Popular Science Monthly/Volume 72/March 1908/Man's Educational Reconstruction of Nature
|MAN'S EDUCATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION OF NATURE|
By Professor EDGAR JAMES SWIFT
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, ST. LOUIS
THE purpose of education among those animals that train their young is adaptation to environment. Man's endeavor is the same, but with the growth of human society and of knowledge his environment has profoundly altered, a fact that education has only partially recognized, and this alteration has made it necessary to reinterpret adaptation. Among the lower animals, nature secures the necessary results mainly through instinct.
Jennings found that paramecia collect around a mass of bacteria, pushing and crowding one another in apparent effort to reach the food, and Binet, in one of those delightful, imaginative flights in which even the scientific mind at times is wont to recreate, would have us believe that most, if not all of the higher intellectual processes, including choice and volition, form part of the mental life of micro-organisms. But we are clearly drawing inferences beyond our right if we assume that action here has any other cause than the necessity which selection has made the conditions of survival. These organisms must do certain things and do them always, under penalty of extinction, and perhaps this is the reason why these same paramecia begin to gather around innutritious substances quite as surely as around nutritious. The attraction which a dilute solution of carbon dioxide has for them would then, as Jennings has suggested, be due to the fact that this product of organic waste is found wherever paramecia assemble; therefore, as they gather more often than otherwise around food and natural selection demands that they lose no chance of finding nutriment, carbon dioxide becomes a blind call to food. Instinct is thus organic behavior originating in the necessity of adaptation and directed in its course through the exigencies of the environment by natural selection. Whitman has observed that our fresh-water salamander, Necturus, reacts to any object quietly introduced into the water, as though it were food. If so small an object as a needle, he says, be brought into contact with the surface of the water, Necturus instantly turns toward it. The reason is that the animal receives exactly the same stimuli from a foreign object that touches or passes through the water as it does from that which serves as food. In other words the animal responds primarily to water undulations, regardless of their cause, because it is through such undulations that it receives notice of the presence of food. In its most typical form instinct is thus seen to be chiefly a matter of animal organization, and the response to stimuli to be largely mechanical. This makes stable conditions necessary if it is to meet educational needs. But even here there is a little variation in the manner of reaction. Necturus has learned to discriminate somewhat between experiences, for, according to Whitman, "there is unmistakably a power of inhibition strong enough to counteract the strongest motive to act—the hunger of a starving animal in the presence of food." But such limited power of reaction does not go far, and it will meet the needs of animals only so long as their life is of the simplest sort. They are probably capable of few adaptations, and these must be made at an enormous cost of time and life. But as life becomes more complex and less regular these instinctive responses do not answer. Animals must now learn to remember, and their actions must be guided by past experiences of threatening disaster, else they can not survive in the struggle.
Not many experiments have been made on the educability of animals low in the scale, but fishes have been taught to refrain from attacking minnows that are their usual food, by separating them with a glass partition extending across the aquarium until the larger fishes learn by repeated bumps on the nose that the little ones are not to be eaten. Thorndike has shown also that the minnow, Fundulus, can learn to find its way through a series of three partitions, each with an opening so located as to make the journey circuitous, and that it gradually improves on its previous record by eliminating blunders until finally it learns to go directly to each opening. While we do not know much about the mental processes here, it grows increasingly harder to explain action solely by the neural mechanism. Experience is evidently taking a more active part in the animal's life. The nervous system is becoming more flexible, more adaptable.
Recent observation has somewhat modified our views regarding action among lower animals. Jennings's studies indicate that the method of trial and error is common even in one-celled organisms. This method, wherever found, unquestionably involves in some degree the utilization of experience. Such creatures can no longer be considered as merely reflex organisms in the presence of new needs and difficulties, or, if we still designate their action in this way, the interpretation of "reflex" must be profoundly altered. Throughout the animal series improvement in the reaction to environment seems to signify greater nervous flexibility in dealing with experience rather than a complete change of method. In their fascinating paper on the habits of solitary wasps, the Peckhams tell of one who in filling up her nest "put her head down into it and bit away the loose earth from the sides, letting it fall to the bottom of the burrow, and then, after a quantity had accumulated, jammed it down with her head. She then brought earth from the outside and passed it in, afterwards biting more from the sides. When, at last, the filling was level with the ground, she brought a quantity of fine grains of dirt to the spot and, picking up a small pebble with her mandibles, used it as a hammer, pounding them down with rapid strokes, thus making this spot as hard and firm as the surrounding surface." Soon "she had dropped her stone and was bringing more earth," when she again picked up the pebble and pounded that which was brought until all was hard.
The power to inhibit, so that the same action does not always follow the same stimulus under the same circumstances, which was observed in Necturus, indicates, perhaps, the first break in the mechanism of primitive instincts. The part that experience plays in the animal's life is becoming more immediate and direct. Just how much consciousness is involved in this, or, indeed, whether there is any, we do not know. Investigation has shown that in man consciousness of means is not essential to the utilization of experience and there is certainly no reason for thinking it more necessary to the lower animals.
In the variability of instinct, also, we find mechanical organization less domineering, and in the study of wasps, to which we have just referred, the one preeminent, unmistakable and ever-present fact is variability. "Variability in every particular—in the shape of the nest and the manner of digging it, in the condition of the nest (whether closed or open) when left temporarily, in the method of stinging their prey, in the degree of malaxation, in the manner of carrying the victim, in the way of closing the nest, and last, and most important of all, in the condition produced in the victims of the stinging," some of them dying "long before the larva is ready to begin on them, while others live long past the time at which they would have been attacked and destroyed" had not the investigation "interfered
Ref 11 Loc. cit., p. 30. is found on the following page. with the natural course of events." In this breaking away from the inherited way of doing things we seem to have a sort of organic initiative which, if we may not call it intelligence, must, after all, develop into it.
Observations on higher animals have been numerous, and Darwin quotes with approval a statement of Rengger that when he first gave eggs to his monkeys in Paraguay, "they smashed them, and thus lost much of their contents; afterwards they gently hit one end against some hard body, and picked off the bits of shell with their fingers." Kinnaman, in his extended study of the intelligence of two monkeys, found that they could learn to manipulate a complex series of locks and latches on a box, and that they made some progress in choosing better methods by eliminating useless acts and in making short cuts. He also tested men with the same apparatus and found that some were slower than the monkeys in finding how to open the box. While there was no evidence of ability to count, one of the monkeys could recognize position as far as three and the other as far as six.
All this is a clear advance on the mental processes of lower forms, which can not be explained solely by the mechanical response of a better organized nervous system. The change from the animal's customary behavior is too great and the variations too sudden for mechanical organization to account for them. And yet Kinnaman's report shows little method in it all. The monkeys knew enough to know when they had failed, which is more than can be said of the fishes until it has been battered into their nervous system through repeated blows on their heads, and they gradually improved on their method by making short cuts. But Thorndike's fishes also showed this improvement, though much more slowly. And this seems to mark an important difference in mental life. Monkeys do not need to wait until a certain mode of behavior has been worked into the mechanism of their organism by the operation of natural selection, as do paramecia, nor is it necessary that the external constraint, which encourages inhibition, be continued for so long a time as in the case of fishes. But, after all, the reasoning of monkeys seems to be of the same associative sort as that of fishes, and there is certainly no convincing evidence that they are able to get beyond this. Kinnaman thought that their action indicated generic images which enabled them to carry over something from a previous experience to a new situation, but we have already seen that even in man consciousness of the process is not necessary to the utilization of experience and it is difficult to see what a generic image of which we are unconscious could be. Indeed, on the theory of evolution, consciousness as an originating force in the learning process would seem to be much less necessary to the lower animals than to man, and the farther down the series we go the less important would it become, until, among micro-organisms, we can not speak of conscious adaptation without greatly overstepping the bounds of scientific accuracy. So far as the evidence goes, learning among the lower animals is strictly a matter of association. The more intelligent of them appreciate the failure of a method quicker than the others, and the discomfort resulting from it exerts a depressant effect upon the whole neuro-muscular system which tends to break up the incipient coordinations which were involved in the original action, and even to obliterate their neural effects. All this, of course, reacts against repetition. Success, on the other hand, is attended by a pleasurable feeling, and every one has observed the joyous look of animals capable of expressing their emotions, when they have accomplished what they have been trying to do. These pleasurable feelings increase the muscular tonicity which always tends to motor discharge, and this results in a partial reinervation of the coordinated group of muscles that were involved in the original movement. This naturally deepens the existing neural effect and tends to the repetition of the movement that occasioned it.
So far as our present state of knowledge permits us to draw conclusions, the intellectual difference between man and the lower animals consists primarily in just this difference between associative reasoning on the one hand, and, on the other, inference in which the connection is obscured, by time or space, or by the complexity of the elements involved. And here, as before, the part that experience plays in determining action is the measure of intellect, only now its influence has been enormously multiplied. Articulate speech has enabled man to organize his experiences and transmit what he has learned, and it is not improbable that the higher psychical processes involved in reasoning owe to this human acquisition their development if not their origin. Speech has greatly accelerated adaptation—by no means an unimportant factor in the rapid changes of man's experience, since through it we learn from others that which may benefit or injure, and so avoid what might mean destruction of the species. And then, too, by enlarging the sum of the experiences it has greatly increased the facility in acquisition and assimilation which plays so important a role in human progress.
Learning in man, whether it be a new adaptation to a changed situation or the acceptance of an intellectual truth or moral principle, depends much upon the content of the individual mind, and this assumes infinitely greater importance in man than in the lower animals because of the immense complication of his environment. With animals this content embraces at most relation to the physical world and to other animals, but with man the physical world means and includes much more. It grows until it embraces the universe, and the relation to others widens until, from a simple physical relation, it involves the action of men on the highest plane of consciousness. Education in man is to fit his offspring for all this—for the most perfect attainable life in this complicated and ever-growing physical and psychical environment. We have to educate for an essentially new universe and the demand for studies that will be directly useful in life, now becoming so energetic, while one strong expression of the growing consciousness of this need is yet an utterly inadequate expression of it.
Clearly, education through instinct, nature's way, becomes then wholly insufficient for man. Its method of adaptation is too slow when physical and psychical conditions change so rapidly. Besides, it costs enormously. The herring lays twenty thousand eggs, the oyster upwards of sixteen million, while the conger-eel requires the enormous number of fifteen million annually to save itself from annihilation. Marshall and Brooks estimate that if you start with one oyster producing sixteen million eggs, half of which are females, and let them go on increasing at the same rate for five years, there would be oysters enough, if we estimate them as shells, to make a mass more than eight times the size of the earth. As we descend the animal series these facts become still more startling." Certain bacteria multiply so rapidly that the descendants of a single individual, if allowed to multiply unhindered for three days, would be represented by the figures 47,000,000,000,000."
Among lower animals the individual is of little importance because infinite numbers can be produced, and the cost does not matter much, but in the human world the individual has become of supreme importance. It is costly to vitality to bring even one to maturity and expensive in every way to train him. Besides, the worth of a human being is recognized as permanent. A fine individual is of the highest value to the whole. The best are pioneers to a higher level. Fine individuals create a good society, and a superior society, in turn, is a prime factor in the production of the finest individuals.
With the lower animals the purpose is adaptation to environment, a strictly biological end, but the growth of knowledge and culture has introduced a higher element into human society which adaptation can not fully satisfy. This is that man must always improve his environment. Character is not merely a matter of heredity, but of heredity acted upon by environment. This is illustrated, on the one side, by the Juke family, and on the other by the transformation wrought in boys of criminal parents when placed in good surroundings. Many are convinced that the elimination of those in whom the anti-moral tendencies are strong is essential for moral evolution, and this is certainly nature's method, as she deals summarily with animals whose actions are at variance with the immediate good of the species. But human progress is not so simple, its problems are not so easy of solution. Discrimination is necessary in order to know what are the anti-moral proclivities. Seemingly reversionary tendencies in early life, for example, are not always bad, since many times they are the source of our best social strength and virtues. The so-called criminal instincts of children are survivals of acts that among primitive races fitted their possessors to survive. Deception and the strength and willingness to fight well, and to kill, were essential to racial existence, and these were the highest virtues of which primitive man could conceive. To-day these acts are wrong in adults because they are not only unnecessary, but hinder progress. They do not fit man's reconstructed nature. They are anti-social. Yet the elimination of boys with these anti-moral characteristics would be fatal. Altruism arose as a kind of enlarged egoism. At first man must have been chiefly, if not wholly, individualistic, but very soon a time came when individual selfishness no longer served its egoistic ends, and self preservation required the extension of each self to embrace all members of the tribe. Self interest thus became absorbed in tribal interest, not at first because of any moral ideas about the rights of others, but solely because in this way each one's self-interests were better served. But these primitive instincts are not without meaning for modern life. The readiness of civilized boys to fight shows an independent, active, aggressive character which, rightly guided, leads to manly courage. The determined opponent of civic corruption, the man whose onslaughts no threats can stay, was a boy who fought for boy's rights. The prevailing social ideas are important in giving these tendencies the direction that makes for progress, and their very persistence and vigor is a necessary element in evolution.
The power of ideas and actions when intelligently applied to conduct has been shown in the complete change of life of the New York City toughs who were given the ideals and ambitions of the George Junior Republic. In the slums of the city their racial tendencies followed the drift of excitement and adventure natural to a criminal environment, but with the social suggestions and inspirations of the republic these instincts found new outlets which led to manhood under civilization, while still satisfying the organic yearnings of the race. The evolutional impulse in all this is an atmosphere of moral thoughts and actions, but we must take care not to confuse mere custom or tradition with morality.
Animals are dependent upon conditions in the selection of which they had no part. Theirs is merely to adapt. Man, on the other hand, may assist in bringing about conditions amid which the next generation will live. As adaptation is as much a human as an animal characteristic, the importance of the environment becomes evident, especially when we remember that in man no less than in the lower animals those qualities are selected for survival that best fit the conditions. Alfred Russel Wallace has given a splendid illustration of this in his "Malay Archipelago." He wrote:
The power to modify environment gives man possibilities not possessed by any of the other animals, but it adds vastly to his social responsibility in education. The environment is put upon the lower animals as it were from overhead, and they are left no choice but adaptation or extinction, but man may make his own environment, and in this way break a trail for progress.
The difficulty in applying the principle of natural selection to education is that we do not intelligently determine who are the fittest. In nature the conditions demanding adaptation are comparatively simple and definite. This is true also of primitive man, and, indeed, quite largely of early civilized society. But the enormous enlargement of human interests dims our vision. In one respect the lower animals have the advantage of us in their instinctive educational methods. Their teachers are never troubled by doubts concerning the ability of their pupils. All receive equally careful training for life. They do not prejudice the future of any by an adverse verdict so early in life that the best in them may not yet have appeared. They train all in the best way for success, which in their case means survival, and then leave the final decision to natural selection. The conclusion of one of England's foremost statisticians that the senior wrangler has twenty-five times the innate ability of the lowest on the honor list, because in one year the former obtained 7,500 credits to 300 of the latter, is one of the humorous results of the so-called scientific method of investigation. Against the hallucination of such measurements let us remember that Darwin's father prognosticated that he would disgrace his family because he cared for nothing but shooting, rat-catching and dogs, that Harriet Martineau was a dull child, and Seward "too stupid to learn," that Isaac Newton at twelve led his class at the foot, that Samuel Johnson was lazy, Robert Fulton a dullard, Oliver Goldsmith insufferably dull in his teacher's opinion, Byron lowest in his studies, Richard Sheridan insignificant as his teacher saw him, John Hunter slow and late to learn, Linnæus, in view of his stupidity, recommended by his pedagogue to be a cobbler, and that Dean Swift through "dullness and insufficiency," and Goethe likewise from seeming inability, forfeited their degrees.
It is not to be forgotten that the survival of the fittest is always relative to the conditions demanding adaptation and, while animals have no preference, man may exercise a choice as to the conditions to which he will adapt himself, and this is broadly the distinctively human quality. The cleverest boys in the slums of New York become the most skillful thieves. In the George Junior Republic, as we have seen, the same boys grow into the best citizens. Here environment is created and chosen by society for the boys; where it appoints them to a slum environment it produces thieves and criminals; where it gives them a rational environment out of the same material it produces first-class types.
Now society may fail to choose for itself the highest goal, which is nothing but failure to select the largest environment to which to adapt itself. It has choice of various inferior lines of growth. Then "practical" education will aim to fit the individual for most perfect adaptation to the inferior plane chosen. Man has largely inherited the animal method and only partly adopted the human. Nature has provided education for animals only in a state of stability. For change, improvement, nature has provided animals with nothing that can be called a method, for the means it uses is destruction—destruction for all who do not conform to the needs of the change, and in working cut a new adaptation, the destruction of all who stray extends over an immense period before a new state of stability is established with a new instinct to conserve it. Now this is an incredibly blundering and costly method where the individual is of any account and where the goal is of value, both of which conditions are true of man. It meets the need of animals because survival is the only thing aimed at and the "fittest" are those adapted to the prevailing conditions. The inadequacy of the principle for man and education becomes evident since the conditions demanding adaptation, if ethically low, will call for and bring out men of an inferior type and in a society of this kind the few that might seek to make their adaptation to a more universal environment, though they would be the best from the standpoint of civilization and progress, would be suppressed. But the society choosing this principle stagnates and, in the long run, retrogrades. Now the purpose of education should not be merely to fit each generation for adaptation to the grade that society may happen to hold at that time, but to create in men the habit of discriminating and of choosing that which leads to something higher.
The importance of this point of view is not lessened even if it be shown that natural selection is not the only force operative in producing change. New characteristics may appear suddenly, so-called mutations, but their persistence is after all dependent upon the environment. True, they may persist without being of immediate advantage, but only when conditions are not too unfavorable. Here, again, it should be the purpose of an intelligently endowed society to make conditions that will preserve incipient and less stable individual variations that have appeared, according to the supposition, through no direct environmental influence, but which may tend toward a higher social organization. It is not enough that conditions permit the survival of such varieties under difficulties; they should favor their continuance. While some "mutations" may exist under conditions not altogether favorable, others will require social recognition and society should see to it that the persistence of such sensitive "mutations" is not too hazardous. In this way a tendency to vary, a characteristic which means much for progress, may be fostered. In his work with plants Vilmorin found, according to Darwin, that "when any particular variation is desired, the first step is to get the plant to vary in any manner whatever, and to go on selecting the most variable individuals, even though they vary in the wrong direction, for the fixed character of the species being once broken, the desired variation will sooner or later appear," and Burbank has recently made the same observation.
Among lower animals variation facilitates new adaptations, but in man it has assumed an added function, that of suggesting new departures, new lines of progress, and in doing this it makes important contributions to the growth of experience. Education is always in danger of arrest from compression by immediate or "practical" aims. It should be of a sort that admits of indefinite expansion so that in the end it may become commensurate with life; but this capacity for enlargement requires something more than knowledge. Inability to see this led to the fallacy of the educational system of the middle ages; and we have fallen heir to their infatuation for formal training and learning. Information did fairly well for the simple conditions of early times when the necessary adaptations of life were neither complicated nor numerous, but if education is to be adequate to the life of to-day it must take the whole plexus of social forces into account and these social forces are, after all, only biological principles working in human society, to be intelligently interpreted and used for the greater life of society.
One of the elements in progress, and by no means an unimportant one, is that of which we have just been speaking, and which we may call suggestive variation. The world is moving with constantly accelerated velocity, not merely because we have more information to-day than yesterday, but because what we know means more to us, and this alchemistic power of getting out of facts something not superficially visible in them is mind's contribution to progress. Now education has never appreciated the importance of variation in human society and for that reason has never set itself to develop it. The very capacity for variation, implying as it does a certain flexibility, facilitates ready adaptation in the individual, and its suggestive influence on society promotes adaptation in others. The means, of course, by which this influence becomes effective is speaking and writing. The function of education here is to develop a mental attitude that is friendly to variation, and to train to rightly see and interpret relations. There seems to be an impression that if we just give a child or a man information enough he will at some time and in some way—though we are never told just when or how—learn to apply it to the problems of life. But the facts do not justify this view. The astonishing velocity with which science and industry are moving to-day calls for correspondingly rapid adjustment, and owing to defective principles of education we are unable to meet the demand. This is the reason for the conflict between labor and capital. Industry has advanced so fast that instinctive society could not keep up with it. Not educated to vary flexibly we can not adjust ourselves in time to new conditions. We are confused and baffled by them. The intellectual element enters into human adaptations, and the more rapid the change the more conscious and purposive must adjustment become. Fitting for this adjustment belongs peculiarly to education. But here we fail. We have given too narrow an interpretation to education. Our narrow theory regards it as a preparation to adapt ourselves to a certain set of conditions, i.e., those found existing. The result is intellectual rigidity and obstinate resistance to evolution. The mental processes, moulded in certain mechanical forms of activity, find hardship in readjustment when conditions change, and, as we have seen, change is the rule to-day. Here, again, we are adhering too closely to the animal method, where movement is slow and rapid adaptation is not expected. Education should seek to develop a mental plasticity, a capacity for understanding and getting control of new situations and for making them.
To-day the great changes are social. Evolutionary conditions are pressing us toward a fundamental reconstruction of society. The reconstruction is a profound social variation. Education—that is to say, those who have the magnificent educational equipment of the nation in charge—should have foreseen this and made the new generation of youths ready for it, should have prepared them to recognize it as another great unfoldment of man, comprehending, assisting and developing it. But education has been engrossed in the comparatively petty rôle of teaching lessons. It has fitted children for immediate, instinctive environment, quite omitting rational, or higher social, environment. The result is present conditions—a practical deadlock of social forces. Education can not truly awaken the interest or command the confidence of the people until it assumes the higher function.
The present obstructors of social reconstruction or variation are the ill-educated though perhaps very much schooled. For schooling and education are not the same. The new social variation now beginning is an industrial readjustment which shall enable each individual, regardless of the accident of birth, to realize to their full value all of his native powers; and this will promote progress by removing artificial restrictions on individual variation. It would be very easy in this country, on the basis of accepted American principles, to effect the transition if educators, whose business is moulding minds to grasp the larger aspect of things and training them in the power to alter their views instead of reposing in fixed ones, had done their work. The current method is to impede social transitions; the intelligent course is to facilitate them. When educators rise above mere school-mastering, social deadlocks and cataclysms will be of the past. The changes they involve will be welcomed.
While, therefore, the animal method of education is for static life—stability, with man it must be for dynamic life—change, improvement. And yet man's course in the past has not been complimentary to his intelligence, since many, if not most of his important alterations for the better have not been made by intelligent choice of the change itself, nor by choice of the best way; rather he has resisted as long as possible, until life became so bad that nature by some kind of punishment or eruption forced improvement upon him, as she does upon animals, by her power of destruction. This is the principle of revolutions. Sometimes they succeed in raising society to the level of the few higher individuals, but often they are suppressed by the forces in resistance to variation and adaptation.
This adaptation to a large nature brings with it a complete mental reorganization. Nor, indeed, is this lacking in physical confirmation. We can already trace certain corresponding physical changes in the constitution of the brain—the increase in association fibers in certain parts of the cortex shortly after eighteen years of age, indicated by Kaes's investigations, and the extension of Flechsig's association-centers in higher animals and particularly in man. Some of these cerebral changes seem to occur when increasing complexities of life are making new demands on intelligence.
Recent studies 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 experience. Soon this becomes common, and the animal may then properly be said to learn, though there is no evidence that at this stage utilization of experience is ever conscious. When consciousness once becomes a factor in determining action, capacity to profit by experience is a measure of intelligence, and it is just this increased sensitiveness to experience that gives the facility in adjustment of which we have been speaking. Intelligence restricts the action of natural selection by enlarging the individual's range of adaptation and by giving insight into conditions and the power to create new ones. There is greater latitude for variation without destruction, and variation, again, may suggest other lines of progress by means of which nature's selection may be guided, so that she may find those fittest who are most appreciative of the larger, more universal environment which it is education's privilege to conceive and foster.
- "Psychology of a Protozoan," Am. Jour, of Psychology, Vol. X., 1899, p. 503.
- Binet, "The Psychic Life of Micro-organisms," 1899, p. 61.
- "Biological Lectures from the Marine Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts," 1898, p. 303.
- Loc. cit., p. 305.
- See statement of Moebius's experiment in Darwin's "Descent of Man," second edition, p. 76, and Triplett's "The Educability of the Perch," Am. Journal of Psychology, Vol. 12, p. 354.
- Am. Naturalist, Vol. 33, p. 923.
- "Contributions to the Study of the Behavior of Lower Organisms," p. 237; Carnegie Institution, Washington, 1904. "Behavior of Lower Organisms," 1906.
- "On the Instincts and Habits of the Solitary Wasps," by Geo. W. and Elizabeth G. Peckham, Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, Bulletin No. 2, Scientific Series No. 1, Madison, Wis., 1898.
- Loc. cit., pp. 22-23.
- Swift, "The Psychology of Learning," Am. Jour. of Psychology, Vol. 14, p. 217.
- 11 Loc. cit., p. 30.
- Loc. cit., p. 30.
- "Descent of Man," second edition, p. 78.
- Am. Jour. of Psychology, Vol. 13, pp. 98 and 173.
- C. J. Marshall, "Lectures on the Darwinian Theory," New York, 1900, p. 39.
- Loc. cit., pp. 39-40; W. K. Brooks, "The Oyster," p. 50.
- H. W. Conn, "The Method of Evolution," p. 53.
- Loc. cit., p. 443.
- Amer. Jour. of Insanity, Vol. 58, p. 1.