib, the ape-like and transitory clasping muscle of the new born infant's hand, the curvature of the lower limb and the hand-like foot of the embryo, these and scores of other characters are mutely eloquent witnesses to the past history of change that has brought man to his present place in nature. Embryology gives a vast amount of additional independent testimony. For like all embryo mammals and birds and reptiles, the human embryo possesses gill-slits, and fish-like heart and brain. Above all it begins life as a single cell. Zoology asks: What can these things mean, if they do not mean evolution and a common ancestry with other forms? The objection that no one has ever seen a one-celled organism evolve into a many-celled one, or into a fish or an ape, or into a man, the zoologist answers by placing upon the table the evidence that a single-cell, the human egg, actually does compass the whole history in becoming the almost inconceivably complex adult organism. The process can take place for it does take place. Paleontology also presents evidence relating to the history of our species, as the third support