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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 46/January 1895/Babies and Monkeys


IT is still a matter of scientific discussion whether man is descended from catarrhine or platyrrhine monkeys, or from the Lemuroidea; but there is little question that his ancestors were monkeylike, that they were decidedly prognathous, that they were covered with hair, that they had long tails, that they were arboreal, and that they used both the pedes and manus as hands—the former more than the latter. Man's ancestors, therefore, were very much like monkeys—they were simial or simioid, "monkeylike"; and could he see them at the present day, an unzoölogical critic would probably call them "monkeys" without much cavil.

The Latin word simus (Greek σιμός), whence our term "simia, monkey," means literally, "flat or snub nosed." This very feature, so striking in monkeys as to have become a name for all of them, is very remarkable in our babies. Viewed in profile, a baby's nose will appear to make a concave curve, the nostrils being obliquely truncate. The length of the nose is only equal to the breadth across the nostrils, and those are remarkably large, parted by a broad septum. During life nothing changes more than the nose. As the baby grows into a child the length of the nose increases faster than the breadth, so the snub-nosed baby grows into a more or less long-nosed and, it may be, hooknosed adult. The snub nose remains a marked feature for a longer or shorter period of life—this is a matter of sex and parentage or race; but the change is gradual and imperceptible, generally more expeditious in the male than in the female, correlated with various other characters, such as intellectual attainments or weak constitution, and producing somewhat different results. The change, however, in the shape of the nose is one that continues throughout life. During maturity and senescence the bridge of the nose tends, as it did during childhood, to become more and more prominent: often it will become more and more convex, so that extreme old age may frequently develop an aquiline nose, even in some cases to produce the nut-cracker type of nose-meeting-chin so noticeable in old people.

It is only by a study of the face in profile, and of the face of the same individual at different ages of life, that the above changes can be properly noticed. The three-quarter photographs which we leave behind at the present day, faked up by the photographer's art, will be useless to the men of the future as records to tell what manner of people we were. With lapse of time, the widening of the family circle, and the various incidents of a workaday life, it is doubtful if these pictures will be regarded with any reverence or affection by our posterity from a merely sentimental point of view. But this would be changed if photographs were, as should be all photographs which aim to give a true picture of the face, taken just two ways—profile and full face. They would then be of scientific value; and even a dilettante scientific amateur of the future would esteem a family collection as something of interest for the lessons in evolution or anthropology it might teach: perchance, the theme might be the "Inheritance of Acquired Characters." The want of such photographs at the present day makes it extremely difficult to impress upon the layman or to prove to the scientist how much people change facially during life. Three-quarter views give but a feeble idea of the development. Nothing is more remarkable than a comparison of the same-sized profile views of the same person at six and at thirty years of age: the growth of the nose and the development of the forehead are so great that the jaws appear to have diminished in size; and this is really what the jaws have done, in proportion to the whole face.

It is a fond delusion with visitors and nurses that the baby is just like its father or mother. No one who has had that scientific training necessary to x^roper observation could make such a statement. It is a gross libel, sometimes on the baby, sometimes on the parents. Properly taken photographs show that the proportions of nearly every feature in the face of a baby and an adult are entirely different; but the greatest difference exists in the size and shape of the nose, and the size of the jaws. If, when adult, we had features like our babies, we should have a countenance of a negroid type. Except positive evidence be available, it would hardly be credible that the small-jawed, long and prominent-nosed individual, with high forehead, was in babyhood prognathous, short and snub-nosed, with a remarkably receding forehead. The difference resulting from the change during life as shown by two photographs reduced to the same size, not the same proportion, is greater than the difference between many species; yet the very fact of such metabolism and the possibility of its earlier transmission from generation to generation may be the basis of specific mutation, without calling in the aid of natural, or sexual, or physiological selection to account for that phenomenon.

The prognathism of a child is less noticeable than it should be, because such prognathism, owing to the disposition of weight, alters the whole carriage of the head; and the difference in the method of carrying the head obscures the prognathism to a certain extent. Prognathism is a heritage from quadrupedal ancestors, and is a necessary result of the carriage of the head enforced by a four-footed mode of progression. The attainment of the upright body-position of man tends during the course of his life to reduce prognathism—an adult is far less prognathous than when a baby; and it has tended during phyletic development to the same end—the European, the more developed form, is less prognathous than the negro. Reduction of prognathism leads to a better carriage of the head, because the weight is borne nearer the perpendicular, which is economy. Economy, it may be remarked, is most important to the man whose expenditure and income are too nearly on a par; and this dictum of necessity applies to civilized man, whose income in the shape of physical and nervous energy is much less, and his expenditure far greater, than that of the savage. But there are other factors at work: the civilized man requires the enlargement of the frontal capacity of his skull, and material saved in jaw-making can be utilized in skull-enlargement. Then there is the lessened use of teeth and jaws in mastication, and therefore a smaller demand upon those organs: these and other causes all work to the same end—a reduction of prognathism. If any one will draw to the same size the facial profile of a cat, a monkey, a baby, and an adult man, he will have represented four stages in the reduction of prognathism, and he will begin to understand to what the prognathous baby points. He will learn that in a designed biped the heavy jaw is a piece of faulty construction reflecting no credit on an artificer, whereas it is a necessary accompaniment of a biped developed from a quadrumanous or quadrupedal animal, imperfectly, incompletely, and gradually adapting himself to the bipedal position.

Attention may be called to another feature pointing out the same lesson of alteration and imperfect adaptation. Below the nose runs a furrow parting the ui)per lip. In the faces of babies and children this furrow is very noticeable: from the evolutionist's point of view. it is one of the most remarkable characters of the face. It tends to become obsolete in old age, and it is not seen among the catarrhine monkeys. Among the platyrrhines it is but feebly developed; but in lemurs it is in a more pronounced state—there is a depressed septum to which the two side pieces are joined—the upper lip, in fact, is nearly split in two, but held together by a depressed piece of flesh. In the Marsupialia and Rodentia the lip is practically in two pieces, and each piece is capable of being moved separately. This is the "harelip"; and its method of use may well be noticed in a hare or a rabbit when eating. The furrow, therefore, in a child's lip points to this: that our ancestors possessed, not a single upper lip, as we do now, but two upper lips, one beneath each nostril, both capable of independent movement. In course of time these two lips have, owing to the nonrequirement of independent movement, grown together to form the single lip which we now possess; but the line of junction is not perfect, and so the furrow results; and sometimes there is a distinct scar down the middle of the furrow. The possession of this furrowed upper lip by children is one of the strongest pieces of evidence against the descent of man from any catarrhine, and in favor of his descent from platyrrhines, or from lemurs through the intervention of platyrrhinelike ancestors, of which there are no exact living representatives.

Another feature of a child's face is capable of similar explanation as a vestigial relic of its ancestors' other modes of life. The pouchlike cheeks of a baby are particularly noticeable, and they may be especially remarked in the representation of cherubs adorning ecclesiastical monuments. In such connection it savors of sacrilege to suggest that these inflated baby-cheeks, so much admired by all mothers, and regarded by churchmen as particular features of a hypothetical higher sort of beings—angels—are really the attributes of a lower order, and are the vestiges of cheek-pouches, possessed for storing away food, as in Cercopithecus, a monkey in which this habit of storing may be observed at the Zoölogical Gardens, if visitors feed it.

There is no need to enter into embryological or anatomical details concerning the characters for which children are indebted to monkeys. They possess in common with their adults a rudimentary tail hidden beneath the skin; but this is not a fact that every one can verify on the instant. Yet those who have the care of children can easly see for themselves the scar which the loss of the tail has still left on children's bodies—a scar which is curiously similar to what would obtain after amputation of a tail. Just at the base of the vertebral column—exactly where the tail would protrude through the flesh if it were functionally active—is a deep circular depression, sufficient almost for the insertion of the little finger. In young babies it is very noticeable; and nurses, while wondering what purpose it serves, abuse it as a place which is difficult to wash. In older children it gradually becomes shallower; and in those about five or seven years old it may or may not be shown. That it marks the place where a tail formerly protruded in our ancestors there can be no doubt from its shape and its position. I was curious to see if the anthropoid apes, which share with man this loss or rather atrophy of the tail, also exhibited this tail-mark; and I was interested to notice, in an adult female gorilla in the British Museum, that the tail-mark was as large as a florin. Its persistence to the adult stage in the case of the gorilla and its earlier loss in man is probably accounted for b} the latter having attained a more perfect upright carriage of the body, and therefore a consequent increase of necessary muscles have occupied the somewhat vacant space.

Other characters, however, tell the same tale of adaptation. The proportion in length between the arms and legs of a baby when first born is very different to what obtains later in life. To use a somewhat incorrect phrase, the legs are in an undeveloped condition, and they have to grow quicker, in proportion, than the arms. The greater development of the arms in proportion to the legs in a newborn infant points to ancestors who used the arms more than the legs for sustaining the weight of their bodies, and this would mean that they lived an arboreal life. Dr. Louis Robinson, in an interesting article,[1] has fully illustrated the reason for superior arm-power in infants by his experiments on the hanging power of babies.

In the method of using its hands the baby shows to the full its descent from arboreal ancestors. When it wishes to take hold of anything, alike a glass or a flowerpot, it does not, like an adult, put the hand round it, or even put the thumb inside to use as a lever. On the contrary, it places all the fingers inside, makes no use of the thumb, and clasps the rim of the flowerpot between the fingers and the palm of the hand. This is exactly the action which would be acquired from arboreal ancestors: in going from bough to bough they would take their hands palms first, and would strike from above downward, grasping the bough with the fingers. Such is the action of an infant picking up a cup. So little use have some monkeys made of the thumb that abortion has resulted; and in the most arboreal species of monkeys known the fingers have grown together because the whole hand was used merely as a grasping-hook. It is probably from our ancestors' excessive use of the hands in bough-grasping that our babies inherit a certain inability to move the fingers with freedom, or to extend the hand, especially if the least degree cold. The power to extend the fingers perfectly straight is oftentimes not obtained by children at six or seven years of age.

Turning to the characteristics of an infant's feet and its habits of movement therewith, much instruction may be obtained by noticing these matters. Darwin observed the infant's ability to twist the sole sideways in a straight line with the inner part of the leg, a necessary ability to a tree-climbing animal; and he cited it as evidence of monkey ancestry. Considering how little an adult can move his or her toes, the power of movement of these organs by an infant is something remarkable, and it points to some ancestral environment of very different character from that which surrounds man at the present day. The big toe the infant can project at an angle from the next toe, and the space between the big toe and the next is really the remnant of a space similar to that seen between our thumb and forefinger, when the toe was used for grasping like a thumb, and was opposable. It is not, as churchmen would have us believe, a relic of sandal-wearing times, and a special provision of a deity for the patriarchs to strap on their sandals: it is a relic of monkey ancestry taken advantage of by the ancients as the most appropriate place for the sandal strap. The big toe further reveals its former thumblike use in the fact that it and the thumb are the only two of the digits in which the last joint can be bent at will and independently of moving others. This can readily be exemplified in the thumb: the baby is fond of showing its power in this direction with its big toe. Further, a baby can move any of its toes independently, and it can move them one from another so as to make a v between any of them. As it grows older it loses this power and also the power of turning its ankle; but that it has such power over its muscles when young points to ancestors who used their feet more than their hands as organs for picking up small objects, and who relied on their arms and hands for supporting their bodies. Now we have reversed this process; we require our feet merely as pedestals, and as such they would be quite as serviceable to us did we possess but one toe. In time we may come to that monodactylous condition, for abortion of the toes is proceeding very rapidly. In a great measure we owe this to boots; and the more we try to hasten, unconsciously perhaps, this process of toe-abortion, the more we shall suffer. We suffer enough as it is in this respect. Certainly the sandal-wearing ancients were not free from encouraging the toe-abortion; for the examination of any old statuary will reveal a very marked abortion of the little toe, as a consequence of the strap-pressure; and there is even a certain amount of elevation of the outside of the foot from the ground, partial atrophy. Though from a hygienic point of view sandals were preferable to boots, nothing at all, except in extreme climatic conditions, would have been preferable to sandals. Boots are a curse to civilization. Every now and then one receives missionary circulars asking for sympathy and pity on behalf of children running about without shoes and stockings, citing it as a terrible proof of poverty. After all, it is the best thing for them; many doctors are prescribing "barefootedness" in cases of limb-weakness; and it is a good thing for all young children. There has been too much fussy meddlesomeness in these respects, particularly among savage races. Thus, Mr. J. Theodore Bent says: "The missionaries who teach and insist on clothing among races accustomed to nudity by heredity are responsible for three evils: firstly, the appearance of lung diseases among them; secondly, the spread of vermin among them; and thirdly, the disappearance from among them of inherent and natural modesty." It is a terrible indictment of the clothes-culture. When shall we be educated enough to know that clothing and decency are not synonymous terms, and that a fig leaf is a greater outrage on good taste than is absolute nudity?

It is remarkable how much unnecessary suffering is inflicted on infants and children because parents fail to recognize the ancestry from "animals,"[2] and consequently the instincts, different from those of adults, which children have inherited. Thus Dr. Louis Robinson has pointed out that as soon as children are able to shift for themselves in bed, they go to sleep on their stomachs with their limbs curled up under them; and he has rightly traced this to quadrupedal ancestors. Experience shows that if mothers would only recognize this ancestry, and would put their children to bed less enveloped in clothes and less tightly tucked up, so that these children might easily shift into the position which inherited instinct tells them to assume, they (the mothers) would have far more comfortable nights and better-tempered, healthier children.

Even the very manner in which babies are got off to sleep—by rocking in the arms or in a cradle—is an inheritance of arboreal or monkey like ancestors, because the rocking is an imitation of the to-and-fro swaying of the branches, and such swaying would be the natural accompaniment of sleep with arboreal dwellers. Any rhythmic motion seems to leave a very marked impression on organisms. Thus, sailors after a long voyage complain of their inability to sleep upon land; because the sleep has been too long associated with the rocking of the vessel. More remarkable still, however, is the result of some experiments made by Mr. Francis Darwin and Miss D. Pertz[3] on The Curvature of Plants. They used an intermittent klinostat, arranged so as to reverse the influence of gravity on a growing shoot or stalk every half hour. When the clock was stopped they found that the rhythmic movement still continued, that the shoot or stalk actually curved in opposition to gravity for the half-hourly interval before finally obeying the impulse to grow downward. In the case of heliotrophic curvature the effect was even more marked. "After the clock was stopped the seedlings curved away from the light for two half-hourly intervals separated by one of curvature toward the light, so strongly were they imbued with the artificially induced rhythm." What is remarkable in these cases is the effect produced after a very short space of time. It would, therefore, be reasonable to conclude that the effect of thousands of years' association—as in the case of rocking with sleep in arboreal dwellers—would still be found to influence children very long after arboreal life had been abandoned.

It is certainly singular to find that nursery ditties contain reference to matters arboreal, as if there was some lingering tradition in the human race of ancestors who lived in trees. Thus the English mother or nurse in rocking her infant to sleep sings:

Lullaby baby on the tree top;
When the wind blows the cradle shall rock;
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle, and all.

Somewhat similar is a German nursery ditty:

Schlafe, schlaf ein, mein Kind.
Horch! da draussen der Wind;
Wie das Vöglein im grünen Baum,
Wiegt er auch dich in süssem Traum.

Nowhere is a stage of a former arboreal life, with its consequent climbing instinct, manifested more conspicuously than in the insane desire of an infant to climb upstairs. As soon as crawling is an accomplishment the climbing of stairs is attempted. Remain on the level and crawl about rooms the child will not; it must make for the nearest stairs to climb with loud crows of delight. Tumbles and consequent bruises have no effect on the child's climbing instinct, and really it regards them far less than the prohibition of its climbing feats by a too fond and foolish mother. It is better to let the child climb. Even a fall down the whole flight of stairs only checks the climbing mania temporarily, in order that the infant may loudly express its disapprobation of its own clumsiness, and may vent its anger in howls. But this episode over, it will, within a quarter of an hour, bravely attack the stairs again, having quite forgotten its late disaster. An instinct held so tenaciously can not be regarded as something fortuitous. Darwin considered that the tree-climbing propensity of boys was a relic of monkey ancestors, but he made no observation on the stair-climbing instinct of infants. Mothers, unfortunately, do not always possess enough scientific calmness to watch an infant climb stairs with every chance of a tumble, so they are apt to cut short such experiments. But if left alone—and that is the best plan—it is remarkable how soon the child learns not to tumble; and then the mother need have no more fear.

The early efforts of a child in learning to walk indicate the habits of an animal to whom the upright position is something strange. The baby is decidedly bowlegged, but this shape of leg would be exactly that necessary for tree-climbing quadrumana. When it is first stood up, the baby puts only the outer parts of its feet to the ground, and turns its toes in. It does not allow its heels to touch the ground. When a monkey walks on a branch it does not allow the homologous part to our heel to touch the branch. When a dog sits, as we call it, to beg, it really brings the same part into contact with the ground as we do in standing. It brings its hocks (heels) fiat to the ground, and supports its weight oil the hocks and toes. Children are very fond of "sitting on their heels" in the same manner as a dog when it begs. The difference between the begging attitude of a dog and the standing of a child is in the straightening of the knee joints in the latter. As a dog has not the power to straighten the knee joint, because of its quadrupedal habits, it can not stand on its hocks as we can; as soon as it raises its body on its hind legs it elevates the hock from the ground. The power to straighten the knee joint, and so to put the hock to the ground, is not inherent in babies at first; it is only by practice in walking that they are able to acquire it. Why, if babies' ancestors have always been animals walking on their hocks, should these processes have to be gone through?

The movements and habits of a young baby seem so strange to us because they are so different from those made by adults, and because they are so unconsciously performed. Joy is expressed by muscular movements, by wriggling of the hands and toes, or by convulsive beatings of the arms, when it is small; by "jigging," when it is larger. These movements are expressive of joy because to any animal of highly developed muscular energy movement is absolutely essential, and particularly pleasing, while stillness is the reverse. It is muscular excitement, chiefly no doubt electrical, a heritage from ancestors who knew not what it was to be still, that gives that restlessness to children and causes them to find so much pleasure in mere motion and muscular exertion of any kind. Jumping for joy is very literally correct of a child's expression of pleasure. The prospect of a sweet will excite a series of leaps to indicate delight; and they further serve the purpose of relieving the tedium of waiting the half-second necessary to the donation. The pleasure of finding a bird's nest with eggs in it—a pleasure which must have been very real sometimes in the case of hungry monkeys and savage man, but is now only a survival of the instinct thus formed—this pleasure a boy expressed by a series of convulsive leaps into the air; and during the performance not only were the arms and legs moved as much as possible, but the muscles of the stomach and vocal organs had to be utilized to cause accompanying shouts. It may be remarked that in adults, when limb-movements are less active, shouts are. on account of the muscular action involved, a necessary accompaniment of joy, noticeably 'Arry on a bank holiday; while in some cases expletives are symptomatic of joy and not of anger. All these outward signs have had their origin in that nerve excitation inducing muscular action which is a heritage from ancestors who, impelled by hunger, by love, or by war, led more active lives and thereby obtained a desire for motion as a second nature. Children and young lambs are very familiar examples; and so strongly will the latter pursue their gambols and racings that a broken heart is sometimes a cause of death in the middle of a sudden gallop. If children have to be still, it is torture to them—positive torture in some cases and grown-up people are unaware how much, or they would not thoughtfully inflict it on young children. Muscular ache, the fidgets, growing-pain in the limbs, are all the result of enforced inactivity in children. It is similar with athletes: their muscular excitement is so strong that movement is pleasure, stillness means pain, and they are noted for restlessness.

Another "animal" relic which exists in children is an instinctive desire for stealing, especially for stealing fruit, which, however hard and unripe, seems to give the child pleasure. Stealing certainly points to the time when every animal had to depend on its own exertions for what food it got, and when the readiest method of obtaining such food was to appropriate without question whatever it might come across. The capacity for hard and unripe fruit indicates a necessity which would be incidental to monkeylike life—to times of scarcity, when anything in the shape of fruit, no matter what it might be, was gladly welcomed as food.

With the above another childish trait may advantageously be compared—namely, the habit of taking things to bed, especially such articles as the child may be attached to; but there is also a desire to take things for fear of other children obtaining them; and when a child takes off to bed such articles as a collection of clothes brushes, or an array of old boots, it seems like taking for taking's sake. Thus, one boy was found in bed with sundry drawer handles, unscrewed for the occasion, several pieces of old iron, two hair brushes, and a tobacco tin. Many causes have contributed to form this habit. First, there is the earlier inheritance of the maternal instinct; the mother taking her young to sleep with her, in order to feed and comfort it, would give the idea of taking to bed anything exciting fondness—dolls, toys, etc. Then there is the food instinct—the dragging-food-into-the-lair idea—with which may be associated a particular fondness of children for something to eat when they are in bed; and then there is the proprietary idea, arising from the feeling that to keep possession of articles it is necessary to sleep with them, if not on them. When a young child is trying to resist another taking things away from it, the usual method it pursues is to put the articles between its legs, to push away its assailant with its hands, and to scream loudly. During the scream it brings its mouth into a particular shape to show its canine teeth to the best advantage, and it frequently puts its head forward, especially protruding the chin so that the other animal may have a good view of its canine teeth. This is what the reason was; with a child, of course, it is a case of inherited habit and association, because it has never known how to fight with the canine teeth.

The earlier inheritance of the maternal instinct is worth noticing further; the doll-proclivity of girls is a particular instance of earlier inheritance thereof. Doll-nursing instinct is not shared in the least by any healthy boys, nor can they take to little household duties with the handiness of a girl. Boys' earlier inheritance is all in the way of offensive weapons, of bows, bats, balls, and noise, with a tendency to teasing and bullying, a feature for which the male has been famous, the sufferer who was put upon being the female—the weaker vessel; weaker because the males fought with one another for her; had she fought with her sisters for the males she could have been the stronger and the bigger brained.

The female, however, does inherit a pugnacious instinct, chiefly defensive. She has had to fight on behalf of her young ones, and in such cases the maternal instinct becomes very strong indeed. Children show this character; and I witnessed in one of mine a very curious exhibition of what might be called perverted instinct arising from a conflict of inherited associations. She was quite a little girl and was nursing her doll with all possible expression of affection, loving it, kissing it, and calling it all the endearing names she knew. Up came her brother and began to tease her. In an instant the pugnacious idea was aroused in defense of the doll, but, having no available weapon in hand, she seized the doll by the hind legs and, wheeling it aloft, brought its china head down with resounding force on the cranium of her brother. He retired, howling and discomfited. She, excited with her triumph, returned to the caressing of her doll with redoubled ardor, quite unconscious of the incongruity of her actions, an unconsciousness which heightened the comicality of the incident.

Another habit of children—a sadly destructive habit too—is that of picking at anything loose, any piece of wall-paper especially, so as to tear it off. This habit is a survival of a monkey practice of picking off the bark from trees in order to search for insects. Any loose piece of bark, even the very least displacement, indicates an insect refuge, and immediately suggests live prey; so that with, the monkey there is a definite association between loose bark and food. With the child the reason for picking at loose things has been lost, but the instinct to pick remains as a vestigial survival, traceable to a definite food-acquiring instinct of the monkey. There may also have been an association with the monkey habit of picking out one another's parasites, a habit which is very noticeable among them.

To those people, and they are many, who scornfully repudiate their monkey ancestry, it may seem farfetched to notice such a childish habit, and to assert that it had any such origin; but many instances may be cited of habits acquired for some beneficial purpose, or in connection with some particular circumstances of life, persisting both in the life of the individual and also being perpetuated in the race long after the reason for the habit has been forgotten—not unlike superstitious ceremonies and religious observances which survive in a similar way. Thus there is the fear of women for snakes, and the consequent loathing and hatred—feelings which seem so unreasonable to many of the strong-minded people of the present day. We have written evidence that these feelings were subject of comment at a very early age of man's intelligence; and it may readily be surmised that the story of Genesis is only the written account of what had been verbally told for many generations. Mythical as it is, it seems a most ingenious method of accounting for certain observed facts; and that the facts were observed reflects considerable credit on the observers. As mythology it takes high rank; its very naïveté adds to its charm. "Whence arise these feelings in respect of snakes?" was the inquiry; and in answer thereto the legend gradually grew up, that "the snake was the tempter; of the presumed mother of all. Eve; he is just such as would be a tempter; his very habits, stealthy, gliding, silent, self-concealing, show at once that he 'is more subtil than any beast of the field.' Because he tempted Eve these feelings have arisen on the part of woman. The Lord God, when he found that Eve fell because of the serpent's temptation, said in his anger, 'I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.' That accounts for what we observe; it is all very plain." So said the sages of old. It is truly ingenious; but science gives a more simple interpretation, and yet an interpretation which, because it does not pander to the religious self-pride of human beings, in that it does not yield them that distinct rank above all other living things, is less palatable to the majority. Science says that the fear of women for snakes is an inheritance of monkeylike ancestors; that the most terrible foe of the female monkey, the foe most prone to snatch the young one from her, and even to take the mother herself on occasion, was the deadly poisonous snakes. The terror they inspired was so great that there can be no wonder at its survival in the human female of to-day.

Another habit, a relic of what was indulged in for a definite beneficial purpose, remains to the present day—namely, the fondness of children for rolling. It points to the time when our ancestors possessed hairy bodies tenanted by colonies of parasites, and is another example of parasite irritation shaping animals' habits, alluded to above. These hairy bodies were the homes of many parasites, among which the parents of Pulex irritans and many another Pulex, together with other kinds which need not be specified, were very much in evidence; and then our ancestors, owing to less perfect articulation of joints, or to less perfection in development of the limbs, or to the thick covering of hair, were unable to reach the source of trouble effectively, and could, like horses or donkeys, only alleviate the irritation by rolling. Scratching of the head as a nervous habit, from the association between nervous irritation and actual irritation by parasites, which must also be transmitted to the brain by the nerves, is a relic of similar ancestral parasitically infested animals. It persists now among human beings who are doubtless above suspicion in the matter of unwelcome tenants; and it is a familiar expression of doubt and perplexity among οί πολλοί who may not be altogether so guiltless.

According to the Darwinists, the loss of hair from the body, which man has suffered in comparison with simial ancestors, is attributable to the benefit he has derived from being able to get rid of his parasites, or from the greater advantage he obtained in the struggle for existence owing to being less troubled with parasites, whose numbers diminished from want of "cover." Such an idea, however, confuses cause and effect in a most remarkable manner. The diminution of parasites is a result of the loss of hair, but it certainly is not the cause of the hair being lost. To make it so is similar to saying that the diminution of trees in newly settled countries is caused by a decrease in the number of wild beasts. It supposes that the greater freedom from parasites was so important to simial ancestors who lost their hair as to give them immense advantage in the struggle for existence, forgetting that this does not explain the cause of the loss of hair in the first place. With loss of hair once started, some such benefit may be granted; but what caused the loss of hair in the first place? "Spontaneous variation" is no answer at all; what is the cause of the spontaneous variation? This seems too early a stage at which to say Ignosco or Ignoro.

Then this parasite idea ought to be applied to what is going on at the present day—to the loss of hair from the head—but unfortunately for the parasite theory, it is among "the classes" who are certainly above suspicion so far as parasites are concerned that the loss of hair on the head is most conspicuously shown, while in the case of Hodge, who can not be regarded in the same manner, loss of hair from the head is decidedly rare. An explanation which pretends to account for what has taken place, and yet fails in application to analogous circumstances at the present day, is not one to be accepted. A true explanation of the loss of hair will explain the present-day loss as well as that of the past; the loss of hair from the head as well as that from the body; the loss of hair by the elephant as compared with the mammoth; the loss of hair on the chests of old monkeys; the loss of hair during disease in animals generally; the loss of hair during pregnancy in domestic and other animals; the loss of feathers by penned-up fowls. An explanation which is wholly physiological, and accounts for loss of hair as a pathematic symptom of individual or racial decline, assumes that such loss of hair is an exemplification of a law of reversion, that as progressive ontogenetic or phylogenetic development is, necessarily, progressive acquirement or elaboration, retrogressive development in similar cases is, accordingly, loss or degeneration of character developed during progression. This explanation, together with the assumption warranted by evidence, that the longer any character or particular feature has been transmitted in the race, the longer it will withstand adverse influences, may be applied to all the instances of hair-loss given above.

In connection with the hair it may be noticed that certain peculiarities in its mode of growth had their origin in the habits of monkeylike ancestors. On a child's head the hair grows from the crown to the forehead; but in animals which move head-first on all fours—a rabbit, for instance—it may be noticed that the hair is always directed from front to back, a character acquired by the fact of motion through air in a given direction having imparted a given lie to the hair. Such may be assumed to have been the case with the hair in the ancestors of monkeys; but when it is found, as in Cebus vellerosus, that the hair grows the contrary way—namely, from back to front—some cause must have induced the change. The flow of rain may be cited the head being hung down, so that the crown is the highest part, and the rain flows off in all directions, giving the hair a lie in accordance. Now, flow of rain in the case of quadrupeds, as well as the tendency of hair to grow according to gravity, unless other causes are more potent, has made the hair on their limbs grow from the body to the extremities. In the case of man, however, and certain monkeys, the hair on the forearm grows in just the contrary direction—namely, toward the elbow. Here, again, according to Darwin, rain has been the modifying agent; the habit of clasping the hands over the head during rain has caused the rain to flow from the hands to the elbows, and has given the hair direction in accordance. These, of course, are "acquired characters"—the lie of the hair is in accordance with certain disposing forces of environment. Such causes do not act on us now; but there are no causes acting to the contrary in a sufficiently potent manner. Consequently, we retain by the conservatism of heredity a character acquired in response to the necessities of environment in our prehuman ancestors.

To return to the persistence of habit, the case of sucking may be noticed. Sucking, of course, is the act of childhood—it is one of the most important incidents connected therewith. The baby sucks to satisfy hunger; and associated with sucking are the feelings of warmth, sleep, and comfort. But hunger means distress; and sucking to satisfy hunger means sucking to alleviate a particular distress; consequently, it has developed into sucking to alleviate any distress or pain generally. Thus, when an infant is hurt, it turns in its distress to its mother; it desires to suck, and it forgets its trouble in sucking. All these associations are potent in later life. It may be observed in many children long after they have given up sucking; when they are cross, or when they are teased, or angry, and vexed, they suck their thumbs. Many children in the same way can not go to sleep without sucking something—their thumbs generally being ready implements for the purpose so persistent is the association of sucking with sleep. In later life children suck the ends of their pens or pencils when in doubt and perplexity over their lessons, from the association of sucking with distress or anxiety; and in still later life the masher, and the young man whose ideas do not flow very readily, suck the ends of their walking-sticks when they are in doubt or anxiety, in conversational or amatorial matters—such act of sucking being a relic of the baby habit acquired by the infant from the asssociation of sucking with alleviation of distress, no matter in what way it was caused. Further, the number of men who suck the ends of their mustaches,[4] and of women who suck the ends of their crochet or knitting needles, or anything else, whenever they have the least feeling of doubt, annoyance, anxiety, distress, discomfort, or the like, points to the persistence of a youthful habit long after all reason for it has ceased, and forms an instructive lesson in the development of the methods used to express emotions.

In other animals equally curious habits may be noticed, particularly in domesticated animals, because inherent organic conservatism carries into the new state of life habits and instincts useful to the old. The turning round of a dog before it goes to sleep, and what my children call the "kneading-dough" action of a cat when before a warm fire, have been noticed before. But it may be remarked that when a cat takes a piece of meat she invariably gives it a shake—a habit acquired by the wild animal to shake off blood-drops and any adherent grit obtained by the flesh from contact with the ground, but an entirely useless performance in the case of a domestic cat fed on cooked meat in a carpeted room. Ducks which are kept away from a pond will, when it rains, or when they hear the splashing of water, repeatedly raise and lower their heads with a jerking motion—the same action which they use when in the water in order to throw the water over their bodies to wash themselves. Ducks delight in water, and consequently these washing movements are intimately associated with pleasure. Thus they feel pleasure when they are let out after confinement, though they may not be near water; and this pleasure they express by going through the washing movements—in fact, the association is so strong that these movements have become a conventional expression of pleasure of any kind. Young lambs will mount any hillock in a field, because their wild parents were dwellers in mountainous countries. We ourselves, when we wish to express scorn, or contempt, or anger, draw up our lip so as to expose the canine teeth—the weapons with which our monkey ancestors were wont to fight, as has frequently been pointed out. Babies, when they—cry and thus wish to express rage and indignation—draw the mouth into a quadrate shape. This peculiar set of the mouth in a crying infant was noted by Darwin;[5] but the reason for it does not seem to have been grasped. It arises, however, from the fact that crying is associated with anger, that in anger the fighting instinct is dominant, that the fighting instinct leads to a display of weapons on the noli-me-tangere principle, that the weapons of our ancestors were caniniform teeth in the upper and under jaws. It may be observed that the lips of a crying baby's mouth are so disposed as to exactly display the caniniform teeth as much as possible; but here comes the curious part of the whole matter—a young baby shows the quadrate-shaped mouth more remarkably than older children; yet it has no teeth to display, for the teeth are not to be seen in the gums. Here is a habit, acquired for a definite purpose, persisted in afterward when no means are available for fulfilling the purpose, and yet persisted in because of the long association in ancestors of the weapon-display with anger. For a newly born baby to retract the corners of the lips in order to expose teeth which are still hidden in the gum is a ludicrously futile process; yet it shows in an extraordinary manner that a habit once acquired may remain, polarized, as it might be called, long after all reason for its acquirement and use had passed away.

From sadness to joy is a very welcome transition; and consequently a few remarks upon the method of expressing pleasure will not unsuitably follow those on the expression of pain. To show that they are pleased, human beings frequently draw up and wrinkle the nose the while they elevate the upper lip so as ta expose the teeth. The same action may be noticed in terriers to express pleasure, and it is called "grinning": in children it is a remarkably common feature. It is not general among adults; but when it be a regular habit in any individual it leads to the formation of obliquely transverse furrows each side of the nose, and so gives to the face a definite and somewhat amiable expression, which may degenerate into an unfortunate peculiarity.

The origin of this expression does not seem to have been any wish to expose the teeth, but rather a desire to sniff in as much as possible. Animals derive their greatest pleasures from the satisfaction of the sexual and gastric appetites; and all odors associated with such satisfaction would become pleasing, because they would suggest pleasant ideas to the senses. It would be pleasant, then, to inhale such odors, as the odor of a good dinner is pleasant to a hungry man about to enjoy it; and he expresses his satisfaction by sniffs. The rapid repetition of a series of sniffs in succession, necessitating certain convulsive movements of the stomach, may have been the initiation of that expression of delight called "laughter," which consists in a series of quick convulsive stomachic movements coupled with certain guttural cacklings.

What might be called the genesis of our expressions, or their historical development in the phyletic series to which man belongs, opens a very wide field. Darwin has attacked it in his Expression of the Emotions; but, though he has collected a great store of most interesting facts, the theories and conclusions which he formed in connection therewith are sometimes not so satisfactory as they should be. Particularly does this apply to his principle of antithesis, which it is admitted in a note to the second edition (page 52) has not met with much acceptance. This can hardly be wondered at; because it seems so totally opposed to that gradual acquirement and development which the Darwinian doctrine supposes. Space does not allow a further consideration of this subject, more than to say that, like other animals, children's actions when at play show mimic warfare and perverted inheritance of sexual instinct. Love and war, which played such important parts among prehuman ancestors, have left their mark upon children's actions to-day—an influence which can be easily discerned, though it may be sometimes obscured. Even such a matter as the elevation of the eyebrows during astonishment may be traced to the desire of prehuman ancestors to erect the hair, in order to make themselves as big as possible, and therefore formidable to their foes, a habit which animals constantly exhibit when they are suddenly startled. It is the noli-me-tangere principle, sometimes practiced with good cause, but at other times being the merest "bluff," a veritable trading under false pretenses. It is to this practice of erecting the hair that we owe the involuntary expression during extreme terror—that of the hair standing on end with fright. By disuse we have lost the voluntary power to control the muscles which perform the function of erecting the hair; but the involuntary power still remains. Such seems to be the explanation; at any rate involuntary erection of the hair during terror is a well-known fact, treated of by Darwin.

Enough has been said to show that the characters and habits of children afford every support to the evolutionist; that what is quite unintelligible and even antagonistic to any idea of special creation becomes significant and full of meaning in the light of the doctrine of gradual development; that the actions of children when rightly interpreted tell their own tale and may fitly be compared to ancient monuments of prehistoric times; lastly, that the human infant is an interesting object of scientific research, and that even a cross baby should be calmly contemplated by the philosophic mind.—Nineteenth Century.


  1. Nineteenth Century, November, 1891, p. 838.
  2. "Christians" and "animals" is the popular classification. See, too, Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, interruption in Dr. Stockmann's speech, "We are not animals, doctor" (Act iv).
  3. Journal of Botany, cit. Natural Science, vol. ii, p. 9.
  4. Apart from the sedative effects of nicotine, the sucking at a pipe may also be soothing from the inherited association. Some nonsmokers suck straws.
  5. Expression of the Emotions, second edition, chapter vi, pp. 155-158.