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Revolution And Other Essays - The Other Animals Post by :Jeremy_Burns Category :Essays Author :Jack London Date :April 2011 Read :2246

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Revolution And Other Essays - The Other Animals

American journalism has its moments of fantastic hysteria, and when
it is on the rampage the only thing for a rational man to do is to
climb a tree and let the cataclysm go by. And so, some time ago,
when the word nature-faker was coined, I, for one, climbed into my
tree and stayed there. I happened to be in Hawaii at the time, and a
Honolulu reporter elicited the sentiment from me that I thanked God I
was not an authority on anything. This sentiment was promptly cabled
to America in an Associated Press despatch, whereupon the American
press (possibly annoyed because I had not climbed down out of my
tree) charged me with paying for advertising by cable at a dollar per
word--the very human way of the American press, which, when a man
refuses to come down and be licked, makes faces at him.

But now that the storm is over, let us come and reason together. I
have been guilty of writing two animal-stories--two books about dogs.
The writing of these two stories, on my part, was in truth a protest
against the "humanizing" of animals, of which it seemed to me several
"animal writers" had been profoundly guilty. Time and again, and
many times, in my narratives, I wrote, speaking of my dog-heroes:
"He did not think these things; he merely did them," etc. And I did
this repeatedly, to the clogging of my narrative and in violation of
my artistic canons; and I did it in order to hammer into the average
human understanding that these dog-heroes of mine were not directed
by abstract reasoning, but by instinct, sensation, and emotion, and
by simple reasoning. Also, I endeavoured to make my stories in line
with the facts of evolution; I hewed them to the mark set by
scientific research, and awoke, one day, to find myself bundled neck
and crop into the camp of the nature-fakers.

President Roosevelt was responsible for this, and he tried to condemn
me on two counts. (1) I was guilty of having a big, fighting bull-
dog whip a wolf-dog. (2) I was guilty of allowing a lynx to kill a
wolf-dog in a pitched battle. Regarding the second count, President
Roosevelt was wrong in his field observations taken while reading my
book. He must have read it hastily, for in my story I had the wolf-
dog kill the lynx. Not only did I have my wolf-dog kill the lynx,
but I made him eat the body of the lynx as well. Remains only the
first count on which to convict me of nature-faking, and the first
count does not charge me with diverging from ascertained facts. It
is merely a statement of a difference of opinion. President
Roosevelt does not think a bull-dog can lick a wolf-dog. I think a
bull-dog can lick a wolf-dog. And there we are. Difference of
opinion may make, and does make, horse-racing. I can understand that
difference of opinion can make dog-fighting. But what gets me is how
difference of opinion regarding the relative fighting merits of a
bull-dog and a wolf-dog makes me a nature-faker and President
Roosevelt a vindicated and triumphant scientist.

Then entered John Burroughs to clinch President Roosevelt's
judgments. In this alliance there is no difference of opinion. That
Roosevelt can do no wrong is Burroughs's opinion; and that Burroughs
is always right is Roosevelt's opinion. Both are agreed that animals
do not reason. They assert that all animals below man are automatons
and perform actions only of two sorts--mechanical and reflex--and
that in such actions no reasoning enters at all. They believe that
man is the only animal capable of reasoning and that ever does
reason. This is a view that makes the twentieth-century scientist
smile. It is not modern at all. It is distinctly mediaeval.
President Roosevelt and John Burroughs, in advancing such a view, are
homocentric in the same fashion that the scholastics of earlier and
darker centuries were homocentric. Had the world not been discovered
to be round until after the births of President Roosevelt and John
Burroughs, they would have been geocentric as well in their theories
of the Cosmos. They could not have believed otherwise. The stuff of
their minds is so conditioned. They talk the argot of evolution,
while they no more understand the essence and the import of evolution
than does a South Sea Islander or Sir Oliver Lodge understand the
noumena of radio-activity.

Now, President Roosevelt is an amateur. He may know something of
statecraft and of big-game shooting; he may be able to kill a deer
when he sees it and to measure it and weigh it after he has shot it;
he may be able to observe carefully and accurately the actions and
antics of tomtits and snipe, and, after he has observed it,
definitely and coherently to convey the information of when the first
chipmunk, in a certain year and a certain latitude and longitude,
came out in the spring and chattered and gambolled--but that he
should be able, as an individual observer, to analyze all animal life
and to synthetize and develop all that is known of the method and
significance of evolution, would require a vaster credulity for you
or me to believe than is required for us to believe the biggest
whopper ever told by an unmitigated nature-faker. No, President
Roosevelt does not understand evolution, and he does not seem to have
made much of an attempt to understand evolution.

Remains John Burroughs, who claims to be a thorough-going
evolutionist. Now, it is rather hard for a young man to tackle an
old man. It is the nature of young men to be more controlled in such
matters, and it is the nature of old men, presuming upon the wisdom
that is very often erroneously associated with age, to do the
tackling. In this present question of nature-faking, the old men did
the tackling, while I, as one young man, kept quiet a long time. But
here goes at last. And first of all let Mr. Burroughs's position be
stated, and stated in his words.

"Why impute reason to an animal if its behaviour can be explained on
the theory of instinct?" Remember these words, for they will be
referred to later. "A goodly number of persons seem to have
persuaded themselves that animals do reason." "But instinct suffices
for the animals . . . they get along very well without reason."
"Darwin tried hard to convince himself that animals do at times
reason in a rudimentary way; but Darwin was also a much greater
naturalist than psychologist." The preceding quotation is
tantamount, on Mr. Burroughs's part, to a flat denial that animals
reason even in a rudimentary way. And when Mr. Burrough denies that
animals reason even in a rudimentary way, it is equivalent to
affirming, in accord with the first quotation in this paragraph, that
instinct will explain every animal act that might be confounded with
reason by the unskilled or careless observer.

Having bitten off this large mouthful, Mr. Burroughs proceeds with
serene and beautiful satisfaction to masticate it in the following
fashion. He cites a large number of instances of purely instinctive
actions on the part of animals, and triumphantly demands if they are
acts of reason. He tells of the robin that fought day after day its
reflected image in a window-pane; of the birds in South America that
were guilty of drilling clear through a mud wall, which they mistook
for a solid clay bank: of the beaver that cut down a tree four times
because it was held at the top by the branches of other trees; of the
cow that licked the skin of her stuffed calf so affectionately that
it came apart, whereupon she proceeded to eat the hay with which it
was stuffed. He tells of the phobe-bird that betrays her nest on the
porch by trying to hide it with moss in similar fashion to the way
all phobe-birds hide their nests when they are built among rocks. He
tells of the highhole that repeatedly drills through the clap-boards
of an empty house in a vain attempt to find a thickness of wood deep
enough in which to build its nest. He tells of the migrating
lemmings of Norway that plunge into the sea and drown in vast numbers
because of their instinct to swim lakes and rivers in the course of
their migrations. And, having told a few more instances of like
kidney, he triumphantly demands: "Where now is your much-vaunted
reasoning of the lower animals?

No schoolboy in a class debate could be guilty of unfairer argument.
It is equivalent to replying to the assertion that 2+2=4, by saying:
"No; because 12/4=3; I have demonstrated my honourable opponent's
error." When a man attacks your ability as a foot-racer, promptly
prove to him that he was drunk the week before last, and the average
man in the crowd of gaping listeners will believe that you have
convincingly refuted the slander on your fleetness of foot. On my
honour, it will work. Try it some time. It is done every day. Mr.
Burroughs has done it himself, and, I doubt not, pulled the
sophistical wool over a great many pairs of eyes. No, no, Mr.
Burroughs; you can't disprove that animals reason by proving that
they possess instincts. But the worst of it is that you have at the
same time pulled the wool over your own eyes. You have set up a
straw man and knocked the stuffing out of him in the complacent
belief that it was the reasoning of lower animals you were knocking
out of the minds of those who disagreed with you. When the highhole
perforated the icehouse and let out the sawdust, you called him a
lunatic . . .

But let us be charitable--and serious. What Mr. Burroughs instances
as acts of instinct certainly are acts of instincts. By the same
method of logic one could easily adduce a multitude of instinctive
acts on the part of man and thereby prove that man is an unreasoning
animal. But man performs actions of both sorts. Between man and the
lower animals Mr. Burroughs finds a vast gulf. This gulf divides man
from the rest of his kin by virtue of the power of reason that he
alone possesses. Man is a voluntary agent. Animals are automatons.
The robin fights its reflection in the window-pane because it is his
instinct to fight and because he cannot reason out the physical laws
that make this reflection appear real. An animal is a mechanism that
operates according to fore-ordained rules. Wrapped up in its
heredity, and determined long before it was born, is a certain
limited capacity of ganglionic response to eternal stimuli. These
responses have been fixed in the species through adaptation to
environment. Natural selection has compelled the animal
automatically to respond in a fixed manner and a certain way to all
the usual external stimuli it encounters in the course of a usual
life. Thus, under usual circumstances, it does the usual thing.
Under unusual circumstances it still does the usual thing, wherefore
the highhole perforating the ice-house is guilty of lunacy--of
unreason, in short. To do the unusual thing under unusual
circumstances, successfully to adjust to a strange environment for
which his heredity has not automatically fitted an adjustment, Mr.
Burroughs says is impossible. He says it is impossible because it
would be a non-instinctive act, and, as is well known animals act
only through instinct. And right here we catch a glimpse of Mr.
Burroughs's cart standing before his horse. He has a thesis, and
though the heavens fall he will fit the facts to the thesis.
Agassiz, in his opposition to evolution, had a similar thesis, though
neither did he fit the facts to it nor did the heavens fall. Facts
are very disagreeable at times.

But let us see. Let us test Mr. Burroughs's test of reason and
instinct. When I was a small boy I had a dog named Rollo. According
to Mr. Burroughs, Rollo was an automaton, responding to external
stimuli mechanically as directed by his instincts. Now, as is well
known, the development of instinct in animals is a dreadfully slow
process. There is no known case of the development of a single
instinct in domestic animals in all the history of their
domestication. Whatever instincts they possess they brought with
them from the wild thousands of years ago. Therefore, all Rollo's
actions were ganglionic discharges mechanically determined by the
instincts that had been developed and fixed in the species thousands
of years ago. Very well. It is clear, therefore, that in all his
play with me he would act in old-fashioned ways, adjusting himself to
the physical and psychical factors in his environment according to
the rules of adjustment which had obtained in the wild and which had
become part of his heredity.

Rollo and I did a great deal of rough romping. He chased me and I
chased him. He nipped my legs, arms, and hands, often so hard that I
yelled, while I rolled him and tumbled him and dragged him about,
often so strenuously as to make him yelp. In the course of the play
many variations arose. I would make believe to sit down and cry.
All repentance and anxiety, he would wag his tail and lick my face,
whereupon I would give him the laugh. He hated to be laughed at, and
promptly he would spring for me with good-natured, menacing jaws, and
the wild romp would go on. I had scored a point. Then he hit upon a
trick. Pursuing him into the woodshed, I would find him in a far
corner, pretending to sulk. Now, he dearly loved the play, and never
got enough of it. But at first he fooled me. I thought I had
somehow hurt his feelings and I came and knelt before him, petting
him, and speaking lovingly. Promptly, in a wild outburst, he was up
and away, tumbling me over on the floor as he dashed out in a mad
skurry around the yard. He had scored a point.

After a time, it became largely a game of wits. I reasoned my acts,
of course, while his were instinctive. One day, as he pretended to
sulk in the corner, I glanced out of the woodshed doorway, simulated
pleasure in face, voice, and language, and greeted one of my
schoolboy friends. Immediately Rollo forgot to sulk, rushed out to
see the newcomer, and saw empty space. The laugh was on him, and he
knew it, and I gave it to him, too. I fooled him in this way two or
three times; then be became wise. One day I worked a variation.
Suddenly looking out the door, making believe that my eyes had been
attracted by a moving form, I said coldly, as a child educated in
turning away bill-collectors would say: "No my father is not at
home." Like a shot, Rollo was out the door. He even ran down the
alley to the front of the house in a vain attempt to find the man I
had addressed. He came back sheepishly to endure the laugh and
resume the game.

And now we come to the test. I fooled Rollo, but how was the fooling
made possible? What precisely went on in that brain of his?
According to Mr. Burroughs, who denies even rudimentary reasoning to
the lower animals, Rollo acted instinctively, mechanically responding
to the external stimulus, furnished by me, which led him to believe
that a man was outside the door.

Since Rollo acted instinctively, and since all instincts are very
ancient, tracing back to the pre-domestication period, we can
conclude only that Rollo's wild ancestors, at the time this
particular instinct was fixed into the heredity of the species, must
have been in close, long-continued, and vital contact with man, the
voice of man, and the expressions on the face of man. But since the
instinct must have been developed during the pre-domestication
period, how under the sun could his wild, undomesticated ancestors
have experienced the close, long-continued, and vital contact with

Mr. Burroughs says that "instinct suffices for the animals," that
"they get along very well without reason." But I say, what all the
poor nature-fakers will say, that Rollo reasoned. He was born into
the world a bundle of instincts and a pinch of brain-stuff, all
wrapped around in a framework of bone, meat, and hide. As he
adjusted to his environment he gained experiences. He remembered
these experiences. He learned that he mustn't chase the cat, kill
chickens, nor bite little girls' dresses. He learned that little
boys had little boy playmates. He learned that men came into back
yards. He learned that the animal man, on meeting with his own kind,
was given to verbal and facial greeting. He learned that when a boy
greeted a playmate he did it differently from the way he greeted a
man. All these he learned and remembered. They were so many
observations--so many propositions, if you please. Now, what went on
behind those brown eyes of his, inside that pinch of brain-stuff,
when I turned suddenly to the door and greeted an imaginary person
outside? Instantly, out of the thousands of observations stored in
his brain, came to the front of his consciousness the particular
observations connected with this particular situation. Next, he
established a relation between these observations. This relation was
his conclusion, achieved, as every psychologist will agree, by a
definite cell-action of his grey matter. From the fact that his
master turned suddenly toward the door, and from the fact that his
master's voice, facial expression, and whole demeanour expressed
surprise and delight, he concluded that a friend was outside. He
established a relation between various things, and the act of
establishing relations between things is an act of reason--of
rudimentary reason, granted, but none the less of reason.

Of course Rollo was fooled. But that is no call for us to throw
chests about it. How often has every last one of us been fooled in
precisely similar fashion by another who turned and suddenly
addressed an imaginary intruder? Here is a case in point that
occurred in the West. A robber had held up a railroad train. He
stood in the aisle between the seats, his revolver presented at the
head of the conductor, who stood facing him. The conductor was at
his mercy.

But the conductor suddenly looked over the robber's shoulder, at the
same time saying aloud to an imaginary person standing at the
robber's back: "Don't shoot him." Like a flash the robber whirled
about to confront this new danger, and like a flash the conductor
shot him down. Show me, Mr. Burroughs, where the mental process in
the robber's brain was a shade different from the mental processes in
Rollo's brain, and I'll quit nature-faking and join the Trappists.
Surely, when a man's mental process and a dog's mental process are
precisely similar, the much-vaunted gulf of Mr. Burroughs's fancy has
been bridged.

I had a dog in Oakland. His name was Glen. His father was Brown, a
wolf-dog that had been brought down from Alaska., and his mother was
a half-wild mountain shepherd dog. Neither father nor mother had had
any experience with automobiles. Glen came from the country, a half-
grown puppy, to live in Oakland. Immediately he became infatuated
with an automobile. He reached the culmination of happiness when he
was permitted to sit up in the front seat alongside the chauffeur.
He would spend a whole day at a time on an automobile debauch, even
going without food. Often the machine started directly from inside
the barn, dashed out the driveway without stopping, and was gone.
Glen got left behind several times. The custom was established that
whoever was taking the machine out should toot the horn before
starting. Glen learned the signal. No matter where he was or what
he was doing, when that horn tooted he was off for the barn and up
into the front seat.

One morning, while Glen was on the back porch eating his breakfast of
mush and milk, the chauffeur tooted. Glen rushed down the steps,
into the barn, and took his front seat, the mush and milk dripping
down his excited and happy chops. In passing, I may point out that
in thus forsaking his breakfast for the automobile he was displaying
what is called the power of choice--a peculiarly lordly attribute
that, according to Mr. Burroughs, belongs to man alone. Yet Glen
made his choice between food and fun.

It was not that Glen wanted his breakfast less, but that he wanted
his ride more. The toot was only a joke. The automobile did not
start. Glen waited and watched. Evidently he saw no signs of an
immediate start, for finally he jumped out of the seat and went back
to his breakfast. He ate with indecent haste, like a man anxious to
catch a train. Again the horn tooted, again he deserted his
breakfast, and again he sat in the seat and waited vainly for the
machine to go.

They came close to spoiling Glen's breakfast for him, for he was kept
on the jump between porch and barn. Then he grew wise. They tooted
the horn loudly and insistently, but he stayed by his breakfast and
finished it. Thus once more did he display power of choice,
incidentally of control, for when that horn tooted it was all he
could do to refrain from running for the barn.

The nature-faker would analyze what went on in Glen's brain somewhat
in the following fashion. He had had, in his short life, experiences
that not one of all his ancestors had ever had. He had learned that
automobiles went fast, that once in motion it was impossible for him
to get on board, that the toot of the horn was a noise that was
peculiar to automobiles. These were so many propositions. Now
reasoning can be defined as the act or process of the brain by which,
from propositions known or assumed, new propositions are reached.
Out of the propositions which I have shown were Glen's, and which had
become his through the medium of his own observation of the phenomena
of life, he made the new proposition that when the horn tooted it was
time for him to get on board.

But on the morning I have described, the chauffeur fooled Glen.
Somehow and much to his own disgust, his reasoning was erroneous.
The machine did not start after all. But to reason incorrectly is
very human. The great trouble in all acts of reasoning is to include
all the propositions in the problem. Glen had included every
proposition but one, namely, the human proposition, the joke in the
brain of the chauffeur. For a number of times Glen was fooled. Then
he performed another mental act. In his problem he included the
human proposition (the joke in the brain of the chauffeur), and he
reached the new conclusion that when the horn tooted the automobile
was NOT going to start. Basing his action on this conclusion, he
remained on the porch and finished his breakfast. You and I, and
even Mr. Burroughs, perform acts of reasoning precisely similar to
this every day in our lives. How Mr. Burroughs will explain Glen's
action by the instinctive theory is beyond me. In wildest fantasy,
even, my brain refuses to follow Mr. Burroughs into the primeval
forest where Glen's dim ancestors, to the tooting of automobile
horns, were fixing into the heredity of the breed the particular
instinct that would enable Glen, a few thousand years later, capably
to cope with automobiles.

Dr. C. J. Romanes tells of a female chimpanzee who was taught to
count straws up to five. She held the straws in her hand, exposing
the ends to the number requested. If she were asked for three, she
held up three. If she were asked for four, she held up four. All
this is a mere matter of training. But consider now, Mr. Burroughs,
what follows. When she was asked for five straws and she had only
four, she doubled one straw, exposing both its ends and thus making
up the required number. She did not do this only once, and by
accident. She did it whenever more straws were asked for than she
possessed. Did she perform a distinctly reasoning act? or was her
action the result of blind, mechanical instinct? If Mr. Burroughs
cannot answer to his own satisfaction, he may call Dr. Romanes a
nature-faker and dismiss the incident from his mind.

The foregoing is a trick of erroneous human reasoning that works very
successfully in the United States these days. It is certainly a
trick of Mr. Burroughs, of which he is guilty with distressing
frequency. When a poor devil of a writer records what he has seen,
and when what he has seen does not agree with Mr. Burroughs's
mediaeval theory, he calls said writer a nature-faker. When a man
like Mr. Hornaday comes along, Mr. Burroughs works a variation of the
trick on him. Mr. Hornaday has made a close study of the orang in
captivity and of the orang in its native state. Also, he has studied
closely many other of the higher animal types. Also, in the tropics,
he has studied the lower types of man. Mr. Hornaday is a man of
experience and reputation. When he was asked if animals reasoned,
out of all his knowledge on the subject he replied that to ask him
such a question was equivalent to asking him if fishes swim. Now Mr.
Burroughs has not had much experience in studying the lower human
types and the higher animal types. Living in a rural district in the
state of New York, and studying principally birds in that limited
habitat, he has been in contact neither with the higher animal types
nor the lower human types. But Mr. Hornaday's reply is such a facer
to him and his homocentric theory that he has to do something. And
he does it. He retorts: "I suspect that Mr. Hornaday is a better
naturalist than he is a comparative psychologist." Exit Mr.
Hornaday. Who the devil is Mr. Hornaday, anyway? The sage of
Slabsides has spoken. When Darwin concluded that animals were
capable of reasoning in a rudimentary way, Mr. Burroughs laid him out
in the same fashion by saying: "But Darwin was also a much greater
naturalist than psychologist"--and this despite Darwin's long life of
laborious research that was not wholly confined to a rural district
such as Mr. Burroughs inhabits in New York. Mr. Burroughs's method
of argument is beautiful. It reminds one of the man whose
pronunciation was vile, but who said: "Damn the dictionary; ain't I

And now we come to the mental processes of Mr. Burroughs--to the
psychology of the ego, if you please. Mr. Burroughs has troubles of
his own with the dictionary. He violates language from the
standpoint both of logic and science. Language is a tool, and
definitions embodied in language should agree with the facts and
history of life. But Mr. Burroughs's definitions do not so agree.
This, in turn, is not the fault of his education, but of his ego. To
him, despite his well-exploited and patronizing devotion to them, the
lower animals are disgustingly low. To him, affinity and kinship
with the other animals is a repugnant thing. He will have none of
it. He is too glorious a personality not to have between him and the
other animals a vast and impassable gulf. The cause of Mr.
Burroughs's mediaeval view of the other animals is to be found, not
in his knowledge of those other animals, but in the suggestion of his
self-exalted ego. In short, Mr. Burroughs's homocentric theory has
been developed out of his homocentric ego, and by the misuse of
language he strives to make the facts of life agree with his theory.

After the instances I have cited of actions of animals which are
impossible of explanation as due to instinct, Mr. Burroughs may
reply: "Your instances are easily explained by the simple law of
association." To this I reply, first, then why did you deny
rudimentary reason to animals? and why did you state flatly that
"instinct suffices for the animals"? And, second, with great
reluctance and with overwhelming humility, because of my youth, I
suggest that you do not know exactly what you do mean by that phrase
"the simple law of association." Your trouble, I repeat, is with
definitions. You have grasped that man performs what is called
ABSTRACT reasoning, you have made a definition of abstract reason,
and, betrayed by that great maker of theories, the ego, you have come
to think that all reasoning is abstract and that what is not abstract
reason is not reason at all. This is your attitude toward
rudimentary reason. Such a process, in one of the other animals,
must be either abstract or it is not a reasoning process. Your
intelligence tells you that such a process is not abstract reasoning,
and your homocentric thesis compels you to conclude that it can be
only a mechanical, instinctive process.

Definitions must agree, not with egos, but with life. Mr. Burroughs
goes on the basis that a definition is something hard and fast,
absolute and eternal. He forgets that all the universe is in flux;
that definitions are arbitrary and ephemeral; that they fix, for a
fleeting instant of time, things that in the past were not, that in
the future will be not, that out of the past become, and that out of
the present pass on to the future and become other things.
Definitions cannot rule life. Definitions cannot be made to rule
life. Life must rule definitions or else the definitions perish.

Mr. Burroughs forgets the evolution of reason. He makes a definition
of reason without regard to its history, and that definition is of
reason purely abstract. Human reason, as we know it to-day, is not a
creation, but a growth. Its history goes back to the primordial
slime that was quick with muddy life; its history goes back to the
first vitalized inorganic. And here are the steps of its ascent from
the mud to man: simple reflex action, compound reflex action,
memory, habit, rudimentary reason, and abstract reason. In the
course of the climb, thanks to natural selection, instinct was
evolved. Habit is a development in the individual. Instinct is a
race-habit. Instinct is blind, unreasoning, mechanical. This was
the dividing of the ways in the climb of aspiring life. The perfect
culmination of instinct we find in the ant-heap and the beehive.
Instinct proved a blind alley. But the other path, that of reason,
led on and on even to Mr. Burroughs and you and me.

There are no impassable gulfs, unless one chooses, as Mr. Burroughs
does, to ignore the lower human types and the higher animal types,
and to compare human mind with bird mind. It was impossible for life
to reason abstractly until speech was developed. Equipped with
swords, with tools of thought, in short, the slow development of the
power to reason in the abstract went on. The lowest human types do
little or no reasoning in the abstract. With every word, with every
increase in the complexity of thought, with every ascertained fact so
gained, went on action and reaction in the grey matter of the speech
discoverer, and slowly, step by step, through hundreds of thousands
of years, developed the power of reason.

Place a honey-bee in a glass bottle. Turn the bottom of the bottle
toward a lighted lamp so that the open mouth is away from the lamp.
Vainly, ceaselessly, a thousand times, undeterred by the bafflement
and the pain, the bee will hurl himself against the bottom of the
bottle as he strives to win to the light. That is instinct. Place
your dog in a back yard and go away. He is your dog. He loves you.
He yearns toward you as the bee yearns toward the light. He listens
to your departing footsteps. But the fence is too high. Then he
turns his back upon the direction in which you are departing, and
runs around the yard. He is frantic with affection and desire. But
he is not blind. He is observant. He is looking for a hole under
the fence, or through the fence, or for a place where the fence is
not so high. He sees a dry-goods box standing against the fence.
Presto! He leaps upon it, goes over the barrier, and tears down the
street to overtake you. Is that instinct?

Here, in the household where I am writing this, is a little Tahitian
"feeding-child." He believes firmly that a tiny dwarf resides in the
box of my talking-machine and that it is the tiny dwarf who does the
singing and the talking. Not even Mr. Burroughs will affirm that the
child has reached this conclusion by an instinctive process. Of
course, the child reasons the existence of the dwarf in the box. How
else could the box talk and sing? In that child's limited experience
it has never encountered a single instance where speech and song were
produced otherwise than by direct human agency. I doubt not that the
dog is considerably surprised when he hears his master's voice coming
out of a box.

The adult savage, on his first introduction to a telephone, rushes
around to the adjoining room to find the man who is talking through
the partition. Is this act instinctive? No. Out of his limited
experience, out of his limited knowledge of physics, he reasons that
the only explanation possible is that a man is in the other room
talking through the partition.

But that savage cannot be fooled by a hand-mirror. We must go lower
down in the animal scale, to the monkey. The monkey swiftly learns
that the monkey it sees is not in the glass, wherefore it reaches
craftily behind the glass. Is this instinct? No. It is rudimentary
reasoning. Lower than the monkey in the scale of brain is the robin,
and the robin fights its reflection in the window-pane. Now climb
with me for a space. From the robin to the monkey, where is the
impassable gulf? and where is the impassable gulf between the monkey
and the feeding-child? between the feeding-child and the savage who
seeks the man behind the partition? ay, and between the savage and
the astute financiers Mrs. Chadwick fooled and the thousands who were
fooled by the Keeley Motor swindle?

Let us be very humble. We who are so very human are very animal.
Kinship with the other animals is no more repugnant to Mr. Burroughs
than was the heliocentric theory to the priests who compelled Galileo
to recant. Not correct human reason, not the evidence of the
ascertained fact, but pride of ego, was responsible for the

In his stiff-necked pride, Mr. Burroughs runs a hazard more
humiliating to that pride than any amount of kinship with the other
animals. When a dog exhibits choice, direction, control, and reason;
when it is shown that certain mental processes in that dog's brain
are precisely duplicated in the brain of man; and when Mr. Burroughs
convincingly proves that every action of the dog is mechanical and
automatic--then, by precisely the same arguments, can it be proved
that the similar actions of man are mechanical and automatic. No,
Mr. Burroughs, though you stand on the top of the ladder of life, you
must not kick out that ladder from under your feet. You must not
deny your relatives, the other animals. Their history is your
history, and if you kick them to the bottom of the abyss, to the
bottom of the abyss you go yourself. By them you stand or fall.
What you repudiate in them you repudiate in yourself--a pretty
spectacle, truly, of an exalted animal striving to disown the stuff
of life out of which it is made, striving by use of the very reason
that was developed by evolution to deny the possession of evolution
that developed it. This may be good egotism, but it is not good

March 1908.

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