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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 84.djvu/525

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY

 

JUNE, 1914




FACTS AND FACTORS OF DEVELOPMENT[1]
By Professor EDWIN GRANT CONKLIN

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

Introduction

ONE of the greatest results of the doctrine of organic evolution has been the determination of man's place in nature. For many centuries it has been known that in bodily structures man is an animal—that he is born, nourished and developed, that he matures, reproduces and dies just as does the humblest animal or plant. For centuries it has been known that man belongs to that group of animals which have backbones, the vertebrates, to that class which have hair and suckle their young, the mammals, and to that order which have grasping hands, flat nails, and thoracic mammæ, the primates, which group includes also the monkeys and apes. But as long as it was supposed that every species was distinct in its origin from every other one, and that each arose by a special divine fiat, it was possible to maintain that man was absolutely distinct from the rest of the animal world, and that he had no kinship to the beasts, though undoubtedly he was made in their bodily image. But with the establishment of the doctrine of organic evolution this resemblance between man and the lower animals has come to have a new significance. The almost universal acceptance of this doctrine by scientific men, the many undoubted resemblances between man and the lower animals, and the discovery of the remains of lower types of man, real "missing links," has inevitably led to the conclusion that man also is a product of evolution, that he is a part of the great world of living things and not a being who stands apart in solitary grandeur in some isolated sphere.

But wholly aside from the doctrine of evolution, the fact that essential and fundamental resemblances exist among all kinds of organisms can not fail to impress thoughtful men. The great life processes are everywhere the same in principles, though varying greatly in details.

  1. First of the Norman W. Harris Lectures for 1914 at Northwestern University on "Heredity and Environment in the Development of Men"; to be published by the Princeton University Press.