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female following her mate with a streaming banner, which proves to be the indispensable snake skin.
Whether this bird, like its little congener, the wood-pewee, has at last concluded that its nest will be more safe near the habitations of man, remains to be seen.
THE REASONING FACULTY OF ANIMALS.
BY JOSEPH F. JAMES.
UCH as has been written on the subject of instinct and
reason in animals, the question as to whether they possess reason is nearly as far from being answered as ever, and people continue to write and argue with the same pertinacity as of yore. Some writers have maintained that all the actions of animals lower than man, are performed by a something designated as instinct, and that this was a faculty given by Divine power to animals, to take the place of reason possessed only by mankind. Others have said that both animals and men have reasoning powers, but the former in such a limited degree as to be hardly noticeable. Still others contended that animals were actuated to a very great extent in their actions by reasoning faculties, and that entirely too much stress has been placed upon the power of instinct ;' while a last party have said that neither man nor beast is possessed of reason, but that both perforın all their actions automatically, and being under the influence of unchangeable law, do what they do because they cannot do otherwise.?
In the olden time, before we knew as much about the animal world as we do now, the unerring faculty of instinct was expatiated upon times without number. All animals were set down as without reasoning powers, and when one did perform an action out of accordance with its usual life, it was looked upon as a most remarkable phenomenon, and as instinct working in an abnormal direction. Besides, this instinct was thought to be bestowed by the Deity, directly upon the animal. In later days this is not so much the case, and many consider that the sooner we discard the idea of instinct, and the sooner we attempt to explain the actions of animals upon the theory of their possessing reason, just that much sooner will we be able to come to a just conclusion.
1 The latest book taking this ground is “ Mind in the Lower Animals," by W. Lauder Lindsay, 2 vols, 1880.
2 Descartes' idea of animated machines. It has for its strongest supporter Prosessor Huxley. See article “Are Animals Automata ?” by T. H. Huxley in Popular Science Monthly, V, 724.
It can hardly be denied that there are some actions, which, instinctive in the ordinary sense, are transmitted from one generation to another, and are performed by all alike. Let us see if we can not find a reasonable ground for the first introduction of some of these instincts.
There was a time when the first mud wasp stung its first spider or grub, and deposited it in the first nest for the use of its young. But how do we know that this action was performed as successfully by the first female wasp, as it is now by her descendants ? Would it not be just as reasonable to suppose that the present perfection of this action, if it be perfect, was the result of long experience, and of a gradual improvement from generation to generation, as to imagine that the first wasp succeeded as well as her descendants do now? There was a time when the first chicken was hatched and scratched the ground. But is it necessary to suppose that the first born of the jungle-fowl of India acted as our barnyard fowls do now, to account for the ability of the new born chicks to run over and scratch the ground ? Not so. These actions, and perhaps many more, are hereditary faculties, imperfect and crude at first, but gradually improving and perfecting, and transmitted from generation to generation in the same way as a taste for engineering, a liking for science, or ambition to be a soldier, descends from father to son. The gradual development of the mind of animals and of man, is under the influence of the same laws as the development of the body.
It is probable that the first pair of jungle-fowis of India, way back in antediluvian times, hatched a brood of young ones, which stayed in the nest till fully fledged, as do the young of most all birds. Suppose an accidental event occurred, which made it advantageous for the young chick' to be able to run and scratch as soon as it broke out of the shell. Suppose it was found by nature, that the chick that could run away soonest after being born, would be the one most likely to escape from the clutches of the hawk when the mother was driven from the nest. The additional safeguard of life would be seized upon, and by
gradually strengthening the ability to run, it would be transmitted in an improved form through the birds which escaped by running, to their descendants, and finally be bequeathed to their posterity in the form in which we now find it. Such an explanation would apply to quail and grouse, and, in fact, to all birds which run as soon as hatched, and seek to hide themselves from their enemies in the grass and bushes. This instinct in young chickens is by no means so perfect as it might be; for any one who has noticed them when just hatched, and led by the hen, will have seen that they stumble and stagger, sometimes going head over heels in their efforts to pick something up. So that even if it were instinct, it is perfected by practice.
Then again with the wasp. The one which provided best for its offspring, would leave the most descendants; and the faculty and the ability to provide would be transmitted from generation to generation, being improved each time by the natural laws of modification with descent, and by the struggle for existence. So with the cells of the bee. Mathematicians have been struck with astonishment, and held up their hands in holy wonder, to see such an insignificant insect as a bee niaking a cell more mathematically accurate than they can after a lapse of 2000 years. But it was a matter of necessity to use as little material and occupy as little space as possible with his cells. The ancient bees doubtless made their cells much less mathematically correct than the present ones are supposed to do. And it was only when the use of less wax, and of less space, gave one hive the advantage over another in the struggle for existence, that the present cell began to appear. It was not made so because of the instinct of the bee, but because the laws of nature compelled it to be made so, if the bee would hold its own in the struggie. We know well that bees do not make their cells always exactly alike, nor as exactly hexagonal as we are often told. They depart from the regular shape, and use other forms to suit circumstances, and we have here a
1 Lord Brougham, “ Dialogues on Instinct,” 1844, pp. 66–70.
? Even the cells of the present hive bee are by no means perfect. In fact, investi. gations by Professor Wyman, printed in the Proceedings of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, vii, 1866, have proved “that the cells are all more or less imperfect, and that an hexagonal cell, mathematically exact, does not exist in nature, but only in theory.” Packard, “Guide to Study of Insects,” 1869, pp. 123-127, which see for an extended notice of Professor Wyman's paper.
3 See Kirby and Spence, “ Introduction to Entomology." Lond. ed. 11, 469.
clear evidence of reasoning 'powers, and of the faculty of adapting means to ends.
Again we are told that many insects lay their eggs upon the leaves of certain plants, upon which the larvæ feed, and upon no others, and it is pointed out as a case in which the Almighty has endowed the creature with an instinctive knowledge of the plant. But why should it be so ? The white butterfly lays its eggs upon the cabbage, and the larvæ feed upon its leaves. What right have we to say that the butterfly does not know the cabbage ? There may be something about that plant agreeable to her olfactory nerves, which induces her to alight and deposit her eggs. Or it may be that in ancient days, and must have been, that the butterfly deposited her eggs upon any plant indiscriminately. If those that fed upon the cabbage throve better than those on some other plant, they would be preserved in the struggle for existence, and leaving inore descendants than their rivals, would thus transmit the habit of frequenting more and more the cabbage plant. Perhaps at the time some species of insects originated, the ancestor of all deposited her eggs upon any plant most convenient. All may not have been suitable, but the larvæ throve on those that were, and frequented the same plant afterwards; and thus in feeding on different plants and leading different lives, the one original species became differentiated into distinct but allied species.
The instinct which induces the cuckoo to lay her eggs in the nests of other birds, can be shown to have arisen in much the same manner as those to which we have referred. Mr. Darwin gives an excellent account of how the instinct might be developed. He says: “Now let us suppose that the ancient progenitor of the European cuckoo, had the habits of the American cuckoo, and that she occasionally laid an egg in another bird's nest. If the old bird profited by this occasional habit through being able to migrate earlier, or through any other cause; or if the young were made more vigorous by advantage being taken of the mistaken instinct of another species, than when reared by their own mother, encumbered as she could hardly fail to be by having eggs and
young of different ages at the same time; then the old birds or the fostered young ones would gain an advantage. And analogy would lead us to believe, that the young thus reared, would be apt to follow by inheritance the occasional and abberrant habits of their mother, and in their turn would be apt to lay their eggs in other birds' nests, and thus be more successful in rearing their young."1 This explanation seems to us simple, and at the some time adequate, and the same process of reasoning applied to all instincts of like character, would with little modification be sufficient. Such instincts as the last, the hive bee cells, the case of butterflies laying eggs on plants, the slave-making habits of ants, and many more which will recur to any one, are brought into existence accidentally, and given a tendency to variation in any faculty of the mind or power of the body, and we can expect to see it modified by nature's seizing upon the favorable variations, transmitting them in an improved state each time by inheritance from one generation to another, until they reach such perfection that men are astonished, and can see no other way of accounting for the fact, but by bringing to their aid divine power and intervention.
Now we are told, that instinct is some power or principle possessed by animals, by means of which they perform, blindly and ignorantly, works of an intelligent nature; further, an impulse by which they are directed, without previous instruction or experience, to do unerringly what is necessary for the preservation of the individual or the species. The fact that instincts are not unerring, goes far to prove that they had some such origin as we have described. It is known, for instance, that butterflies and moths often lay their eggs upon plants or in positions where their larvæ can not flourish. What is this but a return to a former method of proceeding, when the insect laid her eggs on any plant? Here the instinct fails utterly, and not only does not assist in the preservation of the species, but is instrumental in destroying it. Cattle are supposed to know by instinct poisonous from beneficial plants, but take them to a new country, and they at first are as likely to eat the poisonous ones as those that are not. Their so-called instinct fails, because it is not an instinct at all, but the result of experience and observation. The instinctive dread birds have of man is often spoken of; but that is no instinct either. Birds and animals of all kinds in a state of nature, where
1 Origin of Species, 6th ed., N. Y., p. 212.
? Kirby and Spence, loc. cit. 11, 466, say that the flesh fly sometimes lays her eggs in the flowers of Stapelia hirsuta, instead of in carrion, and further that the common house fly will frequen:ly deposit her eggs in the snuff in a box.