The origin of man
to say, from causes which are at present beyond our knowledge, the fateful ape did in fact prefer animal food so decisively as to begin the hunting for it.
That being granted, the rest of the history was inevitable. The new pursuit was of a nature to engross the animal’s whole attention and coordinate all his faculties; and to maintain and reinforce it, his structure in body and mind may reasonably be supposed to have under¬ gone rapid modification by natural selection; because those individuals that were in any organ or faculty adapted to the new life had an advantage which might be inherited and gradually increased
That Man was from the first a hunter has been suggested by several authors, but the consequences of the assumption have never (as far as I know) been worked out. A. R. Wallace, in Darwinism, p. 459, has the following passage: “The anthropoid apes, as well as most of the monkey tribe, are essentially arboreal in their structure, whereas the great distinctive character of a man is his special adaptation to terrestrial locomotion.
We can hardly suppose, therefore, that he originated in a forest region, where fruits to be obtained by climbing are the chief vegetable food. It is more probable that he began his existence on the open plains on high plateaux of the temperate or sub-tropical zone, where the seeds of indigenous cereals, numerous herbivores, rodents, game-birds, with fishes and molluscs in the lakes and rivers and seas supplied him with an abundance of varied food. In such a region he would develop skill as a hunter, trapper or fisherman, and later as a herdsman and cultivator—a succession of which we find indications in the palaeolithic and neolithic races of Europe.” Prof. MacBride, in his popular introduction to Zoology, p. 84, also traces the specialisation of Man to hunting life.
My friend Mr Thomas Whittaker has sent me the following extract from Comte’s Politique Positive, i, pp. 604-5: “L’obligation de se nourrir d’une proie qu’il faut atteindre et vaincre, perfectionne a la fois tous les attributs animaux, tant interieurs qu’exterieurs. Son influence envers les sens et les muscles est trop evidente pour exiger ici aucun examen. Par sa reaction habituelle sur les plus hautes fonctions du cerveau, elle developpe egalement l’intelligence et l’activite, dont le premier essor lui est toujours du, meme chez notre espece.
A tous ces titres, cette necessity modifie aussi les races qui en sont victimes, d’apr&s les efforts moins energiques, mais plus continus, qu’elle y provoque pour leur defense. Dans les deux cas, et surtout quant a l’attaque, elle deter¬ mine meme les premieres habitudes de co-operation active, au moins temporaire. Bornees a la simple famille chez les especes insociables, ces ligues peuvent ailleurs embrasser quelquefois de nombreuses troupes.
Ainsi commencent, parmi les animaux, des impulsions et des aptitudes qui ne pouvaient se de- velopper que d’apres la continuity propre a la race la plus sociable et la plus intelligente. Enfin, la condition carnassiere doit aussi etre appreciee dans sa reaction organique. Une plus forte excitation, une digestion moins laborieuse et plus rapide, une assimilation plus complete produisant un sang plus stimu¬ lant: telles sont ses proprietes physiologiques. Toutes concourent a developer.
Natural Selection Having thus appealed to the principle of natural selection as controlling the evolution of Man, I must explain what is to be understood by it. In the first place, it has nothing to do with the causes of variation.
Much interesting and instructive work has been done by Biologists upon the structure of cytoplasm and the possible results of combination and recombina¬ tion among its constituents, chromosomes and genes, and upon the conditions which increase or decrease variation in resulting generations. But that in some way variations occur is here assumed, and we are concerned only with what happens to them afterwards.
Nor do the Mendelian laws of inheritance affect this problem; for in whatever way an animal is constituted by inheritance, having been born it must either live or die; and it is with this alternative that natural selection is concerned. If the animal is not sufficiently adapted to the conditions of life, interuterine, natal and environmental, climatic or biological, to live at least until the age of propaga¬ tion, it must die without offspring: it is eliminated.
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