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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 6372 times)
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« Reply #210 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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