Origin of Infancy - By John Fiske
Before we can fully understand the exalted position which the
Darwinian theory assigns to man, another point demands consideration.
The natural selection of psychical peculiarities does not alone
account for the origin of Man, or explain his most signal difference
from all other animals. That difference is unquestionably a difference
in kind, but in saying this one must guard against misunderstanding.
Not only in the world of organic life, but throughout the known
universe, the doctrine of evolution regards differences in kind as due
to the gradual accumulation of differences in degree. To cite a very
simple case, what differences of kind can be more striking than the
differences between a nebula, a sun, a planet like
and a planet like our moon? Yet these things are simply examples of
cosmical matter at four different stages of cooling. The physical
differences between steam, water, and ice afford a more familiar
In the organic world the perpetual modification of structures
that has been effected through natural selection exhibits countless
instances of differences in kind which have risen from the
accumulation of differences in degree. No one would hesitate to call a
horse’s hoof different in kind from a cat’s paw; and yet the horse’s
lower leg and hoof are undoubtedly developed from a five-toed paw. The
most signal differences in kind are wont to arise when organs
originally developed for a certain purpose come to be applied to a
very different purpose, as that change of the fish’s air-bladder into
a lung which accompanied the first development of land vertebrates.
But still greater becomes the revolution when a certain process goes
on Until it sets going a number of other processes, unlocking
series after series of causal agencies until a vast and complicated
result is reached, such as could by no possibility have been foreseen.
The creation of Man was one of these vast and complicated results due
to the unlocking of various series of causal agencies; and it was the
beginning of a deeper and mightier difference in kind than any that
slowly evolving Nature had yet witnessed.
I have indicated, as the moment at which the creation of mankind
began, the moment when psychical variations became of so much more use
to our ancestors than physical variations that they were seized and
enhanced by natural selection, to the comparative neglect of the
latter. Increase of intellectual capacity, in connection with the
developing brain of a single race of creatures, now became the chief
work of natural selection in originating Man; and this, I say, was the
opening of a new chapter, the last and most wonderful chapter, in the
history of creation. But the increasing
enlarged experience of half-human man now set in motion a new series
of changes which greatly complicated the matter. In order to
understand these changes, we must consider for a moment one very
important characteristic of developing intelligence.
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