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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 3936 times)
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« Reply #75 on: February 09, 2009, 01:28:12 pm »

* Lectures on Man, Eng. translat., 1864, p. 468.
  *(2) Die Rassen des Schweines, 1860, s. 46. Vorstudien fur
Geschichte, &c., "Schweinesschadel," 1864, s. 104. With respect to
cattle, see M. de Quatrefages, Unite de l'Espece Humaine, 1861, p.

  Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in
colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if
their whole structure be taken into consideration they are found to
resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these
are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely
improbable that they should have been independently acquired by
aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good
with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of
mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American
aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other
in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly
struck, whilst living with the Feugians on board the Beagle, with
the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds
were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I
happened once to be intimate.
  He who will read Mr. Tylor's and Sir J. Lubbock's interesting works*
can hardly fail to be deeply impressed with the close similarity
between the men of all races in tastes, dispositions and habits.
This is shown by the pleasure which they all take in dancing, rude
music, acting, painting, tattooing, and otherwise decorating
themselves; in their mutual comprehension of gesture-language, by
the same expression in their features, and by the same inarticulate
cries, when excited by the same emotions. This similarity, or rather
identity, is striking, when contrasted with the different
expressions and cries made by distinct species of monkeys. There is
good evidence that the art of shooting with bows and arrows has not
been handed down from any common progenitor of mankind, yet as
Westropp and Nilsson have remarked,*(2) the stone arrow-heads, brought
from the most distant parts of the world, and manufactured at the most
remote periods, are almost identical; and this fact can only be
accounted for by the various races having similar inventive or
mental powers. The same observation has been made by
archaeologists*(3) with respect to certain widely-prevalent ornaments,
such as zig-zags, &c.; and with respect to various simple beliefs
and customs, such as the burying of the dead under megalithic
structures. I remember observing in South America,*(4) that there,
as in so many other parts of the world, men have generally chosen
the summits of lofty hills, to throw up piles of stones, either as a
record of some remarkable event, or for burying their dead.

  * Tylor's Early History of Mankind, 1865: with respect to
gesture-language, see p. 54. Lubbock's Prehistoric Times, 2nd ed.,
  *(2) "On Analogous Forms of Implements," in Memoirs of
Anthropological Society by H. M. Westropp. The Primitive Inhabitants
of Scandinavia, Eng. translat., edited by Sir J. Lubbock, 1868, p.
  *(3) Westropp "On Cromlechs," &c., Journal of Ethnological Soc.,
as given in Scientific Opinion, June 2, 1869, p. 3.
  *(4) Journal of Researches: Voyage of the Beagle, p. 46.

  Now when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small
details of habits, tastes, and dispositions between two or more
domestic races, or between nearly-allied natural forms, they use
this fact as an argument that they are descended from a common
progenitor who was thus endowed; and consequently that all should be
classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied
with much force to the races of man.
  As it is improbable that the numerous and unimportant points of
resemblance between the several races of man in bodily structure and
mental faculties (I do not here refer to similar customs) should all
have been independently acquired, they must have been inherited from
progenitors who had these same characters. We thus gain some insight
into the early state of man, before he had spread step by step over
the face of the earth. The spreading of man to regions widely
separated by the sea, no doubt, preceded any great amount of
divergence of character in the several races; for otherwise we
should sometimes meet with the same race in distinct continents; and
this is never the case. Sir J. Lubbock, after comparing the arts now
practised by savages in all parts of the world, specifies those
which man could not have known, when he first wandered from his
original birthplace; for if once learnt they would never have been
forgotten.* He thus shews that "the spear, which is but a
development of the knife-point, and the club, which is but a long
hammer, are the only things left." He admits, however, that the art of
making fire probably had been already discovered, for it is common
to all the races now existing, and was known to the ancient
cave-inhabitants of Europe. Perhaps the art of making rude canoes or
rafts was likewise known; but as man existed at a remote epoch, when
the land in many places stood at a very different level to what it
does now, he would have been able, without the aid of canoes, to
have spread widely. Sir J. Lubbock further remarks how improbable it
is that our earliest ancestors could have "counted as high as ten,
considering that so many races now in existence cannot get beyond
four." Nevertheless, at this early period, the intellectual and social
faculties of man could hardly have been inferior in any extreme degree
to those possessed at present by the lowest savages; otherwise
primeval man could not have been so eminently successful in the
struggle for life, as proved by his early and wide diffusion.

  * Prehistoric Times, 1869, p. 574.

  From the fundamental differences between certain languages, some
philologists have inferred that when man first became widely diffused,
he was not a speaking animal; but it may be suspected that
languages, far less perfect than any now spoken, aided by gestures,
might have been used, and yet have left no traces on subsequent and
more highly-developed tongues. Without the use of some language,
however imperfect, it appears doubtful whether man's intellect could
have risen to the standard implied by his dominant position at an
early period.
  Whether primeval man, when he possessed but few arts, and those of
the rudest kind, and when his power of language was extremely
imperfect, would have deserved to be called man, must depend on the
definition which we employ. In a series of forms graduating insensibly
from some ape-like creature to man as he now exists, it would be
impossible to fix on any definite point where the term "man" ought
to be used. But this is a matter of very little importance. So
again, it is almost a matter of indifference whether the so-called
races of man are thus designated, or are ranked as species or
sub-species; but the latter term appears the more appropriate.
Finally, we may conclude that when the principle of evolution is
generally accepted, as it surely will be before long, the dispute
between the monogenists and the polygenists will die a silent and
unobserved death.
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