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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 1435 times)
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« Reply #210 on: February 10, 2009, 03:08:12 pm »

 * The Rev. J. A. Picton gives a discussion to this effect in his New
Theories and the Old Faith, 1870.

  I am aware that the conclusions arrived at in this work will be
denounced by some as highly irreligious; but he who denounces them
is bound to shew why it is more irreligious to explain the origin of
man as a distinct species by descent from some lower form, through the
laws of variation and natural selection, than to explain the birth
of the individual through the laws of ordinary reproduction. The birth
both of the species and of the individual are equally parts of that
grand sequence of events, which our minds refuse to accept as the
result of blind chance. The understanding revolts at such a
conclusion, whether or not we are able to believe that every slight
variation of structure,- the union of each pair in marriage, the
dissemination of each seed,- and other such events, have all been
ordained for some special purpose.

  Sexual selection has been treated at great length in this work; for,
as I have attempted to shew, it has played an important part in the
history of the organic world. I am aware that much remains doubtful,
but I have endeavoured to give a fair view of the whole case. In the
lower divisions of the animal kingdom, sexual selection seems to
have done nothing: such animals are often affixed for life to the same
spot, or have the sexes combined in the same individual, or what is
still more important, their perceptive and intellectual faculties
are not sufficiently advanced to allow of the feelings of love and
jealousy, or of the exertion of choice. When, however, we come to
the Arthropoda and Vertebrata, even to the lowest classes in these two
great sub-kingdoms, sexual selection has effected much.
  In the several great classes of the animal kingdom,- in mammals,
birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, and even crustaceans,- the
differences between the sexes follow nearly the same rules. The
males are almost always the wooers; and they alone are armed with
special weapons for fighting with their rivals. They are generally
stronger and larger than the females, and are endowed with the
requisite qualities of courage and pugnacity. They are provided,
either exclusively or in a much higher degree than the females, with
organs for vocal or instrumental music, and with odoriferous glands.
They are ornamental with infinitely diversified appendages, and with
the most brilliant or conspicuous colours, often arranged in elegant
patterns, whilst the females are unadorned. When the sexes differ in
more important structures, it is the male which is provided with
special sense-organs for discovering the female, with locomotive
organs for reaching her, and often with prehensile organs for
holding her. These various structures for charming or securing the
female are often developed in the male during only part of the year,
namely the breeding-season. They have in many cases been more or
less transferred to the females; and in the latter case they often
appear in her as mere rudiments. They are lost or never gained by
the males after emasculation. Generally they are not developed in
the male during early youth, but appear a short time before the age
for reproduction. Hence in most cases the young of both sexes resemble
each other; and the female somewhat resembles her young offspring
throughout life. In almost every great class a few anomalous cases
occur, where there has been an almost complete transposition of the
characters proper to the two sexes; the females assuming characters
which properly belong to the males. This surprising uniformity in
the laws regulating the differences between the sexes in so many and
such widely separated classes, is intelligible if we admit the
action of one common cause, namely sexual selection.
  Sexual selection depends on the success of certain individuals
over others of the same sex, in relation to the propagation of the
species; whilst natural selection depends on the success of both
sexes, at all ages, in relation to the general conditions of life. The
sexual struggle is of two kinds; in the one it is between
individuals of the same sex, generally the males, in order to drive
away or kill their rivals, the females remaining passive; whilst in
the other, the struggle is likewise between the individuals of the
same sex, in order to excite or charm those of the opposite sex,
generally the females, which no longer remain passive, but select
the more agreeable partners. This latter kind of selection is
closely analogous to that which man unintentionally, yet
effectually, brings to bear on his domesticated productions, when he
preserves during a long period the most pleasing or useful
individuals, without any wish to modify the breed.
  The laws of inheritance determine whether characters gained
through sexual selection by either sex shall be transmitted to the
same sex, or to both; as well as the age at which they shall be
developed. It appears that variations arising late in life are
commonly transmitted to one and the same sex. Variability is the
necessary basis for the action of selection, and is wholly independent
of it. It follows from this, that variations of the same general
nature have often been taken advantage of and accumulated through
sexual selection in relation to the propagation of the species, as
well as through natural selection in relation to the general

purposes of life. Hence secondary sexual characters, when equally
transmitted to both sexes can be distinguished from ordinary
specific characters only by the light of analogy. The modifications
acquired through sexual selection are often so strongly pronounced
that the two sexes have frequently been ranked as distinct species, or
even as distinct genera. Such strongly-marked differences must be in
some manner highly important; and we know that they have been acquired
in some instances at the cost not only of inconvenience, but of
exposure to actual danger.
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« Reply #211 on: February 10, 2009, 03:08:27 pm »

The belief in the power of sexual selection rests chiefly on the
following considerations. Certain characters are confined to one
sex; and this alone renders it probable that in most cases they are
connected with the act of reproduction. In innumerable instances these
characters are fully developed only at maturity, and often during only
a part of the year, which is always the breeding-season. The males
(passing over a few exceptional cases) are the more active in
courtship; they are the better armed, and are rendered the more
attractive in various ways. It is to be especially observed that the
males display their attractions with elaborate care in the presence of
the females; and that they rarely or never display them excepting
during the season of love. It is incredible that all this should be
purposeless. Lastly we have distinct evidence with some quadrupeds and
birds, that the individuals of one sex are capable of feeling a strong
antipathy or preference for certain individuals of the other sex.
  Bearing in mind these facts, and the marked results of man's
unconscious selection, when applied to domesticated animals and
cultivated plants, it seems to me almost certain that if the
individuals of one sex were during a long series of generations to
prefer pairing with certain individuals of the other sex,
characterised in some peculiar manner, the offspring would slowly
but surely become modified in this same manner. I have not attempted
to conceal that, excepting when the males are more numerous than the
females, or when polygamy prevails, it is doubtful how the more
attractive males succeed in leaving a large number of offspring to
inherit their superiority in ornaments or other charms than the less
attractive males; but I have shewn that this would probably follow
from the females,- especially the more vigorous ones, which would be
the first to breed,- preferring not only the more attractive but at
the same time the more vigorous and victorious males.
  Although we have some positive evidence that birds appreciate bright
and beautiful objects, as with the bower-birds of Australia, and
although they certainly appreciate the power of song, yet I fully
admit that it is astonishing that the females of many birds and some
mammals should be endowed with sufficient taste to appreciate
ornaments, which we have reason to attribute to sexual selection;
and this is even more astonishing in the case of reptiles, fish, and
insects. But we really know little about the minds of the lower
animals. It cannot be supposed, for instance, that male birds of
paradise or peacocks should take such pains in erecting, spreading,
and vibrating their beautiful plumes before the females for no
purpose. We should remember the fact given on excellent authority in a
former chapter, that several peahens, when debarred from an admired
male, remained widows during a whole season rather than pair with
another bird.
  Nevertheless I know of no fact in natural history more wonderful
than that the female Argus pheasant should appreciate the exquisite
shading of the ball-and-socket ornaments and the elegant patterns on
the wing-feather of the male. He who thinks that the male was
created as he now exists must admit that the great plumes, which
prevent the wings from being used for flight, and which are
displayed during courtship and at no other time in a manner quite
peculiar to this one species, were given to him as an ornament. If so,
he must likewise admit that the female was created and endowed with
the capacity of appreciating such ornaments. I differ only in the
conviction that the male Argus pheasant acquired his beauty gradually,
through the preference of the females during many generations for
the more highly ornamented males; the aesthetic capacity of the
females having been advanced through exercise or habit, just as our
own taste is gradually improved. In the male through the fortunate
chance of a few feathers being left unchanged, we can distinctly trace
how simple spots with a little fulvous shading on one side may have
been developed by small steps into the wonderful ball-and-socket
ornaments; and it is probable that they were actually thus developed.
  Everyone who admits the principle of evolution, and yet feels
great difficulty in admitting that female mammals, birds, reptiles,
and fish, could have acquired the high taste implied by the beauty
of the males, and which generally coincides with our own standard,
should reflect that the nerve-cells of the brain in the highest as
well as in the lowest members of the vertebrate series, are derived
from those of the common progenitor of this great kingdom. For we
can thus see how it has come to pass that certain mental faculties, in
various and widely distinct groups of animals, have been developed
in nearly the same manner and to nearly the same degree.
  The reader who has taken the trouble to go through the several
chapters devoted to sexual selection, will be able to judge how far
the conclusions at which I have arrived are supported by sufficient
evidence. If he accepts these conclusions he may, I think, safely
extend them to mankind; but it would be superfluous here to repeat
what I have so lately said on the manner in which sexual selection
apparently has acted on man, both on the male and female side, causing
the two sexes to differ in body and mind, and the several races to
differ from each other in various characters, as well as from their
ancient and lowly-organised progenitors.
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« Reply #212 on: February 10, 2009, 03:08:38 pm »

He who admits the principle of sexual selection will be led to the
remarkable conclusion that the nervous system not only regulates
most of the existing functions of the body, but has indirectly
influenced the progressive development of various bodily structures
and of certain mental qualities. Courage, pugnacity, perseverance,
strength and size of body, weapons of all kinds, musical organs,
both vocal and instrumental, bright colours and ornamental appendages,
have all been indirectly gained by the one sex or the other, through
the exertion of choice, the influence of love and jealousy, and the
appreciation of the beautiful in sound, colour or form; and these
powers of the mind manifestly depend on the development of the brain.

  Man scans with scrupulous care the character and pedigree of his
horses, cattle, and dogs before he matches them; but when he comes
to his own marriage he rarely, or never, takes any such care. He is
impelled by nearly the same motives as the lower animals, when they
are left to their own free choice, though he is in so far superior
to them that he highly values mental charms and virtues. On the
other hand he is strongly attracted by mere wealth or rank. Yet he
might by selection do something not only for the bodily constitution
and frame of his offspring, but for their intellectual and moral
qualities. Both sexes ought to refrain from marriage if they are in
any marked degree inferior in body or mind; but such hopes are Utopian
and will never be even partially realised until the laws of
inheritance are thoroughly known. Everyone does good service, who aids
towards this end. When the principles of breeding and inheritance
are better understood, we shall not hear ignorant members of our
legislature rejecting with scorn a plan for ascertaining whether or
not consanguineous marriages are injurious to man.
  The advancement of the welfare of mankind is a most intricate
problem: all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject
poverty for their children; for poverty is not only a great evil,
but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in
marriage. On the other hand, as Mr. Galton has remarked, if the
prudent avoid marriage, whilst the reckless marry, the inferior
members tend to supplant the better members of society. Man, like
every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high
condition through a struggle for existence consequent on his rapid
multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher, it is to be
feared that he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise
he would sink into indolence, and the more gifted men would not be
more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence
our natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious
evils, must not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be
open competition for all men; and the most able should not be
prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the
largest number of offspring. Important as the struggle for existence
has been and even still is, yet as far as the highest part of man's
nature is concerned there are other agencies more important. For the
moral qualities are advanced, either directly or indirectly, much more
through the effects of habit, the reasoning powers, instruction,
religion, &c., than through natural selection; though to this latter
agency may be safely attributed the social instincts, which afforded
the basis for the development of the moral sense.

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« Reply #213 on: February 10, 2009, 03:08:57 pm »

The main conclusion arrived at in this work, namely, that man is
descended from some lowly organised form, will, I regret to think,
be highly distasteful to many. But there can hardly be a doubt that we
are descended from barbarians. The astonishment which I felt on
first seeing a party of Fuegians on a wild and broken shore will never
be forgotten by me, for the reflection at once rushed into my mind-
such were our ancestors. These men were absolutely naked and
bedaubed with paint, their long hair was tangled, their mouths frothed
with excitement, and their expression was wild, startled, and
distrustful. They possessed hardly any arts, and like wild animals
lived on what they could catch; they had no government, and were
merciless to every one not of their own small tribe. He who has seen a
savage in his native land will not feel much shame, if forced to
acknowledge that the blood of some more humble creature flows in his
veins. For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic
little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the
life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who descending from the
mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of
astonished dogs- as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies,
offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse,
treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by
the grossest superstitions.
  Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though
not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic
scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been
aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher
destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with
hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to
discover it; and I have given the evidence to the best of my
ability. We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man
with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most
debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to
the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has
penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system-
with all these exalted powers- Man still bears in his bodily frame the
indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

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« Reply #214 on: February 10, 2009, 03:09:21 pm »

Supplemental Note - On Sexual Selection in relation to monkeys

         Reprinted from NATURE, November 2, 1876, p. 18.

  IN the discussion on Sexual Selection in my Descent of Man, no
case interested and perplexed me so much as the brightly-coloured
hinder ends and adjoining parts of certain monkeys. As these parts are
more brightly coloured in one sex than the other, and as they become
more brilliant during the season of love, I concluded that the colours
had been gained as a sexual attraction. I was well aware that I thus
laid myself open to ridicule; though in fact it is not more surprising
that a monkey should display his bright-red hinder end than that a
peacock should display his magnificent tail. I had, however, at that
time no evidence of monkeys exhibiting this part of their bodies
during their courtship; and such display in the case of birds
affords the best evidence that the ornaments of the males are of
service to them by attracting or exciting the females. I have lately
read an article by Joh. von Fischer, of Gotha, published in Der
Zoologische Garten, April, 1876, on the expression of monkeys under
various emotions, which is well worthy of study by any one
interested in the subject, and which shews that the author is a
careful and acute observer. In this article there is an account of the
behaviour of a young male mandrill when he first beheld himself in a
looking-glass, and it is added, that after a time he turned round
and presented his red hinder end to the glass. Accordingly I wrote
to Herr J. von Fischer to ask what he supposed was the meaning of this
strange action, and he has sent me two long letters full of new and
curious details, which will, I hope, be hereafter published. He says
that he was himself at first perplexed by the above action, and was
thus led carefully to observe several individuals of various other
species of monkeys, which he has long kept in his house. He finds that
not only the mandrill (Cynocephalus mormon) but the drill (C.
leucophaeus) and three other kinds of baboons (C. hamadryas, sphinx,
and babouin), also Cynopithecus niger, and Macacus rhesus and
nemestrinus, turn this part of their bodies, which in all these
species is more or less brightly coloured, to him when they are
pleased, and to other persons as a sort of greeting. He took pains
to cure a Macacus rhesus, which he had kept for five years, of this
indecorous habit, and at last succeeded. These monkeys are
particularly apt to act in this manner, grinning at the same time,
when first introduced to a new monkey, but often also to their old
monkey friends; and after this mutual display they begin to play
together. The young mandrill ceased spontaneously after a time to
act in this manner towards his master, von Fischer, but continued to
do so towards persons who were strangers and to new monkeys. A young
Cynopithecus niger never acted, excepting on one occasion, in this way
towards his master, but frequently towards strangers, and continues to
do so up to the present time. From these facts von Fischer concludes
that the monkeys which behaved in this manner before a looking-glass
(viz., the mandrill, drill, Cynopithecus niger, Macacus rhesus and
nemestrinus) acted as if their reflection were a new acquaintance. The
mandrill and drill, which have their hinder ends especially
ornamented, display it even whilst quite young, more frequently and
more ostentatiously than do the other kinds. Next in order comes
Cynocephalus hamadryas, whilst the other species act in this manner
seldomer. The individuals, however, of the same species vary in this
respect, and some which were very shy never displayed their hinder
ends. It deserves especial attention that von Fischer has never seen
any species purposely exhibit the hinder part of its body, if not at
all coloured. This remark applies to many individuals of Macacus
cynomolgus and Cercocebus radiatus (which is closely allied to M.
rhesus), to three species of Cercopithecus and several American
monkeys. The habit of turning the hinder ends as a greeting to an
old friend or new acquaintance, which seems to us so odd, is not
really more so than the habits of many savages, for instance that of
rubbing their bellies with their hands, or rubbing noses together. The
habit with the mandrill and drill seems to be instinctive or
inherited, as it was followed by very young animals; but it is
modified or guided, like so many other instincts, by observation,
for von Fischer says that they take pains to make their display fully;
and if made before two observers, they turn to him who seems to pay
the most attention.

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« Reply #215 on: February 10, 2009, 03:10:06 pm »

With respect to the origin of the habit, von Fischer remarks that
his monkeys like to have their naked hinder ends patted or stroked,
and that they then grunt with pleasure. They often also turn this part
of their bodies to other monkeys to have bits of dirt picked off,
and so no doubt it would be with respect to thorns. But the habit with
adult animals is connected to a certain extent with sexual feelings,
for von Fischer watched through a glass door a female Cynopithecus
niger, and she during several days, "umdrehte und dem Mannchen mit
gurgelnden Tonen die stark gerothete Sitzflache zeigte, was ich fruher
nie an diesem Thier bemerkt hatte. Beim Anblick dieses Gegenstandes
erregte sich das Mannchen sichtlich, denn es polterte heftig an den
Staben, ebenfalls gurgelnde Laute ausstossend." As all the monkeys
which have the hinder parts of their bodies more or less brightly
coloured live, according to von Fischer, in open rocky places, he
thinks that these colours serve to render one sex conspicuous at a
distance to the other; but, as monkeys are such gregarious animals,
I should have thought that there was no need for the sexes to
recognise each other at a distance. It seems to me more probable
that the bright colours, whether on the face or hinder end, or, as
in the mandrill, on both, serve as a sexual ornament and attraction.
Anyhow, as we now know that monkeys have the habit of turning their
hinder ends towards other monkeys, it ceases to be at all surprising
that it should have been this part of their bodies which has been more
or less decorated. The fact that it is only the monkeys thus
characterised which, as far as at present known, act in this manner as
a greeting towards other monkeys renders it doubtful whether the habit
was first acquired from some independent cause, and that afterwards
the parts in question were coloured as a sexual ornament; or whether
the colouring and the habit of turning round were first acquired
through variation and sexual selection, and that afterwards the
habit was retained as a sign of pleasure or as a greeting, through the
principle of inherited association. This principle apparently comes
into play on many occasions: thus it is generally admitted that the
songs of birds serve mainly as an attraction during the season of
love, and that the leks, or great congregations of the black-grouse,
are connected with their courtship; but the habit of singing has
been retained by some birds when they feel happy, for instance by
the common robin, and the habit of congregating has been retained by
the black-grouse during other seasons of the year.
  I beg leave to refer to one other point in relation to sexual
selection. It has been objected that this form of selection, as far as
the ornaments of the males are concerned, implies that all females
within the same district must possess and exercise exactly the same
taste. It should, however, be observed, in the first place, that
although the range of variation of a species may be very large, it
is by no means indefinite. I have elsewhere given a good instance of
this fact in the pigeon, of which there are at least a hundred
varieties differing widely in their colours, and at least a score of
varieties of the fowl differing in the same kind of way; but the range
of colour in these two species is extremely distinct. Therefore the
females of natural species cannot have an unlimited scope for their
taste. In the second place, I presume that no supporter of the
principle of sexual selection believes that the females select
particular points of beauty in the males; they are merely excited or
attracted in a greater degree by one male than by another, and this
seems often to depend, especially with birds, on brilliant
colouring. Even man, excepting perhaps an artist, does not analyse the
slight differences in the features of the woman whom he may admire, on
which her beauty depends. The male mandrill has not only the hinder
end of his body, but his face gorgeously coloured and marked with
oblique ridges, a yellow beard, and other ornaments. We may infer from
what we see of the variation of animals under domestication, that
the above several ornaments of the mandrill were gradually acquired by
one individual varying a little in one way, and another individual
in another way. The males which were the handsomest or the most
attractive in any manner to the females would pair oftenest, and would
leave rather more offspring than other males. The offspring of the
former, although variously intercrossed, would either inherit the
peculiarities of their fathers or transmit an increased tendency to
vary in the same manner. Consequently the whole body of males
inhabiting the same country would tend from the effects of constant
intercrossing to become modified almost uniformly, but sometimes a
little more in one character and sometimes in another, though at an
extremely slow rate; all ultimately being thus rendered more
attractive to the females. The process is like that which I have
called unconscious selection by man, and of which I have given several
instances. In one country the inhabitants value a fleet or light dog
or horse, and in another country a heavier and more powerful one; in
neither country is there any selection of individual animals with
lighter or stronger bodies and limbs; nevertheless after a
considerable lapse of time the individuals are found to have been
modified in the desired manner almost uniformly, though differently in
each country. In two absolutely distinct countries inhabited by the
same species, the individuals of which can never during long ages have
intermigrated and intercrossed, and where, moreover, the variations
will probably not have been identically the same, sexual selection
might cause the males to differ. Nor does the belief appear to me
altogether fanciful that two sets of females, surrounded by a very
different environment, would be apt to acquire somewhat different
tastes with respect to form, sound, or colour. However this may be,
I have given in my Descent of Man instances of closely-allied birds
inhabiting distinct countries, of which the young and the females
cannot be distinguished, whilst the adult males differ considerably,
and this may be attributed with much probability to the action of
sexual selection.

                         THE END

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